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On the Trail: The Last Temptation of Joe McKnight

The name this Signing Day is still Joe McKnight, believed to be torn between Southern Cal and nearby LSU, with Ed Orgeron having grunted Ole Miss into unlikely contention. No one seems to have much idea which way the running back is leaning.

It's so hard to choose
When you all look so fine.

- - -

Even Yahoo! chimes in on McKnight today, with a quasi-sob story ominously citing broken levees and all the forbidden goodies inevitably waved under the kid's nose while his family struggles in "a tiny, tiny apartment" near New Orleans' still-struggling Katrina zone. McKnight himself lives with his coach in River Ridge, a middle class suburb just west of the city in which, far as SMQ can tell, he lived prior to the hurricane. Author Dan Wetzel wonders how the system could possibly, cruelly deny the kid means to pull his "Katrina family" out of its devastated world?

Now, SMQ can't speak to McKnight's circumstances specifically. But your host lived in River Ridge at the time of Hurricane Katrina, and can attest that - the area being on, you know, a small ridge - it suffered relatively little damage (SMQ's residence suffered none of any note, and in fact had electricity back by the time he returned to move his things less than two weeks after the storm) and certainly none levee-related. It was sufficiently west enough to avoid flood waters by several miles, and only took the fairly standard brunt of the storm's outer edge - the terrible eye, remember, passed over Mississippi, not New Orleans, which was thought spared by comparison before the fact of the levee breach became so obvious. By the looks of it, River Ridge and most of Jefferson Parish is getting along well enough. So he is not worried for McKnight's fragile teen psyche on that level.

But, oh, decisions! An opportunity for an education, fame, championships and future millions in Los Angeles? Or an opportunity for an education, fame, championships and future millions in Baton Rouge? The poor boy.

On the wider scale, Brian noted yesterday the Signing Day-related media condescension and its insistence on taking shots at "recruitniks" who are actually very good at their jobs. The Wizard of Odds, for the second day in a row, cites with assent an article referencing basements and the "dark side" of the process - elsewhere in the column called "hollow," "disgusting" and "completely insane" - by which athletes decide their immediate future. The Wiz is right about one aspect of judging recruits, that the ultimate assessment only comes four or five years down the road, after the fact. But it is not honest in the meantime to pretend these creepy gurus, men who study and spend time with recruits, who according to articles to which his site links often know more about prospects than the coaches hawking their program's wares to them directly, are taking blind shots at who will or will not be successful. Past history tells us Tom Lemming types are largely right about players on the whole, which leaves their "rankings," taken in the merely suggestive light they're intended, a few notches above "meaningless."

That said, SMQ is not afraid to make fun of functions full of fans who cheer signatures and faxes like touchdowns, and will not miss an opportunity to do so.

Also in the lurch today:

• Washington, D.C. defensive tackle Marvin Austin is expected to decide between favorite Florida State and USC or North Carolina.

• Warp speed (4.28 in three straight Scout combine forty trials) receiver Deonte Thompson of Belle Glade, Fla., is deciding between, among others, Florida (favorite), Miami, LSU and USC.

• Southern Miss is among the candidates for Kansas JUCO Billy Bob Orsagh, a four-star quarterback with interest from Miami and a slate of lesser schools around the country with which USM can legitimately compete. Formerly signed with Division III Millsaps in Jackson, Miss., before moving on to junior college and earning an apparently nice reputation (perhaps of interest only to SMQ).