The college football season for 2008 has officially come to an end, but I bet you didn’t know that the 2009 season has already started. With the spring semesters in full force nationwide, football workouts have already started. At many of those schools, a small handful of early high-school graduates, true college freshmen, are already on campus and participating. The rest of their freshmen teammates will join the fun this summer.
There is a 100% turnaround in college football every 4-5 years, and college recruiting is an increasingly popular hobby for fans, as well as an increasingly important aspect of the program’s success. The recruiting services have given a lot of incredible transparency into a school’s recruiting, and have also created a lot of egos as well, as 18 year old kids start to realize how great they supposedly are.
For the programs themselves, feeding those young egos is nothing new. Coaches know you have to play the recruiting game with these kids, and there is a direct correlation between quality recruiting and field success, with a few small exceptions. At the end of this past season, as is the case with all seasons, the major-conference teams in top consideration are all teams who recruit well. 2008: Florida, Oklahoma, USC, Alabama, Texas.
They do it through depth.
The importance of quality depth in football cannot be understated. But there’s parameters, of course. To set the stage for this, and give some of our own transparency since this stuff is either confusing or unknown for a lot of people, each program is allowed to have 85 scholarship players on the roster. Within those 85, the program is allowed to accept 25 scholarship players per season. Now, I know, you are all saying “there’s 100% turnover every 4-5 years, wouldn’t that mean they can offer 100 to 125 kids in total on the roster?” The answer is obviously no. This is where it gets a little tricky. You are allowed 25 kids per season… but there are ways you can count kids towards last year’s class, or the next year’s class. So essentially, and simply, you can bring in 40 kids if you want, if you added 10 last year, and 15 of those 40 were early enrollies in the spring college semester. The goal is 25. Sometimes a little more, sometimes a little less.
…but that still equals more than 85 kids total.
I know. But as we have seen with the recent release of the graduation rates, many kids unfortunately do not last all four seasons. Reasons are, but are not limited to, early NFL entries, academics, quitting, transferring, graduating, and 5th-year Seniors who redshirted and are not invited back for their 5th year. That widdles it down to 85.
As you can see, you can only add so many kids. Depth at each position must be managed well, or you can end up with four RB’s who are Jr’s or Sr’s, and no one on the depth chart younger than them. This is all a puzzle with misshapen pieces, as coaches deal with human beings and not absolutes. Kids aren’t always as good as they are billed to become.
In this past season, the Big XII Conference was heavily criticized for their lack of defense, and with good cause. Offensively, however, it may have been the strongest conference in the country. Unfortunately for the offense… and fortunately for the defense… a lot of those players will need to be replaced. February 4th is national Letter of Intent Day, where kids will select which school they will be attending. Since we are of course dealing with 18 year old kids who are faced with the biggest decision of their lives, everything can and will happen between now and through the 4th. No matter who your favorite team is, there is a greater than zero chance that there will be some kind of shake-up between now and the 4th with your team’s recruiting class.
The Big XII South will be no different.
As far as the recruiting services go, Baylor will bring up the rear of the South Division this year when the final rankings are released. Understand that when Art Briles came over from Houston, he had the task ahead of him of getting the players in place to run his system. That system was successful at Houston and will be pretty successful at Baylor, but this is a major transition. Coach Morriss, the guy who preceded Briles, recruited for HIS system, which is very, very different than the one Briles is implementing. In addition, when Brian Norwood left Penn State to become defensive coordinator at Baylor, he too had a similar task ahead of him. This stuff doesn’t happen overnight, and it doesn’t happen over one recruiting season. Although there are no four or five star players in this Baylor class, they are filling gaps on the depth chart and building this thing for success. 21 commits so far for the Bears, 12 on offense and 9 on defense. Briles’ offense relies on quality WR’s and a strong QB. They have the latter and are getting the former in place. Three WR’s are coming in next season, and a whopping six OT’s. Of those six, three are JUCO kids who will provide much needed support and will have the chance to play immediately. Defensively, not hard to see where Norwood senses a thin spot: five Safeties are on their way this summer. The jewels of this overlooked class appear to be WR Skyler Scott from nearby Lancaster, and OG Ivory Wade from Dickinson. Wade is rated as the 14th best prospect at his position, nationally.
The state that is named after a hit musical, coincidentally enough pulled a Bob Stoops and choked in the big one again. But that’s not stopping the NFL war-machine Sooners from cherry-picking top talent out of UT’s grasp like they do every single season. Chokelahoma might not be winning over any media blowhards by losing clutch games on a yearly basis, but they are certainly winning over basically every kid they chase. From a program standpoint, currently, OU is a member of very elite company. Seems like they have this offense thing pretty well figured out for the next few years, but defense is another story. It’s no surprise that this class leans heavily defensively. Eight on offense, thirteen on defense, and the defensive commits are spread well across all the positions. There’s only one DT, but he might be all they need. 5-star Jamarcus McFarland from Lufkin is a kid that will not have many friends left in Texas once he signs with OU formally. 4-star DE Justin Chaisson highlights the DE commits, and the LB positions will be very well reinforced with this class. Three MLB’s, including two 4-stars in Keller’s Brandon Mahoney and Kansas boy Jaydan Bird. Two OLB’s come in as well, 5-star stud Ronnell Lewis and New Braunfels 4-star Tom Wort. This secondary class is also impressive. Two CB’s: 4-star Marcus Trice from Mesquite and 5-star Gabe Lynn from Jenks, OK, the number 1 rated CB in the nation. Offensively, this class is a little quiet, but is headlined by 4-star WR Darius Jones from Marshall.
