Don’t Ever Think It’s Not About Recruiting

Let’s get one thing out of the way. This is not just another day. National Signing Day is critical – absolutely essential – for the success of a college football program.

When Nick Saban was flying from Miami to Tuscaloosa in January 2007, he had a question for Mal Moore, the athletics director who had hired Saban to be the Alabama football coach. “You think you’ve hired the best coach in America, don’t you?” Saban said.

Moore said that, yes, he thought he had.

Saban refuted the answer of his new boss. “No,” he said. “You didn’t hire the best coach. But you did hire the best recruiter.”

Many years ago another highly regarded Alabama football coach offered a similar sentiment. “Given the choice of good players or good coaches, I’ll take good players,” said Paul Bryant.

Nick Saban is beginning his ninth season as Crimson Tide coach in 2015, and after that first abbreviated recruiting period for Signing Day in 2007, Saban’s Alabama recruiting classes have ranked at or near the top every year, including today’s class.

It is no coincidence that in this period, Alabama has been the top college football team in America.

And it’s not just Alabama where recruiting success is reflected by on-the-field excellence. The teams that are consistent contenders for national championships are the teams that get it done on the first Wednesday in February.

After all these years of such evidence, it it surprising to hear a small chorus of the uninformed continue to trumpet the false claim that “stars don’t matter,” and point to the occasional walk-on star or five-star bust. It happens, but not much. The teams with the five stars and four stars in February are the teams to watch in the Fall.

True, many, many years ago when the “recruiting experts” were really hobbyists, college football fans who tried to rate players with no real chance of getting it right, there were plenty of those exceptions to the recruiting rankings. Things have changed in a big way.

Scout.com has dozens and dozens of professionals who do nothing but monitor high school football players year-round. They seem them in camps and combines and all-stat situations, as well as under Friday Night Lights.

The coaches who are the best recruiters and the best evaluators don’t get it exactly right, but just like the men and women at Scout.com, they hit it on the head most of the time.

So pay attention to today’s results. You’re looking at the future success of these teams.

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