Marshall: A Look At Football Recruiting

In a little more than a week, when Christmas has come and gone and the bowl games have been played, attention will once again focus on recruiting. The whims of teen-age boys will once again leave adults breathless with excitement or in deep depression.

If you are a follower of recruiting, here some things to consider that might help you make it through until Feb. 1:

*If someone says a player runs a 4.4 40-yard dash, be very skeptical. If someone says a player runs a 4.3 40-yard dash, assume that person is misinformed. If someone says a player runs under a 4.3 40-yard dash, be assured that person is either misinformed or just not telling the truth.

An NFL scout tells me that there aren't a total of 10 players in the NFL who actually run a legitimate 4.4 40-yard dash. All you have to do to get the picture is check out the times at the NFL combine every year.

*If Billy Bob Superstar goes to a rival school, do not fret. Billy Bob might be great. He might not. The unknown your school signs in his place might end up being better. Odds are, about half this year's recruiting class will be long gone before their eligibility is used up.

*Take the stars recruiting services give players with a grain of stardust. How can you compare a wide receiver in Los Angeles with a wide receiver in, say, Brantley, Ala., or Scooba, Miss., or an offensive lineman in Carrollton with one in Chicago? The fact is, you can't.

Of the 55 players on the 2002 Parade All-America team--players who are at the end of their fourth seasons in college--four are All-Americans. A handful of others, like Auburn wide receiver Ben Obomanu, had terrific careers. Most of the names I hardly recognized.

*Stay away from the "press conferences." Maybe if people--including the press--would stop going, they would stop happening. We would be spared the sight of 18-year-old kids switching hats and doing all the things they do.

By the time some of them get to college, they have, through no fault of their own, a terribly inflated opinion of themselves. They find out the hard way that none of their new teammates give a rip how many stars were by their names, how many All-America teams they made or how many people came to their press conferences.

Of course, there's not much hope when ESPN dubs Tim Tebow "The Chosen One" and does an hour-long special on his senior season and creates impossible expectations.

*Pay little attention to recruiting class rankings. They mean about as much as the number of stars a player receives. How do you decide, rationally, who has recruited the best when not one of those players has ever hit a lick in college? Once again, you don't.

Auburn has won 24 of its last 26 games. It has won five of seven against Georgia, four of seven against LSU and three of four against Tennessee. When was Auburn ranked ahead of any of those teams in recruiting?

Obviously, somewhere along the way, it should have been.

Check out NFL games on Sunday and among the former Auburn players you might see are Dontarrious Thomas, Spencer Johnson, Roderick Hood and Willie Whitehead. Hood and Whitehead were walk-ons. Auburn was the only Division I-A school that offered Thomas a scholarship. Johnson, from Silas, drew no interest from Alabama.

Roderick Hood, a walk-on from Columbus, Ga., was a standout for the Tigers who plays for the NFL's Philadelphia Eagles.

While you are checking out the NFL, check out the number of players who come from Division I-AA and Division II schools. Those guys, for the most part, had zero Division I-A offers.

If all that doesn't convince you that fretting about players a school doesn't get or celebrating players a school does get is mostly a waste of time, then fret or celebrate until your heart is content.

Recruiting is, no doubt, crucial. Bad coaches can lose with good players, but not even the best of coaches can win with bad players. At some point, we'll know what teams recruited the best. But it won't be any time soon.

By 2009, we should have a pretty good idea of what really happened on Feb. 1, 2006.

Most importantly, I wish a merry Christmas and a joyful New Year filled with God's blessings for all.

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