Tag Archives: recruiting

National Signing Day Isn’t Worth The Hype

Every sport has basically three major events that all fans celebrate. The first is the first game of the season for obvious reasons. The second is the championship game, even if your team isn’t playing in it. The third is the draft with the exception of college sports. The players get a little choicer in where they get to go, so instead of Draft Day, we have National Signing Day.

And I hate it.

I hate everything about it.

High school kids are followed and filmed for ESPN and other sports outlets, all just waiting to see what school they’re going to declare for. These are kids that have been told they’re special their whole lives and now they get a TV special so they can put on a hat. No wonder athletes think they can get away with anything but that’s another discussion.

Now I’m not some old curmudgeon that sits on his porch, yelling at kids to get off his lawn (usually). There’s some reason to why I hate Signing Day. I hate it because we’re celebrating and exalting kids as gods and future gods despite the fact that they have yet to achieve anything yet. Playing in high school is different than playing in college. For example, I’m not sure if my high school team actually cut players so you’re not necessarily playing with the cream of the crop. John Doe could be churning out thousand yard seasons but doing it against kids that will never see the football field again after high school. For all we know, these kids are going to turn out to be giant busts.

So let’s find out.

What I’ve done is taken the top five recruits from 2010 to 2013 and taken a good look at what they turned into. Sometimes success can be debated so the only fair way I could think to qualify how good each player was is their NFL draft position. If you’re a really good player, you should make it to the pros, right? I’ve also gathered some stats from their best years to give us an idea of how good each player was.

Just to save us all some time, all player statistics were found at Sports Reference and recruiting class rankings were found at ESPN. Let’s get started.

2010

Player School Drafted? Best Season
Ronald Powell Florida 5th round 2011: 9 TFL, 6 sacks
Jackson Jeffcoat Texas Undrafted 2013: 19.5 TFL, 13 sacks
Dominique Easley Florida 1st round 2012: 8.5 TFL, 4 sacks
Jordan Hicks Texas 3rd round 2014: 13 TFL, 3.5 sacks
Michael Dyer Auburn Undrafted 2011: 1242 yards, 10 TD

I won’t lie to you, I thought I’d pretty much already proven my case when I pulled up this year. Dominique Easley, the only first round pick despite missing most of his senior season, is the only name on there that I actually knew at first glance. Jackson Jeffcoat actually was a pretty good player in my opinion, though. He did finish with 26 career sacks and was the Big in 2013. Ultimately, only three of five were drafted and only one in the first round. Not a good start so far. If you’re getting your own TV segment on National Signing Day, you’d better be better than this.

2011

Player School Drafted? Best Season
Jadeveon Clowney South Carolina 1st round 2012: 23.5 TFL, 13 sacks
Anthony Johnson LSU Undrafted 2013: 9 TFL, 3 sacks
Cyrus Kouandjio Alabama 2nd round No data
Isaiah Crowell Georgia Undrafted 2013: 1121 yards, 15 TD at Alabama State
Karlos Williams Florida State 5th round 2013: 730 yards, 11 TD

Ok, fair enough.

Jadeveon Clowney was the number one recruit in the country and was drafted first overall by the Texans in 2014. I’ll always remember him for nearly killing a Michigan running back and it’s even better when spliced with a professional wrestling call.

Sports Reference didn’t provide any data for the other high round pick, Kouandjio, due to him being an offensive lineman. Not a lot of stats kept for them but he played at Alabama and was drafted in the second round so he was probably pretty good.

Interestingly enough, we’ve got two more undrafted players. Crowell did eventually find his way to the NFL but still, not drafted most likely because his production was at Alabama State instead of Georgia. Either way, that’s still two first round picks versus four undrafted players.

2012

Player School Drafted? Best Season
Mario Edwards Florida State 2nd round 2014: 11 TFL, 3 sacks
Johnathan Gray Texas Undrafted 2014: 636 yards, 7 TD
Dorial Green-Beckham Missouri 2nd round 2013: 833 yards, 12 TD
Noah Spence Ohio State 2nd round 2013: 14 TFL, 7.5 sacks
Keith Marshall Georgia 7th round 2012: 759 yards, 8 TD

Collectively, 2013 might actually be the best year so far. Three second round picks and a seventh isn’t too shabby. Johnathan Gray is the one unfortunate standout and I do actually mean unfortunate. Gray tore his right Achilles tendon while preparing for the 2016 NFL draft after tearing his left in 2013. I know I’m trying to prove a point but I’m willing to give him a pass.

Green-Beckham was the sixth receiver taken in a wide receiver heavy draft but when you’re the best receiver in your class, you shouldn’t be drafted on the second day. This class is better but still not what you’d normally expect from top recruits.

