The Commercial Appeal

It’s a mother of a day for signing players


Wednesday was college football signing day, so there were going to be crazy stories, but none was crazier than the one involving running back Alex Collins and his mother, Andrea McDonald.

Seems Alex intended to sign with Arkansas. Seems his mother preferred that he go to Miami. So when Alex was getting ready to sign his letter of intent at South Plantation (Fla.) High School, Andrea showed up, swiped the letter of intent and fled.

“She apparently, allegedly and purportedl­y snatched the letter of intent,” said Rece Davis of ESPN. “Mom has been very elusive in space today.”

That was one of a gazillion jokes, of course. The mother was last seen driving off with Al Cowlings. Or was she on the back of Bobby Petrino’s motorcycle? If the mother is really that fast, she’s probably signing with Ole Miss.

Ladies and gentlemen, I give you signing day 2013. In which a mother stole a

letter of intent, and Ole Miss signed a mother of a recruiting class.

Yet, before I get to any of that, I am duty bound to remind you how nutty all this is, how it could be a sign that the apocalypse is upon us and, if so, it will all be broadcast on ESPNU.

Universiti­es should not prostrate themselves before 18-year- old behemoths. They should not be scrapping over kids who struggle to spell ACT. Kids should not hold press conference­s to announce their choice of colleges. Grownups should not play hooky to watch those press conference­s on national TV.

Every year, it gets bigger and bigger. This cannot be a good thing. President Obama himself knows the saga of Reuben Foster, the linebacker who was so intent on going to Auburn that he had the Auburn logo tattooed on his forearm. Except, Foster wound up changing his mind and going to Alabama. Someone suggested he fix the Auburn tattoo by adding the word “Beat.”

Everyone yucks it up about this stuff. Because it’s so appalling, what else is there to do? I flipped on ESPNU Wednesday afternoon and happened to see a defensive lineman named Keith Bryant commit to Florida State. Bryant was bouncing his baby daughter on his knee. The ESPN anchor interviewi­ng Bryant laughed about teaching the girl to do the chop. And that might all seem perfectly sweet except Bryant IS STILL IN HIGH SCHOOL.

So, yes, the end of the world is near. But on the bright side, Ole Miss should win a bunch of games between now and then. Head coach Hugh Freeze recruited a staggering­ly good class of players to balance out the talent that has always been in The Grove.

It all started with Robert Nkemdiche, an electric defensive lineman, who put on a cap and said, “I have decided to attend the University of Ole Miss.” Hey, when you are the No. 1 player in the country, you can call the place whatever you like.

Then came Laremy Tunsil (offensive linemen) and Laquan Treadwell (wide receiver) and Antonio Conner (safety) and on and on. Well-known recruiting expert LeBron James was so impressed he tweeted: “Ole Miss ain’t messing around today! Big time recruits coming in.”

By the end of the day, ESPN was running its recruiting rankings under a headline that said “Hits and Ole Miss.” Ole Miss was No. 5 in the ESPN rankings, between Notre Dame and Michigan.

“It has the possibilit­y of being a program changer,” Freeze said of the day. “I don’t think you could go out and purchase the type of exposure we got today.”

Things were not nearly so promising in Knoxville, where new coach Butch Jones lost prized defensive back Vonn Bell to Ohio State. But Jones did get a couple of quarterbac­ks, and later claimed to have the best quarterbac­k class in the land.

At Memphis, Justin Fuente was just happy to have more players. He added 29 recruits, none of whom will necessaril­y impress LeBron James. Normally, I roll my eyes at coaches who scoff at recruiting rankings. It’s what schools with lower rankings tend to do. But somehow, Fuente inspires confidence, if not absolute faith. Plus, it’ll be fun to watch Sam Craft.

Meanwhile, as the day wound down, Collins still hadn’t signed with Miami or Arkansas. His mother was still on the lam, as far as anyone knew. His big brother, Johnny Collins, had weighed in, saying, “I would prefer him to go to Miami, too.”

It was sad, of course, beneath the hilarity. It was a family coming apart. Precious few kids are prepared to handle the fawning adulation that is the essence of football recruiting. The national spotlight doesn’t help.

So it was reassuring to see a single tweet from Collins’ Twitter account Wednesday. It didn’t reveal his college choice.

“Everything is going to be alright,” the tweet said, simply.

One can certainly hope. To reach Geoff Calkins call 901-529-2364, or e-mail calkins@commercial­appeal. com.

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