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February 2, 2011

Top surprises on Signing Day

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National Signing Day 2011 arrived on Wednesday with 17 members of the Rivals100 still undecided on their college futures. However, there did not seem to be all that much drama as many assumed the destinations of all but a handful of them. You know what they say about assuming, though.

With a flurry of morning announcements from top prospects, many of those assumptions were proven to be false. Players always claim they want to "shock the world," but this year many of them did just that. Though the nation's No. 1 overall prospect, Jadeveon Clowney, will wait until Feb. 14 to make his decision known, there was plenty of drama that still played out on Wednesday.

Clemson signs four five-stars: A pair of five-star Floridians in wide receiver Sammy Watkins and running back Mike Bellamy were committed to Clemson when they day started. The Tigers were in a tight race with Virginia Tech for five-star North Carolina linebacker Stephone Anthony and Clemson ended up winning out. They were not done with their haul of elite linebackers, though. Another five-star Floridian, Tony Steward, was seemingly a lock to sign with Florida State. That was not the case, though, as the nation's No. 1 outside linebacker prospect signed with Clemson during a ceremony at his school on Wednesday morning. The Tigers' total of four five-star prospects is tops in the country.

USC pulls some stunners: Glenville (Ohio) has long been a stronghold for Ohio State recruiting. The Buckeyes have generally been able to get whoever they wanted at the school and this year the target was Rivals100 offensive guard Aundrey Walker. Most assumed his signing with Ohio State was a mere formality but the nation's No. 64 overall prospect had other plans. He decided to head to the Pac-12 and sign with USC. The Trojans also stole another prospect from across the county in Kentucky linebacker Lamar Dawson. According to everybody around him, the Rivals100 prospect was headed to either Kentucky or Tennessee. The Trojans were barely even mentioned until the nation's No. 45 prospect signed with them on Wednesday. USC also reeled in Rivals100 defensive tackle Christian Heyward and, while it was not as big as a shock as the others, he was also heavily considering Oregon.

Brother vs. Brother at the Iron Bowl: Five-star offensive tackle Cyrus Kouandjio from Hyattsville (Md.) DeMatha had a very eclectic lists of finalists that included the likes of Iowa and New Mexico. Most assumed that he would end up at Alabama, though, joining his brother Arie Kouandjio in playing for the Crimson Tide. Arie is a true freshman lineman who signed with Alabama a year ago and it was thought the two would play together at the next level as well. That turned out to be exactly the opposite of what really happened though. The younger Kouandijo committed to bitter in-state rival Auburn in front of a national television audience. The commitment gives the Tigers two of the top three offensive tackles in the country as Christian Westerman from Arizona switched his pledge from Texas to Auburn a few weeks ago. He could still pull an even bigger stunner though since, as of press time, Kouandijo had still not signed his letter-of-intent with Auburn and might not sign anywhere today at all.

Payback from Bama: Alabama fans may not have been happy that Auburn seemingly stole Kouandijo from them but they could take solace in the fact that they flipped a top commit from the Tigers on signing day. Linebacker Brent Calloway, the No. 38 overall prospect in the country, was actually one of the first Alabama commits in the class of 2011. He had second thoughts late in the process, though, and switched his commitment to Auburn during the U.S. Army All-American Bowl. When it finally looked as though his decision was finalized, Calloway decided to go with his original choice on the morning of signing day, sending his letter-of-intent to Alabama and spurning the Tigers. The Crimson Tide also signed Rivals100 defensive end Jeoffrey Pagan, who many assumed was Georgia-bound.

Smaller in-state schools score big: Ohio defensive end Andre Sturdivant held offers from the likes of Ohio State, Michigan State and Penn State but the Rivals250 prospect decided to spurn the Big Ten and stay in state to play for Toledo. The nation's No. 244 overall player is the highest-rated commit for any Mid American Conference school. Miami Booker T. Washington defensive tackle Elkino Watson was down to a final three of Florida, Miami and Louisville when he held an announcement ceremony at his school Wednesday morning. With all three hats on the table, the four-star prospect instead reached into the crowd for a fourth hat and put it on. He spurned the trio to instead sign with South Florida.



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