Poseur, PodKATT and I walked into a bar...
Okay, not really, but we did have an e-mail exchange about National Signing Day.
PodKATT: I've noticed in a few of the comments in articles about kids we've lost this year that there is a lot of justifying going on. "We'll be fine," "kids like that end up being busts in the end," "don't read too much into star ratings." Are we (as a fanbase) trying to soften the blow of a down year? And honestly if there wasn't something much more important going on (who dat) how much outrage at Les would there be for all of these recruits we aren't getting?
Billy: I feel like those words get said every year about every missed recruit -- no matter the overall class ranking. Because the reality is no matter how well you do, everybody always misses on somebody they wanted. Last year LSU had the No.1 class and some people were still upset about Kenny Bell, Darrington Sentimore and Janzen Jackson. People always care about the ones that got away more than the ones they got -- in fact you could apply that principal to almost anything in life, not just recruiting.
I'll say it till the day I die -- for the big, state power schools like LSU, Alabama, Georgia, etc...your class is only going to be as good as your in-state haul (note: this doesn't apply in states like Texas and Florida because they simply have too many prospects for UF or UT to ever really have that bad of a class). Sure, you might bring in a big group of out-of-state kids, but the base of your class is always going to be in-state, so of course if you have a strong base, it leads to a stronger class. And this group was a down class by the standards we're used to in Louisiana.
Poseur: I just don't get hung up on one player. Recruiting is a big picture endeavor, and you'll drive yourself crazy if you obsess over an individual recruit. We lost two WR recruits, which was bad, but then two weeks later, we have two WR recruits in the class of the same quality. I think the loss of a big time DT like Marsh is huge since there is no replacement on the horizon. But, generally speaking, we WILL be fine.
However, I think Billy is right. It's a down year in Louisiana and therefore, LSU had a "down" class. Which means the class might still be top ten in the nation. Anyone who panics over having a top ten class really needs a lesson on perspective. We don't have Florida or Texas' class this year, but this is still a really good class. Most of the recruits were locked up a long time ago, so we're not getting the big news now. The work has already been done.
And, also, considering that Louisiana seems to be capital L Loaded next year, I think a lot of us are just prematurely excited about 2011. We'll be fine because of the haul of 2009 and the potential haul of 2011. But this is a good, solid class.
Billy: How about a look back at the ghosts of recruiting past. Any prospects that you can remember getting really excited about, only to watch them disappoint when they actually suited up?
PodKATT: I guess we could call Ryan Perrilloux a bust, but i was never disappointed with his on-field performance. Xavier Carter might be a bust if you only look at his football record (though clearly he is one of the track greats).
For all the hype of Russell Shepard last recruiting season (enrolling early to earn the playbook and whatnot), I've yet to see him do something truly spectacular, but that might be more on the coaches than Shep.
Poseur: Charles Deas never made it to campus. That was disappointing. But I'll also choose an obvious guy: Keiland Williams. He had a nice career, primarily as a change of pace back, but there is no way he lived up to his billing, or even the promise he flashed in the Virginia Tech game. He also shows how powerful recruiting rankings are, many Tiger fans never let go of his "five star" tag and refused to accept him for what he was, a nice back. That great year was always around the corner, but it never came.
Billy: I got crucified for saying that very thing about Keiland. The old saying goes "you are what your record says you are," and after four seasons Keiland Williams simply was a complimentary back. He might have had the tools to be more than that but he didn't run as hard or decisively as people wanted -- and you can't get away with that in this league when you're 225 pounds.
I can think of a lot of obvious busts like Brad Smalling, Amp Hill, Daryl Johnston, etc... or more subtle ones like Carnell Stewart, who was a 5-star, can't-miss D-tackle who eventually started on the offensive line for a national title team. Granted, most would scream that he was a sieve in pass protection, but hey, he contributed more than some of those other names can say. As for Deas, missing out on him was a tragedy if for nothing else but fashion.
But that's okaaaay, cuz he stay flyyyyyy...
The name that will always come to mind for me is Derron Parquet. As a Brother Martin grad I watched him dominate the New Orleans Catholic League for 2 years and was convinced he'd become a star -- he even had a handful of nice runs as a true frosh in '00. But that was it.
