In looking at the recruiting rankings after National Letter of Intent Signing Day on Wednesday, we now know that Mississippi, ranked in the top 10 by Rivals.com and Scout.com, will be a top-10 football team in 2016.
Or perhaps not.
Despite the national holiday status of signing day in some U.S. cities, rating recruiting classes remains an inexact science.
Sure, it’s pretty easy to tell that Alabama and Notre Dame had exceptional signing classes after appearing in the national championship game. Duh.
Here is some news for you. I predict Alabama will be a Top 10 program in 2016 and 2020 and 2024. That’s going way out on a limb considering that the university values football more than, say, math. How much are they paying Nick Saban? Oh, $5.5 million per year.
If Alabama’s recruiting class ranks No. 67, call me.
Covering college football for many years, I hated signing day. First, it involved calling the top recruits every four minutes the previous month leading up to the big day. Considering they were getting called every three minutes by a different coach, they weren’t real happy to answer one more call. It’s no fun to be cussed out by a 17-year-old.
Next, many of the assistant coaches I knew hated the process more than I did. They were living out of suitcases, trying to convince kids that their commuter school was a better fit than Stanford.
There also was the cut-throat side of the business, where if there wasn’t a good rumor to be had, one was invented. Did you know that Saban has told all his close friends that he is leaving for the NFL after next season?
It all created an awful situation for the players, who got caught up in the process. Players started to become insurance policies who would be signed if the real coveted tailback decided to go elsewhere. Signing day would come, and scholarship offers would disappear. Just ask NFL running back Justin Forsett about that one.
Eventually, the players started to get wise, and some decided to turn the tables on the coaches. Oral commitments carry a lot less weight than they did even 10 years ago, and now the best players want to keep everyone guessing so they can have a “look at me” news conference on signing day, complete with caps of the top five schools in the running. Plop goes the winner, and four schools fizzle out. Quickly, get to those insurance policies.
Topping it all off, the entire system has become one more bowl game to celebrate. Indiana ranked as the No. 41 recruiting class, so it drubbed Purdue, which is No. 55. These kids haven’t played a down of major college football or taken a class.
To put some of the recruiting rating system in context, take a look at Purdue’s current recruiting class, considered pretty poor by Big Ten standards and obviously affected by a coaching change. Defensive tackle Ra’Zahn Howard is rated a three-star recruit by ESPN, a two-star recruit by Rivals.com and a no-star recruit by Scout.com. The same can be said of wide receiver Myles Norwood.
Did they all see Howard and Norwood on different days?
Someone once said, “That’s why we play the games.”
If I had some observations from this year’s ratings, it would be that Northern Illinois is due to fall off the college football map since its class by ranked No. 108 by Rivals.com. Other programs in big trouble are Georgia Tech, Boise State, Iowa, which all failed to get either a five-star or a four-star recruit (according to Rivals.com). Among those landing no five-star recruits and two or less four-star recruits are West Virginia, TCU, Arizona, Oregon State, North Carolina, Utah, Rutgers, Missouri, Texas Tech, Louisville and Kansas State.
Somehow I think most of those programs will find some way to survive. I guess coaches really do more than recruit.
I guess this all is a personal peeve of mine. I just wish signing day was more about young men accomplishing something very special and less about who beat whom. That’s not the case, though, and we are left with winners and losers, in terms of programs.
Even so, if you’re a Mississippi fan, don’t start reserving tickets for BCS games quite yet.
Jay Heater is The Republic sports editor. He can be reached at email@example.com or 379-5632.