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February 4, 2009

Top surprises on Signing Day

MORE: Signing Day Central | Team recruiting rankings | National Signing Day Wire

Wednesday is National Signing Day, the first day football prospects can sign letters of intent to play college football.

Some players commit early and stick to their word. Other players wait until the last minute to make their college destinations, and invariably there are some unexpected choices.

Here are the five biggest surprises from this year's National Signing Day:

1. WR DeAngelo Benton

Schools in the mix: LSU and Auburn
School he chose: Auburn
Buzz: Benton was a four-star prospect and the No. 7 wide receiver in the nation in the 2007 class, and he signed with LSU out of Bastrop (La.) High School. But he failed to qualify. He enrolled at Chatham (Va.) Hargrave Military Academy, signed with LSU again in 2008 and again failed to qualify. Benton didn't play football this past season, enrolled in classes at home in Bastrop and still was listed as an LSU commitment. But with National Signing Day approaching, Benton squeezed in an official visit to Auburn. He pulled a NSD shocker by signing with Auburn and its new coaching staff.

2. WR Nu'Keese Richardson

Schools in the mix: Florida and Tennessee
School he chose: Tennessee
Buzz: Richardson, a Rivals100 prospect out of Pahokee (Fla.) High, seemed to be a perfect fit for Florida's offense when he committed in October. Richardson didn't show any signs of wavering until a last-weekend-before-NSD visit to Knoxville prompted rave reviews. Rumors emerged Wednesday morning that Richardson was considering postponing his decision, but he then ended up signing with Tennessee. Four-star athlete Marsalis Teague, from Paris (Tenn.) Henry County, was another Florida commitment who signed with the Vols on Signing Day.



3. LB Manti Te'o

Schools in the mix: BYU, USC, UCLA and Notre Dame
School he chose: Notre Dame
Buzz: One of the top linebackers in the country, Te'o - from The Punahou School in Honolulu - long was rumored to be a lean to BYU. But he eliminated the Cougars just a few weeks before NSD. He then named USC, UCLA and Notre Dame as his finalists, and most expected him to become a Trojan. But on Signing Day, Te'o announced his decision to head east to South Bend, Ind., and play for Irish coach Charlie Weis.

4. OL Bobby Massie

Schools in the mix: Alabama and Ole Miss
School he chose: Mississippi
Buzz: Massie, the top-rated prospect in the prep school ranks, had everyone guessing as to where he would end up playing. Massie's favorite schools were a mystery for much of the football season, but as Signing Day neared, Alabama emerged as the rumored favorite. But not long after those rumors surfaced, speculation rose that Ole Miss was in a strong position for his signature. By Wednesday, both the Ole Miss and Alabama camps were equally confident, and Massie - originally a four-star prospect from Lynchburg (Va.) Liberty Christian Academy in the 2008 class - ended up choosing the Rebels.

5. Justin Green

Schools in the mix: Kentucky, Ohio State and Illinois
School he chose: Illinois
Buzz: Early on in the recruiting process, Green - from Louisville (Ky.) Male - gave a commitment to Kentucky. As the Rivals100 prospect's recruitment picked up, more programs came calling. Green soon switched his commitment to Ohio State. Green looked solid as an Ohio State commit until the last days of his recruitment, and a late push by Kentucky cast some doubt. Then, Signing Day, Green didn't sign with Ohio State or Kentucky but rather with Illinois, a school that emerged out of nowhere to get his signature.



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