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National Signing Day Superlatives: Jacob Copeland and the Rest of Wednesday’s Memorable Moments

National Signing Day offered no shortage of memorable announcements, family members, and more.

Remember when I asked whether the early signing period had sucked all the drama out of the first Wednesday in February? Remember when I answered my own rhetorical question by pointing out that the recruits who chose to wait another six weeks to sign were a self-selecting sample that would tend to have more dramatic recruitments? That self-selecting sample did not disappoint Wednesday…

Most Awkward Announcement: WR Jacob Copeland, Florida

Pensacola (Fla.) Escambia High receiver Copeland committed to Florida under previous coach Jim McElwain, so it shouldn’t have been that surprising when Copeland announced Wednesday he would play for new coach Dan Mullen’s Gators instead of Alabama or Tennessee. It apparently came as a shock to Copeland’s mother. Decked out in an Alabama shirt and a Tennessee beanie, she grabbed her purse and walked away as Copeland explained his choice live on television.

After seeing this clip, I called ESPN anchor Dari Nowkah, who presided over the most awkward commitment announcement in recruiting history. In 2012, Nowkah was on the broadcast crew for the Under Armour All-America Game. One of the players committing during the broadcast was Geismar, La., safety Landon Collins. Collins, America’s top-ranked safety recruit at the time, had narrowed his choices to Alabama and LSU. You follow college football, so you know which school Collins chose. 

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After Collins picked the Crimson Tide, Nowkah noticed the sour look on the face of Collins’s mother, April Justin, but he wasn’t sure how he should proceed. There obviously was more to the story, but would it take away from Collins’s moment if Nowkah delved deeper? Nowkah asked Collins a question about his choice to buy himself time. As Collins answered, Nowkah heard his producer in his ear. The producer was thinking the same thing Nowkah was: Ask the question everyone watching wants asked. “I knew we couldn’t let it go,” Nowkah said.

What followed was questionable parenting and television gold. 

Two years later, Nowkah was on the Under Armour game crew again. One of the players committing during the game was defensive end Gerald Willis from New Orleans. Willis is the younger brother of Collins. Once again, Justin was on the screen with a son choosing between LSU and another school. Willis chose Florida. (He was dismissed from the Gators and now plays at Miami.) Justin once again pledged her allegiance to LSU, but this time, Nowkah said, it was more as a callback to her older son’s announcement than a serious critique of her younger son’s choice.

When Nowkah saw the Copeland clip Wednesday, he flashed back immediately to the Collins announcement. “I felt so bad for [Collins],” Nowkah said. “Much like Copeland, that’s his moment. He’s worked his tail off for that. And she took it from him.”

The Copeland story took a happier turn a few minutes after the walkout. Copeland’s mother returned and gave her son a hug.

Later, Copeland defended his mom.

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If his college career goes as well as Collins’s did, everyone will be laughing about this on draft night.

Best Use Of A Famous Father During An Announcement: CB Olaijah Griffin, USC

Griffin, one of the nation’s top corners, got little help from his father Warren to announce his intention to sign with the Trojans. Warren G, the original Regulator, popped a balloon filled with gold confetti to announce his son’s choice to the world.

Best Advice From A Guy Who Didn’t Sign Scholarship Paperwork On Signing Day: QB Baker Mayfield

When Texas defensive tackle signee Keondre Coburn promised in a tweet that Texas would beat Oklahoma, an Austin native who walked on at two different Big 12 schools (and then won the Heisman Trophy) reminded him that the Sooners currently own the Big 12 and have scoreboard rights in the Red River Rivalry.

The Longhorns have reasserted themselves on the recruiting trail under Tom Herman, but they still have some work to do to climb back to the top of the Big 12. Mayfield simply offered a gentle reminder.

Most Enthusiastic Reception of Good News: Virginia Tech defensive coordinator Bud Foster

Foster promised he would do a cartwheel if Shelby, N.C., linebacker Dax Hollifield signed with the Hokies, and Foster delivered soon after Hollifield did. 

Most Anticipated Quote: QB Justin Fields, Georgia

Fields signed in December and is already enrolled at Georgia, but his presence has added a layer of intrigue for the Bulldogs. Fields is considered a can’t-miss prospect, and he had his choice of schools that didn’t just have a true freshman quarterback lead them to an SEC title, a Rose Bowl win and an appearance in the national title game.

Former Georgia quarterback Quincy Carter pointed out this fact while interviewing the Bulldogs’ early enrollees for the athletic department website. He then asked Fields why he still signed with Georgia after what Jake Fromm did in 2017.

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“Personally, I’m not going to let one person sway my decision,” Fields said. “Georgia is a great place. We have great people here. We have a lot of support. Plus, the competition makes people better.”

Fromm had the same attitude when he arrived last year. Jacob Eason had entrenched himself as the starter as a true freshman, but Fromm didn’t care. The more quarterbacks Kirby Smart can sign with this mindset, the better the Bulldogs will be.

Most Unwanted Visitor In Any State Not Named South Carolina: Clemson’s coaching staff

The Tigers didn’t have many openings in this recruiting class, but they made them count by nabbing the best players from multiple states according the composite rankings. In December, they signed the No. 1 player in Georgia (QB Trevor Lawrence), the No. 1 player in South Carolina (WR Derion Kendrick), the No. 1 player in Florida (DE Xavier Thomas, who is from South Carolina but played at IMG Academy in Bradenton, Fla.) and the No. 1 player in Ohio (OT Jackson Carman). Wednesday, Clemson added to that list by signing 6-foot-4 receiver Justyn Ross, who is the top-ranked player in Alabama.

Ross, from Phenix City, Ala., chose the Tigers over Alabama and Auburn. “Just seeing how many receivers [Clemson] has developed for the NFL, that’s the main goal. I feel like I’ve got a good chance,” Ross told The Opelika-Auburn News.