Oh, for the good old days, huh? The college recruiting cycle was so much simpler, maybe even kinder and gentler, back when the young lads were jumping out of airplanes to declare the intentions for future higher education.

Well, there was that one kid in 2016, I guess it was.

By then the bar had already been set pretty high.

The exercise had long since moved beyond the tired tradition of picking from three of four ball caps placed in front of the young men, although in skilled hands the fakes and feigns could elevate it to the recruiting version of three-card Monte.

It didn't reach quite the creativity of some of today's gender reveals, but the effort was there.

I must have missed it at the time, but there once was a young man in California who let the world know of his destination by firing paint balls at a couple of his buddies dressed in various schools' outfits.

Not bad.

But once Deontay Anderson rented an airplane suitable for skydiving and jumped out with a parachute, the gig was pretty much up. Anderson eventually landed softly enough, closer enough to cameras, to tear away his gear to reveal an Ole Miss T-shirt. Alas, the genre had pretty well been exhausted.

Oh, you could still bring along a close cousin of your intended school's mascot, if it was cuddly enough, like a bulldog.

But after the skydiving extravaganza, perhaps future classes all knew they were henceforth fighting for second place.

The trophy had been forever retired.

Anderson later transferred from Ole Miss to Houston, presumably making that trip by more conventional means.

The whole "taking my talents to …" has never quite been the same.

None of which is to say that there's not some entertainment value still to be had.

On Wednesday there was a major, head-scratching mystery at work in Columbia, South Carolina.

Get some popcorn.

One of the nation's top recruits, who was on LSU's wish list (even now, apparently), was young Jordan Burch, a manchild five-star defensive end out of Hammond High in Columbia.

He had taken part in two of those very anticipated signing day galas at his school — the early one in December and again on Wednesday — both of which served only to further muddy the recruiting waters.

In the first he went the mundane route of putting on a South Carolina cap to announce he'd be signing with the local Gamecocks.

One problem. He never quite got around to signing and delivering the scholarship papers to said local university.

The early signing period window came and went, still no signed papers from Burch.

Later, according to Shea Dixon of 247Sports, Burch explained at an all-star game that he was waiting until the February date when some of his high school teammates would also be announcing their choices.

In the meantime, according to 247Sports, he made an official visit to LSU, which gave the Tigers hope.

So the late signing day came Wednesday with another big party.

South Carolina head coach Will Muschamp was there. Ordinarily a college coach couldn't be at these things — one of those persnickety NCAA rules ­­— but Muschamp apparently was granted an exemption because his own son would also be announcing a choice (he chose to go to Georgia as a preferred walk-on).

But when the big moment came, Burch took the mic to thank all the usual suspects without ever quite announcing where he was signing or even mentioning the word South or Carolina.

He had three teammates there, one signed with South Carolina, two others got preferred walk-on deals with the Gamecocks.

And he did say, "I'll be with my friends."

The recruiting media (you don't want to be one) had a dilemma: Did that answer constitute a commitment, let alone a signature, with South Carolina?

It was causing major head-scratching.

The beauty of it was that other NCAA rules forbade South Carolina from clarifying the matter. Schools can't comment on a recruit until he has signed.

But apparently the answer was no, "I'll be with my friends" is not a binding commitment.

That is, not until late Thursday night when South Carolina announced that it had received Burch's paperwork, ending the drama — and the excitement of the national signing period.


Scooter Hobbs covers LSU athletics. Email him at shobbs@americanpress.com

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