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Thursday, February 3, 2011

Florida State has the number one recruiting class in what's the big deal?

Yesterday was officially the first day that high school seniors could sign their national letter of intent with the college football program they plan to spend at least the next three years with.  After a day that had as many twists and turns as a windy road on a mountain, Florida State was declared to be the big winner on National Signing Day 2011, with a total of 18 blue chip recruits, including one five star recruit and 17 four star recruits.

But was Florida State the real winner yesterday?

The simple answer to that is no one really knows.  Ranking high school football prospects is a highly subjective endeavor, and not all that scientific either.  Scouts use terms like 40 yard dash, vertical leap, strength, agility, and durabilty to justify their explanations of the top seniors in the nation.  But they have yet to come up with a way to measure a player's heart or work ethic.  They tell the nation that Johnny is fast because he ran 40 yards in 4.3 seconds.  But they only see highlights of Johnny's games, and cannot tell whether he will put in the work to reproduce this speed on a consistent basis.  Furthermore they have no way of knowing whether Johnny is more concerned about himself or actually cares about his teammate.

To further illustrate the point that Florida State's big recruiting day has little relevance for the immediate future, all one needs to do is look at the participants in last season's BCS National Championship.  Of  all the players on the field, there were probably three or four combined on both teams that stood out as blue chip prospects.  One could make the argument that Cameron Newton was one, and he probably was.  Too bad he did not originally sign with Auburn, and after he left Florida there was the slight chance that he could have ended up at Mississipi State.  But Auburn does boast blue chippers Nick Fairley and Michael Dyer, and, even though Fairley has opted to take his talents to the NFL, at least he stayed long enough to help the Tigers win a national title.  As for Oregon, one could make the arguement that LaMichael James was a blue chip prospect, and he has certainly lived up to this billing.  Others would argue that Casey Matthews was a blue chipper; however, he was only a three star prospect out of high school and big brother's alma mater, USC did not even offer him a scholarship.   While this is not a complete rundown of these two schools, it gives some perspective as to what they were working with.

Next, let's examine the case of Ohio State.  The Buckeyes have traditionally been known as a recruiting powerhouse, continually bringing in four and five star talent.  Yet, look at two of the more successful Buckeyes in recent history: AJ Hawk and Troy Smith.  Hawk was a three star recruit out of Centerville Ohio who not only starred for the Buckeyes but is now starting for the Green Bay Packers(who play Sunday in the Super Bowl). Smith, for his part, was a two star recruit by many, and the last player signed by Tressel in the 2002 class.  Smith would go on to win the heisman as a senior while compiling a 25-3 record as a starting quarterback.  On the other hand, there have been several blue chip recruits that Jim Tressel has landed that have not panned out, most notably offensive lineman Alex Boone and linebacker Mike D'Andrea.  Many would argue that Boone should not be labeled a bust, but considering the hype he had during high school, I would say this is a fair assessment.  D'Andrea was a five star linebacker recruited around the same time as Hawk who never really saw the field all that much in his career at OSU.

So, go ahead and give the Seminoles a big round of applause for their big day.  But don't be surprised if you don't see them in the BCS championship in a few years from now.  Because while on paper it sure looks like they should be there, well, the games, they ain't played on paper.

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