Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Rick Cleveland: Early signing is here.

The NCAA announced last week that college football recruits will now have a chance to sign a scholarship in December rather than wait until the first Wednesday in February, the traditional national signing day.

That's right. Recruits will be have a three-day period in December during which they can sign to play at their future college or university. Or, they can opt to wait and sign on the traditional first Wednesday in February. The guess here is that most players won't wait until February. Schools have limited scholarships. Most offer them on a first-come, first-serve basis.

Most recruits will sign the papers in December ensuring a spot.

That's fine with this observer. Anything that shortens the period during which 17- and 18-year-olds act like prima donnas – and so much publicity is accorded players who may or may not become stars – is fine by me.

Besides, for parents, four years of Junior's tuition, room and board and some peace and quiet around the house, will make a fine Christmas present.

The key aspect here is that the December date will be binding. For instance, a recruit can't sign with Ole Miss in mid-December and then change his mind and sign with Mississippi State in February. That won't be allowed.

Old-timers, a group to whom I somehow have come to belong, can remember when there were two signing dates and only one really mattered when you got right down to it.

There was an early signing period in the Deep South to sign a letter of intent with the school of your choice. But then you still had to sign the NCAA's binding national letter on the first Wednesday in February. Most kids did that without much controversy. For 98 percent of recruits, the school they signed with in December was the one they eventually attended. However, there were other cases. And at least one changed the landscape of college football nationally.

In December of 1975, a little-known defensive end from Natchez named Hugh Green signed with Mississippi State, which should have been big news but wasn't. The big news that December was that all-World Pascagoula running back Ray Charles “Rooster” Jones had signed to play at State. Jones was the player everybody in the country coveted. He was a touchdown waiting to happen. Mississippi State fans were ecstatic.

Then came February of 1976 and both Jones and Green signed on national signing day with the University of Pittsburgh, where Jackie Sherrill was the new head coach taking over for Johnny Majors.

Sherrill, who played his high school football in Mississippi, believed in Mississippi players. While watching film of Rooster Jones running this way and that for Pascagoula, he came across some film of Hugh Green ranging from sideline to sideline making tackles for North Natchez.

Sherrill not only brought Jones to Pitt for a visit, but also brought Green with him.

He signed them both, Jones to be his next Tony Dorsett and Green to be his first Hugh Green.

Mississippi State was left high and dry.

Most of you will know the rest of the story.

Green became a three-time All-American at Pitt, perhaps the most celebrated defensive end in history of the college game. He made the cover of Sports Illustrated. He finished second in Heisman Trophy voting to George Rogers.

Rooster Jones? Well, he never quite became the next Tony Dorsett. Injuries plagued him throughout his Pitt career. In three seasons of varsity ball, Jones gained 1,181 yards rushing and scored 11 touchdowns.

We'll never know what Jones might have done at Mississippi State. For that matter, we can make only an educated guess of what Hugh Green would have done at State. But you line Hugh Green up on the same defense with Johnie Cooks, Glen Collins, Tyrone Keys and others, you can make a darned accurate guess. Would anybody have ever scored against them?

Rick Cleveland is a Jackson-based syndicated columnist. His email address is


Anonymous said...

Hey, Mississippi black bear fans, it appears that you may know by December just how $h!++y your '17/'18 recruiting class will be. You won't have to wait until February to find out!

Anonymous said...

Hey, Mississippi black bear fans...

How do I know this is an MSU fan?

1) Referring to Ole Miss as "Mississippi" (Hoo wee, Bubba! That'll irk 'em!)
2) Referring to the Rebels as the "black bear(s)" (Haw haw, Bubba! Ain't we clever?
3) The implicit jealousy (Hey Bubba! Save me a space at the Junction! It's like the Grove, only BETTER!)

I don't know why so many of my fellow State fans have to focus on the Rebels. We have plenty to brag about without comparing to them.

Anonymous said...

If you are that smart, tell me this, will yall plant turnips or collards on VH when the NCAA shuts the
doors up there?

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Trollfest '09

Trollfest '07 was such a success that Jackson Jambalaya will once again host Trollfest '09. Catch this great event which will leave NE Jackson & Fondren in flames. Othor Cain and his band, The Black Power Structure headline the night while Sonjay Poontang returns for an encore performance. Former Frank Melton bodyguard Marcus Wright makes his premier appearance at Trollfest singing "I'm a Sweet Transvestite" from "The Rocky Horror Picture Show." Kamikaze will sing his new hit, “How I sold out to da Man.” Robbie Bell again performs: “Mamas, don't let your babies grow up to be Bells” and “Any friend of Ed Peters is a friend of mine”. After the show, Ms. Bell will autograph copies of her mug shot photos. In a salute to “Dancing with the Stars”, Ms. Bell and Hinds County District Attorney Robert Smith will dance the Wango Tango.

Wrestling returns, except this time it will be a Battle Royal with Othor Cain, Ben Allen, Kim Wade, Haley Fisackerly, Alan Lange, and “Big Cat” Donna Ladd all in the ring at the same time. The Battle Royal will be in a steel cage, no time limit, no referee, and the losers must leave town. Marshand Crisler will be the honorary referee (as it gives him a title without actually having to do anything).

