And the Signing Day Champion is...*

In the not so distant past, National Signing Day would come along, all of the top players would put pen to paper, and various pundits would weigh in on who got the top prospects, while the coaches would tell us they got the guys they wanted and met their needs.

In the not so distant past, National Signing Day would come along, all of the top players would put pen to paper, and various pundits would weigh in on who got the top prospects, while the coaches would tell us they got the guys they wanted and met their needs.

Not anymore.

What many fail to realize, is Signing Day is the first day of the National Signing Period which runs until April 1. What many others fail to realize is that players don't have to sign a letter of intent (LOI) at all. An LOI binds the player to the school, but not the school to the player. If I'm a Top 100 player, I might not sign an LOI at all and enroll in my school of choice in the summer before signing my scholarship papers, but that's a story for another day.

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The habits of the media die hard though, and the demand to name a recruiting national champion on Signing Day remains high. But with Scout's two top players unsigned, the team that finishes Signing Day in the number one spot, might not be there in a week.

So with that caveat in mind, the 2011 Signing Day champion is the Auburn Tigers.

Auburn came into the day at No. 3 overall with a shot of moving to the top spot with the players that were making decisions today. Signing Day was good for the Tigers as they got signatures from 4-star safety Erique Florence (6-foot-2/185 pounds), 4-star corner Jermaine Whitehead (6'0/183), and 4-star defensive tackle Gabe Wright (6'4/300).

Auburn also got a commitment from Scout's No. 2 overall prospect in offensive tackle Cyrus Kouandjio (6'7/295). But that's where the intrigue starts. Kouandjio, long thought an Alabama lean, made a Signing Day announcement, but immediately had second thoughts as teenagers do. Kouandjio remains committed to Auburn, but he has yet to send in his LOI, which means he can still change his mind and sign with another team ... like Alabama.

Being that it's the first day of the signing period and not the last day of the signing period, Kouandjio's commitment counts towards Auburn's recruiting class rankings, and his commitment stands between No. 1 Auburn and No. 2 Florida State.

Scout's No. 1 player Jadaveon Clowney (6'5/245), a defensive end from Rock Hill, S.C. remains unsigned as well. He will make an announcement on Feb, 14, his birthday. Should Clowney decide not to send an LOI to his chosen school, he'll still be a committed recruit and count in that team's rankings.


Auburn head coach Gene Chizik speaks with quarterback Kiehl Frazier on Signing Day
AP Photo
So the champion on Signing Day is the Auburn Tigers... for now. Two teams have a shot at knocking the Tigers off their perch in the next two weeks.

Sitting at No. 2 is Florida State. The Seminoles were having a terrific year before their two main recruiting rivals (Florida and Miami) went through coaching changes. While the Hurricanes and Gators were in a transition stage, the Seminoles just kept closing, including 5-star defensive tackle Tim Jernigan (6'2/275) of Lake City, Fla. Jernigan is a quick player that also holds up against the run. His ability to get through a gap or beat an offensive lineman one on one will make the rest of the defense better.

5-star safety Karlos Williams (6'2/210) of Davenport, Fla. is a player I like to call an exception. Players the size of Williams typically ends up at linebacker, unless they have the physical skills to be an exception to the rule -- and Williams is just that. He covers ground like a 6'6 wide receiver and hits like a truck. He should see the field early at Florida State.

Should Kouandjio sign with anyone other than Auburn, the Tigers will fall below the Seminoles in the rankings.

But having the No. 1 team fall doesn't mean the No. 2 team moves up, because the second team who could vault to the top is No. 7 Alabama.

The Crimson Tide is still in the hunt for both unsigned top prospects, Clowney and Kouandjio. Should Alabama sign both of those players, Alabama will finish No. 1 for the second time in four years.

If Alabama signs Kouandjio but not Clowney, Florida State finishes with the nation's top recruiting class.

Alabama already has signatures from two of the nation's Top 10 prospects. Safety Ha'Sean Clinton Dix (6'2/200) of Orlando, Fla. and linebacker Trey DePriest (6'2/230) of Springfield, Ohio are the type of difference makers on defense that are as much a tradition in Tuscaloosa as houndstooth hats and championships.

Alabama also got linebacker Brent Callaway (6'3/225) to come back into the fold after briefly appearing on Auburn's commitment list.

There is a lot less intrigue surrounding the remaining members of the Top 5 as they seem to have put the finishing touches on their recruiting classes on Signing Day.

At No. 3 is Ohio State. The Buckeyes have quietly becomes a recruiting juggernaut in the Midwest. They have the best winning percentage of all BCS schools over the course of the last six years, and they have become selectors as much as they've been recruiters.

Quarterback Braxton Miller (6'2/190) of Wayne, Ohio is a cerebral run/pass threat that prefers the pass. He runs a textbook read option and has maybe the quickest release in the country. Miller could get a chance to see the field early during Terrelle Pryor's suspension to begin the 2011 season.

Ohio State also got a commitment from the nation's No. 1 outside linebacker prospect in Curtis Grant (6'3/220) of Richmond, Va. Grant has the frame of an outside linebacker, with the toughness and instincts of an inside player.

The Buckeyes didn't sign a running back but have already addressed that need with commitments from two 4-star backs in the Class of 2012.

It's not surprising to see USC in the Top 5 in most years, but this year is an exception. The scholarship reductions imposed by the NCAA have not been implemented, but the Trojans are still recruiting under pending sanctions. Pulling in a Top 5 class under those circumstances is a minor miracle.

Even with the loss of 5-star athlete DeAnthony Thomas to Oregon, USC still signed an enviable haul of talent.

USC is bringing in much needed quarterback depth in 4-stars Max Wittek (6'3/205) and Cody Kessler (6'2/225). The quarterbacks should have ample weapons to throw to including the nation's most physically gifted receiver George Farmer (6'3/210).

There's no doubt the Trojans made adding depth to the lines of scrimmage a priority as they got commitments from 13 offensive and defensive linemen, including two of the nation's Top 10 offensive guards in Cyrus Hobbi (6'3/285) of Scottsdale, Ariz. and Aundrey Walker (6'6/355) of Cleveland, Ohio.

Another familiar name in the Top 5 is Texas. The Longhorns have their pick of the nation's most talent rich state in most years, but this year may have been Mack Brown's best recruiting job since he arrived in Austin.

While Texas didn't a single commitment after Aug. 18 of 2010, all the Longhorns needed to do was hold on to the players they had to finish in the Top 5. Sounds easy right? It's Texas after all. But the Longhorns had a very un-Texas-like season and in the process turned over both coordinator positions. Through the turmoil, Texas lost only one commitment.

Texas signed 22 players including its top target at running back, 5-star rated Malcolm Brown (6'1/220) of Cibolo. While Texas has had its way in recruiting the better part of the last decade, but the hole in its efforts has consistently been the running back position.

As unlikely as it sounds, Brown is Texas' first running back signee ever rated 5-stars by Scout. The only position where that claim can be made for the Longhorns.

It's not going to be all about Brown at Texas though as the Longhorns are bringing in plenty of aerial support in the form of 4-star wide receivers Miles Onyegbule (6'4/200) and Mykkele Thompson (6'1/170) as well as 5-star Jaxon Shipley (6'0/170), the younger brother of former Longhorn standout Jaxon Shipley.

It only makes sense that in a recruiting year marked by more player and coaching turnovers than ever that the No. 1 team in the country would still be in doubt after Signing Day, but for now, Auburn is sitting in the coveted No. 1 spot.