2013

Player School Drafted? Best Season
Robert Nkemdiche Ole Miss 1st round 2015: 7 TFL, 3 sacks
Carl Lawson Auburn Still in school 2016: 14 TFL, 9.5 sacks
Vernon Hargreaves III Florida 1st round 2015: 4 interceptions
Mackensie Alexander Clemson 2nd round 2015: 23 tackles, 2 TFL
Laremy Tunsil Ole Miss 1st round Offensive lineman

 

Well if any class is going to put my hate to the test, it’s this class from 2013. Carl Lawson can be considered a wash since he’s still in school but isn’t projected to be in the first round of the 2017 draft. Even if Lawson goes in the second, or even slips to the third round, this is what we’d expect. Here is a group of players that lived up to the hype that they got before they even arrived on campus.

So what did we learn?

That’s five players drafted in the first round of the NFL draft in four seasons. It’s also five players undrafted and three taken in the fifth round or later. Weigh that against five players in the second round and half of the top five recruits in these four years turned out pretty good. You can say that’s not bad but it should be better.

Keep this in mind next February when you’re getting all hyped up for your school’s big recruit on National Signing Day. Maybe they’ll be the next superstar but there’s almost a 50% chance they’ll just be kind of average. Guys like Ndamukong SuhLamar Jackson, and Dede Westbrook were “merely” four-star recruits and Marcus Mariota was a three-star.

So maybe just reign it in a little until they’re on the field and remember to appreciate those guys without the fanfare too.

E-mail Tim at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter @Tbach84.

Image Courtesy Wikipedia

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Is It Possible to Repair a Ruptured Recruiting System?

Recruiting high school kids to play college football has always been a maddening, vile, cut-throat business. I use the word “business”, intentionally, as people often throw the word around, loosely, when attempting to justify an action or transaction, that blurs the boundaries of integrity.

How many times have you, or I, heard some say, “Well, it’s business.” Or they might pronounce the word “bidness”, as if its mispronunciation somehow lightens their burden of responsibility. It could be that they’re not overly astute in grammatical matters. Whatever, if an action or transaction is less than savory, then it “ain’t” right.

To hell with ethics and grammar, right? We’re doing “bidness.” And folks, recruiting is big “bidness.”

So, what in the world can be done to sanitize the, too often, seamier side of recruiting?

Andy Staples, senior writer at Sports Illustrated, spoke to a few coaches from four conferences who were meeting in Phoenix, a few days ago, about the matter.

I am of the opinion that some of what these coaches had to say, when weighing in on the ins and outs of recruiting, makes good sense. Much of it, probably, makes too much sense considering the logic-defying decisions that have, sometimes, made their way forth from NCAA and conference gatherings.

The satellite camp hot potato now has a temporary “solution.” It will, undoubtedly be tweaked and re-tweaked in the months and years to come. Will sanity or insanity prevail? Most likely it will be a little of both. There are coaches, like Patterson and Rodriguez who appear to be moving in the direction of a fair and enlightened approach to all of this madness.

Did I just use the terms fair and enlightened in discussing college football recruiting? Is that even a remote possibility? It could be if coaches truly have the very best interests of the “student-athlete” in mind, and not pushing the envelope, living in gray areas, getting an edge and, sometimes, but sadly, winning at all costs.

Back to Patterson and Rodriguez. The TCU coach has thoughtful, rational ideas like rules that propose a specific number of days that coaches could work camps that take place on their own campuses or in another location.

Rodriguez comes with a solution that is far more radical and I find it a swimmingly good one. Eliminate National Signing Day! Say what?

When one begins to milk sacred cows and the baggage that they udder, one is treading in treacherous territory.

Now people, consider that we gone from one such cow, which was the antiquated bowl system that patriarchs such as Paul “Bear” Bryant and Bob Devaney, to name a couple, often dominated, to the BCS to the College Football Playoff.

It can happen.

But here’s the rub, the Almighty Dollar. And with “In God We Trust” remaining proudly emblazoned on said dollar, it reigns supreme. It is in Ben Franklin that we trust and if anyone tells you any differently, they are deluded.

Follow the money. That’s what makes this world, and the world of college football, go round.

The bottom line is the bottom line.

Cars, houses, prostitutes, meals, bag men, and hundred-dollar handshakes. These things, and other dubious practices, to whatever degree, have been a part of college football recruiting for as long as there has been college football recruiting.

Then you come back to ridiculous coaches salaries, massive stadiums to fill, and ticket prices that continue to spiral out of control.

Houston, we have a problem.

I, for one, have more questions than answers about all of this, and there are answers.

But…

Who is willing to sit down and, honestly and evenhandedly, make the hard decisions that could provide some relief to a system that is, often, bloated, bigoted, and blind?

Is it possible?

Hopping off the Hype Train

Signing Day has come and gone and the hype train that began when last season ended continues to chug along. Everyone’s excited about who is landing which prospect and which school has the higher-rated recruiting class. Until football is actually played, it’s pretty much all that the fans have to talk about.

I’m trying something different this year though. I’m ignoring the hype and trying to not to put too much stock in who landed which draft class. It goes against everything that college football fans believe in but so far it’s working for me. Currently the plan is to not start buying into the hype until I see actual football played instead of where the recruiting classes are ranked.

