Signing Day was a good day for local athletes

Published 12:01am Sunday, February 10, 2013

National Signing Day could also be called National Bragging Rights Day or National Hand-wringing Day, depending on which team you’re a fan of.

Recruitniks, or people who follow college football recruiting closely, paid close attention Wednesday to how their school fared in attracting the nation’s top athletes.

Mississippi State had a top-25 class, according to the rankings of ESPN, 24/7 Sports and Rivals.com. LSU quietly had a top-10 class according to those services and Scout.com. I say “quietly” because much of the attention in SEC country seems to be dominated by Ole Miss.

The Tigers having a top-10 recruiting class is par the course in recent history. Ole Miss not so much. Which is why the Rebel fanbase is even more stirred up than it was after Ole Miss’ strong finish to the 2012 season.

College football recruiting has become an obsession to the point where it almost rivals the actual games. That’s totally understandable, because fans realize that you have to attract top talent in order to win. Former Saints head coach Bum Phillips once said Don Shula could “take his’n and beat your’n,” and also “take your’n and beat his’n.”

A classic quote, to be sure, but it doesn’t really work that way. A team loaded with premium talent and lesser coaching is not going to lose to a team with much lesser talent, short of the more-talented team not trying.

While no one locally signed with any SEC schools this season, a number of schools still chose to have their pick at the Miss-Lou’s premium football talent. Natchez High School’s Derrian Johnson and Kris Weatherspoon signed with Jackson State. Cathedral’s Khalil Brice signed with Southwest Mississippi Community College and Adams County Christian School’s Garrett Keating signed with Copiah-Lincoln Community College.

Ferriday High School’s Jarvis Brooks and Lee Quinn both signed with Louisiana College. Jefferson County High School had three players sign: Nick Brown with Alcorn State, Cody Gilchrist with Mississippi Valley State and O’lajawon O’Neal with Co-Lin.

NHS head coach Lance Reed said having his players play at the 6A level in MHSAA goes a long way in getting them recognized.

“I feel like we play against some of the best teams in the state,” Reed said. “When we play a schedule like that, I think it’s beneficial for our guys.”

For Brice, the signing was even sweeter, as it means he’ll continue his football career after having his senior season cut short with a torn meniscus in his right knee. Green Wave head coach Ron Rushing said he’s not surprised Brice was able to fight through the injury and still have a chance to play football.

“I think it’s a testament to how hard he’s worked,” Rushing said. “Khalil is one of the favorites in our school. He’s always positive, and it speaks a lot to his character.”

ACCS head coach David King said having the first Rebels signee in several years is another step in rebuilding the school’s football program.

“(Keating) certainly has a lot of talent,” King said. “We were his third coaching staff in three seasons, so he’s been through a lot, but he was a joy to coach every single day in practice. This is good exposure for the kids. He was a really good player, and we have several good players coming up behind him.”

For Quinn and Brooks, earning a scholarship was the culmination of hard work, both on the field and in the classroom, Trojans head coach Cleothis Cummings said.

“These two guys in particular are extremely hard workers with their academics,” Cummings said. “No matter how good you are on the field, if you don’t take care of your business in the classroom, there will be consequences.”

One good thing about recruiting season is that it never ends. Local players will continue to work toward earning a scholarship. College teams will quickly turn their attention to the 2014 class. If you’re looking for a year-round “sport” to follow, recruiting is it.