Where We Are

The 2010 class in the state of Mississippi continues to add new and talented names to it's prospect list. While the summer camp sessions will be extremely important this year, there could be several talented players forced to leave the state to pursue their senior college football futures.

With Patrick Hearn's signing with UAB on Friday, the state of Mississippi can boast 48 division one signees for the signing class of 2009.

The total matches the 2006 signing class. Only the 2003 signing class of 51 players exceeds the 2009 mark in the past decade.

The rebound was a welcome sight to a state that saw only 34 players ink with division one schools for the class of 2008.

Ironically, the 2006 class was also preceeded by a much smaller class of just 38 in 2005.

The 2003 and 2006 classes were both followed by a pretty sharp decline the following years, so if that trend holds true the 2010 class could be back in the low 40s or more than likely 30s.

Putting mathmatical equations aside there are some other factors that could result in the 2010 class being short of numbers.

First and foremost the depth of talent in 2010 does not appear to be what it was a season ago. There are a lot of players who have the ability to play on the college level, but the amount of difference makers appears to be lacking.

Perhaps the biggest thing to consider is that two of Mississippi's division one programs, Mississippi State and Ole Miss, are both expected to sign smaller classes than usual this year since both programs are having to contend with the overall 85 scholarship limit.

The lack of available scholarships has already lead to both programs being more selective about taking early commitments.

The state of Mississippi as a whole is well behind the commitment pace of a year ago.

As we head into June only six Mississippi high school products have pledged their allegiance to a college program. Five of those players have committed to an instate program, with only Shun Coleman electing to go out of state, at least for the time being.

June 1st of 2008, saw 11 Mississippi high schoolers verbally committed.

Limited scholarship spots and a talent pool with less depth are both major factors, but another more recent development may also hurt the state of Mississippi when it comes to signing numbers.

SEC presidents enacted legislation this past week at the SEC meetings that limit an SEC school to just 28 signings.

Some are calling this the Houston Nutt rule, but this process of oversigning is certainly not limited to Oxford.

"The presidents and chancellors view the letter-of-intent as a commitment to the institution from a student-athlete that is academically capable of being admitted and contributing athletically," SEC commissioner Mike Slive said to the media after this legislation was passed.

The limit of 28 signings would have limited the signing class of four member schools in 2009. Arkansas, Kentucky, Ole Miss and South Carolina all exceeded the new limit last year.

Alabama, Auburn and Ole Miss all exceeded 28 for the signing class of 2008. Alabama's 32 signees was third most in the nation outside of the service academies. Only Kansas State and Miami signed more than Alabama, yet the Big 12 and ACC did not enact legislation limiting their schools from continuing the practice.

Perhaps the biggest question is why was this move by the Southeastern Conference needed?

It appears that the biggest gripe is not about class size or protecting the student athlete. The main rub from my vantage point is the signing of players who have no chance to qualify academically.

I understand the perception this creates, but in the end who is hurt by the process of oversigning a prospect and them parking them at a junior college in hopes of signing them later?

Many student athletes get behind during the early part of their high school careers and fight to catch up once they learn they have a chance to continue their playing days on the college level.

Some of those prospects fail to qualify, but have learned a new work ethic and are better students because of their late push. Why not give those kids some hope and allow a college program to sign them with the promise of a place to go if he handles his responsibilities in junior college?

What this new legislation does more than anything else is limits the options of the marginal student.

College coaches cannot depend on a maybe or sign additional prospects to compensate for any academic schortcomings of other signees.

Our folks in Mississippi all understand too well that the some of the home state kids are going to have a tough time with the books. That is another article for another day, but this new rule will impact the number of Mississippi high schoolers that get scholarship offers.

My biggest concern with the new limit is what happens to a school that reaches their limit of 28 and then finds out later that four prospects are not going to qualify? Can they fill that remaining spot or must they carry it over to the next year?

What would that mean for kids like Patrick Hearn who have great senior seasons only to be told, "Sorry son, we're all full"?

Later on when the spring grades and ACT scores roll in coaches could be scrambling to find a late bloomer who is a full qualifier like Hearn. If that program has already hit their limit, then those kids are simply out of luck it appears.

Just whose best interests are served in a situation like that?

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