The Path to Playing Time

A lot of things go into one's decision in choosing the right college. When you factor into the equation all of the variables involved in choosing the right college in which to play athletics, the decision becomes even more daunting and pressure-filled.

Still, there seems to be two universal schools of thought.

Universal Truth # 1: High school recruits should go where they feel the most comfortable. This makes sense because they'll be there for the next 4 or 5 years, over which time they can learn the system, earn the coaches' trust and earn playing time, assuming they won't step on campus and get playing time right away.

Universal Truth # 2: Junior college transfers should go where they can play. This also makes complete sense. While JC transfers step on to campus with some advantages (age, experience, two years of college S&C) they also step onto campus with distinct disadvantages (inexperience in a given system, chemistry with teammates, less of a bond with position coaches, comfort level with surroundings, classes and coaches). That being the case, choosing a school were the depth chart works in your favor makes EXTREME sense for any junior college transfer.

Keeping that mantra in mind, let's examine the opportunities for playing time for several of our JC recruits.

Trey Anderson:

It appears that South Alabama is locked in a recruiting battle with the new coaching staff at Missouri State for Neosho CC point guard Trey Anderson. While Anderson runs the point for Neosho, he's tall at 6'4 and versatile and could probably play any of the three guard spots.

Shooting Guard Tim Williams, PG Raymond Sims and versatile wing Gary Redus, Jr. have all exhausted their eligibility. With the likely departures of PG Allyn Cooks and SG Martino Brock, South Alabama will return virtually no experience in the backcourt. There is no depth at the point, other than 5'8 walk-on Jose Diaz.

MSU appears to be in much the same situation as South Alabama from a personnel standpoint. They're losing all three starters from their backcourt and they have some experience coming back in the frontcourt, including leading scorer and rebounder senior Kyle Weems (16 ppg & 6.1 rpg). But here's the rub, even though they lost all three starters in the backcourt, it would appear there is really only one job up for grabs.

Nathan Scheer (6'4,191) played in all 35 games last year, logging a healthy 20.5 mpg and averaging 4.1 ppg and 1.8 rpg while dishing out 40 assists (5th on the team) and hitting 27 of 75 3-PTs (36%). That is a very, very solid freshman year coming off the bench and he has the inside track to start at the 3, and could probably play the 2 with his versatility.

6'4 sophomore Keith Pickens, who started 17 games as a freshman in '09-‘10, is a similar player to Scheer. He was penciled in as a starter heading into last season, but ruptured his patella in preseason conditioning this past August. He had successful surgery and should be fine after 12 months of rehab which will have him back to 100% prior to the start of practice (he's at 80% right now). Like Scheer, he might be more of a 3 than a 2, but to get them both of the floor one of them will have to play the 2. Pickens was considered the team's defensive stopper as a freshman so he's probably more suited to play the 2 than Scheer. Rising sophomore Corey Copeland (6'4,173) will as also push for minutes after playing in 25 games as a freshman.

That pretty much leaves PG as the only spot up for grabs at Missouri State. The good news for Anderson....He plays PG. The bad news for AndersonM....Missouri St. signed a 3-Star PG in the early signing period in Dorrian Williams out of Oklahoma City, the schools highest rated recruit since top 150 player Drew Richards in 2004.

Also on the roster at PG is rising sophomore Aaron Cooper out of Little Rock.

So, at MSU Anderson will have some stiff competition for the PG spot (as well as any spot in the backcourt), while at South Alabama he would be the clear frontrunner for the PG spot, with his stiffest competition being 5'10 incoming freshman Jordan Roach of Texas. Roach is a great prospect and has some great offensive skills, but he needs some seasoning before he's ready to run the team.



Xavier Roberson:

South Alabama seems to be going head-to-head with Murray State for another junior college guard in Paris (Texas) JC's Xavier Roberson.

We've already chronicled the personnel in South Alabama's backcourt. And where the depth at PG is made up of walk-on Jose Diaz, the depth at SG is made up of rising sophomore walk-on Todd Martin. It's highly likely many of these factors contributed to Freddie Jones-Goldstein's decision to sign with South Alabama last week.

Murray State, on the other hand, is pretty much set on two returning players for two-thirds of its three-guard offense - Jewuan Long, who made 11 starts this past season, and leading scorer Isaiah Canaan. Also returning is senior Donte Poole who averaged almost 17 minutes/game and hit 22-65 3's (34%).

The Racers also just signed a junior college shooting guard in 6'3 Stacy Wilson. They currently have commitments from junior college wing Tyler Rambo, as well as a high school point guard. Both are expected to officially sign in the next few weeks.

That seems like a pretty good log jam of players in the back court even without Roberson.



Shayne Kelley

Of course, you can't always apply this theory. Or perhaps it would be better said that recruits don't always apply this theory. Take for instance OL Shayne Kelley who was committed to South Alabama but recently decided to attend Wyoming.

Wyoming has a lot of experience returning on the OL, and it would seem very unlikely that Kelley is heading somewhere he can get on the field next year. In stark contrast to his prospects at South Alabama where his chances of becoming a starter were probably in the 99.9 to 100% range.

Of course it is hard to know if Kelley realizes or has even considered Wyoming's returning OL depth. And coaches have been known to manipulate the depth chart, especially during spring practice. Whether it is to help recruit a junior college player like Kelley, or high school players over the summer, or manipulate/motivate returning starters, it is pretty common.

If you need proof look no further than the bio of Wyoming starting offensive LT Clayton Kirven from Wymoingathletics.com.

"Clayton Kirven is a great example of what hard work and dedication can accomplish. He entered the 2009 season listed No. 2 at right offensive tackle after starting 11 of 12 games at that same position as a redshirt freshman in 2008. But he did not get discouraged, and through hard work in the summer of `09 and on into fall camp, Kirven regained his starting spot in the second game of the 2009 season, and he started the final 12 games of the season for the Cowboys."

Guess what? Kirven is once again listed as number two on the depth chart. Anyone think last years starting LT with 33 career starts under his belt won't be starting next year, be it at RT or LT? Nick Carlson can give Kirven a run for his money, having started every game of his college career – at center in '11 and at OG in '10. He's listed as the starter at center. Another returning starter not listed as a starter in the spring is junior Josh Leonard, who started 10 games last year at RT. John Hutchins started 10 games last year split between OG and OT, and is listed as the starter at LT.

So that's four returning starters even though the spring depth chart would only indicate there are two returning starters. And that's a classic example of depth chart manipulation, whether or not it was to aid in the recruitment of Shayne Kelley or motivate current players, it's likely not that accurate.

The powers of deduction would lead us to believe that there's really only one spot up for grabs heading into 2011, and there is already a fierce battle being waged for it between 6'6,317 Kyle Magnuson (most improved OL of the spring and probably the front runner for the open spot), spring JC enrollee Zach Rushing from MSGCCC, converted sophomore DT Tyler Strong and 5th year senior Brandon Self.

That's a lot of bodies fighting for one spot. Just getting enough reps to work his way into the battle for that open spot is going to prove quite a chore for Kelley, much less getting a chance to actually fight for the job.

Hopefully it works out for Kelley, and I hope he remembers that even if he starts 12 games one year, it's not the end of the world if he's not listed as the starter in the spring.

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