COLUMBIA, MO - FEBRUARY 04:  Dorial Green-Beck...

Top recruit Dorial Green-Beckham. Image by Getty Images via @daylife

Sign On the Dotted Line

The best quote of all time in my opinion can be tied to recruiting. Former Oklahoma Sooner coach Barry Switzer once said. “It’s not about the X’s and the O’s, it’s about the Jimmy’s and the Joe’s. Essentially meaning, I don’t have to be as good of a coach if I have superior talent.

Signing day is over. Now it is time for the chat rooms from all the schools from Oregon to Miami to gripe about the guys that got away (and for Bret Bielema to complain that Urban Meyer is poaching players) , and laud the praises for the recruits that were landed.

Too much time and attention is given by the media, the fans, and the message boards about recruiting classes. Grades are arbitrary. They are handed out based on film, a few people’s opinions, and some tangible measurements such as height, weight, “reported” speed and the like.

5 Star Treatment

Recruits are given a “star” rating by recruiting services. The two most respected are Rivals and Scouts. Both of these services came into prominence for rating football recruits around 2002. Prior to that there were a myriad of services, including a “straw poll” vote from the coaches so to speak. So before 2002 it is tougher to put an exact rating While these for some part are a shot in the dark, it is still likely the best thing out there in helping to determine the viability and talent of the athletes that are being brought into a program.

But it is far from an exact science. Let’s look at the facts from 2011 as an example:

  • 47 College Football players at the Division 1 Level were named to one or more of the various “All-American” teams.
  • Of those 47 players – 7 were 5 star rated by the recruiting services.
  • 18 of the 47 were players that were rated 3 star or lower on the 5 star system

So this would appear on the surface that chasing the “4-star” player lands yours best odds (it is almost half of the total All Americans this year) but what this is really saying is that recruiting is still a crap shoot.

Which Came First?

Often times the more big name schools that get interested in a player, the higher the perceived rating will go as now suddenly there is the logic that “This guy must be good if Alabama, USC, Ohio State, LSU, and Oregon are after him” where if the same player is being chased by schools perceived as not as strong in the football arena they are not likely to get as many stars. You won’t see a 5 star guy being chased by just schools like Toledo, Iowa State and Idaho.

So it begs the question. Does the rating given to an athlete dictate which schools are chasing a player – – or does the schools that are interested in a particular player dictate their “star” rating?

Kind of like asking which came first the chicken or the egg?

What Do The Experts Know?

I recently read an older article on SI.COM ranking the top 15 recruiting classes of all time. As you scroll through the list a number of them won’t surprise you on the surface. The reason they are on this list of the top 15 recruiting classes of all time is that the teams were exceptionally talented and ending up having tremendous success.

While it is now a 2 year old article it points out some interesting teams that had success.

More interesting is that the 1992 class for Nebraska – which is mentioned as basically the top “modern era” football recruiting class of all time was not viewed very highly at all during the time it originally took place. In 1992 the various recruiting services at the time had the Nebraska class as high as 5th best in college that year to a low of 18th best recruiting class. You would think to finish 2nd on an ALL TIME list you would have been a slam dunk #1 ranked recruiting class in 1992.

The recruiting classes in the two year both before and after 1992 were ranked even lower. Nebraska won National Championships in 1994, 1995,and 1997.

Many players that are recruited never pan out. Some get hurt, some don’t adjust to college life well, some are as good as they are ever going to be the day they step on campus, some get in trouble, some can’t make grades.

Just as many are unheralded people that mature and develop well once they enter college, get good coaching and get stronger and faster and more confident.

Recruiting is definitely an inexact science. In the winter months it is yet another thing that keeps us focusing on football….at least until Spring practices begin.

Until next time, stay classy Cibolo, Texas

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Johnny Goodman writes a weekly sports column for The Soap Boxers. His articles can be found in The Goodman File.

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