Friday, February 06, 2009

Post-Signing Day Thoughts

1. I cut myself shaving and got lifeblood all over my undershirt. Seriously, has any person at any time in human history ever used the word "lifeblood" in a sentence in which they were not talking about recruiting?

2. I was composing this post in the shower this morning and wanted to start by saying that Nick Saban's two #1 classes have had everything but an elite quarterback, but Dr. Saturday had beaten me to it. To me, there are a few possibilities. One is that there hasn't been an elite quarterback in Saban/Alabama's recruiting sweet spot: Alabama, Mississippi, Memphis, and the Florida Panhandle. A second possibility is that Saban is slightly hamstrung in recruiting a quarterback because his offensive systems aren't as attractive to high school players and he doesn't have a track record of putting quarterbacks in the NFL. A third possibility is that Saban doesn't prioritize recruiting quarterbacks in the same way that he prioritizes recruiting other positions because he's won with game managers. With quarterbacks, he could be a Bobby Knight who would rather have a player who follows instructions and runs a system than a headstrong talent who is likely to freelance.

Regardless of the explanation, Saban's offenses are going to need to be a little better in order for Alabama to truly achieve parity with Florida. We know that Meyer's offenses and Saban's defenses will be top shelf, so it's quite possible that SEC titles in the near future will come down to whether Meyer's weak suit is better than Saban's. As long as Meyer has Charlie Strong and a pile of defensive talent, his defenses will be almost as good as his offenses. Saban is assembling excellent talent on offense, but if he is going to continue to go the conventional running/play-action route with game manager quarterbacks, he is going to be half a step behind Florida.

2a. All that said, Saban is absolutely living up to the description from Michael Lewis's The Blind Side of being a super recruiter. I always thought that Alabama was at a disadvantage compared to Florida, Georgia, and LSU because it's local talent base isn't as good and they have to share some of it with Auburn. What I'm realizing is that there is more talent in Alabama than I had previously thought and Saban is getting all of it. If Auburn's decision-makers knew that a second straight whitewash of in-state recruiting was coming, then their decision to fire Tuberville makes a little more sense. I still don't agree with it, but it's not as irrational as I first thought.

3. If you want an illustration of the disparity in talent between the Southeast and the Upper Midwest, check out the number of four- and five-star recruits in the following states:

Florida - 61
Georgia - 22
Louisiana - 14
Alabama - 12

Ohio - 16
Michigan - 11
Pennsylvania - 9
Illinois - 9

These numbers come from Rivals, but one can reach a similar conclusion from Scout's or ESPN's rankings.

Yeah, down year in the Midwest, blah blah blah blah. What you're seeing is the effect of population draining from the Upper Midwest to the Sunbelt. I'm going to write a lot more on this subject over the summer, but one subject that I specifically want to cover is whether the socio-economic groups that are moving South are more likely to be the same groups that tend to produce blue chip prospects. What you're also seeing is a justification for Michigan going with Rich Rodriguez because Michigan needs a coach who: (1) runs a specialized system that can be an equalizing factor for lesser talent; and (2) can recruit the Sunbelt.

Also, I have to begrudgingly give some respect to Jim Tressel for pulling a second straight top five class out of a region that doesn't produce a ton of talent. In the past two years, Ohio State has pulled 19 recruits rated by Rivals as a 5.9 or higher; 11 have come from outside of Ohio. The stereotype of Ohio State as being a plodding Midwestern team might be apt in terms of scheme, but it will not be true in terms of talent in the coming years as these two classes emerge. If Ohio State keeps losing to Sunbelt teams, it won't be because of a lack of speed.

4. I liked Georgia's class, although I would have liked to see more than three offensive linemen in light of the problems that Georgia has been having at the position. I'm excited to see what Richt will do with Aaron Murray, who is a bit more mobile than the average Richt quarterback (save for D.J. Shockley). I'm also excited to see what Georgia can do with 6'5 Marlon Brown opposite 6'4 A.J. Green. How many teams have two big corners? And is there anyone who isn't penciling Branden Smith in for a starting spot by the end of September?

