For last year's words belong to last year's language,
And next year's words await another voice -
To make an end is to make a beginning.
Signing Day is unique in that it marks both an ending and a beginning. Signing Day is a culmination of years of work, both from the prospects to elevate themselves to elite status and from the coaches to forge relationships and tirelessly work to connect and bring them on board. It's a pay off, in that way.
Yet, in a very real way, it's another beginning. A new set of players to reload your roster and quite literally try again. Even if you succeeded before, you are still trying again. Each football season is contained unto itself. The results don't carry over in any way but perception. What mattered in 2015 is as relevant to 2016 as what mattered in 1939.
Recruiting is a program's lifeblood and to what end you succeeded and failed quite honestly won't be known for probably another 2-3 years. By virtue of being LSU, we close most classes feeling optimistic and latch on to a new set of stars and players we anticipate will dominate. Then some get injured and some flunk out and some just simply aren't as good as we all thought and hoped. For now we speculate, because there is no football and it's all we can do.
This is the beginning of a new ending.
Where Do We Stand?
The 247 Composite ranks our class 3rd nationally. If Sci Martin opts to flip to LSU, it will raise our score slightly but not enough to impact these rankings. If you are leading your discussions about this class with "Yeah, but..." then stop. Stop right there. Go home and back to playing your video games.
Here's where I soapbox for moment. I am PRO recruiting rankings. I am PRO star rankings. There's easy causation between the fact that the schools that accrue the most talent, win the biggest. Any argument against this is just tenuously based nonsense. Of course, there will always be recruits that are missed, both over and underrated. That is the nature of evaluation. It's not different than hiring people for jobs: sometimes the perfect candidate on paper simply doesn't work out while the scrappy guy that knows the company is wildly successful.
Now here's what irks me: Every single recruiting platform uses a proprietary formula to calculate their team rankings. Why? What purpose does this serve? I can understand the need for proprietary intellectual property in various contexts but not this one. SHOW. YOUR. WORK.
Look, you already get control. Let's take 247. 247 already gets to rank all the prospects. They can arbitrarily assign grades based on whatever data they see fit. And you know what, I WON'T EVEN QUESTION YOUR METHODOLOGY there. 247 can rate kids highly because they have been offered by major programs (this happens frequently), they can rate them highly because they evaluate them in camps or on tape (also a factor) and they can rate them highly because coaches they know and trust tell them they are good (happens more than you might think). I don't think any of these things invalidates their ranking process. Their rankings should be able to speak for themselves.
What eats at me is that their methodologies for determining team rankings are kept secret. What purpose does this serve? The only factor I can see is that it gives them opportunity to arbitrarily fiddle with the formula to manipulate the rankings to their desire. Why then, would recruiting services tinker to this end? It's simple: it's a subscription business. How do subscription businesses keep their customers? By keeping them happy. How do they keep them happy? By giving them what they want. What do they want? To be told their signing class is great. Look, 247 isn't going to willingly disclose their numbers, but I'm willing to bet Alabama's site is a major source of revenue for the company.
So I do understand, but it's frustrating to me. 247 offers up a class calculator that lets you toss in your favorite prospects and see how it would impact your team's score but the amounts are confusing and unclear. This isn't hard. Just give me a clear cut formula.
It is for that reason I'm not going to quibble too much over LSU being ranked 1 or 3. Alabama and LSU signed the same number of prospects. Alabama signed and extra 5 star and an extra 3 star. LSU signed 2 extra four stars. 5 + 3 = 4 + 4. There really shouldn't be a major difference here, right? Well, according to 247 it's 11 points. Bama is 301.42 and LSU is 289.97.
I would probably nominally rank Alabama ahead of LSU, sure. But is the gap that much? That seems a stretch.
Getting What You Need
There's three major aspects to a successful recruiting class: raw accrual of talent, filling of needs, and a little bit of luck.
On the raw accrual of talent, I think we'd all agree this class, and the past several have nailed it. As for luck, we probably won't know for a couple years. In 2013, we bemoaned the losses of Speedy Noil, Gerald Willis and Tony Brown. Noil has stood out at times but struggled to stay on the field. Willis was dismissed from Florida for bad behavior. Tony Brown is mired behind younger players on the Alabama depth chart. Who knows how it goes if they all pick LSU, but from a bird's eye view, LSU didn't miss on much at all there.
The best we can do is attempt to assess needs by volume. LSU needed to add depth and quality to the front 7. They needed to get bigger and stronger. They added 7 total players there. A good amount, though an additional LB would have been nice. LSU needed a QB. They got one in Lindsey Scott. LSU needed some offensive linemen, they added 2 guards and 2 tackles. The rest is really lagniappe in terms of adding depth and preparation for the future. They added 3 WRs and a TE. They added 5 DBs, which Miles stated could be the best DB haul in college football history. Considering the loaded DB classes LSU has pulled down the past several years, that's saying a lot.
If there's a miss, it's adding additional LB depth. Some may think Lindsey Scott Isn't an ideal fit for our team, but his soft skills are growing on me so much that I'm beginning to lose concern for whatever hard skills I thought he lacked. I know there was some frustration that the staff didn't add a guy like Christmas-Giles or Stephon Taylor, but frankly it seems that Sci Martin may have been prioritized and the staff simply didn't want to commit to going up to 27-28 offers. Whether or not we agree with the strategy is one thing, but that's pretty plainly what happened here.
Not A Perfect Day
The morning started rough. First, Trayvon Mullen, a prospect many suspected would choose LSU, opted for Clemson. This one hurt from a "nice to have" perspective, but Mullen wasn't a significant loss to our class in terms of needs.
Shortly thereafter, Erick Fowler opted to stay home and ink with Texas. If you watched the announcement it was plainly clear what happened: Mama won. He brought his family on stage and then specifically address his mother, thanked her and commented that this is why he does everything he does. There's no two ways about this sucking. Fowler told our staff, even after Strong visited last weekend, that he was firm. Unfortunately, Signing Day has a way of bringing reality to the forefront. I consider it somewhat a failure the staff didn't have a fallback option in line. We saw them come through with Lloyd Cushenberry today.
And even I was feeling a bit damn down about it all. I mean, it's human nature. The news was putting a damper on what was expected to be a GREAT day. And then I read Drake Davis' piece in the Player's Tribune. Perspective. Drake nailed it. This is what it's all about. This is why we should be happy here.
Oh and beyond that, even empirically this is an amazing class.
What Do We Know?
Not a ton. We got a bunch of height, weight and speed data. We got some HS film to churn through. We got some offseason scheme talking to figure. We got a new defensive coordinator. We got a maybe new offensive coordinator? We got months to figure all this stuff out. I'm looking forward to diving into the tape and seeing what these guys have to offer.
How you feeling? Like, love, hate this class?