How about some general thoughts on the monster that recruiting has become?
I'm loathe to say that stars don't matter -- all empirical evidence tells us they do, to a degree -- but they've become gospel to the point of absurdity. Case and point -- Ryan Perrilloux and Colt McCoy. That flip-flop on signing day ultimately played a huge role in the college football landscape of the last five seasons. People would gladly have taken Colt over Ryan in hindsight, but let's be real -- in January of '05 Les Miles' first job as a head coach in the minds of every Tiger fan was to land Perrilloux. Had he said "it's cool, I'm good with McCoy," he might not have made it to that first season.
PodKATT: I'm pretty young, so i can't even recall a time when recruiting wasn't at least a week long topic amongst the typical fan before signing day, but I'd say it does nothing but make college ball more popular. Sure, some recruiting gurus can get down right creepy, and letting a high school kid have 5 minutes of live national TV to pull seven hats out of a bag is proving to be a worse idea every year, but in the end it serves the need of every fan, which is more football. It's the same reason SEC Media days are so popular. Fans want more football and if you can't extend the season, this is the next best thing.
Rankings for recruiting classes are just as absurd and arbitrary at the top as rankings for teams during the season, but they both serve as great cannon fodder to keep the discussion going. In the end that's what all fans want.
Poseur: Well, it's a bit of a chicken and egg argument. There is a strong correlation between the final rankings and the recruiting rankings, which suggests how important recruiting is. Or, is it just that a player's star rating goes up when top ranked teams show interest? Do only four star players choose Bama or does Bama's interest make all players a four star? There is no science to this.
Recruiting matters. You have a much better chance of winning if you have more talented players. The question is: how much does it matter? What is the difference between a #7 class and a #17 class? Probably not much. I think you need to look at the overall ranking, but I could care less about an individual player. I keep saying it, but it's a numbers game.
The biggest impact of recruiting has been completely unrealistic expectations for players. Just about every player on LSU's roster was a highly sought after recruit. To think that some 18 year old kid who has never been in a college weight room can come in and dominate SEC football is absurd. People are legitimately pissed because Shepard and Randle weren't used like stars as freshmen. Are you kidding me? While I think Shep could have been used better, do we honestly think he was a more explosive runner than, say, Trindon Holliday? Randle had more catches as a freshman than Josh Reed or Michael Clayton. A guy is not a bust because he's not getting the ball more than LaFell and Toliver as a freshman.
Chill out, people. It's a rare player who can be a true impact player as a freshman, and it's usually because of a lack of upperclassmen at that position. It requires talent and opportunity. Miles is not stunting Chris Faulk's development by redshirting him. It will be okay.
Billy: On the overrating recruits note, who are some of your favorites in this class?
Poseur: After my lecture on 5-stars, I'm legitimately excited about our 5-star back, Spencer Ware. I think it's pretty clear that there will be playing time available for a talented freshman running back, and I think Ware's style could compliment Ridley and Murphy's. We could use a physical, north-south runner. Running back is also probably the position it is easiest for a freshman to contribute.
I'm also quite excited we have four defensive lineman recruits. I like that we got Dexter Blackmon out of Alabama, which is no easy get considering the banner classes Auburn and Alabama have put together. And we need defensive tackles badly, and he's the only DT in the class. I'm terrible at evaluating high school linemen, but I'm excited for this kid.
PodKATT: We locked up Ronnie Vinson very early on and he could be the next great safety (though he played nearly every position besides kicker and QB in high school). He's listed as athlete, so he might make an immediate impact on special teams.
And big-ups for Brad Wing, because you can always bet on an Aussie kicker.
Billy: The Wing scholarship was funny -- fans were pretty upset about it until they saw the kid blast some kicks in the state title game.
I tend to be partial to kids who produce, and James Wright and Jakhari Gore are two who fit that mold. Both don't have the combine measurables everybody likes to see but both dominated major competition. All Wright's done the last two seasons is score touchdowns, and Gore dominated (1,800 yards and 29 touchdowns last season) class 6A football in Dade County, Fla. Sam Gibson's an intriguing player too. I'm a fan of moving ex-QB's to safety, but that might just be because its worked out so well with Darren Sharper.
But then, I thought Derron Parquet dominated some pretty tough competition in 2000.