5. If you wonder whether Notre Dame still has pull in the media, look at the way that ESPN treated Manti Te'o signing with the Irish - updates on ESPN radio, front page of ESPN.com, mention on SportsCenter - with other top players who announced on Signing Day, such as ESPN's #1 DB (Dre Kirkpatrick) and #1 RB (Trent Richardson), both of whom signed with Alabama.

6. There is no other way to put this: Lane Kiffin looks like an absolute amateur when he rips on Urban Meyer for an alleged NCAA violation and then has to apologize because there was no violation. At first, I simply thought that Kiffin was going to get shown up by Florida in Gainesville in September. Now, Kiffin resembles a little kid who was scolded by his elders and then put in his place. Andy Staples nails it:

If Kiffin didn't intend to offend Meyer by calling him a cheater, what did he intend to do? Kiffin had better hope his coaching staff -- which is excellent, by the way -- whips the 5-7 team he inherited into shape by Sept. 19. That's when the Vols visit The Swamp, where Meyer and the defending national champs will be waiting. And in case Kiffin isn't clear on how Meyer handles slights, he can call Georgia's Mark Richt. Richt's players flooded the end zone on the first touchdown of the Bulldogs' victory against the Gators in 2007. Despite the fact that Richt spent the next 12 months apologizing for the incident, Meyer still burned two late timeouts to rub in a 49-10 beatdown when the teams met again. If Meyer humiliated Richt, a coach he respects, for that transgression, imagine what he wants to do to Kiffin.


My hatred for Tennessee had dwindled over the past several years because they were no longer good enough to despise, but Kiffin has managed to renew all of those feelings in a short amount of time.

7. Are we beginning to see the first signs of Pac Ten programs starting to compete with USC in recruiting? G-d forbid! After Signing Day 2007, I wrote this:

Pac Ten programs not named USC took two of the top ten players in California this year. They took one of the top ten in 2006. They took three of the top ten in 2005. They took four of the top ten in 2004. Thus, in a four-year period, USC has signed 25 of the players on the California top ten list and the rest of the conference has signed ten. The argument that SEC fans should be making to belittle USC's success is not that USC would go 8-3 in the SEC, a totally unsupportable claim given the ridiculous amounts of talent that USC deploys. Instead, the argument should be that USC benefits from the fact that no one else on the West Coast can recruit worth a damn.


This year, USC signed four of the top ten players in California and the rest of the conference signed five. In USC's defense, they did sign three of the four five-star players in-state and the fourth decommitted on Signing Day. We shouldn't shed any tears for USC, as they will still be significantly more talented than any other team in the Pac Ten for the foreseeable future.

Here's a little stat to illustrate that point: Rivals' database goes back to 2002. In the eight recruiting classes covered in the database, USC has finished in the top ten in the last seven seasons after finishing 13th in 2002. Collectively, the other nine teams in the Pac Ten have three top ten finishes in that eight-year period: UCLA's #9 finishes in 2002 and 2004 and Cal's #9 finish in 2005. USC's last seven recruiting classes have all finished higher than any recruiting class by any Pac Ten program over the past eight years. That's why it's hard for me to take the Pac Ten seriously. The conference may be well-coached, but the aggregate level of talent is poor outside of one major program. Hopefully, this year is a step towards the other nine members of the conference doing a little better on Signing Day.

7 comments:

dbh said...

"What I'm realizing is that there is more talent in Alabama than I had previously thought and Saban is getting all of it. If Auburn's decision-makers knew that a second straight whitewash of in-state recruiting was coming, then their decision to fire Tuberville makes a little more sense. I still don't agree with it, but it's not as irrational as I first thought."