It sounds crazy but don’t close your browser yet. There’s four good examples of why you should ignore the recruiting hype.

From 2012-15 the highest-ranked recruiting class Northwestern had was 10th according to Rivals. Not nationally but in the Big Ten. They landed exactly zero 5-star recruits. In that same timeframe they’ve won 10 games twice. One of those years was this past season when fans and critics alike began to agree that maybe the Big Ten was better than they thought.

If we were to believe what we do about recruiting classes, Northwestern and their 56th overall ranked class shouldn’t have been very good at all last season. Instead they knocked off teams like Wisconsin, Duke and most impressively, Stanford. In case you’re curious, Stanford had the 18th overall recruiting class in 2015.

Now let’s hop into our wayback machines for a minute and go all the way back to 2007. A young man who is listed as a 2-star prospect by both Rivals and ESPN and not in the overall rankings decides to play at Central Michigan, being recruited as both a tight end and defensive lineman. After 8 receptions for 77 yards in 2007, this young man leaves Central Michigan and walks on at Wisconsin. After redshirting 2008 he finished 2009 with 4.5 sacks, 15.5 tackles for loss, and 32 solo tackles, playing exclusively at defensive end. In 2010 this player finishes with 59 total tackles, 21 of them for losses and 7 of them sacks. He’s a second-team All American, first team All-Big Ten and Wisconsin’s team MVP.

You might remember him being picked 11th overall in the 2011 NFL Draft because his name is J.J. Watt.

He was rated as a 2-star prospect so forgive me for not getting all giddy over rankings.

Let’s flip to the other end of that spectrum and look at Ohio State quarterback Terrelle Pryor. He was ranked second in the 2008 recruiting class and considered to be one of the most electric quarterbacks in years. Expectations were sky-high when he committed to the Buckeyes and it’d be a mistake to say that Pryor was a flop. He threw for over 6,000 yards, although technically 2700 of them were vacated.

A few years after Pryor had left Ohio State J.T. Barrett arrived on the scene and really looked like what everyone thought Pryor should’ve looked like. Barrett accounted for 45 touchdowns in his first season as a starter versus Pryor’s best year where he only accumulated 32 scores. The 2010 team was expected to win a championship but it was the 2014 team that did. That was behind a 4-star recruit and his 3-star backup mind you.

In 2013 the University of Michigan had the third overall ranked recruiting class and the seventh-ranked in 2012. Head coach Brady Hoke was fired after the 2014 season when his team won only four games. So please, explain how recruiting classes define your future.

Now that’s not to say that a school’s recruiting classes aren’t important. There’s probably a reason why Alabama keeps winning national championships and bringing in top-ranked recruiting classes. It’s not the only reason though. Excuse me for not hopping on the hype train quite yet. I’ve got my ticket ready but I’m waiting for when the footballs are actually being thrown.

Charlie Strong Wins National Signing Day

Wow! Did that just happen?

That’s what Texas Longhorns fans were saying for about 24 hours starting on the Tuesday before National Signing Day. Texas was sitting at 15 total commitments and ranked no higher than #30 in any of the recruiting rankings when the day started on Tuesday.

Then the first domino fell.

Running back Kyle Porter made the call to Coach Strong Tuesday afternoon, in what was a bit of a surprise. Then D’Andre Christmas-Giles decided to announce his verbal commitment to Texas on a New Orleans TV station (where he is from) that night. It was those two moments that we could feel a little momentum building.

It was one-after-another-after-another when it comes to verbal commitments, and eventual Letters of Intent being signed on National Signing Day itself. Strong pulled in an astonishing eight 4-star prospects in a 24-hour span. It was enough to make him start trending on Twitter by mid-morning.

Texas jumped 22 spots in ESPN’s class rankings to finish #10 with 24 total signees. No other recruiting service had them ranked any lower than #10. And this is a team that went 5-7 last year and 6-7 the year before.

Charlie Strong’s recruiting strategy was extremely gutsy. He went all-in with confidence that he was going to get the players that he wanted. There were a few that he didn’t get on signing day, but signing eight of his twelve targets in a 24-hour period wasn’t a bad showing.

Most coaches want players to commit to their school early. Not Strong. He told recruits to commit to him, but don’t announce it. Why? Because that makes them an easy target for negative recruiting by other schools. If other schools don’t know that they are committed to Texas, then they can’t talk as bad about them to persuade them to back out of their commitment.

That was the secret to Strong and the Longhorns winning signing day.

It wasn’t a surprise to him, even though it may have shocked the country. He knew what was going to happen. But even he admitted he had a couple of surprises that fell in his favor.

One of those pleasant surprises was landing one of the best safeties in the country in Brandon Jones. Jones picked Texas over Texas A&M and Baylor. If you’ve watched any college football over the past few years, you know that both of those programs have had better results on the field than Texas.

Chris Daniels is a defensive lineman that was once committed to Oklahoma.

Christmas-Giles was considering TCU and LSU.

