National Signing Day is nothing if not a day of hope. Your school signs a group of players who have never turned the ball over, never committed a boneheaded penalty, and never been suspended for a violation of team rules. Somewhere in there could be a group of All-Americans that leads the team to unparalleled glory.
Of course, part of fulfilling that destiny is the simple act of sticking around. Consider the cases of two of the SEC's middle teams in 2011, Auburn and Florida.
The Tigers have had a remarkable amount of attrition from their recent classes:
Remarkably, 43 percent of Auburn's 2009 and 2010 signees are no longer on the team, or never joined the program in the first place. That's a brutal percentage, especially as Auburn sits with the SEC's fewest 2012 commitments and two new coordinators who inevitably will weed out some veterans.
That article catalogs what happened with all the players who have left. There is no one common theme. Some players have had horrible injury luck, some never qualified, some left after suspensions, and some were dismissed after being arrested on armed robbery charges. Even more players are still there but have yet to make a significant impact.
At Florida, eight of the 21 from the 2008 class and four of the 17 from the 2009 class left the team in some way or another before the 2011 season (another from '08, OL David Young, left the team recently after missing the whole season with injury).
The 2008 class produced just four significant contributors in Jeff Demps, Will Hill, Janoris Jenkins, and Caleb Sturgis, and it produced two more solid rotation guys in William Green and Omar Hunter. Also, OL Matt Patchan has been good when healthy, which is not often. Hill and Jenkins, of course, were off the team by the '11 season. The 2009 class produced most of the 2011 offensive line rotation plus defensive starters Jon Bostic, Josh Evans, and Jelani Jenkins, but it was so small post-attrition (just 13 players) that it can't make more of an impact on the team.
Florida's attrition is not limited to just those two problem classes, unlike the case at Auburn where every member of the 2011 recruiting class is still around. Urban Meyer's 27-member 2010 class is down eight players already, largely due to transfers for various reasons. Will Muschamp's 19-player 2011 class is down two as well after two early enrolees left during the spring of last year for understandable reasons.
Auburn will sign a relatively small group of players this year because it had a tiny senior class. Florida will have a much larger class because it was way down on numbers. Both are rated highly in terms of average stars, so they both probably should produce a number of important contributors.
The key for both programs is making sure that those players are contributing for the ones they actually signed with.