Out Of Control

By Brad Hubbard | @bradhubbard


National Signing Day is officially out of hand. It was bad enough when ESPN and CBS Sports began doing live shots of high school football players announcing where they are going to play their college football (at least to start with before they transfer due to lack of playing time) but a live show complete with celebrities? Skydiving? Really?

Ric FlairIn case you missed it, Jim Harbaugh and Michigan put on an event complete with former Michigan players like Tom Brady and Desmond Howard along with host Randy Sklar, Harbaugh’s brother John, Ric Flair, Lou Holtz, Mike Shanahan, Todd McShay and oh yeah, ‘The Captain’ Derek Jeter whose site, The Players’ Tribune, live streamed the event.

Tennessee streamed their day live online too which was some six plus hours. While it didn’t have Brady, Jeter or Ric Flair it was still six plus hours of a live event for players turning in a piece of paper.

While over the top it was still nothing compared to Ole Miss signee Deontay Anderson. He went skydiving to make his announcement.

Really?

These are high schoolers who have never played a down of collegiate football. Heck, most haven’t even graduated high school yet. There is no guarantee that any of them will turn out to be a quality player or even be playing football within a year. Isn’t this a little much?

A few years ago I had a couple of posts pointing out that a top class doesn’t always equal success on the field. According to Rivals.com two schools with the top 10 recruiting classes in 2015 fired their head coaches this past year (USC and Georgia) and another school tried to fire their’s (LSU).

Yes a higher ranked recruiting class gives you a better chance to be successful than a lower ranked recruiting class. However at what point do people stop and say ‘hold on a minute, these are just kids we are putting up on a pedestal. Maybe they should earn it first before we shower them with praise’?

No? Well maybe that won’t happen but even the craziest of people has to admit that this is getting a little out of control.

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The Season That Never Ends

5 weeks. That’s the amount of time we’ve been without college football. The BCS National Championship game was played on Tuesday January 7th and Army opens spring practice on the very non-spring day of February 12th.

5 weeks.

During this time a lot has happened including National Signing Day. But in the end only 5 weeks separates players from the last game of the college football season to the 1st day of spring practice.

Army is an appropriate school to start things off with too. While it is unfortunate that they won’t be playing their Black & Gold game (the final scrimmage of spring practice) at Ft. Hood, Texas like originally planned, to have Army lead us into the next stage of college football just seems appropriate.

This 5 week break does give the players, hopefully, some time to recharge and grow. It also give credence to the fact that American football is a year round commitment. There is truly no offseason. While there are no games to be played until late August there is still work to do.

Signing Day Part 2: Top Ranked Players Don’t Always Mean Top Players

By Brad Hubbard @bradhubbard

# 22 and # 34. That is what QB’s Johnny Manziel and Marcus Mariota were ranked by Scout.com in 2011 when they signed with Texas A&M and Oregon respectively  Manziel went on to win the 2012 Heisman Trophy as the Nation’s best player and Mariota led Oregon to a 12-1 record and a BCS Bowl berth. They are considered by many to be two of the best QB’s in college football and two top contenders for the Heisman Trophy next year.

Top QB's

The Top 5 QB’s in the 2011 class were pretty good in their own right.

#1 Jeff Driskel  – Florida                                                                                                                     #2 Braxton Miller – Ohio St                                                                                                                     #3 Brett Hundley – UCLA                                                                                                                     #4 Kiehl Frazier – Auburn                                                                                                                      #5 JW Walsh – Oklahoma State

Everyone in the Top 5 has started games for their respective schools and all but one has played very well (Frazier being the lone exception). Jeff Driskel began to show his hype as led Florida to a BCS Bowl berth (12-0 Ohio St was ineligible for a bowl) and beat Manziel’s Texas A&M Aggies early in the season yet he wasn’t nearly as electrifying or dominate as Manziel or Mariota.

The truth is the rankings really don’t mean a whole lot. Maziel and Mariota are really good because  A) they’re really good players B) in an offenses suited to their abilities and C) coached really well. Driskel is working with his 2nd offensive coordinator in as many seasons and wasn’t the clear cut #1 QB on the team at the start of the year unlike Manziel and Mariota. What does that mean? It means Manziel and Mariota got more practice time with the 1st team offense then Driskel did during the fall camp. More coaching + more reps = better performance.

Malcom Gladwell wrote an amazing book called ‘The Outliers’ where he talked about things like the’10,000 hour rule’. Simplified, the more practice & coaching you get from an early age leads to better performance. Out of the 7 QB’s were talking about look who has done really well early in their career (Manziel, Mariota, and Miller) those who have done ok (Driskel, Hundley, Walsh) and the one who has done poorly (Frazier). The first group was the #1 QB on their team going into fall camp this past season. The other two groups had to battle it out in fall camp and during the season before they were named starters.

In the end it’s not the ranking but the situation. If a player gets the coaching and the reps in practice early then they have a tendency to turn out better than someone who hasn’t. The ranking out of high school means, in all reality, little to nothing. The situation, coaching and the practice means everything.

Signing Day Part 1: Why A Top Class Doesn’t Equal Wins

By Brad Hubbard @bradhubbard

Over the last decade the college football world has become consumed with National Signing Day. It’s the first day that a high school football player can sign a letter of intent with the University he wishes to play football at. Before this day it there can be only ‘verbal’ commitments.

Many moons ago National Signing Day wasn’t a big deal accept to the Universities and the players. Now it’s an all day special on ESPNU. There are supposed “experts” from San Antonio to Connecticut.  17 and 18 year old young men sit at tables with every member of their family behind them and try to keep every one guessing as to which school they will choose by having several hats laid out on a table. It’s the months, and sometimes years, of built up into a few fleeting moments for a young man and his family. All broadcast live on cable television and plastered online.

ESPN Homepage

(Above is a look at ESPN.com’s homepage during the frenzy known as signing day)

But what does all this spectacle actually mean? Does the team with the best recruiting ranking win? Do these highly touted players become superstars and difference makers at their schools? Do they do well in the NFL?

We went back and look at scout.com’s team rankings for the last 5 years (2008-2012) to see if recruiting rankings actually mean. (Please note that there are several recruiting sites out there. A list is at the bottom of this post.) At first glance one could say yes. Alabama is ranked in the Top 10 every year with their lowest ranking being 7th and they’ve proceded to win 3 out of the last 4 BCS National Championships.

Alabama’s cross state rivals at Auburn have been in the Top 10 the last 3 years. In that time they’ve won the BCS National Title game and this year fired their coach after a 3-8 season with no wins in the SEC. They’ve seen both sides of the pendulum.

UCLA has been in the Top 10 3 times in the last 5 years. During that time they have a 30-35 record, changed coaches, managed only 2 winning seasons, didn’t have a single player taken in last years NFL Draft and are 1-4 against cross town rivals USC.

Texas has been in the Top 10 in the last 4 years and was even ranked #1 last year. During this time they’ve played for a BCS National Title (they ended up losing to Alabama) and 3 other bowl games. The year after their loss to Alabama they finished 5-7.

The overall point here is that a top ranked recruiting class by ESPN, Rivals, Scout, or Tom Lemming does not guarantee a team anything except for maybe higher expectations. But if you go to Alabama, Texas or Auburn the expectations are pretty high as it is. A top ranked recruiting class does improve your chances to winning but how a staff takes these recruits and molds them into a team is what really wins games.

Recruiting Sites Scout.com, rivals.com, ESPN, CBSSports, MaxPreps