Jeffery McCullouch was considering A&M, Notre Dame and Stanford.

The one thing in common that all those other programs have is that they’ve been better than Texas on the field recently. So how can a Texas team get these players when they’re coming off of a 5-7 season and a 6-7 season the year before?

The answer is trust.

It’s evident that these players trust that Strong will turn around Texas. They want to be a part of something special. Many of the players that Strong signed yesterday could have gone to a dozen or more schools, but they chose Texas.

So what does that all mean for Charlie Strong and the Longhorns?

Nothing if they don’t develop those players and start winning games.

Mack Brown was known as Mr. February during the later part of his career at Texas, since he was able to consistently bring in top-5 recruiting classes. But once the results started becoming non-existent on the field, he found his way out of the program.

This year’s big recruiting class or last year’s won’t matter either if they can’t find a competent quarterback to lead the team. Shane Buechele could be that guy, or someone else could step up.

On paper, this class could be more important than last year’s because it gives the Longhorns depth at just about every position. It will be shocking if more than 4-5 upperclassmen are starting for Texas next year. Because of the 50 or so players that Strong has brought in over the last two seasons, the excuses for losing are becoming few and far between. These are his players now and this is his team.

If Strong doesn’t start winning soon, then he could just be stockpiling the cupboard with talent for another coach to come in and win with his players. We’ve seen it happen with other programs. One thing for certain is that the players will play hard for Strong and will go to war with him any day of the week.

Texas may not be back at the top in 2016, but when Strong’s first two classes at Texas become sophomores and juniors, look out.

How Do College Football Recruits Choose Their Schools?

We are less than one week from national signing day, where hundreds of student athletes will sign their letters of intent to play football at a school for the next four (or so) years. While this may be un-newsworthy for some, I happen to find it one of the most incredibly entertaining days of the year.

Actually, let me backtrack a little bit. Recruiting in general, leading up to signing day, is entertaining to follow. National signing day is just the result of all the recruiting tactics that players and coaches use up until that day.

Most casual college football fans, and even a lot of experts and die-hards, don’t follow recruiting closely.

And I get it.

Championships aren’t won in February. A star ranking means nothing on the field. Players are only as good as their coach develops them. I understand it all.

But what makes the recruiting cycle fun to observe is the constant battles amongst coaches and players. It is more transparent now than ever with Twitter blowing up every time a recruit talks to a coach.

So here’s what I’ve observed on Twitter and other outlets about how these high school kids choose their college.

The days of growing up being a fan of a team and playing for that team are over. Yes, there are still some kids that are die-hard fans and have dreamed of playing for that school ever since they were little. But nowadays, it’s not unusual for a Longhorn fan to commit to play for the Aggies and vice versa.

Relationships with the head coach and the coaching staff outweigh the fandom that comes into play, in most cases.

Momentum in the program also plays a role. Kids that normally would commit to Texas are now looking at Baylor, TCU and other programs in the state since they are in a better position to win immediately. You can’t really blame them for that, especially if they have NFL aspirations.

But what makes the players commit to a school? It may not be the reasons that you’re thinking.

Some players flip a coin when they are down to two teams. Some choose based on the restaurants available near campus. Some choose based on the attractiveness of the females they saw during their visits. Some may not like the weather that a city gets.

I’m not joking about these, but these are obviously not the only factors that kids take into consideration.

Just like with regular relationships, sometimes the pursuit works, and sometimes it doesn’t. In fact, one player is committed to another school currently and said he wouldn’t listen to anyone else. Charlie Strong called anyway. The player came to Austin for an official visit, and now he may flip his commitment to the Longhorns.

What’s hilarious is what coaches will do to sway the minds of their recruits. Jim Harbaugh has been on a roll this year. He has reportedly slept over at a recruit’s house and met with another at 12:01am after the dead period ended. Some recruits appreciate that, some don’t.

Going back to relationships, you shouldn’t use college coaches or recruits as examples for good relationships. Think about how many players “commit” to a school, only to “decommit” and play elsewhere. It’s pretty much like dating to a point, but to a different extreme.

“Committed” players still talk to other coaches from other schools. How would you feel if your significant other was committed to you, but talked to other guys or gals?

I think players shouldn’t be allowed to officially commit until they sign their name on papers. All the talks of committing and decommitting are just for attention and really mean nothing. We’ve seen players be committed to a school for over a year, only to change their mind on signing day. That leads to conspiracy theories, but we will leave that for another day.

When I take a step back and really wonder why I like following recruiting so much, I can laugh and make fun of myself. It’s ridiculous to follow Twitter feeds of high school kids in hopes that they come to my school. But I like to read into things way too much anyway, so it’s right up my alley.

Fortunately, recruits do the same thing, which makes following them even more entertaining. With all the outside noise and social media, recruits are having a harder time than ever trying to nail down a school to go to.

I would like to say there’s a formula to figuring out why kids choose to play for a particular school. But there’s not.

But at least we can try to figure it out, right?

