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January 31, 2006

You want drama?

Forget the Oscars.

Who needs TNT?

If you're looking for real drama, then the Academy Awards and the cable television network aren't the right places for you. In just a few hours, the biggest spectacle in college athletics begins to play out when fax machines all across the country spit out national letters-of-intent from thousands of high school football players all over the nation.

And while Urban Meyer's Florida Gators have been sitting atop the Rivals.com team rankings for almost a month now, there are no sure bets that they will remain there after Wednesday plays out.

On Tuesday night, the Gators saw their 150-point lead over Southern Cal shrink to just 18. And there could be plenty of movement that could catapult the Trojans over the Gators for a third consecutive recruiting national championship.

You want drama? Rivals.com is the place to be.

Florida's run to its current No. 1 spot included many great names like the nation's top prospect Percy Harvin and five-star quarterback Tim Tebow, but the true foundation of the class was laid back in the early months.

All-purpose back Chevon Walker was the first player to jump on the Gators commitment list with an April 6 pledge.

He was quickly joined by a flurry of July commitments from blue-chippers like offensive lineman Carl Johnson, linebacker Dustin Doe, defensive tackle Corey Hobbs and cornerback Markihe Anderson.

Johnson's pledge was huge. Not only is he a five-star prospect, it also gave the Gators a good foundation to sell Tebow that they will have only the best blockers for him.

He also became one of the Gators' biggest recruiters.

"I told Tebow specifically that I plan to build him a line and give him protection if he comes here," Johnson said.

After the summer commitments, things really started to get fun for the Gators. UF went on a march through mid-November that pulled in great player after great player.

November 26 was the biggest day when Florida landed commitments from Bryan Thomas, Jacques Rickerson and Jarred Fayson. Four days later they also picked up Trent Pupello and Lawrence Marsh.

Then December hit, and the hits continued.

On December 13, Tebow announced on national television that he was going to Florida, picking the Gators over Alabama and a host of other national programs. The excitement from Tebow's pledge quickly helped the Gators gobble up commits from defensive end Jermaine Cunningham, athlete Riley Cooper, Harvin and athlete Derrick Robinson.

But it's the defections of former commitments Damon McDaniel, who is still undecided at this late hour, and Damian Williams, who flipped to Arkansas, combined with USC having several other players still on the board that could make things interesting on Wednesday.

It also doesn't hurt that USC has been on a roll lately picking up studs like Allen Bradford, Stafon Johnson C.J. Gable and Shareece Wright.

Now the Trojans are in the top two for Andre Smith and Gerald McCoy, both of whom are ranked in the top five nationally. But most expect Smith to land at Alabama and McCoy to end up at Oklahoma.

The Trojans are also awaiting word on four-star running back LeSean McCoy, who will announce on Wednesday from among Penn State, Virginia Tech, USC and Miami. USC also is awaiting the decision of super-star athlete Jamere Holland, who is still also looking at Arizona and Oregon.

USC also appears to be making a last-minute push for four-star running back Kenny Ashley, even though most assume he is heading to junior college. Ashley was the offensive star of the week for the California team in the CaliFlorida Bowl. He is currently a soft Mississippi State commitment.

There are a lot of ifs and maybes that could change things around for either Florida or USC. And for the first time in quite a while, it looks like the battle for the nation's top class will come down to what happens on signing day.

College football, drama, suspense, USC, Florida and Rivals.com sounds like the makings of another unforgettable signing day.



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