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Dynasties on the dotted line by Luke Robinson

February 5, 2013
Sportz Blitz



Happy National Signing Day Eve, everyone!
OK, so maybe most of you care more about what Mant’i Teo is getting his girlfriend for Valentine’s Day (hint… it’s invisible) than you do about National Signing Day.
For me, though, this is one of my favorite times of the year.
I have been following recruiting since the late 1980s. I remember calling the Tuscaloosa News recruiting hotline when I was at Alabama.
Forrest Davis’ recruiting magazine was a staple in my library (granted, it’s a small library). Now recruiting is a billion dollar business, and National Signing Day is covered like an Amish swimsuit model.
Whether you dig Signing Day hysteria is irrelevant; the team you pull for had better dig it, though! Critics always try to discount the recruiting rankings by pointing out former five-star gems who flopped or former two-star recruits who shined. While it is true that there are certainly misses in the rankings, statistics show us that teams that fare better on the recruiting trail also fare better on the field.
Consider this nugget: Of the 2012 first-team all-SEC crew, five of its members were former five stars (roughly 20 percent of the list) even though five-star recruits only equal about one percent of the entire ranked recruiting class in a given year.
Meanwhile, eight of the first -teamers were former  three-star guys (about 33 percent of the team) even though three-star players make up 40 percent of ranked recruits each season.
Sometimes highly rated guys don’t pan out, but the stats show that it is much better to take a chance with them than to load up on middle of the road guys.
There is more evidence of recruiting rankings equating to football wins. Alabama has won three of the last four national titles, right?  Well, it is probably a direct result of Alabama’s finishing no lower than fifth in the recruiting rankings the last five years.
Coaching, fan support and luck are important, but as a general rule better players equal better teams.
What about Boise State and their success? Oregon’s? How does Texas or USC ever lose?
Well, Boise State is an outlier to the norm. First of all, recruiting rankings don’t automatically equal wins; the talent still has to be developed and coached well.
Recruiting is the foundation, but the house has to be built and furnished with good leadership.
Boise also has the luxury of playing a one or two game schedule every year.  It’s easier to beat a Georgia or Oklahoma if you have a month to prepare, but what if you had to play an Alabama or Texas A&M the very week after?
Oregon is the beneficiary of a great system based on speed in a conference that rarely challenges it with power.
The Ducks’ program isn’t devoid of recruiting prowess (they usually wind up in the top 15 or top 20 in the recruiting polls), but they also do a great job of recruiting players that are perfectly suited for their system.
Texas and USC, based on recruiting rankings, probably should never lose unless they play each other.  However, those programs have had major coaching issues lately, and like the Los Angeles Lakers in the NBA, chemistry has been their enemy as well.
In the end, you can discount National Signing Day all you want.
You can say that we really won’t know how successful this class will be until a few years down the road.  The truth is, though, that teams that are killing it in the rankings now will probably reap the rewards of this success later.
Robinson is a columnist for The Outlook.


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