Recruiting 2004 Easier to Stomach

As the days inch closer and closer towards signing day, anticipation builds for the thousands of Clemson fans that live and breathe college football recruiting. Thank goodness I have somewhat been able to restrain myself to some degree this year.

Forgive me if I come across as apathetic to the whole recruiting process, because I am most certainly not. I have realized over the past 25 years or so of following college football, and specifically Clemson football, that there are 3 truths to college football recruiting:

1. Recruiting is the lifeblood of any and every college football team. Without good football players, it is difficult to have good football teams.

2. College football recruiting is as unpredictable as anything I've ever seen in the world of sports. These 17 and 18 year old kids are making life changing decision to attend a particular University that will in turn determine the fate of a particular school's football team.

3. Because #1 and #2 collide with the same teams, same high school players, same coaches, and same fans; recruiting is by far the most frustrating event one could follow. It can also, strangely, be one of the most satisfying.

I usually try to avoid getting sucked into the tunnel of emotional ups and downs every year. Not because I don't believe in what recruiting does for a team, but more so because of the taxing nature of allowing yourself to be mentally handcuffed by the process.

Some years I can successfully avoid latching onto these high school kids. Some years I can't. While wondering why it is that I can crave the information so much one year and not the next, I came across a theory. The way a season ends has a great deal to do with how frustrating a recruiting season is.

The average recruiting fan is sucked into it more when a season ends negatively as opposed to when the season ends on a high note. I'm not talking the die-hard recruiting guys. They are going to bleed it regardless of anything else going on in their lives. But those people make up a vocal minority. The average Clemson fan cares about recruiting without it absolutely consuming them.

Last year, I rode the emotional roller coaster from the front seat and without the lap bar. Every day I was transfixed in front of the computer screen desperately searching for hidden meanings to every quote from a prospect. Good news became great news, and bad news was heartbreaking.

Last year's frustration was multiplied because our neighbors to the south had everything they touched turn to gold. And whether the 2003 recruiting class will one day be considered a success or failure, it was most certainly no fun to live through at the time.

But was the 2003 recruiting season frustrating because of the normal ups and downs? Or, was it frustrating because of the way the season ended? The 2003 season had some terrible losses at home to NC State on a Thursday night and Maryland a couple of weeks later. The debacle in the Tangerine Bowl was the last image Clemson fans were left with of that football team.

Those three games were the cornerstone of the bad taste that was left in my mouth, even though we defeated arch rival South Carolina at home. Added to the season's frustrations was the uncertainty of Tommy Bowden. He was still officially on the hot seat, and the temperature was amplified with the loss to Texas Tech.

All that frustration and uncertainty bled over into the recruiting season and multiplied the bad news and soured the good news at every turn. Fairly or unfairly, the 2003 recruiting season will be partly judged on the way the season went.

Yet, here in 2004, my mood with relation to recruiting is much different for me. I still get updates like many of you each day from Roy and Robert. I still can name high school players and what schools they have narrowed their list to. And I still hope every kid we want signs with us.

But things are so much different this year. A kid decides not to commit during his official visit to Clemson? No big deal. A Clemson commit decides to take all his visits anyway? Can't blame him for that, can we? The entire process is interesting and entertaining this year…but not heartbreaking.

Why the difference?

It has to be the way the two seasons ended. 2004 will be viewed long term in a completely different light than 2003. That's not to say that the 2004 season did not have its bumps, because it most certainly did. But those bumps were smoothed over to the point they are nearly flat because of the Florida State, South Carolina, and Tennessee performances. And those wins have carried over into the recruiting season, making the ups and downs of the roller coaster ride much less dramatic.

So this is the kind of recruiting season that I can actually enjoy following. I'm not sure the whole process can be considered fun, but it is light years ahead in enjoyment than the 2003 season.

We won't get them all in 2 weeks; we really won't come very close.

And I'm ok with that.

Strange what the end to a season can do for one's personality. I wonder how things feel down in Columbia?

What a difference a year makes. Top Stories