National Signing Day (Feb. 1) is huge for high school and college football fans, players and coaches.
Ironically, CBS-MaxPreps recruiting analyst Tom Lemming says, "The worst day to announce is Signing Day, because you get caught up in hundreds of guys signing. I always thought the best day is the day after (for maximum exposure and publicity). But you don't want to wait too long, because you'll get caught up in March Madness (college basketball) and they'll forget about you."
Lemming gave a great example of a second-team high school All-American who waited past Signing Day. Most of the media focused on him every day since he was the only big name left and he basically had the entire country in the palm of his hand until he chose to reveal his college.
"Kids who become media savvy look for the best time to announce and all have advisers," Lemming said.
Asked for his predictions, Lemming replied, "I stay away from that. I never have done it, because I'm never right. Plus there are all the rumors and I try not to deal in rumors."
Lemming revealed that the only time he made predictions, he "cheated."
In 1986 he appeared on the Crystal Ball Segment at CNN and successfully picked the college choices of his top 10 players. He explained, "Back then everyone announced on Signing Day. Nine of the 10 told me (three days before Signing Day) and I guessed the 10th one right. People thought I was amazing."
Today, he says, "A lot of times if guys aren't guessing, they have some inside information. Some kids may be silent (publicly), but they have committed to a college. Three of every four kids tell a college where they are going. However, it doesn't guarantee they are going there. I've seen some do an about-face and make the colleges really mad. These kids change their minds as often as they change their socks."
Lemming calls the next days "the lull before the storm. This year there will be some shocks, because there are a lot more (highly rated) guys with that potential. It could be really exciting this year.
* Turning to another subject, Lemming was asked why most large cities are losing players and interest in high school football.
He answered with one word: "Money. A lot of big-city programs are running out of money. Football is an expensive sport. City schools don't have as many coaches, so the suburbs are taking over football. Even Catholic schools in the cities are suffering."
The veteran analyst also said that programs which have cut spring practice have been hurt. Athletes have gone to other sports to fill the gaps.
There are, however, a few inner-city programs that are prospering and Lemming said the key is the presence of a "dynamic coach."
In particular he praised Ted Ginn at Glenville (Cleveland)
, Tom Wilcher at Cass Tech (Detroit)
and Telly Lockette at Central (Miami)
as outstanding coaches who consistently turn out winning teams and great players. He is especially impressed by Lockette, who has built a losing program into a state champion.
"What a great story that is," Lemming said. "It's a remarkable accomplishment, considering there's not much money in Miami."
* Lemming's Friday TV show (7 p.m., EST, on the CBS Sports Network) will feature North Carolina State University football coach Tom O'Brien, who will discuss the latest recruiting news. Lemming calls O'Brien's staff "one of the best in the country at evaluating talent. Iowa, Purdue and Stanford also are very good."
On National Signing Day, his show will run on the same network from 1 to 6 p.m., EST. Ron Zook and Rick Neuheisel will be among his special guests.