"Super" Thoughts About Recruiting

Many say you need 5-star recruits to build to win championships, other say you need good film evaluation. What is the truth, and what can the the top two teams in the NFL reveal about this question. Peak inside and find out.

OKEMOS,MI-I am often asked about "star ranking's" and how important they are. This inevitably becomes a discussion where many feel John L. Smith is not doing a good job. However, research has shown me a different side to recruiting that is not apparent for many.

Certainly you need your share of top quality football players, and MSU is no exception. However, this begs the question, how good are college coaches at evaluation, and do some potential recruits go unnoticed?

Perhaps a few guys are under appreciated, go to small schools, and find their way to the NFL. But is there really that many? Let's look at the top two teams playing in this weeks Superbowl, Pittsburgh and Seattle. Do they have any these type guys? The answer may astound you.

Looking at Seattle's roster, they had at least fourteen players that went to "small" schools.

On defense, they include cornerback Jordan Babineaux from Southern Arkansas, cornerback Kelly Herndon from Toledo, and outside linebacker Isaiah Kacyvenski from Harvard.

Defensive end Robert Pollard from Texas Christian, defensive back Etric (not Eric) Pruitt from Southern Mississippi, and defensive tackle Ronald Smith from Lane College, or is that University?

On offense, wide receiver Alex Bannister is from Eastern Kentucky, tight end Ryan Hannam is from Northern Iowa, tackle Wayne Hunter is from Hawaii.

Wide receiver Maurice Mann is from Nevada. Wide receiver Jerheme Urban is from Trinity. Fullback Leonard Weaver is from Carson-Newman, a Division II school.

Even the long snapper J.P Darsche is from McGill. McGill? While punter Gabe Lindstrom is from Toledo.

What about Pitsburgh, they are perceived as the more blue collar type team. Cetainly they would have a lot of major college type stars. However, upon further review, they have a whopping eighteen small school players on their squad.

The Pittsburgh defense includes the likes of cornerback Ricardo Colclough from Tusculum, outside linebacker Andre Frazier from Cincinnati, and outside linebacker James Harrison from Kent State.

Inside Linebacker Clint Kriewaldt is from Wisconsin-Stevens Point. Defensive end Aaron Smith is from Northern Colorado, while defensive back Russell Stuvaints is from Youngstown State.

Cornerback Ivan Taylor is Louisiana-Lafayette, while defensive end Kimo Von Oelhoffen is from Boise State. Cornerback Willie Williams is from Western Carolina, and linebacker Rian Wallace is from Temple, not exactly a football power.

On offense, wide receiver Nate Washington is from Tiffin. Quarterback Ben Roethlisberger went to Miami....of Ohio. Wide receiver Sean Morey went to Brown, wide receiver Lee Mays to Texas-El Paso.

Running back John Kuhn went to Shippensburg, and fullback Dan Krieder went to New Hampshire. Guard Chris Kemoeatu to Utah, and quarterback Charlie Batch went to Eastern Michigan.

The powerful Pittsburgh Steelers have two MAC quarterbacks? How did that happen?

Certainly, looking at the Pro Bowl rosters would reveal a much different story, right? Maybe not. The AFC placed nine players from small schools on their roster and the NFC had eleven, for a total of twenty players from small schools making the trip to Hawaii.

For the AFC offense, they include, Antonio Gates from Kent State, and fullback Lorenzo Neal from Fresno State. Wide receiver Rod Smith from Missouri Southern, and tackle Willie Roaf from Louisiana Tech.

Guard Brian Waters from North Texas, running back Ladainian Tomlinson went to TCU.

On defense, defensive end Jason Taylor went to Akron. On special teams, punter Brian Moorman went to Pittsburg (without an h)...in Kansas. Return specialist Jerome Mathis went to Hampton.

On offense for the NFC, wide receiver Steve Smith went to Utah, guard Larry Allen went to Sonoma State. Guard Mike Wahle went to Navy. Quarterback Jake Delhomme went to Louisiana-Lafayette.

On defense for the NFC, Michael Strahan went to Texas Southern, linebacker Brian Urlacher went to New Mexico.

Linebacker Jeremiah Trotter went to Stephen F. Austin. Free safety Darren Sharper went to William and Mary. While defensive end Osi Umenyiora went to Troy.

Finally, defensive tackle Rod Coleman went to East Carolina, and long snapper Mike Bartrum went to Marshall.

So you may be asking, why does this happen. How come so many guys are seemingly overlooked?

First, there are a multitude of factors involved. Some kids are late to mature physically and are missed by college coaches. Like the "C" student in high school who is suddenly getting "A's" in college.

Some college coaches evaluate poorly. Some coaches do a poor job anticipating that a kid has a frame that can put more size and weight on them. Some do a good job in this area. Every coach can have a differing opinion on a potential recruit.

Then some kids do not have the grades to go big time, or maybe they know someone at a small school who may have had a good experience there.

Certainly, some kids can make it to the NFL by going to a smaller school because they don't take the physical punishment they would have playing in the Big Ten, or Big Twelve, or SEC. Certainly Jerry Rice playing at Mississipi Valley State ensured he was not going to take the same punishment he would have elsewhere.

Sometimes the kid himself will underestimate his ability, or his high school coach may know a kid is pretty good, but are not sure how good a kid they have, and he is not promoted properly.

Sometimes the kid feels overwhelmed by a bigger school and wants to go to a smaller school.

These are just a few of the reasons kids are missed. But the fact is, some potentially good football players are missed, and this is where good film evaluation comes in.

Luckily for MSU, John L. Smith is solid in the evaluation department. Yes, there has been some attrition, but that happens because it's hard to judge a kids mental makeup and heart on film.

But rest assured, every kid he has signed, he felt that kid could play. Otherwise, he never would have offered that particular kid.

There are some going to be some positive surprises for MSU in this class, and I certainly expect that.

John L. Smith earned the reputation for finding "gems under rocks" while at Utah State and Louisville, and taking kids that weren't readily noticeable to other schools.

And John L. Smith certainly hopes these current 'gems' will be shined into another gem someday-the kind sitting engraved in a championship ring.

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