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On the Trail - Roundup Edition, Plus!: SMQ Homerism

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SMQ's sorry soiree into the bowels of college football's sausage factory comes to its merciful end this morning, with this helpful lesson from Journalism is for Rockstars:

     National Signing Day is not the most exciting day in college football.

Indeed. It is, however, the most profitable, for a few, a lucky, addicted few, whose year of speculative obsession begins anew! (seriously, you have a directory for St. Bonaventure High? I need to text Darrell Scott to see if I can gauge a leader from his tat preferences).

Briefly, the top classes among the 14 considered be a "top ten" effort by at least one of the three largest ranking sites SMQ consulted:

ESPN Rivals Scout Average
Florida 2 1 1 1.3
Southern Cal 1 2 3 2.0
Texas 3 5 4 4.0
LSU 6 4 2 4.0
Tennessee 5 3 5 4.3
South Carolina 4 6 7 5.7
Auburn 7 7 6 6.7
Notre Dame 8 8 11 9.0
Michigan 10 12 10 10.0
Georgia 13 9 17 13.0
Oregon 23 11 8 14.0
Miami 9 22 13 14.7
Alabama 17 10 19 15.3
Pittsburgh 19 25 9 17.7

This is Saurian Sagacity's kind of list: five of the consensus top seven are SEC schools, and seven teams from the SEC made one top ten or another (Rivals' alleged "bias" in this direction noted). That does not include another strong effort by Ole Miss or the presence of Arkansas or Kentucky, teams that won ten and eight games last year, respectively. So, if guru ratings and coach's salaries are to be trusted - and SMQ is inclined to believe at least one of those is - the SEC is having a banner winter where its future is concerned re: the rest of the nation. All those teams and coaches, of course, have to beat the hell out of one another, so it's doubtful we'll say the equivalent of this recruiting list (half the league among the nation's top ten) in rankings that actually, you know, count.

Speaking of which, Southern Miss' stellar class is dreadfully underated for the 26th consecutive season, the future all-Americans destined put this overlooked program permanently on the national map maligned with three stars and worse. What, not enough guru pocket-greasing going on from USM commits? Well, fine, we don't need the extra stars, Mr. Lemming, and you can rank Central Florida's class as the best in Conference USA if you'd like, Mssr. Easterling. The Eagles will just prove the inherent superiority of this class on the field with an unprecedented run of stirring upsets and championship rallies. These are the diamonds in the rough through which long-dampened mid-major dreams are fulfilled.

Er, something like that. Or else it's just another mediocre assemblage of anonymous role players about whom exists very little accessible information. That's okay, too. USM did manage to shock the world - i.e., Rutgers' Scout site - by signing four-star Miami rusher Antwain Easterling, shunned by the bigger schools after a statutory rape arrest late last year no problem for a team that's already halfway house to one convicted manslaughterer and is bidding adieu to another one-time statutory rapist and an accused domestic assaillant (just don't get into a fight at club, Antwain!). Get on your horse if you must, pristine defenders of systemic virtue, but at least at USM our misfits graduate. Easterling ought to immediately push 1,400-yard slasher Damion Fletcher for carries ("slasher," for clarity, being Fletcher's running style, not his street cred).

Their scrupulous credulity is Southern Miss' gain.
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As part of a larger recruit-assessment project by Vijay at iBlog for Cookies, SMQ ranked USM's incoming class not only for wealth, of which there is only slightly more than the usual scarcity, but also for need. Southern is facing big problems in coming seasons along both lies, where there is precious little waiting behind rising seniors. Entering Wednesday, in fact, the returning roster could not support a starting defensive line in 2008, and its offensive counterpart would be, yes, offensive, and not very deep itself. So this class needed some big bodies above all else.

The "Player Rating" is by Scout; "Position Need" is SMQ's own assessment from the returning depth chart (that link is generally good but vastly behind the times on many players no longer with the team) and what positions USM will need to fill in the next two-three years. Stars were awarded to positions on that basis (often more than one star per position, depending on scarcity) before before considering any aspect of this class:

