National signing day tailgate parties were made big in the mid-fifties glory years of Ole Miss football. then headed up by the legendary John "Johnny" H. Vaught. It was then a consistently warmer climate then than today and outside was a huge board where fans watch and cheered as names would go up.
In my pre-media years, yours truly is a veteran of many signing days when in years previous to the new coaches offices in Nutter Practice Facility, UK had their own much smaller version of an in-house signing day hoopla. In the lobby under Commonwealth Stadium their was a posting board setup for onlookers and continental-breakfast style goodies to munch on. The very personable Quaintance Clark (UK employee) would often make available a big pot of her famous chili along with other goodies in the Wildcat Den. Logistics and other changes have presently eliminated those festivities.
Now the coaches enter into a forty-eight hour dead period when they can have no face-to-face contact with a commitment or potential commit. They perhaps have their bottle of Pesto-Bismol available and their other methods of calming anxiety.
Last signing day under Joker Phillips, a drastic change occurred. It was one that, lets say, likened to an assistant coaches signing day party. Previous to then at the post-signing day press conference obviously the head coach and most of the time the recruiting coordinator were two on hand. Last signing day five assistant were on hand. As far as we can ascertain, that was a proud of their work showing and based on 2011 media-day's first viewing perhaps they had something to be proud of. Because on the hoof they were by far the best class they have signed in many years. Given the on-the-field performances of the true freshmen that contributed, we can see why the party shifted to the assistant coaches.
Now the good news, bad news, and hopeful news for the Big Blue Nation. The good news is this years class is rated 34th much like last year's class. The bad is last years class was devoid of an adequate amount of playmakers - namely receivers. When watching the bowl games this year many teams had several playmakers. The hopeful news is that this class is not like the last few when UK is setting here wishing for the playmakers needed to light up the scoreboard like the late-decade 2000's.
Tee Martin was the 2011 standout signing day party guy because he recruited what he thought was the mother-load at wide receiver. The 2011 season rained on his parade or at least delayed it. Daryl Collins was injured in fall camp precipitating in a redshirt year. Demarco Robinson's adjustment proved to be a big one and he never got untracked. Rashad Cunningham arrived late to the campus because of a late qualifying issue. He was redshirted. At a post practice interview session when the veteran receivers were struggling, Tee Martin was asked about the delay in Cunningham's development. He implied his confidence the youngster, a Mobile, Alabama native, would eventually be what he hoped for. His said if Cunningham was a Julio Jones type instant contributor he would have an elephant on his chest. Josh Forrest listed as athlete was moved to linebacker and by all accounts will be a good one. Nile Daniel never made it to campus because of academic qualification. Suddenly, all the air was sucked out of the 2011 play-maker potential.
We don't know whether last years coaching staff gathering was a Joker Phillips mandate or a showing of confidence in the signed class but I'm sure a confident Martin would like to boast of one or two surefire play makers in this class. I'm sure a hopeful Big Blue Nation is on pins and needles in anticipation.