The Cowpokes made a lot of strides this season in the eyes of the national media, and with good reason. The team has been getting better each year under Mike Gundy, and love him or think he’s obnoxious, the guy is a good football coach. Oklahoma State is a program that has the means and the ambition to become a real player in this conference, and they are right on track to do just that. This class is pretty even offensively and defensively, with nine offensive commits to eleven on defense. The oSu program is no stranger to having high-quality RB’s on the roster, and this incoming freshmen class will feature two more, as the Cowboys landed verbal commits from the 11th and 13th ranked RB’s, nationally: Navasota’s Dexter Pratt, and Tulsa native Jeremy Smith. Both are 4-star prospects. Navarro JUCO Morgan Smith (4-star OG) will provide much needed support at the position. In addition to them, this class features three QB’s, which is almost unheard of in the realms of recruiting. That’s a bad sign for Cowpoke fans who are wondering what the QB position is like behind soon-to-be Senior Zac Robinson. Defensively, this class covers all positions except MLB. The star of this defensive class is 4-star Safety Daytawion Lowe from OKC. State is also adding four DE’s for much needed depth. Possibly the best sign out of all this is the fact that oSu beat OU and many other top schools for some of these higher-rated recruits.
Critics of Mack Brown’s recruiting are right when they argue that this program has been back on the national stage as an annual contender for a number of years and it is absolutely time to start recruiting nationally. His stubborn, insane loyalty to the Lone Star State is… well… insane. But if it works… it is hard to convince people to change it. And like other years where Brown and the staff flat-out refuse to leave the state, and despite OU’s ability to take what they want from the state of Texas, this class is phenomenal. Nine commits on offense, eleven on defense, and both sides of the ball are represented well. Local yokel Garrett Gilbert from Lake Travis comes in as a 5-star QB and is rated the 5th best QB prospect in his class. He’ll be accompanied by Houston’s Greg Timmons, a 5-star WR who is rated 4th nationally. 4-star RB Chris Whaley of Madisonville is the only RB, but UT has two massive OT’s to round out the stars of this offensive class: 4-star Paden Kelley, also from Lake Travis, and 5-star Mason Walters from Wolfforth, rated 3rd in the nation. On defense, it’s as you’d expect from a top defensive coach like Muschamp. All positions are covered, with the gem being 5-star DE Alex Okafor from Pflugerville. Okafor is ranked 2nd in the country as a DE, and he is accompanied by 4-star DE Kyle Kriegel from Elysian Fields. Irving MacArthur boy Tariq Allen (4-star) comes in as the lone MLB, and 4-star Calvin Howell from San Antonio comes in at DT. The secondary commitments are looking strong. Two CB’s, both of which are 4-star players: Brownwood’s Kenny Vaccaro and League City’s Marcus Davis. At Safety is fabEuless native and Haka enthusiast, 4-star Eryon Barnett.
Mike Sherman’s rebuilding effort is on in full force in College Station, after years of underachievement with Francione. Especially on defense. Sherman has his work cut out for him, and like his divisional colleagues Gundy and Briles, this stuff takes time and it takes more than one recruiting swing to fill the holes. This A&M class is pretty big, with ten kids on offense and sixteen on defense so far to date. Skill positions are a place of need on this offense, and A&M did a very remarkable job of landing some top kids, considering. Three RBs are on the way, including 5-star Christine Michael of Beaumont, the 5th highest rated RB in this class. WR is the position where A&M hit a real home-run. Three 4-stars were landed in Allen’s Uzoma Nwachukwu, Navasota’s Brandel Jackson, and Spring’s Kenric McNeal. All three have nice size and speed and will probably have early opportunities. Two OTs were solidified for next season, both 4-star recruits: Rhontae Scales of Killeen, and Clinton Naron of Spring. Defensively, the staff attacked four major spots: DE, OLB, CB, and Safety. Three commits at DE, and four at the other spots. Fort Scott, KS JUCO Coryell Judie is the jewel of the CBs. In addition to the four areas of most need, A&M received a verbal from 4-star DT Stephen Barrera of Houston. Fans need to have patience, they will get this ship turned back around in good time.
Everybody’s favorite head coach, Mike Leach, enjoyed a season full of national attention that he had yet to have in Lubbock. The offense was incredible, of course, but the real area of intrigue for the fans at home in TV land was the defensive strides that Tech had made. But Texas Tech is not enjoying the big-name defensive recruiting success that you would have expected from a team that clearly made a lot of progress and received a lot of attention. It’s not for lack of effort. Tech currently has twenty commitments, nine on offense and eleven on defense. Safety, CB, and OLB were the spots that the defense most needed to fill, and the staff was able to get three commits at each of those spots. Offense is where this program makes their bones however, and it is business as usual for Leach and the staff. Friendswood QB Jacob Karam (4-star) looks like he will take his place in the Tech machine and prepare himself to throw for 70,000 yards. He’ll be throwing to a good one in Wichita Falls WR Eric Ward, a 4-star prospect that originally committed to Oklahoma. Ward took keen interest in the release of the graduation rates, and was none too fond of the plethora of Rhodes Scholars on the OU football roster. Ward leads an incoming class of four WRs. Three OTs will be clogging up the middle, the highest ranked being Lewisville’s Joel Gray.