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Wednesday, February 01, 2006

Early Signing Observations

I breezed through what's posted on the various websites, and I have a few observations. As you know, I like to go more deeply into the stats, and I'll try to give you some more insight than just some of the obvious things that jump out at me preliminarily.

1. It's great to be Texas and Florida. Before you say "duh", let me complete my point. Both schools have recruiting classes that are rated in the top five, and most of their recruits come from the state. Translated, this means that the Longhorns and Gators don't have to spread out their recruiters over a good part of the country. Instead, they just have to make sure that they cover their own states -- and well. This year, they have.

2. It's not great to be a Vanderbilt, Duke, Northwestern, Rice, where you have to look far and wide for kids who can meet your academic requirements. While these are great schools who can field interesting teams on occasion, "on occasion" are the operative words here. It's just too difficult to get the critical mass of top prospects year in and year out to field a perennial contender or, in the case of some of these schools, a contender at all.

3. That said, Colin Cowherd made an interesting point on ESPN Radio yesterday. He opined (and I agree with him) that the elite academic schools that play Division I-A football probably have less attrition because they draw kids who are the most ready for college and presumably have fewer issues about adjusting to college life (ergo, which is why their graduation rates are higher). Unfortunately for these schools, the cohesiveness that less attrition should bring has not translated to victories on the gridiron. What does that say? That says that the elite football schools are so good at plugging their holes with new recruits that for the most part the attrition that they do have doesn't set them back that much.

4. If you look at some of the rating systems, what you should focus on are recruits that actually get more than a "field" rating. By that I mean recruits about which there is actual information, as opposed to their being assigned a lower number without any narrative. For your school to compete on a national level, it needs to bring in about 20 of this type of kid every year. And that, in and of itself, is pretty hard to do.

5. I am no expert on walk-on programs, but I do recall about 15-20 years ago a good part of the reason Nebraska was so successful. For the younger readers out there, Nebraska at one time was a part of the annual conversation as to which team would finish ranked first. Today, of course, it's a different story (they're rebuilding). But during the days of Tom Osborne, the Cornhuskers simply controlled the line of scrimmage -- on both sides of the ball. While that strategy is no secret, what Nebraska did to build its depth was to encourage dozens of big kids to walk onto the program every year. Most were Nebraskans, and in-state tuition then was under $5,000. As a result, the competition was fierce, and Nebraska was always assured about having an inventory of outstanding linemen. I'm not so sure what the rules are today, but their accomplishments back then were something to marvel at.

6. It's no secret that the big names in coaching attract the marquis players. What's more compelling is how schools fare who lose their coordinators and assistants to other schools. Are they able to hold onto their recruits, or do the recruits look elsewhere because the principal nexus to the school -- the coach who recruited the player -- is gone? My sense is that UVA lost some recruits who had provided oral commitments because they lost both coordinators, and we know that part of why Miami lost a top-10 QB in Pat Devlin is because Coach Larry Coker fired the two offensive assistants who recruited him (Devlin opted for Penn State; the former assistants are at Mississippi). Kids, being kids, could bolt for a bunch of reasons. This one is among the best.

How did your school do? It's worth checking out on a subscription basis, because you'll get a good measure as to how your program is doing.


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