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Top Recruiting Classes Don’t Necessarily Mean Top Teams

Just what do these recruiting class rankings really mean?

Top Recruiting Classes Don’t Necessarily Mean Top Teams

By: Larry Burton

It’s old news in Tuscaloosa. Nick Saban rounds up another nationally acclaimed recruiting class that pretty much all the services agree is one of the top in all of college football. People just assume that this continuing dominance in recruiting pays of later in dominance on the field.

They would be wrong.

There are lots of colleges that have had top recruiting classes year after year and not had that mean continuing dominance on the field. Let’s use an example Auburn.

In 2009, Auburn had a rough year for them, pulling in the 20th best class. In 2010 they had the nation’s fourth best class. 2011 saw them pull in the number seven class and 2012 saw them pull in yet another top 10 class.

So that meant that the Auburn team that finished dead last in the SEC and ended up the 2012 season as one of the worst teams in the country did that with four years of top 20 recruiting classes, three of them in the top 10.

Therefore all you people that think that teams with top recruiting classes are going to be top teams misjudge the importance of such things.

First of all, some recruits are over hyped and some are undiscovered. While there is a clear and distinct difference between a one star and a five star, the line between a three star and five star is often quite close.

Since this story is geared to Alabama fans, let me remind you that Rashad Johnson was a walk on and a no star player with no offers from any Division One schools. He ended his career as team captain, a two time All-SEC player and was picked by the Arizona Cardinals to play in the NFL.

To say the experts didn’t evaluate him very well is an understatement, but in happens every year and happens more times than most casual fans realize.

Secondly, it’s not who you recruit, but what you do with them. Some schools draft the nation’s best high school player and after four years they’re still playing like a great high school player. In other words, it’s a school’s ability to “coach ’em up” that makes a huge difference.

Clearly, Auburn failed to develop the talent they had.

The third point is that do they fit your system? And for this point, I’m not talking about differences like the ones between a spread and traditional NFL offense, though that can happen. I’m talking about the fit in character, scholastically, mentality and hard work. Are they joining your team because of a girlfriend, the school’s location, their relationship to just one coach, one player or because their parent pushed them there?

And will they stay?

Auburn’s had lots of their talent transfer, flunk out, be arrested, get kicked off or just plain old wash out. Those weren’t fits for what I’m sure Auburn had in mind for their student athletes.

Lastly, do they come in with over expectations?

Top recruits get their butts kissed for almost 18 months with schools telling them how important they are. Some stage a dog and pony show for their recruiting process and signing day is treated like a coronation.

Then they show up on campus and find themselves fighting for a spot on special teams, that is, if they don’t get red shirted that first year or simply ride the pine on the bench.

This isn’t the college experience that they had envisioned for themselves and many want out to go somewhere, anywhere, where they can be that star.

This too happens to Alabama as well as every other school and is always a danger of happening when you recruit athletes with too high an opinion of themselves.

So while Alabama hasn’t shown the same failure of translating good recruiting classes into good teams, it’s something that could happen.

But something tells me it won’t happen as long as Nick Saban is “processing” these new recruits, but only time will tell.

Larry is an award winning writer whose work has appeared in almost every college football venue. Now he primarily writes for Touchdown Alabama Magazine. Follow Larry on Twitter at https://twitter.com/LBSportswriter

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