Thoughts on National Signing Day:
The overemphasis on athletics in the black community is an overall chronic illness debilitating all of society. Yet the repetition of a message appropriate for all allows even people like me to enjoy the whole Signing Day production at Booker T. Washington High guilt free. The message: this is just a start, an opportunity. Don't just go to college, graduate from college, prepare for life and helping your community.
This wasn't just said once or twice. But over. And over. And over. To the point that if you don't get it, you were never going to get it.
Something else struck me that points up the hypocrisy in college-affiliated football at the FBS level. Coaches love to talk about the "character" of their signees who stayed with long ago commitments, but have no problem trying to get somebody else's long-committed player to flip.
What if National Signing Day got spread over two days, the first day for Group of 5 conferences and the second day for Power 5 schools? Just thinking about getting some of the attention-hogging behemoths out of the way so the schools with less of a football tradition can get more attention. Today's FIU afternoon Signing Day media session consisted of me, FIU Student Media, FIU News and one Channel 4 cameraman/reporter.
Why can no CD or digital recording of The Temptations' "Ball of Confusion" duplicate the sound mixing of the 45 with the horns really blasting on the bridges? (I didn't say all the thoughts were about Signing Day...)
Now, to FIU's class...anybody who has read this space through any of the three Signing Days since I took over the lease knows I'll quote recruiting rankings, but that's it. If you want somebody to sing you gospel, go to Mahalia Jackson or James Cleveland, not Rivals.com. These are 17 and 18-year-olds. It's why the drafts in Major League Baseball and the NHL have a higher bust quotient than the NBA and NFL.
All day, media peers said to me, "FIU's really got a nice class coming together" and I agreed. When I saw some of the signees in action during the high school season, they made me look up their names. They lost Ocie Rose -- a flip two different people told me might happen, one of whom texted "Blame Miami. They took James King from FAU" -- but got Kenyatta Anderson, who is almost as highly rated. An even trade based on that.
FIU needed more vintage South Florida zoom on offense. Central's omnithreat Anthony Jones provides that better than anyone else out of Dade County in this class. Austin Maloney can move chains and the scoreboard. Olin Cushion reminds me a little of Richard Leonard, with a 3.7 engine instead of a 5.0 -- not the biggest cornerback, but one you'd just as soon avoid altogether. I can't judge how high school linemen can translate to college. I watched one game of Deion Eakins' and thought "Big, but what else?" for a quarter. Later, I found myself saying to the television, "Y'all need to run behind him more, he's moving something over there in the run game. And his pass rushers might as well just stand there after the snap because they look like Toyotas caught in a snow drift."
So, I don't understand the 97th conference rating and seventh rating by C-USA. I don't understand 108 and 8 ratings from Scout.com, except that they didn't give FIU credit for Anderson. Rivals.com annually possesses the most Panther love and ranked the class No. 88 and No. 8 in conference.
As South Park Johnnie Cochran said in laying out the Chewbacca Defense, "It does not make sense."
Nor does it matter. The players I heard the most staff excitement about in FIU's highest-rated recruiting class, 2012 -- just-get-him-the-ball Johnnie Durante, Signing Day linebacker flip Patrick Jean, defensive tackle Darrian Dyson -- have gone strike one, strike two, foul tip. Except for the defensive backs, the 2013 class would've gotten more respect if they'd been 16 Poindexters and a Sheldon. Yet one of those defensive backs never made it to campus while tight end Jonnu Smith's one of the best in the country at his job; guard Jordan Budwig is 24 of 24 on starts; and middle linebacker Treyvon Williams anchors FIU's best unit.
So, check back in three years for a more accurate slotting.
Christian Alexander, quarterback, 6-3, 205, Lakeland Christian Varsity. Three/two stars by 247Sports.com, three stars by Scout.com, two stars by Rivals.com
Andrew Jones, wide receiver/running back, 6-0, 190, Central. Three stars by 247Sports, two stars by Rivals.com and Scout.com. Strong in this one the Hilton Force could be.
Fermin Silva, outside linebacker, 6-2, 225, Central. Three stars by 247Sports, three stars by Scout.com, two stars by Rivals.com. Anybody else think in a few years, FIU's linebackers could be the Marshall-Singletary-Mama's Boy Otis of Conference USA?
Neal Mars, offensive lineman, 6-3, 270, Orange Park Fleming Island. Two stars by 247 Sports and Rivals
Collin Olsen, running back, 6-1, 225, Port Orange Spruce Creek. Two stars by 247 Sports and Rivals.
Mark Hutchinson, wide receiver, Zephyrhills Wiregrass Ranch, 6-2, 205. Two stars by 247Sports and Rivals. A chain mover, similar to Ellingson.
Mac Carey, tight end, Tallahassee Leon, 6-1, 231, two stars by 247Sports and Rivals
Jestin Green, defensive back/wide receiver, St. Petersburg Admiral Farragut Academy 6-2, 180, two stars by 247Sports and Rivals
Milord Juste, defensive end, Palm Beach Gardens, 6-0, 240, two/three stars by 247Sports, two stars by Rivals
Julian Williams, WR, 6-0, 185, Georgia Military Prep, two stars by 247Sports and Rivals
Andrew Burgess, OL, 6-6, 300, Neptune Beach Fletcher, two stars by 247Sports and Rivals
Deion Eakins, OL, 6-3, 315, Jacksonville Trinity Christian, two stars by 247Sports and Rivals
Sage Lewis, LB, Monsignor Edward Paace High, 6-1, 210, two/three stars by 247Sports and two stars by Rivals
R.J. Harris, OL, Tallahassee North Florida Christian, 6-3, 260, three/two stars by 247Sports and two stars by Rivals
Emmanuel Lubin, CB, North Miami Beach, 6-1, 170, three stars by 247Sports and two stars by Rivals
Maurice Alexander, QB, Booker T Washington, 5-11, 170, two/three stars by 247Sports and two stars by Rivals. He makes good choices and I like his accuracy. I still need to watch a couple of Booker T. games I've got on the DVR.
Olin Cushion, DB, Central, 5-8, 160, two stars by 247Sports and Rivals. Watched Central a few times and apparently those opponents decided this was not the man to mess with because I didn't see much of him in pass coverage. Opponents threw at the other side of the field. He played bigger than his measurables in run support.
Terry Bennett, RB, Jacksonville Atlantic Coast, 6-0, 205, three stars by 247Sports, two stars by Rivals.
Austin Maloney, WR, Columbus, 5-11, 180, two stars by 247Sports and Rivals. I said it on the Herald video and I'll say it here -- if he came with darker skin, he'd have been at least a whole star rating higher. Strong, nice technique for a high school receiver with enough speed to beat you deep without you being asleep.
Kenyatta Anderson, CB, Gulfport Boca Ciega, 6-1, 170, rated two stars by 247Sports, three stars by Rivals, three stars by Scout.com
Tyree Johnson, DB, Carol City, 5-9, 165, two stars by 247Sports and Rivals. Originally part of the 2014 class, gray-shirted last year.