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Cotey: It's national signing day; time to end the suspense

Jadeveon Clowney, a player from South Carolina, is considered the top recruiting prospect.

DIRK SHADD | Times

Jadeveon Clowney, a player from South Carolina, is considered the top recruiting prospect.

It's almost over.

By the time you finish your morning coffee, hundreds of signatures will have been scribbled on letters of intent all across the country, placed on fax machines — remember, people, face down — and sent back to wherever they came from.

In Tampa Bay, the biggest and fastest high school kids from Brooksville to Dade City to Seffner to Tarpon Springs will be taking that next big step.

ESPN will have television coverage all day, and it's not alone. Even Oprah is going wall-to-wall on her new network, with Gayle King expected to release her national rankings at lunch.

And because a gazillion stories and columns and videos aren't enough, the St. Petersburg Times will conduct a live chat at 8 a.m. — provided we can find a sports writer who gets up that early.

We'll also have video from Nature Coast Tech athlete Ja'Juan Story's decision, which will probably be Florida.

Or Ohio State.

Or Oregon.

Story has already committed to Florida, but he might change his mind since the Gators have changed coaches.

He's not the only one to change his mind — Largo's Adarius Rayner switched from Colorado State to Indiana after a visit last weekend, and so did Pasco's Jamie Byrd, who is signing with Texas Christian instead of Boise State. Maybe.

Oh, and Plant's James Wilder Jr. might switch to Florida (not really) and Alonso's Anthony Chickillo might switch to USF (nope) or Florida (nope) or Florida State (nope).

Speaking of switching, I'm going totally decaffeinated after my 20-hour shift ends today.

Now, don't misunderstand — today is not the end. The first Wednesday of February is only the first day players can sign their letters of intent.

Officially, it's not over until the fat lady sings Jadeveon Clowney's choice.

Clowney, a defensive end from South Carolina who leaps tall buildings in a single bound before landing on quarterbacks, is the top-rated recruit in the world.

He has decided, apparently, that he's too big for signing day. So Jadeveon Day will be Feb. 14, a day many think he will make South Carolina his valentine.

Or Alabama.

Or Florida State.

Either way, keep that in mind when the recruiting services declare a winner. No one can wear a "We're No. 1 in 2012" T-shirt until Clowney delivers his dozen roses to a lucky suitor.

South Carolina doesn't have all the drama. The big question in Tampa Bay on the eve of signing day: Will Clowney outlast Armwood's Josh Grady?

The Hawks quarterback was expected to name his choice, then said maybe not.

Armwood coach Sean Callahan wasn't sure what to make of it, but the flabbergasted coach took to saying he "expects" them to sign when discussing the other four Hawks, well, "expected" to sign.

Grady later decided he would commit today, but didn't say with whom.

But based upon a close evaluation of his recent tweets, combined with analysis of his Facebook status updates and the poke-to-commenting ratio of the schools in contention, it's fairly obvious Grady is headed to Vanderbilt.

Or Wake Forest.

Or USF.

Once he signs his name on the dotted line, it will be official.

Until then, it's just words. And words don't mean anything.

Just ask his teammate, Armwood receiver A.J. King.

King committed to Purdue in August. Then he was injured. Then Purdue flew him up in December, according to Callahan, to reaffirm its oral contract.

Then, poof, the full ride was gone.

Now King has this decision to make:

Should I punch the Purdue coach in the nose next time I see him?

Wait.

That's not the decision?

Oh yeah, right. King will sign with Kent State.

Or Ball State.

Or Temple.

With another recruiting season just about in the books, I have come to the same conclusion I always do: it's an ugly but necessary process.

Sometimes it works out, but never without casualties.

The best thing you can say about it, most times, is that it's almost over.

By the time you're finishing dinner tonight, it will be. Kind of.

Then we can move away from all this obsessing about who the best high school football player of 2011 is, and move on to more important things.

So who's the top recruit in 2012?

Yep. It's just beginning.

John C. Cotey can be reached at cotey@sptimes.com.

Signing Day Central

Keep up with all the latest local and state recruiting news today at tampabay.com/hometeam and tampabay.com/sports. We'll have a live chat in the morning keeping you updated, including video from Nature Coast, where athlete Ja'Juan Story is expected to pick between Florida and Ohio State, and Armwood, where quarterback/safety Josh Grady could settle on USF.

• Websites for national and state coverage, 3C

. fast facts

Send your shots

If you have photos from a signing day ceremony you'd like to share, e-mail them to hometeam@tampabay.com.

Keeping tabs

Other sites to check out for national and state coverage:

• ESPN.go.com

• Rivals.com

• Scout.com

• Gousfbulls.com

• Seminoles.com

• Gatorzone.com

• Hurricanesports.cstv.com

• ucfathletics.cstv.com

Cotey: It's national signing day; time to end the suspense 02/01/11 [Last modified: Wednesday, February 2, 2011 12:52pm]

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