Updated Feb 2, 2012 - 2:34 pm
Don't sweat the recruiting rankings, they're idiotic
It's no secret that I hate recruiting.
Well, I don't hate recruiting, per se, I hate the fan-created business of recruiting.
You see, sites like Scout.com and Rivals.com and ESPN's recruiting site aren't created for coaches. They are created so fans have something to do while football is not being played.
Coaches don't care what "star rating" a player gets. Coaches don't consult some "scout" or "recruiting analyst" from these sites before asking a player to accept a scholarship.
If anyone sees that WSU is ranked 12th in the Pac-12 in recruiting rankings and gets worried, ask yourselves these questions:
1. Who is more knowledgeable about football, Mike Leach or some dude from a website who's likely never coached football at the college level, or any level at all?
2. Who is more successful in winning football games, Mike Leach or some dude from a website who's likely never coached football at the college level, or any level at all?
Those aren't tough questions, by the way.
Mike Leach went out and signed a kid named Brett Bartolone. According to Scout.com and Rivals.com, he's a "2-Star" player. That means, in their minds, he may make an impact as a senior, if he gets any playing time at all at the major college level. With a "2-Star" rating, they think he's more suited for FCS-level ball. More likely though, he was never actually "evaluated" at all. You see, there are just too many kids to evaluate and guys like Bartolone don't always get the attention. Mike Leach did evaluate him and knows that Bartolone will fit his system -- an FBS, major conference program. He believes that the kid has the tools to succeed at this level. So, who do you believe? Let's revisit this topic four years from now and see if Brett has made a contribution.
See what I'm getting at here? Recruiting rankings and sites are entertainment. Don't take it like it really means anything. If you're in the Top 10 in the nation, it means you got a lot of really, really, really impressive kids. After that, it starts to get murky. It means you got one or two really, really, really impressive kids.
After the top 30 or so, it gets really murky. In fact, there's not a lot of difference between a team like Arizona State, which was 37th in the Rivals.com rankings, and WSU, which was not in the top 50. ASU signed a total of 23 players, three of whom were "4-Star" players and 15 who were "3-Stars." The Cougs signed 26 total with two "4-Stars" and 14 "3-Stars." Not a major difference there. Yet, if you go by the rankings, it seemed that ASU pretty much clobbered WSU in the recruiting game.
Another factor is that due to the sheer number of kids, the "recruiting analysts" don't really get close to evaluating the junior college players. This season, Leach had to go for several JC guys to fill some holes and every one was designated a "2-star" player. Because the sites don't have the time to evaluate these guys they are given two stars, despite the fact that when coming out of high school, many of them were rated higher and only improved in size and skill while in the JC ranks.
Offensive Line recruit Sam Jones is a great example. He's a "2-Star" now, but coming out of high school he was a "4-Star" and was one of the elite linemen in the nation. Did he get worse in his years at Pima JC? Did he get smaller? Slower? Not likely. Niu Sale was a "3-Star" coming out of high school and so was Mike Bowlin (he was also considered the No. 3 kicker in the NATION), but now they are also both "2-stars."
I think you get it. This isn't an exact science. It's not even a "kinda science." I won't even go in to the number of "2-Stars" who went on to be NFL players (Pro Bowler Marcus Trufant, for example) or the number of "5-Star" kids who never did anything (anyone remember Randy Estes?).
Finally, let's not forget that Mike Leach had very little time to build this class. Recruiting is about relationships and Leach had to make up for a lot of lost time very quickly. Kids like Cedric Dozier out of Lakes have been getting love and affection from schools like Cal and UW for YEARS. Leach had to forge relationships in WEEKS. It's hard to do. For you huskies out there who don't believe me, go back to '09. When Sarkisian was hired, he had two months to put together his class. Where did it finish? According to Scout.com, it was 66th in the nation. Mike Leach's first class is 60th. That's not a dig, that's just reality.
The point, of course, is that recruiting rankings are fine and dandy for those hard up for entertainment, but they are rarely an accurate predictor of future success.
I'll leave it with this final bit of proof:
In 2004, WSU had the No. 21 recruiting class in the nation. UW had the No. 22 class in the nation. Great classes for both schools. Lots of guys with lots of stars by their names.
Four years later, when those incredible, can't miss, star-laden players should've been juniors and seniors, the two teams finished their seasons in "The Crapple Cup." UW was 0-10 and the Cougs were 1-9. (Just a reminder, the Cougs won and the UW became the only team in conference history to go winless throughout a season.)
Don't sweat the rankings, Cougar Faithful, trust in Mike Leach.
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