Finally Wisconsin Can Sell Nice Things

On October 9, Wisconsin came to a 10-year agreement with Under Armour, thus placing a definitive end date on its 15-year run with Adidas.  It seems like an eternity ago that Under Armour burst into the apparel arena on the strength of one phrase, “click clack.”  With all due respect to Adidas, the current apparel sponsor for the Wisconsin Badgers, their stuff never seemed to have a “wow” factor.  It was merely nice, never spectacular or a “must have.”  Under Armour, on the other hand, is a company that consistently puts out really nice things.  The fact that they took a generally boring item, the state flag of Maryland (actually, all state flags could be considered relatively boring), and used it to create nice uniforms for the Terrapins is a testament to the company’s abilities and innovation.

While the move to Under Armour could be considered a few years too late, it does launch Wisconsin into a slightly different recruiting realm.  The University of Oregon has become the gold standard of how to use an affiliation with a company to gain recruits.  The school has brilliantly used its Nike affiliation as a recruiting chip and other schools have started to do the same.  While Wisconsin’s switch to Under Armour does not mean that their recruiting classes will transition from mainly 3- and 4-star players to a plethora of 5-star players immediately, it could provide a key boost with a key player or two that could be the difference between Wisconsin going to the Rose Bowl as opposed to the Outback Bowl, or worse.

Under Armour currently has a large and undeniable presence in the recruiting field.  It currently sponsors the nation’s top recruiting showcase, the Under Armour All-American game, an event that has become a popular choice for athletes to announce commitments.  While simply playing in the Under Armour game doesn’t mean that a player will rule out all non-Under Armour sponsored schools, it is human nature to have some loyalty to companies or people who give out free things.  I believe everyone has encountered a person who started off hating a particular company, but is swayed by a free item or two.  For me, there are people I know who hated Apple products and refused to buy anything Apple, but suddenly they won an iPod in a work raffle and, in a few months, have an iPhone and an Apple TV.  The same concept applies to athletes, especially when discussing young, impressionable individuals whose apparel preferences could be strong enough to influence commitment decisions.  A recruit’s loyalty to Nike or any other apparel company could only exist as long as boxes of free things are handed out.

Ultimately, Wisconsin’s recruiting success will depend on their ability to have impressive, winning seasons and produce NFL ready talent.  However, their move to Under Armour will most likely provide them with more uniform and apparel options, which, at the very least, is a good thing for fans.  The worst that can happen is that Wisconsin’s recruiting results remain the same.  The best that can happen is that Wisconsin uses Under Armour as a tool that allows them to get the players they want and even flip a few players who have committed to other schools.

In a few years, hopefully, the phrase “click clack, I think they hear us coming” could be a way to describe how other schools feel when Wisconsin devotes its recruiting resources toward a recruit and Wisconsin could “protect this house” with annual top-10 recruiting classes.

By Seeking Treatment, Sarkisian Will Get Answers to Questions About Himself

One could print volumes upon volumes of encyclopedias, all with very small print, of all of the things I can admit that I don’t know.  Frankly, there are some things that I should understand more, but whether or not USC head football coach Steve Sarkisian has a “problem” with drug or alcohol abuse is not one of them.

Sure, the de facto CEO of Los Angeles’s top football brand, albeit on the amateur level, should be embarrassed, very embarrassed by his behavior at a donor function on August 22nd.  He used foul language and stated very bluntly that a few of the Trojans bigger rivals “sucked”.  Sarkisian later apologized for his boorish behavior and attributed the transgression to mixing medication and booze.

On Monday, news broke of USC’s (perhaps) new policy of banning liquor and spirits in the locker room on game days, a policy that wasn’t met with resistance, but curiosity.  I’d always imagined, back in the Pete Carroll days, that most things about the USC program were probably fun.  I never pictured it as a Dave & Buster’s with showers and lockers.  We’d learn on Tuesday that it was more along the lines of the coaches keeping a bottle of scotch in a desk drawer to celebrate big wins.

Foul language in the presence of boosters isn’t that big of a deal.  Didn’t we just see Urban Meyer tell a ballroom full of Buckeye faithful that they were going to “beat the shit out of Michigan” just a few years ago?  If I recall, those words were met by thunderous applause without a lick of criticism.  Substance abuse, and I’m not saying that’s the landscape in Troy with their head coach, doesn’t have such a coach-friendly precedent.

Just ask Larry Eustachy and Gary Moeller.

To be honest, I feel this incident is going to blow over.  I heard on local radio in Phoenix today, that Todd Graham, Jim Mora, and others will use this for negative recruiting against the USC program, but if it isn’t one thing, it’s another in that realm.  USC Athletic Director Pat Haden has some experience with this; it wasn’t long ago that he was suspending his basketball coach at the Pac-12 tournament for a drunken incident with University of Arizona (where Kevin O’Neill served as the interim head coach before getting the nod at USC) boosters, but don’t expect him to follow suit with Sarkisian.

sark2Though if this remains an isolated incident, you can file it under ‘no big deal’, there is something that resonates with me.  He was asked if he had a drinking problem, and responded, “I don’t believe so, but I’m going to find that out.  I’m going to treatment.”

