One of the great things about sports fandom is that a person can enjoy sports in any which way he or she pleases. If you want to dive into pages of statistical spreadsheets, or learn the intricacies of the playbook and tactics, or you just want to cook a bunch of food and enjoy the band and pageantry... all of these are equally valid ways to watch college football.
If you're having a good time, and it increases your enjoyment of the game, then knock yourself out, and don't let anyone tell you that you're wrong. Which of course, brings me to recruitniks. Recruitniks are an odd breed of fan and I'll be completely honest, I find recruiting to be icky at best, and borderline criminal at worst.
But I thank God we have a cadre of fans who are dedicated to breaking down the film of hundreds, even thousands, of high school players so I don't have to. Now, I do hate having to rely on someone else's analysis and observation, but it's worth it to not have to pay attention to 17 year old boys, possibly the least reliable subset of the human population. Recruitniks, like our very own Paul Crewe, provide us with the invaluable service of telling us who is any good before they step foot on campus. He deals in hope that he'd likely call analytical projections.
It is also a cottage industry to try and pretend that recruiting doesn't matter. At this point, you probably heard about a million times that there was not a single five star recruit starting for either Super Bowl team. First, this is a rather odd attack against the value of recruiting. I mean, does anyone honestly believe the point of recruiting evaluations is to properly project which 17 year old boy will be the best professional athlete in a decade's time? It sounds silly just to say it out loud.
More importantly, who cares how many five stars are on a Super Bowl team? NFL teams are constructed differently than college teams, with an emphasis not just on getting the best players, but getting the best players for as little money as possible due to the cap. This means teams like the Patriots try harder to have no bad players than a few great ones. College teams, unburdened by a salary cap or a draft, try and stockpile as much talent as humanly possible.
Know who had a lot of five star talent? The four teams in the CFB playoffs. Over the past four recruiting classes prior to this past season, the playoff teams all stockpiled five-star talent. Alabama signed 17, Florida St 13, Ohio St 4, and Oregon 3. That's to go with their usual array of talented four-stars. Of the 16 recruiting classes hauled in by the four playoff teams in the past four seasons, only twice did any of those schools fail to sign a single five-star player.
Recruiting matters. It matters a lot.
To deny the importance of bringing a bunch of talented players into your program is like denying that water is wet. Sure, evaluations aren't 100-percent perfect. Recruiting services miss guys, and some five-star talents fail to ever develop in college. But, taken as a whole, you want to bring in more highly rated guys than the other guys.
It's important to remember that individual evaluations can be faulty. You should rarely get obsessed with one guy signing with the purple and gold. And yes, the mythical "recruiting national title" is pretty silly. It doesn't actually matter if you're No. 1 or No. 3, so long as you bring in a bunch of talent. Because that's what makes any program go (except Kansas St. because Bill Snyder is a voodoo witch doctor): talent makes coaches look smart.
So cheer when guys sign with LSU because, hey, it's a lot of fun, and I'm all about fun. And recognize that not all of these highly rated players will become stars and there's likely an overlooked prospect who is going to go on to be a great player for LSU. But don't ever forget that this is where it all starts. Recruiting might not be my cup of tea, but I would never ever question its mammoth importance.
Happy Signing Day, y'all.