One thing, speaking as someone who has historically followed both programs: Auburn has never, not even in Alabama's weaker years, truly battled Alabama for in-state recruits. Most of Auburn's best players have historically come from the state of Georgia, a more talent-rich state (one of the many reasons so many Aubs live in Georgia). In fact, one could (and I have) make the argument that the two programs hurt the most by Saban coming to Alabama were Tennessee and LSU, who habitually raided the state during the 1990s and early part of this decade (note that only one in-state recruit actually left the state in 2009).

Anonymous said...

I love how all the pundits (also known as Meyer/Tebow fellators) are trying admonish Tennessee and smirking about how their big, bad coach is *really* run up the score. Newsflash: Urban is a worldclass prick and he runs it up on every team. Its not like Urban and Phatapotumus were big pals so Urban agreed to only win by 10.

If UF wins in a blowout it will be because they have the better team. The only people who will care or notice that Urban scored an extra touchdown are the jorts brigade. He called timeouts to make his point to Mark Richt. Then again, what was his point? Did his grandstanding really change the net effect?

Kiffin looks silly for sure, but at least he's letting Urban know that he plans to compete with UF instead of rolling over and biting the pillow like the previous staff...

Anonymous said...

Just a side note, you should be careful looking at the recruiting "rankings". They are set up to have a much bigger emphasis on quantity over quality.

Scout.com lets you re-rank them based on average stars, which in my opinion is a better measure. In this ranking, Alabama actually falls to 7th - but more importantly 4th in the SEC.

And I don't know that there is typically more talent in Alabama than you previously thought, Saban just happened to land in the two best years for in-state players in recent memory. There have been 15 "Rivals Top 100" players in Alabama since Saban took over, and only a total of 12 the previous five years combined.

That being said he's doing a great job recruiting some big names, and has been helped by a declining Tuberville not putting up much of a fight for any of the top in-state guys. My AU friends are pumped about the new staff in place - not so much the head coach as the assistants. Most of them are top notch recruiters so next year should be interesting in that state.

peacedog said...

I must agree with dbh; historically I understood Alabama dominated instate, so there was enough talent there to have a great base. Also, it's not that common for big time Alabama kids to go out of state, even if they end up at Auburn. So it's very differnet from Georgia, where several major talent hotbeds are closer to out of state colleges than either instate college.

I'm not that upset by the lack of another OT. I'm a little more worried about not getting another DE, though it's unlikely a kid can come in and contribute right away (the Juco DE Pernell McPhee might have been able to do so, of course). I'm not even sure Toby Jackson could be counted on to come in and immediately contribute, and lots of people were counting on that (it's true that a year at Hagrave is very different than a year at highschool, so it's not some great stretch).

Back to the OL, that's 16 scholarship OL next year (I keep reading 17 but I only count 16), which shouldn't be a big deal but somehow seems like it. We're still ot settled at RT and who knows how well Sturdivant will come back from injury. Austin Long could via for PT; Sereals has done well with raw OL in the past so it isn't a stretch.

But we're also at a point where it seems some kids are on the verge of being career backups. It happens, and it's nothing against them. I think UGA signs 3 OL next year; possibly more but it's a small sr class and there are needs all over the place (they could stand to bring in 8-10 lineman on both sides of the ball; 3 DTs is minimum and I'm expecting at least 3 DEs, and I think 3OL is the baseline on offense). I think we're about a month away from the usual medical redshirt rumors (poor Kevin Perez has been rumored to be heading towards a medical redshirt for almost as long as Eason was rumored to be headed to an administrative position). UGA will need to sign a few receivers next year and at least one RB. It appears they're going to sign a QB. It'll be interesting to see how it shakes down.

Michael said...

DBH, you have a point, but Auburn has always had a fair number of players from Alabama. West Georgia and the Panhandle complement Alabama, but Auburn cannot be shut out in-state.

Anon1, Urban didn't run the score up on Kentucky, Vandy, or Florida State this year. Kiffin is letting Meyer and the rest of the conference know that he talks like someone who has never been here before. You better hope he doesn't coach like that, as well.

