If Tuesday is Super Tuesday in the presidential campaign, this Wednesday, national signing day, is Super Wednesday for college football. ESPNU, the 24-hour college sports network, is pulling out all stops with a seven-hour special “ESPNU Recruiting Insider: National Signing Day Special” from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m.The special will be highlighted by exclusive live player announcements, in-depth analysis, news and highlights of top recruits and collegiate programs from around the country. The final 30 minutes of coverage will recap the top recruiting classes for 2008. Lowell Galindo, ESPNU’s primary anchor, will host the Signing Day special along with Mike Gottfried, Dave Ryan and ESPN’s Scouts, Inc. analysts Tom Luginbill, Todd McShay and Craig Haubert.
In a conference call this week, Luginbull talked about the University of Oklahoma’s recruiting class, which he ranks No. 6 nationally.
Here’s his top 10: 1.Florida, 2. Miami, 3. Georgia, 4. Clemson, 5. Ohio State, 6. Oklahoma, 7. Notre Dame, 8. USC, 9. Alabama, 10. Texas. Other Big 12 teams in his top 25 are No. 15 Texas A&M and No. 22 Nebraska.
Luginbill: We have Oklahoma ranked sixth nationally out of our top 25 class. They have 19 verbal commitments, eight of those from our ESPN Top 150 prospects. They have a commitment from our No. 1 ranked running back Jermie Calhoun, who we think is potentially an elite difference maker in the backfield. We all know that Oklahoma is loaded up in the backfield, but it is also proven they are able to divy the ball up quite a bit. I think that football programs are built from the inside out, what I mean by that is you build them from the quarterback, up front on defense in terms of pass rushers, and also being to run the football. So what do they do, they get R.J. Washington, one of the elite defensive ends in the class, our second-ranked defensive end. They get another quarterback to add to the fold in Landry Jones of Artesia, N.M. Their playmakers at wide receiver are enhancing their offensive skills. This is a class that I still think has a few guys that they want to nab, obviously one being Julio Jones, the wide receiver out of Foley, Ala., who has yet to verbally commit but will do so on our national signing day show. I think it is down to Oklahoma and Alabama for Julio Jones.
The Hornets’ attendance problems since their return to New Orleans have been well-documented. They rank last in the league in attendance with an average of 11,871 fans a game. Their new lease allows them to opt out of the contract after next season if the team doesn’t average 14,735 fans a game.
Bill Hurley, the market manager for Clear Channel Communications in Oklahoma City, experienced the apathy over the Hornets over the holidays. A big fan of the Hornets when the team was in OKC, Hurley carried Hornets’ games on his radio stations — KTOK-AM 1000 for the 2005-06 season and KHBZ-FM 94.5 for the 2006-07 season. Hurley told me about apathy toward the Hornets in an e-mail:
Hurley: We went to New Orleans to see Cavs/Lebron on a Saturday and Toronto on a Monday. It was sold out for Lebron but no more than 6,000 fans in the seats for
Toronto. Pathetic. Oklahoma City would have been going crazy. Even during the Cleveland game, the crowd rarely got into it.
Here’s a couple of good examples of their ‘support’ down there. T-shirt shops are everywhere but it’s all Saints & LSU. Hornets don’t get any more floor space than any other team, and even less than Yankees, some SEC teams, and several other high profile teams.
But, here was the real clincher. Emma and I go into our favorite restaurant — The Acme Oyster Bar — and sit at the bar. Guy behind bar shuckin’ oysters and waiting on us.
He says to us, “You here for the football game?”
I say, “No, we’re here to see the Hornets.”
He responds, “THE HORNETS??”
“Yeah, we LOVE the Hornets.”
The guy next to him shuckin’ oysters has been listening. He says “Y’All must be from Oklahoma!!
I had never watched Fox sideline reporter Laura Okmin cover a game before Wednesday night’s Fiesta Bowl. I figured she must be new to covering football the way she gushed about the jubiliation on West Virginia’s sidelines or wondered why senior fullback Owen Schmitt was sobbing during her postgame interview. I thought she was clueless and green. I was wrong about her being inexperienced. Looking up her bio on the Web, I found out she graduated with honors from KU. (Actually, she probably didn’t really see much football there as the school hasn’t had much of a program until recent years). She went on to become a field producer for ESPN in 1993 and has worked at TV stations in Montgomery, Ala., Chattanooga, Tenn., and Chicago. She joined “Totally Football” in 2003.
As usual, Fox’s coverage left a lot to be desired. When the network covers only five college football games a year, it’s hard to know much about the sport. Matt Vasgerian was a lame play-by-play announcer, making numerous mistakes. (No, it wasn’t the first time OU went for a two-point conversion this season). Vasgerian did have a good line on Schmitt’s 63-yard touchdown run, referring to him as a “runaway beer truck.” A three-man booth is too crowded. Former USC quarterback Pat Haden was the most insightful, and I’m sure he was glad to cover someone other than a lackluster Notre Dame team for NBC. Former UCLA coach Terry Donahue didn’t add much.
I should have listened to the game on ESPN Radio. I’d like to think Sean McDonough, Bob Davie and Holly Rowe would have done a better job. At least, they are familiar with college football and the Sooners.Thom Brennaman and the underrated Charles Davis likely will do a better job Monday night for Fox, covering the BCS National Championship game. Chris Meyers will work the sidelines.
Terry Awards: Fox analyst Terry Bradshaw announced his annual Terry Awards on last Sunday’s “NFL Sunday” pregame show. The list:
Good Hire Award: Dolphins Executive VP of Football Operations Bill Parcells.
Next Coach Fired Award: Dolphins coach Cam Cameron.
Mr. Under-Appreciated Award: Jaguars RB Fred Taylor.
The (Adrian) Peterson Award: Vikings offensive line.
Player of the Year: Patriots QB Tom Brady.
Coach of the Year: Packers head coach Mike McCarthy.
Assistant Coach of the Year: Buccaneers defensive backs xoach Raheem Morris.
Kicker of the Year: Cowboys Nick Folk.
Profile In Courage Award: Bills TE Kevin Everett.
Good Deed Award: Chiefs OT Kyle Turley.
Benedict Arnold Trophy: Ex-Falcons head coach Bobby Petrino.
Best Team Turnaround: Cleveland Browns.
Worst Move of the Year: The NFL for the 12th straight year without a team in Los Angeles.
Front Office Man of the Year: Patriots VP of Player Personnel Scott Pioli.
Owner Of The Year: Buccaneers WR Joey Galloway for his Tampa vitamin and smoothie shop.
Best Player 5’8” Or Under: Colts S Bob Sanders.
Mr. Remarkable Award: Packers QB Brett Favre.
Clemens special: ESPN will present a one-hour SportsCenter special at 4 p.m. Monday, including live coverage of Roger Clemens’ press conference in Houston. Monday will mark Clemens’ first press conference since his name was mentioned in former U.S. Senator George Mitchell’s report on drugs in Major League Baseball. Clemens’ news conference will come less than 24 hours after his “60 Minutes” interview with Mike Wallace.