Thursday, February 02, 2006

Some Signing Day Observations

1. SEC schools signed 14 of the top 30 players on the ESPN 150($). They signed nine of the top 30 on Rivals.com's top 100, including the top two. It stands to reason that SEC teams would do so well, given that they're in a talent-rich reason that is crazier about football (and therefore has a greater high school football tradition) than just about any other part of the country. Still, kudos to the coaches in the conference for pulling in such a haul. Also, seven different programs pulled in players from ESPN's top 30, which is solid evidence that the conference remains deep. Contrast the SEC's recruiting haul to that of the Pac Ten. USC, as usual, pulled in an outstanding class, pulling in five of ESPN's top 30 players (and six of Rivals.com's top 30.) In contrast, the rest of the conference failed to sign a single player in the top 30 of either list. The highest ranked players on the two lists who signed with Pac Ten teams not sharing a nickname with a prophylactic device were ESPN #41 Terrence Austin (UCLA) and Rivals #68 Jake Locker (Washington.) In a nutshell, this is why USC is as dominant as any program in my lifetime. They combine an outstanding recruiting staff (starting with an energetic head coach who can sell NFL knowledge and two national championship rings) with a talent-rich region and a set of rivals who apparently can't recruit their way out of the proverbial paper bag. The only time USC will be playing a team that even resembles their talent level will be when they take on Notre Dame. This reality is a giant compliment to USC, an indictment of the rest of the Pac Ten, and something of a confirmation of the sentiment of SEC fans that USC's road to the national title game would be harder in a different conference.

[An addition: I stole this from Shumway on the Victors board, but here is the breakdown of where the members of the Rivals 250 signed and the SEC is miles ahead of anyone else:

SEC (79)
19 Florida
13 Georgia
13 Auburn
11 LSU
9 Alabama
3 Tennessee
3 Ole Miss
3 Arkansas
3 South Carolina
1 Mississippi State
1 Kentucky
0 Vanderbilt

ACC (40)
14 Florida State
7 Miami-FL
7 Clemson
3 Maryland
2 Virginia Tech
2 Virginia
2 North Carolina
1 Georgia Tech
1 Duke
1 Boston College
0 Wake Forest
0 NC State

Pac-10 (38)
16 Southern Cal
7 California
5 UCLA
4 Arizona
3 Arizona State
2 Washington
1 Oregon State
0 Wash. St.
0 Stanford
0 Oregon

Big Ten (38)
14 Penn State
11 Michigan
9 Ohio State
2 Iowa
2 Illinois
0 Wisconsin
0 Purdue
0 Northwestern
0 Minnesota
0 Michigan State
0 Indiana

Big 12 (34)
13 Texas
9 Oklahoma
5 Oklahoma State
3 Texas Tech
2 Texas A&M
1 Nebraska
1 Kansas State
0 Missouri
0 Kansas
0 Iowa State
0 Colorado
0 Baylor

Others (11)
11 Notre Dame

Big East (9)
5 Pittsburgh
2 Louisville
1 South Florida
1 Rutgers
0 West Virginia
0 Syracuse
0 Connecticut
0 Cincinnati


The Big Ten was dominated by their big three. The Big XII was dominated by their big two. The Pac Ten was dominated by their big one. The ACC was dominated by Florida State, Miami, and Clemson (standing in for Virginia Tech, I guess.) The SEC, on the other hand, had a broad distribution of talent.]

2. On a related note, if you need any confirmation as to the differences between Charlie Weis and Ty Willingham (and further evidence that Notre Dame giving Weis an extension in year one when they did not do so for Willingham was a rational decision,) look at Willingham's first class at Washington. The first full class for a new coach is typically his best (which is why ND and Florida fans shouldn't get too carried away by their classes, since they are partially the result of "we're building something big!" euphoria. Al Groh pulled in a huge first class at Virginia and has tailed off since then. Ditto for Bill Callahan at Nebraska.) They pulled in only four four-star players in Rivals' rankings and only one player who got a rating higher than 7.0 from ESPN's scouts. They signed three of the top ten players in state according to ESPN's rankings and four of the top ten according to Rivals. They missed out on the two best players in state: Taylor Mays (USC) and Steve Schilling (Michigan). They also failed to make the inroads into California that worked so well for Don James, as they did not sign any of the top 50 players in the state, according to Rivals' rankings and only two of the top 50 according to ESPN. In Willingham's defense, Washington did sign a number of JuCos, as they need immediate help, and JuCo-heavy classes tend to be underrated, but still, that's not a long-term way to build a program (unless your name is Bill Snyder.)

3. Another disappointing first full class was turned in by Steve Spurrier, who landed only one (Rivals) or two (ESPN) of the top ten players in-state. This does not do much to disabuse the notion that Steve doesn't quite have the intensity to recruit hard anymore. Spurrier did well this year, given his somewhat limited talent, but this year's 7-5 season will be the ceiling if South Carolina continues to compete against Georgia, Tennessee, and Florida with a massive talent disadvantage.