Anon2, you make a good point that Rivals rewards teams with big classes. Many of the SEC programs' classes are overrated slightly because they aren't really going to enroll 28 (or, in Ole Miss's case, 38) players. That said, Bama still signed four five-stars, which is tied with USC and LSU for the most in the country. They signed 18 four- and five-star players, which is the most of any team. They aren't rated highly just because of class size.

You make an excellent point when you note that the past two years have been good years for in-state talent, which makes it especially important that Saban dominated recruiting in those years.

Peace, good point on defensive ends. I didn't think about that. Here's a question: has the state not produced a good defensive end in the past several years? Has Georgia missed out on in-state defensive ends?

peacedog said...

Starting with the class of 2005 (4 year players), and including signees and major targets:

1. Brandon Lang - didn't qualify from the previous year, went to hagrave, couldn't get admitted, went to Troy.

2. Rod Battle - in, hurt, decent not spectacular.

3. Brandon Sesay - didn't qualify, off to JC, then to Texas Tech. Thought to be headed for DT then, he played DE at TT I think.

4. Corey Moon - didn't qualify, didn't want to go to Hargrave (or couldn't, perhaps), quite GMC shortly thereafter.

Misses - Kyle Moore (USC, was determind to go out of state), Justin Mincey (FSU, we never recruited. Also, this was a solid but not great class. Moon was considered a serious sleeper. Sesay was a an interesting player who had not hit full potential yet (and nobody was sure what that was). Battled was solid (5.8 I think).

2006 (3 year player):

1. Brandon Wood - moved to DT. Hurt and missing the spring this year. He's showed flashes of being productive.

2. DeMarcus Dobbs - playing. Not spectacular, but shows flashes of being productive.

3. Michael Lemon - kicked off the team. Rumored to be walking on at SC this fall, but he apparently got an offer from a "BCS School", and is headed there (nobody knows where).

Misses - Jermaine Cunningham (UF, not sure, but don't think we pursued that hard)

2007:

1. Neiland Ball - hurt some. Hasn't quite filled out. Buried on depth chart, but very young (rsoph).

2. Joustin Houstin - showing potential. Not consistent.

Misses:

Allen Bailey (went to Miami), DJ Stafford (didn't seriously recruit, but iirc offered late. Not sure if he qualified).

2008:

1. Cornelius Washington - been hurt, but was showing athleticism and potential.

2. Toby Jackson - committed to UGA, didn't qualify, headed to hagrave. Was close to making his test score, but was looking at another semester of school at hagrave before enrolling in June. Decided it wasn't for him. Heading off to JC or CC in Texas.

Rivals scores:

6.0 - Mincey, Moore (2005)

5.9 Cunningham, Wood (2006), Bailey (2007), Washington (2008), Jackson (2008).

6.0 = Rivals 100. Some 5.9s are in the Rivals 100, some aren't. 5.8 is Rivals 250, which is still generally pretty awesome. There are several 5.8s I didn't give scores for; Moon and Lang were 5.7s originally (Lang moved to 4* after a good year at Hargrave, but Rivals doesn't give scores to guys out of prepschool).

The state hasn't produced great DEs in that time. UGA missed - generally through no fault of its own - some of them (Moore AFAIK, never acted interested so we backed off; there was nothing to be done about Bailey but we tried; Mincey couldn't get in at UGA and wasn't recruited). UGA had bad luck with others (TJ most noteably and recently, Wood has been dinged up a good bit and mvoed inside anyway). Dobbs was a sleeper (Rivals 5.6).

Additionally, UGA has had hard luck with out of state targets at this position. Cliff Matthews was thought to be in the fold but surprisingly committed to SC and stood firm. DaQuan Bowers wanted none of us as near as I can tell. Nor did the Sapp kid who went to Clemson.

This is my greatest area of concern for next year though there is potential at the position. Houston and Dobbs have to grow up. Washington needs to get healthy.

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