Pos. Player Player Rating Position Need Bloviation
RB Antwain Easterling **** ***** One of the national upsets of the day, apparently. The Miami RB (not to be confused with unranked in-state WR Tawain Easterling) was ranked as the 15th-best back in the nation by Scout, which is a tremendous coup for USM if he's not a head case. He's recently faced heat for the arrest, but he's also been called "a humble young man of good character," whatever that's worth. Bigger schools backed off, and it looked like he was headed to Rutgers before signing Wednesday with Southern. Undersized (5'11", 185) like Damion Fletcher but definitely faster (4.53). Fletcher ran four running backs off the team last year, leaving a grand total of three, so depth was a priority.
OL Julius Gray **** ***** Huge (6'5", 325) JUCO tackle probably needs to slide down to guard to get into the lineup right away. All three interior line starter graduate with iffy (bordering on terrifying) reserves.
QB Randy Hardin *** ***** Top two quarterbacks next fall are both seniors, leaving Hardin to compete with another athletic Floridian (Martevious Young) for job in '08 if he's not moved to another position. Small (6'0", 190, reputedly shorter according to message boarders who have sized him up on campus visits).
TE Brennan Houston *** **** Big JUCO blocker from California. Starter Shawn Nelson is a future draft pick, if somewhat injury-prone and inconsistent, but there is no depth, so Houston may have a chance to play quickly.
LB Blake Spiers *** * Returning talent at linebacker was already enough to set the depth chart for the next two years, at least. Spiers enters with an intimidating SEC Greek Cut.
CB Gene Anderson *** * Local JUCO will join half a dozen underclassmen (and, having seen a few of that group in spot duty, hopefully beat them) trying to replace a pair of graduating starters.
K Justin Estes ** ** The only obstacle to Britt Barefoot's singleminded drive to dominate USM kicking, punting and kickoff positions. From Ohio, which is weird.
LB Tim Green ** * Redshirting and waiting in a long line unless he channels former Falcon and current announcer/tabloid TV host/author.
OL James Brady ** **** Desperately need bodies on both lines, but bigger ones than this: Brady's listed at 6'1", 255.
DE Jamison Wadley ** *** Only two ends on the '08 depth chart, but Wadley comes in a little lanky (6'4", 218) for end and probably too slow (listed at 4.75 40) to move to linebacker.
DL Deddrick Jones ** ***** OMG need defensive tackles (only one on the returning roster, Eric Phillips, has eligibility past the upcoming season), but what is with the poaching from Jenny Craig camp? Jones is just 225 pounds.
RB Ike Bowden ** * December commit overshadowed by Easterling.
QB Darin Farris ** * Local grab could start down the line if the athletic types in front of him don't pan out or move to receiver or something. Pretty ugly kid, based on his Scout picture, which SMQ takes as a positive indicator for his play.
RB V.J. Floyd ** - Orlando signee will be the third Florida running back (with Easterling and Tory Harrison) on the roster.
CB Rashod Henry ** - Local prep listed with 4.4 40 time.
DE Logan Hickman ** *** Appropriately-sized (6'3", 265) white guy
OL Jake Thames ** *** 6'6" 245. Aside from Gray, where is the freakin' beef?
CB Dedric Jones ** - Listed at 6'3", 230, which in this class will get him moved to center. Seriously, that's bigger than anyone on the defensive line in two years.
DE Cordarro Law ** - Alabaman in the classic "Bandit" mold (6'3" 235). Like that name, "Cordarro Law."
S Jamar Shelton ** ** Also listed with sub-4.5 40 time.
CB William Spight ** - Hey, 4.41 here, too, but small (5'10", 160). It's a good sign if his size scared off bigger schools more than his play.
WR Taiwan Easterling ** **** Local talent's name is very, very close to the touted running back's, and sure to be confusing. Receiving corps past '07 has so-so numbers but is completely anonymous.
WR Jeremy Snowden ** *** Seeking to fill USM's annual freshman-receiver-who-leaps-mediocre-veterans-on-depth-chart-for-15-or-20-catches-and-flashes-potential-before-fading-away slot made infamous by Chris Johnson, Tavarres Williams and resident bust-in-waiting Joe Singleton.
WR Levi Carlton * * Random receiver.
DE Pernell McPhee * - Rooting for him just for the opportunity to say 'Pernell McPhee' a lot, and possibly develop a country folk song: "Pernell McPhee from Pahokee."
LB Korey Williams * * New Orleanian under the radar because of Katrina. Well, and 4.6 40 time in 220-pound body. Good potential afro action.
S Cameron O'Neal * - From Alabama.
S Micah Pellerin * - Eh. Private school (not exactly founts of talent in Mississippi). There are already like 15 redshirt and sophomore safeties on the returning roster behind two senior starters. [Actually, it's about eight backup safeties right now. - ed.]
CB Ken Dailey * - All these unranked DBs should be disassembled or melted down and reconstituted into one impossibly huge, Frankensteinian defensive tackle.

And if you combined their eligibility, he could play until like 2020.
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That's an okay haul if the offensive linemen are going to gain 60 pounds apiece in a year. That's many, many trips to Letha's...