Thursday, February 03, 2011

Signing Day Thoughts

To live outside the law, you must be honest

Of Rivals’ top 15 classes, #4 USC is on probation (pending appeal), #7 Auburn spent the month of November under a cloud because of a wealth of circumstantial evidence that they bought Cam Newton, and #16 North Carolina spent the month of September under a cloud because their defensive line coach was essentially a runner for a agent.  In the end, 18-year olds don’t seem to worry about the prospect of playing for a team on probation.  Maybe the lesson is that it’s worth the risk to cheat?  I’m not even sure why I ended the last sentence with a question mark. 

This is teh awesome

College football is valuable to the NFL because its popularity means that players come to the NFL with reputations.  We’re interested in Vince Young and Reggie Bush because they come to the League with a backstory.  College basketball is valuable to the NBA for the same reason.  MLB suffers in comparison because it has to start from scratch in terms of creating personalities.  With more and more attention paid to recruiting, college football now has a similar bounce to the NFL and NBA (although not as high) because fans know some of their players before they ever put on the uniform.  In fact, the bounce is a little stronger in two senses.  First, we follow the recruitment of our players and our initial feeling about them is affection because they picked us over a rival.  Second, we follow the big ones who got away, which means that we have some interest in other teams.  I’m still waiting to watch Demar Dorsey play for … someone.  

Fighting over the scraps

Recruiting in the state of Michigan should be interesting next year.  The in-state class is supposed to be fairly good, which I guess means that the state will push past South Carolina and be a bit more like Alabama in terms of the number of top-tier prospects.  On the one hand, Michigan has a new coach who is trying to improve relations with the high school coaches of the state.  Michigan fans are expecting the normal first-year recruiting bounce, especially with the Luddite local media now behind the coach because he’s a “Michigan Man” by virtue of having been a defensive line coach under Lloyd Carr for a few years.  On the other hand, Michigan State fans will be expecting a recruiting bounce from their once-a-decade very good season.  It would be nice for the Big Ten if one of its programs other than top dog Ohio State and newcomer Nebraska could put together a top 20 recruiting class, something the other ten teams in the league collectively failed to do in this recruiting class.  One wonders if the top brass in the Big Ten are noticing that their collection of underwhelming coaching staffs aren’t exactly doing much to convince players outside of the region to come play in their full stadia.


This recruiting cycle came on the heels of Georgia Tech winning the ACC for the first time in almost two decades.  The crop of in-state players was especially good, as there were 22 four- or five-star players in the Peach State.  In the end, Paul Johnson signed one of the 22.  In response to the inevitable counter by Tech fans that recruiting rankings don’t matter, think about the players who led the Jackets to that ACC title.  Derrick Morgan, Morgan Burnett, Jonathan Dwyer, and Josh Nesbitt, all four-star recruits from Chan Gailey’s excellent 2007 class.  Right now, I’m thinking of Paul Johnson as being another version of Ralph Friedgen: a very smart offensive coach who was able to win with his predecessor’s players, but will struggle to do so with his own guys.  The one potential saving grace: Tech has very specific needs for its option offense and 3-4 defense, so if they found good players to fill those needs, then that might allow them to compensate when they play opponents with great players.

So who is Christian Laettner in this class?

I hate the Dream Team nickname because of overuse, but full marks to Mark Richt for pulling in a classic Georgia class, headlined by a bevy of excellent in-state players and augmented by the occasional blue chip from elsewhere in the Southeast.  Richt has been on the hot seat since the Dawgs started 1-4 on the heels of a disappointing 2009, but he circled the wagons beautifully.  If nothing else, Richt’s replacement will be in a great position.  In an ideal world, the Dawgs’ new 3-4 will get traction and Richt will have a second wind, a la Vince Dooley after two weak season out of three in the late 70s.  As one of Rich Rodriguez’s excuse-makers, I tried to rationalize Michigan’s weak classes over the last two years as a result of all of the negativity around the program from the various factions fighting with one another, but after seeing Richt put together a great class despite questions about his job security, maybe the conclusion is simply that Rodriguez wasn’t a very good recruiter (or at least wasn’t good at selling Michigan’s strengths).


Anonymous said...

Players from other regions? They can't even keep the best players in the Big Ten regions:

6 of the top-10 players in Pennsylvania left the Big Ten (including the top 2 and 3 of the top-5)

2 of the top-5 and 6 of the top-16 players in Ohio left the Big Ten, and the #14 player (Andre Sturdivant) picked *Toledo* over Penn State.

3 of the top-5 players in Illinois left the Big Ten.

None of this means that the Big Ten can be competitive without drawing top flight talent from the south& California. Just that the problem goes even beyond that.

Anonymous said...

And 2011 wasn't even particularly bad for players leaving Big Ten land. In 2010, the #1 recruit in the country came from Minnesota, but instead of sticking in the Big Ten he fled to an ACC program. The top 4 players in Ohio (three 5*s) left Big Ten country, for Miami, Texas, LSU, and Nebraska. The #1 player in Pennsylvania (5*) committed to Florida.

At any rate, in the past two years there's been a pretty clear drain of top-tier talent away from the Big Ten, that probably won't manifest itself until 2012-2013. IOW, the 0-5 New Years Day is probably going to be the norm, not the exception.

chg said...

Since 2000, South Carolina has produced more NFL drafted players than Michigan (and Pennsylvania) by a narrow margin (73 to 70), and more first rounders by a wide margin (16 to 7), with three more on the way this year (Bowers, Green, and Quinn).

The state has always been among the top three or four in players per capita, and narrowing the gap in total population allowed us to move ahead in raw numbers. It follows that there are probably more college players incapable of playing in the NFL turned out by South Carolina as well.

That said, Michigan could produce more than the Palmetto State in 2012, as it looks like a down year for in-state talent.

Numbers from: