I’m not generally a recruitnik, but I’ll admit I’ve gotten a lot more wrapped up in the countdown to National Signing Day this year than in most seasons past.
It’s funny, because only a handful of the incoming freshmen who’ll sign with UGA Wednesday are likely to have a chance to make an immediate impact on the field this coming season. But two of the positions where that’s most likely just happen to be in areas of the game where the Dogs drastically need an upgrade — on the defensive line and in the running game.
So while I’m not one of those fans who subscribe to recruiting services and spend all year fretting or celebrating the utterances of 17- and 18-year-old kids, I’ve been thinking a lot about Mark Richt’s recruiting efforts of late and names like Isaiah Crowell and John Jenkins.
Georgia needs those guys to play right away. And beyond that, after the sorry way the 2010 season ended, Richt’s program needs some positive momentum, and until his team lines up against Boise State at the Georgia Dome, signing day is the only way to get that.
Still, like I said, this year is an exception for me. Generally, I think all the hoopla surrounding National Signing Day is a bit overdone. I’m like UGA athletic director Greg McGarity, who talked with the media, including The Gainesville Times, Monday prior to speaking to the Gainesville Rotary Club.
Asked about “all the hype” surrounding National Signing Day, McGarity said, “I’ve never really gotten caught up in it. You see all these accolades that are awarded to these young men and young women in all sports, so you really have to wait and see how that group does after Year 3 and 4. There’s a lot of things that have to happen to know if they’ve been successful in the classroom and on the field. The true test will come this fall and years down the road in football. It’s really hard to tell because some of your greatest athletes have been those that are the nonpublicized and really, really want to be at an institution and end up developing after a while. It’s kind of hard to know, but it’s the culture here in the South, but I don’t see Stanford, TCU and Boise State at the top of the food chain as far as recruiting goes. So it’s an inexact science to say the least, but something that, obviously, attracts a lot of attention.”
With Richt’s “Dream Team” recruiting campaign seemingly on a roll, McGarity did say, “We like how things have been with our coaches out on the road and we’ll see how things go this Wednesday.” But, he noted, “again, Wednesday is just a part of the process. It’s an important part of the process, but we’ll see how things go in the summer and in the spring before that. We start out the football season with two really tough games with Boise State and South Carolina.”
You’ve heard the arguments on both sides of the recruiting issue. Some folks like to point to the unheralded signees like David Pollack who didn’t sign with a bunch of stars next to their name but went on to become all-Americans. They also like to remind us that some coaches, like Ray Goff, have trouble translating recruiting success into wins on the field. Others point out that most of the time teams that recruit well beat teams that don’t recruit well, and championships tend to be won by teams that do well in the recruiting rankings.
Still, as McGarity said, it’s not an exact science. In a recent ranking of the 29 teams who have made Rivals.com’s Top 50 recruiting classes every year since 2002, the school with the highest average recruiting class rank over the period (USC with 3.7) had the second-best winning percentage. The schools with the second- and third-highest recruiting rankings (Florida with 7.0 and Georgia with 7.3), tied for seventh in winning percentage. Virginia Tech, which tied for 21st place in recruiting classes, had the sixth-best winning percentage. Richt’s string of Top 10 recruiting classes produced a string of Top 10 finishes, but no BCS title and just two SEC championships.
So this year even those of us who generally view National Signing Day skeptically are caught up in Richt’s efforts to sign a dream team, but beyond that, is too much made of the recruiting business? Once you get past the obvious five-star players, do those rankings of high school talent really mean that much?
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— Bill King, Junkyard Blawg