Good for him.  He added some comments, per Stewart Mandel at Fox Sports, that might have been an attempt to mitigate his actions, about mixing meds and drinks, but ultimately acknowledged how irresponsible he acted on Saturday night.  Now, I happen to know, not first hand, that some combinations, like Tanqueray and Allegra, can lead to blackout drunkenness and unwanted bowel movements while clothed.  I know we’ve reached a point in society where physicians warnings are often taken with a grain of salt, but they’re very accurate when they tell us this should not be taken with alcohol.

Now, I know that people who have never felt their drinking has been out of control might have a tough time understanding how someone could not know if they have a problem.  It’s almost as if, if you have to ask, you definitely have a problem.  In a large percentage of cases, and I’ve conducted no study of my own, they’re probably right about that, but some people just need to hit the brakes.

About 11 years ago, I had to hit the brakes, and it was almost just to make sure they still worked.  I was burning the candle at both ends, working two jobs and partying my ass off when I wasn’t at either of them.  The end result, an inebriated mess of a 26 year-old, bawling his eyes out after his friends pulled him out of a busy street to thwart an idiotic suicide attempt.

When I came to, the police were escorting me to the county hospital.  I blew a .32 (that’s 4 times the legal limit to drive, which I wasn’t doing on that night) a few hours after my last drink.  I couldn’t provide an honest answer, as to why I wanted to die, nor could I recall getting to that place.  I was released a few hours later, and instead of taking a 3-hour nap before the Monday morning grind, I decided to call the fight.  I’d like to note that energy drinks also mix poorly with alcohol, in that experience and at other times.

Deep inside, I think I knew I didn’t have a problem, but the evidence against that claim was pretty damning.  It took me a few years of sobriety to learn enough about myself to know that I was misbehaving, not that I was diseased or POWERLESS over the sauce.  There’s a big book and a world-wide organization dedicated to those who are, and they need it.

Looking back, I understand that I was an outlier.  That pattern of behavior (there were similar incidents that did not end as poorly for me) was unacceptable.  Not only would I have lost my job, which was my biggest concern back in 2004, I’d have lost my life, and I can say it is a wonderful life.  Now, I can tell you that maybe I didn’t need to dedicate myself to sobriety in the manner that I did, but I can honestly say erring on the side of caution did not negatively influence my life in any way.

As far as Coach Sarkisian is concerned, what’s he done to this point, other than humiliate himself in front of a room of friendlies, and ultimately for a not-so-friendly court of public opinion.  Ignoring the potential indirect fallout in his now-dry locker room or on the field in 2015, this basically amounts to a victimless crime, right now.  He understands he has to right the ship, and committing to not drinking at all during the season, he has taken the first step.

If he wants to explore who he is and find out what he is, I commend the decision.  I don’t know what he’s going to learn, and without speaking to him, I’d say it’s a good bet he doesn’t either.  In the present, it’s safe to assume this guy doesn’t need a lock and key rehab facility, but by seeking treatment, he shows us his devotion to getting right, even if he’s just getting right with Steve Sarkisian.

None of us have all of the answers, even to questions about who we really are.

Colorado Buffaloes: Why the Decline?

College football programs go through ebbs and flows as they go through season after season. Some years are better than others, but sometimes the program falls off the proverbial cliff and is not relevant again or for a very long time. The University of Colorado football program has fallen off that cliff the last 10 years and is some serious danger of not being relevant again. Why has this happened to them? How did it happen to them? Possibilities abound in Boulder, where they want the program to come back to what it was in the past.

When I was a youngster and watched college football on Saturday’s there were the typical teams that were usually on the television. USC, UCLA, Washington, Nebraska, Miami, etc… However, one of those teams that were one on a fairly regular basis out West were the Colorado Buffaloes. They were not in the Pac 12 back then, they were in the Big 12 and had many tough games against the powers of the Big 12 such Texas, Nebraska, and Oklahoma. People have to remember that Big 12 did include Nebraska, who has moved onto the Big 10 in the last few years. Those games against the Huskers, Longhorns and Sooners were some of the best football that I had seen up to that point in my life. Now, to find the Buffs on t.v is like trying to find Waldo on a map or myself getting an “A” in geometry class. This once proud program has not been on the map, relevant, or whatever adjective you want to attach to it in the last decade or even longer. Why?

When programs go through some down times many times it is because of the amount of talent they have on the team. Or the kind of talent they have on a team. A very good friend of mine who played for Colorado in the mid 1990’s and is still very much involved with the program says the recruiting issue was one of the main problems. He played safety/cornerback for the Buffs and played under Coach McCartney. According to him, the McCartney brought toughness to the campus in Boulder. He would recruit kids from certain areas in California that have that toughness in student-athletes. One of those areas is the Compton, California area. He would also recruit tough areas in Texas and other places in the South. These type of athletes would get to campus and had that inner toughness. When your players have that inner drive to succeed, success will happen for your team.

