Thursday, February 8, 2018

Signing Up

TigerBlog has liked Ross Tucker since way back when he was a Princeton offensive lineman and TB was the football contact in athletic communications.

He was a happy, funny, humble, dedicated guy back then. He's all the same things today, even as his career in football media has skyrocketed.

Tucker sent this out yesterday on Twitter. Oh, and how many followers does he have? How about 181,000? Not bad.

That's pretty funny stuff, no?

Today is the parade for the Super Bowl champion Philadelphia Eagles. That sentence could never have been written prior to the last few days, actually.

TigerBlog envisions a calm, orderly, sober event, right?

You'd think that with the end of the football season that people like Ross Tucker wouldn't have much to talk about right about now. Wrong. It never ends.

On the NFL level, there's always something to talk about it, even it's to talk about how interest in the NFL is dropping, which, of course, doesn't stop everyone from talking about it, if that makes any sense at all. Beyond that, there's player movement, coaching developments, the combine and then, of course, the never-ending chatter about the draft, which has to be one of the two most overrated things in the world of sports, alongside the closer position in baseball.

On the college level, there's not quite as much talk, though spring football continues to get bigger. And there was yesterday, which was National Signing Day.

This, too, has become a huge news event, with clip after clip on social media of the high school senior, in the gym, at a table, with four hats on the table in front of him until he picks up one and puts it on. Yawn.

Princeton, and the rest of the Ivy League, do not have a signing day, since the "signing" refers to a National Letter of Intent, which refers to athletic scholarships, which the Ivy League doesn't offer. If you've ever seen a picture on a website or in the newspaper of a bunch of kids from one high school all "signing" and one of them is an Ivy Leaguer, then that kid is just signing a blank piece of paper.

To review, no "verbal" commitments are binding in any way, at least not legally, and it isn't until the NLI is signed that a prospect becomes actually tied to the school by NCAA rules. In the Ivy League, that dynamic doesn't exist. The closest Ivy schools come are when a student, any student, is offered admission and accepts, but even that isn't binding the way an NLI is.

Because of this, the signing day can be an anxious one for coaches, because players can be committed verbally for a year or two and then sign with someone else. And for Ivy League coaches, there's nothing to stop a kid who has already been accepted from simply taking someone else's scholarship offer.

And that brings TigerBlog to the most fascinating story of the entire football recruiting season, the story of Brevin White.

If you're a Princeton fan, you already know all about Brevin White. He's the highly recruited quarterback from California who verbally committed to Princeton last summer and then proceeded to throw for 54 touchdowns with five interceptions.

What happened next is also pretty well known. White, who could have gone anywhere, took a recruiting visit to Alabama.

Nooooooooooo. That was the collective sound that any Princeton football fan made as the news got out.

It wasn't hard to picture it all. Alabama football. Nick Saban. Everything that goes along with it.

Then the follow up came. Brevin White was sticking with his original commitment to Princeton.

Bob Surace 1, Nick Saban 0.

For your average SEC football fan, such a decision makes zero sense. Who could pass up Alabama to play at Princeton?

From the Princeton perspective, it makes total sense.

First, Princeton has routinely sent players to the NFL in recent years, so if he's good enough, that will be an option. Second, it's easy to get lost in the numbers game and depth chart at Alabama.

More than any of that, though, there's the Princeton opportunity. It's unique. It's something that allows you to have a well-rounded college experience without having to compromise the chance to develop yourself athletically to your fullest potential.

To TigerBlog, that's something you don't pass up. Princeton football isn't Alabama football. That's obvious. It's also not one-size-fits-all. Alabama isn't always the best choice.

It takes some maturity for a high school senior - or in White's case, someone who has just graduated high school - to see that.

What's next?

White will be a Princeton freshman this fall. The Tigers graduate record-setting Chad Kanoff, the 2017 Bushnell Cup winner as the league's Offensive Player of the Year, but they also bring back the 2016 winner, quarterback John Lovett. It was the pairing of Kanoff and Lovett in 2016 that led to Lovett's record-setting of his own.

But making the jump from high school to college isn't easy, especially for a quarterback. And White will be coming into Princeton with huge expectations on him, probably unrealistic ones.

He needs to have those rooting for him to lower those expectations a tad. He's not going to break Kanoff's single-season passing record next year. It'll be a process, same as it will for any other recruit.

At the same time, Brevin White won't ever be just another recruit. He'll always be the recruit who turned down Nick Saban and Alabama, in favor of Bob Surace and Princeton.

It's the most fascinating part of signing day. That's for sure. 

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