National signing day isn’t what it used to be.
With scholarships being often being offered to players long before they even reach their senior year and verbal commitments letting the public know which way the athletes are leaning, there isn’t nearly as much drama on the first Wednesday of February each year.
That’s not to say there aren’t any surprises. After all, those verbal commitments aren’t binding.
Midway linebacker Brenndan Johnson supplied an eye-raising moment Wednesday morning, when he flipped from a Tulsa commitment and signed with Navy.
“Over the past week and the weekend, I was struggling,” said Johnson, who originally committed to Navy before switching to Tulsa. “People were giving me advice left and right. You should go here or go there. But I just had to listen to myself and just listen to my family. Even though it was my decision, it’s still a family decision and it affects everyone. It just felt like Navy was the better move.”
It was a big day across the nation for college prospects in several sports, as they made the college choices known.
It’s common for these athletes to commit to one school, have something change and end up somewhere else.
Johnson’s signing day switch was uncommon, but he wasn’t the first player from his own school to make change course during the recruiting process.
Linebacker Lenoy Jones and quarterback Ben Hicks were both committed to Houston, but they reopened their recruitment after coach Tony Levine was fired.
Jones knew exactly where he wanted to go after Houston was out of the mix. He ended up as a Baylor Bear, while Hicks landed on SMU.
“I called Bennett two weeks before they offered me, and I told him, ‘If you give me an offer, I will commit on the spot,’ ” Jones said. “He came in the door saying, ‘Let’s do it.’ And I said, ‘OK, I’m ready to be a Bear.’ It was a good day that day.”
Hicks will have a fellow Central Texas standout by his side at SMU, as Robinson linebacker Matt McNew is also a Mustang. Both Hicks and McNew cited new coach Chad Morris and his staff as a reason they decided to head to Dallas.
“The coaches really sold me on it. All the coaches are class acts,” McNew said. “They’re great people, great guys, guys that you want to learn from. The facilities are top-notch. It’s big-time Division I football in the state of Texas. Friends will get to come watch me, and it’s going to be fun. I can tell big things are going to happen there, and I want to be a part of it.”
Temple quarterback Chad President, the No. 1 player on the Centex 25, was a longtime Baylor commit before changing his mind. He’s already enrolled at Tulsa, following former Baylor offensive coordinator Phillip Montgomery, the Golden Hurricane’s new coach.
But not everybody had to change midcourse.
Midway wide receiver Devontre Stricklin decided on Baylor before last year’s signing day, and he will be a Bear next season, while safety Kahlil Haughton, the Super Centex Defensive Player of the Year from Midway, had a long recruiting process but will cross the Red River to play for Oklahoma after committing in December.
President and Haughton’s decision to leave the state to go to Oklahoma were nothing new. After all, Texas has plenty of prospects to go around, and Oklahoma schools have pounced on the fact that they can allow them to get a way, but not too far away.
“It’s a good distance,” Haughton said at the time of his commitment. “It’s not like 10 hours or something that’s a really hard drive, so any time I can get back it’s definitely a possibility.”
President will soon have a former teammate with him in fullback and tight end Chris Minter, while Temple running back Jeff Carr decided on Oklahoma State.
NCAA Division II school Oklahoma Panhandle State also had a big day in Central Texas, picking up four signees in Midway tight end R.J. Rangel, University tight end Anthony Bernal and Waco High quarterback D.J. Scott and wide receiver Devean Porter.
Porter is recovering from a season-ending knee injury, while Scott played his senior year with a broken leg that never fully healed from his junior year.
But they hope to become a dynamic duo with the Aggies.
“My biggest factor was seeing my quarterback commit there,” Porter said. “We’ve been playing together for years. I know what he know, and he knows what I know. We just connect. We click. That was my biggest factor in committing.”
Waco High offensive lineman Joseph Gonzales had a few options but selected Lamar, primarily for its criminal justice program. But the Cardinals are coming off their best season since resurrecting the program in 2010 with eight wins, and Gonzales sees higher standards for the future.
“They’re going up, that’s all I’ve got to say,” he said. “Hopefully next year they’ll win a conference championship, and I’m there to help.”
Waco High linebackers Roderick Harris and Adairius Norwood also made their college choices known, picking Angelo State and Texas Lutheran, respectively.
Midway sent a foursome of defenders to Tarleton State — defensive linemen Jace Hawkins and Jon Ladner, linebacker Logan Paschal and cornerback Marcus Johnson — and offensive lineman Eusebio Esquivel will suit up for Texas Lutheran in Seguin.
Things didn’t go as planned for Robinson running back LeVonte Owens. One of the top offensive players in the area over the past two seasons, Owens had several Division I offers but will go the junior college route and signed with Trinity Valley Community College.
“It was just my ACT scores weren’t up there enough,” Owens said. “I gave Trinity Valley a call, and they just helped me get to where I need to be. . . . I’m going to do my year or two at Trinity Valley and then transfer to a Division I college.”
In addition to Bernal, University had six Division III commits, five of them at McMurry in Tyler Daniel, Wykeim McKinney, Gustavo Ortega, Joe Sanchez and Xavier Tomlinson. Spencer Majors selected Southwestern.
Mart had another successful season with a 13-1 record and state semifinal berth, and it will have three players down the road in Belton to play for Mary Hardin-Baylor in Jacob Burney, Trevian Medlock and De’Nerian Thomas, the Super Centex Offensive Player of the Year.
“It is nice to know that De’Nerian and Trevian are going because I will have friends there,” Burney said. “It will make the process of playing college ball a lot easier.”
Connally had a pair of signees in offensive linemen Jonah Brown and Gene Sterling. Brown picked Texas A&M-Commerce, while Sterling will play for Navarro Junior College.
“I always liked Navarro, but mainly because it’s close and I wanted to start at a junior college,” Sterling said. “Where I came from, starting out homeless, I knew I needed to push myself throughout high school and stay motivated and focused on what I need to do to be successful. I still have a lot to do, but Navarro is a great start.”