When you start losing talent and you don’t replace that talent that is a recipe for disaster for your program. This disaster can last for years, decades or even longer. Being an Oregon State alum, I have a full understanding of how recruiting, or the lack thereof, can cripple a program for decades. The Beavers have come out of those 28 straight years of losing seasons. Is Oregon State a national brand or power? Absolutely not, but they do win enough that it keeps people coming through the ticket gates. When you don’t have talent, ticket sales go away and they have at Folsom Field in Boulder. Longtime Buff booster, Richard Engel has said, “The last 10 years of CU football have been an unmitigated disaster.”

Another prominent CU alum and quarterback, Joel Klatt, is quoted as saying, “College football is about one thing: recruiting. And the recruiting restrictions that the university imposed on the program, ultimately sunk the program to the point that it was going to be very hard to have success.” Many alumni and people in power at Colorado have said that the last time the Buffs had success was when these kids were around 6-8 years old and for a current 18 year old kid, that success is lost on them.

Another one of the things that have thrown the program into a tailspin in the last decade or so has been hiring blunders with head coaches. Once Coach Gary Barnett was let go, they decided to bring in Boise State Head Coach Dan Hawkins. This didn’t go as planned either. They were trying to get past the sexual misconduct issues that ended Barnett’s run in Boulder, but one thing that hampered Hawkins was that he appeared to cut ties to Coach McCartney and Coach Barnett. These were two coaches that had a lot of success at the school. McCartney won the National Championship in 1990 for Colorado. Cutting ties to the past of a once proud program is the last thing a coach wants to do. You want to remind players of what the program has done and its success and you want to remind the players of the chance that they have of adding to that success. Hawkins did not do that.

The other thing that caused Hawkins issues was that he thought he would have the same type of environment that he had at Boise State. He didn’t. The amount of restrictions that he had at CU was something that he couldn’t overcome and eventually was let go, which was CU’s fault according to Coach Gary Barnett. “I think the image that CU created for Dan Hawkins when they brought him to Boulder was inaccurate.” Said Barnett.

Once they Hawkins go, they brought in Jon Embree who was a star tight-end for Coach McCartney. However, to me, this was doomed before the first practice. Embree had no head coaching experience, no coordinator experience at any level of football. McCartney strongly endorsed the hire, but hiring a guy with no experience? I’m not a Buff alum or anything, but that did not make any kind of sense to me. After two years, four wins, and a 1-11 record, Embree was sent packing. That move infuriated Coach McCartney, but what was CU really supposed to do? Ticket sales were dropping, recruiting was not going well, wins were few and FAR between for this once proud program. The coaching position at Colorado was becoming a turnstile type of position and there was no hope in sight. Enter Coach MacIntyre who has the position now.

Considering that he his dealing with the rest of the high powered Pac 12 and all the offense that the conference brings, he has shown some resiliency with his teams. Now, the success in terms of wins has come sparingly. MacIntyre is a guy who believes that the glass is half full, an optimist and that is what he needs to be with a resurrection job like this. What a coach like this needs is time and support from both fans and the administration. Fans can be a little more anxious than admin, but he seems to be getting both right now. Athletic Director Rick George has pledged his full support for MacIntyre and believes he is the right man for the job, despite the struggles he has had with the team. “Can we get back to where we were in the late 80’s and early 90’s?  There is no question about it. Mike is the right guy for the job.” Said George.

Whether or not he does end up being the right guy for the job remains to be seen, but he certainly does have his work cut out for him. The Pac 12 is not an easy conference to find success in and as stated earlier, the high powered offenses do make getting talent to your school a priority. Colorado is a great school with a great history. Now it’s up to the current coaching staff to regain that swag that they had. Can they do it? I don’t know. When I see the Buffs on the schedule for a team, I see a victory for that team. Do I want them to regain their winning ways? Absolutely I do. It will add strength to an already strong conference and that is what I want for the Pac 12. Let’s see what Coach MacIntyre can do in Boulder. I’ll be watching for the improvement.CU

The College Quickie: It’s Time to Make Transfer Rules Fair for All

We’ll file this under shock-and-awe: coaches aren’t happy with players who graduate and decide to transfer to another school to finish their eligibility.

Why? Who knows, but it’s complete and utter ridiculousness.

I might understand if coaches didn’t leave voluntarily for other jobs or if “student-athletes” had leverage yearly to transfer from one school to another, but the reality is that coaches can leave whenever they want and the kids cannot.

Last I checked contracts were supposed to be binding documents that say one side will do X while the other side will do Y. This applies to college athletics, the CEO at the very large company I work for, and the agreement to pay my car loan every month. Speaking of, if anyone can pick that up for me this month I’d really appreciate it.

So, when coaches agree to coach at a place for say three years, but leave after two where is the outrage? How come no one is upset that Mike Riley left Oregon State for Nebraska? I’ll double-check, but I’m almost positive Riley had time remaining on his contract.