Meet KIM Waaaaaade at the Entergy Tent. For five pesos, Kim will sell you a chance to win a deed to a crack house on Ridgeway Street stuffed in the Howard Industries pinata. Don't worry if the pinata is beaten to shreds, as Mr. Wade has Jose, Emmanuel, and Carlos, all illegal immigrants, available as replacements for the it. Upon leaving the Entergy tent, fig leaves will be available in case Entergy literally takes everything you have as part of its Trollfest ticket price adjustment charge.

Donna Ladd of The Jackson Free Press will give several classes on learning how to write. Smearing, writing without factchecking, and reporting only one side of a story will be covered. A donation to pay their taxes will be accepted and she will be signing copies of their former federal tax liens. Ms. Ladd will give a dramatic reading of her two award-winning essays (They received The Jackson Free Press "Best Of" awards.) "Why everything is always about me" and "Why I cover murders better than anyone else in Jackson".

In the spirit of helping those who are less fortunate, Trollfest '09 adopts a cause for which a portion of the proceeds and donations will be donated: Keeping Frank Melton in his home. The “Keep Frank Melton From Being Homeless” booth will sell chances for five dollars to pin the tail on the jackass. John Reeves has graciously volunteered to be the jackass for this honorable excursion into saving Frank's ass. What's an ass between two friends after all? If Mr. Reeves is unable to um, perform, Speaker Billy McCoy has also volunteered as when the word “jackass” was mentioned he immediately ran as fast as he could to sign up.

In order to help clean up the legal profession, Adam Kilgore of the Mississippi Bar will be giving away free, round-trip plane tickets to the North Pole where they keep their bar complaint forms (which are NOT available online). If you don't want to go to the North Pole, you can enjoy Brant Brantley's (of the Mississippi Commission on Judicial Performance) free guided tours of the quicksand field over by High Street where all complaints against judges disappear. If for some reason you are unable to control yourself, never fear; Judge Houston Patton will operate his jail where no lawyers are needed or allowed as you just sit there for minutes... hours.... months...years until he decides he is tired of you sitting in his jail. Do not think Judge Patton is a bad judge however as he plans to serve free Mad Dog 20/20 to all inmates.

Trollfest '09 is a pet-friendly event as well. Feel free to bring your dog with you and do not worry if your pet gets hungry, as employees of the Jackson Zoo will be on hand to provide some of their animals as food when it gets to be feeding time for your little loved one.

Relax at the Fox News Tent. Since there are only three blonde reporters in Jackson (being blonde is a requirement for working at Fox News), Megan and Kathryn from WAPT and Wendy from WLBT will be on loan to Fox. To gain admittance to the VIP section, bring either your Republican Party ID card or a Rebel Flag. Bringing both and a torn-up Obama yard sign will entitle you to free drinks served by Megan, Wendy, and Kathryn. Get your tickets now. Since this is an event for trolls, no ID is required. Just bring the hate. Bring the family, Trollfest '09 is for EVERYONE!!!

This is definitely a Beaver production.

Note: Security provided by INS.

Trollfest '07

Jackson Jambalaya is the home of Trollfest '07. Catch this great event which promises to leave NE Jackson & Fondren in flames. Sonjay Poontang and his band headline the night with a special steel cage, no time limit "loser must leave town" bout between Alan Lange and "Big Cat"Donna Ladd following afterwards. Kamikaze will perform his new song F*** Bush, he's still a _____. Did I mention there was no referee? Dr. Heddy Matthias and Lori Gregory will face off in the undercard dueling with dangling participles and other um, devices. Robbie Bell will perform Her two latest songs: My Best Friends are in the Media and Mama's, Don't Let Your Babies Grow up to be George Bell. Sid Salter of The Clarion-Ledger will host "Pin the Tail on the Trial Lawyer", sponsored by State Farm.

There will be a hugging booth where in exchange for your young son, Frank Melton will give you a loooong hug. Trollfest will have a dunking booth where Muhammed the terrorist will curse you to Allah as you try to hit a target that will drop him into a vat of pig grease. However, in the true spirit of Separate But Equal, Don Imus and someone from NE Jackson will also sit in the dunking booth for an equal amount of time. Tom Head will give a reading for two hours on why he can't figure out who the hell he is. Cliff Cargill will give lessons with his .80 caliber desert eagle, using Frank Melton photos as targets. Tackleberry will be on hand for an autograph session. KIM Waaaaaade will be passing out free titles and deeds to crackhouses formerly owned by The Wood Street Players.

If you get tired come relax at the Fox News Tent. To gain admittance to the VIP section, bring either your Republican Party ID card or a Rebel Flag. Bringing both will entitle you to free drinks.Get your tickets now. Since this is an event for trolls, no ID is required, just bring the hate. Bring the family, Trollfest '07 is for EVERYONE!!!

This is definitely a Beaver production.

Note: Security provided by INS