4. Someone explain Penn State to me. They pull only four of Rivals' 17 four-star recruits in-state, but they dominate in Maryland, spice in a couple blue chippers from New York, and end up with a consensus top ten class. What are they, colonists? Does JoePa have some sort of mercantilist view of the states to his east as noble savages to be tamed by growling lion sound effects?

5. I've said it before and I'll say it again: it cannot be a coincidence that Florida State always pulls in the majority of their top recruits on Signing Day. Silent verbals. I don't see how any rational fan could deny that the Noles use this tactic (not that it's that big a deal.)

6. Points to Andre Smith for creativity. I'm liking this guy already. I'm not even sure that he knows that the Bear was noted as a great blocker when he played at Alabama and his teams were always noted for their ability in that area. Of course, he also favored smaller, fitter linemen, so I'm not sure what he would have made of a 6'4, 325-pound monster.

7. And speaking of Alabama, Auburn out-fought Alabama in-state this year, pulling in seven of Rivals' 13 four-star recruits and half of the six players to whom ESPN gave ratings of 7.0 or higher. It's generally unusual for Auburn to beat Alabama in-state; they've always succeeded by combining players from Alabama, Georgia, and Florida. If anything, Auburn's success illustrates that recruits aren't so much swayed by the results of the most recent season (Bama's best since 2002,) but rather, there's generally a one-year time lag and this season marked Auburn taking advantage of their 13-0 season in 2004. On the other hand, Tennessee's class showed the immediate effects of a disastrous season.

8. For the second year in a row, Georgia got a large chunk of the top of their class from out-of-state, which isn't exactly the model that any of us foresaw when Mark Richt took over the program, but it's a good sign that the program is maturing into a national power. It's also a necessity, given the fact that Georgia won't admit anybody who qualifies under the NCAA's standards. Georgia can't take a "build a wall around Georgia and that'll be enough" approach when this state is 49th in the country in SAT scores, so we can probably expect plenty of Knowshon Morenos and Na'Derris Wards in the future.

9. Nine of the 18 four- or five-star recruits in Georgia come from the Atlanta area. Since Atlanta has approximately half of the population of the state, that makes sense. I'm probably the only person who finds that sort of stat interesting.

10. The two Virginia programs got completely cleaned out in-state, signing only one (ESPN) or two (Rivals) of the top 15 players in the Commonwealth. Virginia Tech has always subsisted on classes full of diamonds in the rough and Virginia had significant staff instability at the end of the year, so this isn't surprising, but still, Virginia is an underrated state for producing great athletes and the home state teams did not do a good job of keeping that talent at home.

2 comments:

peacedog said...

You probably saw in the AJC where 19 dekalb county kids signed major D1A scholarships this year and they've produced an insane number since 2002. Lots of schools there, of course.

Georgia did well in state this year. There were some misses, but as I've noted to you before Georgia had to back off several big kids in state becuase they apparently got a thumbs down from the admissions board. Guys like Justin Williams (who grew up a gator fan anyway so they were playing catch up) and Carlos Slaughter (Peach County). They had to back of a noteworthy tackle prospect - Lee Tilley (out of state) - for the same reasons it seems.

The early Rivals elite 11 (which will resembled the AJC one doubtless) probably has the most kids showing interestin in Georgia I've ever seen in such a list (where eveyrone either has them as one of the favorites, one of two favorites, or possibly the favorite, depending on who you talk to). 9 of 11 have offers currently. It's a huge year in state for OTs as well as for atheletes (some project at Wr, others at DB, and the occasional guy like Charlton County player DJ Donnelly, who could play WR or LB). I expect the Dawgs to reel in a very high talent group of kids from instate. Possibly one of the "sexier" hauls from in state in a long time if things break right. It's supposed to be an insane year for talent in state, so we shall see.

The "fence around georgia" thing was always a myth. Consider that Auburn, Gainsville, and Tallahassee are closer to talent beds in Georgia than Athens is just shows you that the borders are always going to be porous. However, you expect Georgia to be a contender with most of the major kids in state. The previous two years, that was pretty much the case (with occasional exceptions). That's really all you can ask for - some years you'll keep most of them and some years you won't.

There was one Goff class some years ago where Goff signed like 7 or 8 of the AJC Super 11 - Lombard's year. I think 3 made it on campus. Good news for the Dawgs, it looks like there are 2 question marks but they've both made big improvement in the classroom this year and now look like they both have a pretty good shot to graduate. Getting 27 kids, and gettin all of them in, would be impressive.

Of the 6 already on campus (Stafford, Asher Allen, Chris Durham, John Miller, Ricardo Crawford, and shit I can't remember), only 3 count towards last year's total. The reason is, as of the start of last fall Georgia had 82 scholarship atheletes (thanks to some early failures of kids from the previous class to get in). Since then, other kids left the team (like TKO), but that doesn't free up until this coming class in effect.

Caelus said...

I did not notice any of Spud's comments in your blog.