Friday, August 6, 2010

following recruiting part 2: do it right

Last week I gave you the problem - that being the things people say about recruiting that irritate me - but nobody likes that guy who's got all kinds of problems and no solutions, right? This week, follow along and you too can say intelligent-sounding things when you spout off about recruiting on your favorite message board.

Presumably, you are like me, and aren't an actual guru who makes actual money off of recruiting. You probably don't hang out at recruiting camps or make it your business to scout everyone that your favorite school has offered. You might subscribe to a service or two, but basically, you rely on what you read on the webtubez and not your finely honed scout's eye. How then do you know who or what to get excited about? Because you're going to get excited, but you sound silly when it's about the wrong thing. Follow the rules:

- Rule 1: Offers usually trump ratings, but they're tricky.

When you hear that UVA is after a particular prospect, the first thing you should ask if you want to find out about him is, "Who else has offered?" When it comes to talent evaluation, it only makes sense that you should trust the people whose jobs are on the line to get it right rather than the college versions of Mel Kiper. Kiper will have that job for as long as he wants it no matter how many times he gets it wrong; the same holds true for the recruiting gurus. Ratings are useful, but in normal cases, trust the offer list more.

Case in point #1: Clint Sintim. A middling-low-ish three star recruit to Rivals and Scout, Sintim nevertheless chose UVA over offers from VT, Ohio State, and Tennessee and went on to be a top-notch linebacker and second-round pick.

Case in point #2: Jeremiah Mathis. Mathis was handed a lousy two stars by the services - the ones that even bothered to rate him. But he had five other offers - including Clemson and Kansas State - and stacked up well enough in that department with other DEs in the class. His appearance on the two-deep coming out of spring is largely a function of the lack of depth at DE, but there are other, higher-rated DEs in his class.

Usually the offers and the ratings just about agree with each other. I mean, they should, really. But if the player has a low rating but a good list of offers, it's time to ignore the ratings.

That's not to say that the offers are everything. Every prospect is different. You should be wary, for starters, of verbal offers, because those aren't really offers. Lots of times coaches will verbally offer a prospect and never send the letter, and that means there's no offer. And offers from certain coaches should be taken with a grain of salt. Michael Strauss had an "offer" from Alabama, but that doesn't jive with his other ones, and I just bet that if Strauss had called up Nick Saban and committed, it wouldn't have stuck. Saban is skeezy like that.

Lastly, prospects that commit early don't have the offers that the other ones do. Chris Long didn't have a single one besides UVA because he committed like 18 months before he signed, and his dad's Howie and when they said they were shutting it down, they meant it.

- Rule 2: Highlights can help you learn about a player's style, but usually not his talent.

Look, they're highlights for a reason. They're the best of the best plays. I said this before: if the player couldn't routinely outrun, outjump, and outmuscle his competition, he wouldn't be a prospect. So don't go watching his highlight video and then come back thinking "what a stud."

Instead, watch the videos to find out how he plays. A pet peeve of mine is players that try to juke-jive their way past an opponent, only to get tackled from behind. It's third-and-six, you catch the ball at five yards, try to make a Sportscenter move, and 99 times out of 100 the result is 4th-and-1, not the touchdown you think you're going to get. I prefer a ballcarrier who just gets the yardage that's in front of them, and that's why I liked Kevin Royal's highlight video. He would do exactly that. So guess who wasn't surprised in the slightest when Royal was moved to tight end? Logical, no?

- Rule 3: This is UVA, so certain competing offers mean more than others.

VT and Maryland, and to a slightly lesser degree UNC, are our biggest competition for recruits, so any time we offer and so do they, that's someone we really want. Obviously.

But we also butt heads a lot with certain other schools because of our academic standing. No doubt you've figured out that UVA makes demands of its football players that they actually make some semblance of academic effort while enrolled, in contrast to most of the rest of the country, and that we lose players every year because of it. How can you tell who's in danger of having to spend a year in the future at PVCC to catch up, or else transfer? Answer: you can't, but you can usually tell who won't have to. They're the ones with Duke, Stanford, and/or Vanderbilt offers.

See, those three schools are the ones most like us: they permit their academics to be a bit of a drag on the football team. There are other top academic schools we compete with for recruits - Michigan and UNC come to mind - but in general they don't have these concerns at the same level we do. If a kid has offers from one or more of the above schools - Boston College tends to be on that list as well, as would Northwestern if we overlapped recruiting areas at all - they're practically a rock-solid lock not to wash out academically. You can look it up. And not to cast aspersions on certain players who had academic issues and worked their asses off to get back to UVA, but you can look that up, too: they weren't offered by the academic-type schools.

- Rule 4: Most prospects play both sides of the ball.

Wide receivers usually also play defensive back, and vice versa. Offensive linemen usually also play defensive line, and vice versa. Linebackers might play tight end, too. Quarterbacks: unless they're the drop-back type, might also play DB. Not only that, but skill position guys usually run track, and just about any position on the field other than punter might be on the basketball team. This kind of versatility isn't much proof of above-and-beyond athleticism, except at the high school level. Don't get excited.

- Rule 5: They all say they're looking for academics in a school.

They've been taught to. It'll of course give UVA an edge if they really, really mean it, but there are ways of telling if they mean it, like if they're also considering Stanford, in which case we don't have that much of an edge. So basically, "I'm looking for academics" is a statement you should ignore.

And besides, in our more honest moments we have to admit that schools like Tech and Maryland are actually not bad schools, and to kids coming from certain high schools in certain neighborhoods, they look pretty damn good. Some kids say they're looking for good academics, and they mean it, and then they choose Tech and we decide they didn't mean it. Well, they did, but Tech looks a heck of a lot better than their high school that might not have such a great success rate in sending kids to college.

- Rule 6: A recruit's favorite school is the one he just left.

If a kid goes on a visit to a school, and when he goes home and that school is not "the leader" or in a group of leaders, then that school has been effectively eliminated. Conversely, if he visits UVA and declares UVA his leader, that's nice, but it's not something to write home about. But - if he visits UNC, or Maryland, or whoever, and still declares UVA his leader, that is worth paying attention to. That's the kind of good news that leads to a commitment down the road. If he visits UVA and rattles off a list of leaders that doesn't include UVA, or says something like, "I had a really good visit, my leaders are X, Y, and Z, and UVA after that," it's time to move on. That's his media-friendly way of dropping UVA.

Now you're smart. And if you didn't read Part 1, go back and do so, and I'll know who my readers are by the people who don't say that stuff any more.

1 comment:

Tim said...

This is a very good article, thanks. I often get caught up in the ratings system and that is definitely unfair to some players. Also, your website is great, very helpful for uva football (and basketball) fans. Thank!