Recruiting Madness

DeVier Posey: your median blue-chip receiver.

I'm off to mighty Springfield, MO, tomorrow for Dorial Green-Beckham's signing ceremony, but in the meantime I wanted to share the recruiting pieces I've written for the Mothership over the past couple of weeks.

You Just Signed The No. 1 Recruiting Class In The Country! Now What?

Alabama paid Nick Saban a rather ridiculous sum of money to leave the NFL for Tuscaloosa. After a mediocre 2007 season that saw the Tide finish 7-6, lose to UL-Monroe and rank 40th in F/+, Saban began to earn his monstrous salary with a ridiculous recruiting haul in his first full class. Four years later, we know that this class was absolutely incredible, even if the stars were slightly different than we would have anticipated. [...]

This class simultaneously proves and almost disproves the notion that recruiting rankings are accurate enough to use for predictive purposes. This was, for all intents and purposes, an incredible class. It produced eight All-Americans (Barron, Cody, Dareus, Hightower, Ingram, B. Jones, J. Jones, Upshaw), a Heisman Trophy (Ingram), three first-round draft picks so far (Dareus, J. Jones, Ingram), a second-round pick (Cody), three more likely first-round picks (Barron, Upshaw, Hightower), four other starters (Harris, Lester, Square, Williams), and, of course, two national titles. If re-ranking all classes according to on-field production, it is difficult to imagine this class not still ranking No. 1.

You Just Signed A Blue-Chip Quarterback! Now What?

From 2005 to 11, 30 quarterback were given either a five-star or high-four-star rating by Rivals.com, including LSU's Russell Shepard, who ended up a wide receiver. Whereas about 70 percent of blue-chip running backs play as freshmen and 80 percent of wide receivers do, the quarterback position, with its extreme learning curve, typically involves a bit more seasoning. Of the 29 players who remained at quarterback, only 15 avoided a redshirt (51 percent), and only 12 got any serious playing time. Meanwhile, almost as many eventually transferred (10) as either completed their eligibility (eight) or went pro after three years (six). When you are a blue-chip quarterback, you are, predictably, more likely to flee for the promise of playing time elsewhere than a lower-rung recruit. [...]

Of the five most elite quarterbacks in this year's class (listed above), it is safe to say that one to two of them will see serious action in 2012, about two to three will redshirt, and around two will end up transferring to another school for one reason or another. On average, one will become a Matt Barkley or Tyrod Taylor-level player, one will become a Blaine Gabbert or E.J. Manuel, one will become a Mike Glennon or Jonathan Crompton, one will become a Dayne Crist or Jevan Snead, and one will become an Aaron Corp or Mitch Mustain.

You Just Signed A Blue-Chip Running Back! Now What?

We often hear that blue-chip backs fail to see the field too much because they are still learning blocking assignments and whatnot; but really, the backs must also learn how to actually gain yards when they are no longer infinitely faster and stronger than the defenses they face. While strong rookie seasons do happen (South Carolina's Marcus Lattimore was strong in 2010, and Auburn's Michael Dyer was prolific), even the most highly touted running backs tend to play, at most, a supporting role when they hit campus.

Since 2005, 60 running backs have been given either a five-star or high-four-star designation by Rivals.com. Forty-four of the sixty have seen playing time as true freshmen. But only a small handful have produced at anything better than a slightly above-average rate.

You Just Signed A Blue-Chip Wide Receiver! Now What?

Recruiting is all about hope, and posts like this are designed to dash hope to a certain degree. Still, it is unfair to most prospects to expect something like Julio Jones or Sammy Watkins right out of the gates. The median player is more like Terrance Toliver, Patrick Turner or, if you are lucky, DeVier Posey. A good percentage of blue-chip receivers will become stars eventually, but few will do it as freshmen. Receivers appear more advanced and are more likely to make quick contributions, but as is typically the case with recruiting, tamping down expectations now will result in less anxiety and, let's be honest, hurt feelings later. The 2011 breakthrough of freshman receivers may have been a sign of things to come -- we can certainly figure that the prevalence of the spread offense in high schools could result in receivers more advanced than in a previous day -- but for now, it was a one-year surprise.

What If Tim Tebow Had Signed With Alabama? An Alternate Recruiting History

Tim Tebow's ESPNnews cameo on December 13, 2005, was, in effect, the Butterfly Effect of championships. It made a somewhat direct impact on the 2006, 2008, 2009 and 2010 BCS championships, and it indirectly ended up costing a coach (Shula) his job and redirecting the career path of another (Saban). We have no idea which player in the class of 2012, if any, will have a significant impact, not only for the team he chooses, but the teams he doesn't. But we will continue to care far too deeply about every prospect, just in case he's that one player.

What If Robert Griffin III Had Signed With Texas? An Alternate Recruiting History

This isn't the Butterfly Effect that Tebow-to-Bama would have been. It hasn't necessarily impacted recruiting quite all that much (at least for teams not named Baylor), but it certainly cost Texas some wins. They went an incredibly mediocre 13-12 in 2010-11, and they probably would have won 18-19 games with Griffin. (The result would have probably been similar with Andrew Luck.) At the same time, however, they have begun to address some offensive issues that they may have danced around had they continued to win nine or ten games.

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