The Myths of Recruiting

About this time every year, recruitaholics get this fast-spreading disease: their pupils enlarge, drool drips from their mouths and they get infected with the disease of thinking that a college's success is based on the number of prospects they get that are four or five star players. I'm here to cure that illness...

I'm seeing it on this board and many others: fans are saying Johnny Bluechipper is a must get because he's a four star defensive tackle. If we get him, he will cure everything that ails our team.

Let me put it bluntly: no he won't. Let's see how the No. 2 player in the nation, Haloti Ngata, did to put his team on top. Did Oregon make a BCS bowl game? Nope. Did Oregon win the Pac 10? Nope. Did Oregon win it's bowl game? Nope, stuffed by Wake Forest.

That's assuming Johnny Bluechipper even lives up to his name. Let's say he does: a couple years ago we at Student Sports had T.J. Duckett as the No. 1 recruit in the nation. He was a 6-0, 240 pound linebacker with 4.4 speed. Only problem was he was switched to running back, had a solid college career and was a first round draft pick. But did he take Michigan State to the promised land?

Nope, nope, nope.

Following recruiting is a humbling experience. The more I know, the less I know. Think about that one a while.

A good example is Ken Dorsey. I saw him on film in high school at Mira Monte in NorCal and thought he was very weak physically. His throws were soft, but you couldn't evaluate his mind and eyes for seeing the field like a Ty Detmer. One national title later, possibly two come this week, and he's a Heisman Candidate.

Go figure.

Those are two player cases, one we knew was good and the other we thought was a bust, who surprised in different ways.

Usually, however, what happens is a bluechip "can't miss" player does miss, at least half the time. I have gone back and researched recruiting lists of national Hot 100 players and there will be about 50% of the guys I heard of who contributed in college and some even the NFL while the others totally disappeared.

Why? Could be injuries or off the field problems. Academic problems snares a few while many were simiply overrated in the first place or, worse, were talented but thought their newspaper clippings would make life easy for them.

Usually what happens is somebody rarely heard of in high school emerges at the college level because he peaks physically and works his tail off.

My favorite example of this was Terrell Davis, the Broncos RB who was a DT at San Diego Lincoln High until late in his prep career and then was only offered by Long Beach State. He went there, but after the death of Coach George Allen, the program shut down the program and Davis transferred to Georgia where he had a mediocre career and went lower in the NFL draft. However, it all came together and he ended up as one of the top RBs in the '90s and has a pair of Super Bowl rings to prove it.

So what does this mean? Simply, don't get too caught up in the rating systems you see on the sites, including ones like this one. Will Brian Soi make the NFL or will he never play a down? Academics, injuries, or just plain fate may play a part in his success or failure.

Take a recent BYU star, for example. Luke Staley only had two offers, BYU and Oregon, before he committed in the summer preceeding his senior year of high school. A knee injury his jr. year made him invisible and he was on nobody's list.

I know practically everone in the recruiting business and some have a clue, but many don't. I like TheInsiders guys because most look at film and try to evaluate.

But even that can be tough when looking at players from over 15,000 high schools. My point is simply, rankings are difficult at best so don't get caught up in five star guys vs. one star guys.

I guarantee you that in New Year's bowl games, Tennessee had a boatload more of 5 star studs than Maryland; so did Notre Dame and like the Vols they got shellacked by N.C. State.

Finally, let's go back to BYU's class of '98. See how many guys contributed and how many you've never heard of:

OL Isaac Herring; WR Eugene Childs; OL Brandon McFerren; TE Nate Wente; LB T.J. Fafita; LB Moa Peaua; WR Reno Mahe; TE-WR Spencer Abney; WR Jernaro Gilford; QB Kevin Gilbride; RB Sione Havili; OL Dustin Rykert; LB Brady Poppinga; FB Logan Deans; WR Tacoma Fontaine; CB Hashi Robertson; OL John Skiba; WR Michael Westbrook; OL Craig Schmidt; WR Jonathan Pittman; DB Brian Gray; OL James Morgan; LB Chris Stevens

Only Mahe, Gilford, Rykert, Poppinga, Deans, Pittman, and Gray were what I'd consider major contributors and that's less than half of the class. Many disappeared even though they were hyped names. The most glaring? Nate Wente who was tripped in the same weekend as another TE who did OK. That guy, by the way, wasn't pleased to see Wente being recruited and that was a small part of why he went to a Pac 10 school.

His name? Todd Heap.

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