So when kids fulfil their obligations to universities – yes, the NLI is a binding contract – why are people, namely the coaches who can come and go as they please, so upset?

Do coaches and universities pour money into training these kids to be better players? Of course, but you know what, so does my employer.

When kids transfer is there the potential that their arrival could significantly change the dynamic of their new locker room? You got it, but that’s applied to every new hire everywhere.

When the kid transfers from Ohio University to THE Ohio State University, are the kids at Ohio upset? Nope! Because they know said transfer completed his obligation and is now in a better place.

So why the coaching hypocrisy? Jesus only knows why, because we mere mortals have no clue.

Can we level the playing field a little bit? Instead of worrying about graduate transfer rules, can we maybe change all the transfer rules? If not, can we change one of the most important regulations?

When Mike Riley leaves Oregon State for Nebraska or Urban Meyer leaves Ohio State for Notre Dame or when Frank Beamer is fired from Virginia Tech, can we offer an unconditional release to every student athlete so they can “explore their options”?

Or would that make a bit too much sense?

Why are the adults the only group allowed to go where they want, but the kids have to stay? Also, these aren’t kids. They’re young men, and the majority of them won’t be playing at the next level, but if them transferring means they attend a school that actually forces them to gain a skill they can use after they leave college…then their transfer should be allowed immediately.

This is all a pipe dream – well except for the part about my car payment – so y’all can wake up and go back to work now.

2016 Prospectus: Defensive Ends

Defensive ends get the most attention of any lineman, offensive or defensive. But maybe they deserve it, considering they line up against the offenses’ best blocker, the tackle. One thing is for sure, the 2016 defensive ends are itching to get to college.

 Shavar Manuel (5*) IMG Academy, Bradenton, Florida

Status: Uncommitted   Height: 6-5   Weight: 260 lbs.

Shavar Manuel is our highest rated defensive end for three main reasons. First, his frame has the potential to be massively muscular. Secondly, he is one of those players that is an athlete in anything he does. Lastly, but most importantly, his closing speed is deadly. Before you can see him bull rushing you, Manuel has you on the ground. He has 0-100 speed while being 6-5 and 260 lbs, and that makes him the most dangerous defensive end recruit in the 2016 class. Manuel is not without his disadvantages though, like his overvalued hands, and mistaken dominance in the trenches. Shavar Manuel holds the potential to be a star in college once he gets some correct fundamental teaching at DE. Shavar Manuel is wanted most by Alabama and Florida State, but University of Miami is on his radar too.

Prediction: Florida State

 Nick Bosa (5*) St. Thomas Aquinas, Fort Lauderdale, Florida

Status: Uncommitted   Height: 6-4   Weight: 265 lbs.

Nick Bosa is a monster; it’s as simple as that. One of the top recruits in the country, Bosa comes from a football family. His brother, Joey, plays for Ohio State, and won a national championship last year, while his father competed in the NFL. If there’s one thing we can extrapolate from Nick’s pedigree, it is that he knows how to play the game of football. He knows that it takes more mental toughness than it does physical toughness, and for that reason, Bosa is a highly coveted recruit. Bosa’s ability to get off the ball quickly, and use his hands to rip blocks are unrivaled by any recruit in the 2016 defensive end class. Alabama is pursuing the young defensive lineman with gusto, but Ohio State leads by a mile right now. I can’t see Bosa ending up anywhere but OSU.

Prediction: Ohio State

 Marlon Davidson (5*) Carver High School, Montgomery, Alabama

Status: Uncommitted   Height: 6-4   Weight: 260 lbs.

This guy is big in every sense of the word. He plays, tackles and looks big. Marlon Davidson has an edge about him that will translate well to the next level. He doesn’t have any particular skills that set him apart from the rest of the class, but he does everything consistently well. If I had to choose a best attribute, it would be his pursuit of the ball. No matter which side of the field the ball ends up on, Marlon isn’t far behind, and is usually making the tackle. Marlon’s offer list is about 20 schools long, while Alabama, Auburn, and Georgia are among the frontrunners. Because he hails from Montgomery, it’s hard to imagine that Davidson doesn’t end up playing college football for the Tide or Tigers.

Prediction: Auburn

 Janarius Robinson (4*) Bay High School, Panama City, Florida

Status: Committed to FSU   Height: 6-5   Weight: 250 lbs.

Janarius Robinson has the prototypical defensive end prospect body. A tall, muscular player already, Robinson has little weight to gain to reach Division I playing weight. Because of his size, he will have no problem finding a program to play for. On top of his frame, Robinson sports moderate speed, but a propensity for hitting quarterbacks. His ability to stay disciplined on options, read options, and reverses is encouraging for any college coach. If he had one weakness, it would be his strength the second the ball is snapped. Instead of maintaining a low center of gravity until the hit is made, Robinson has a tendency to come up too quick. In high school, staying low isn’t necessary (due to the talent constraints), but in college, Robinson would get put on his back if he doesn’t stay low. Good news is, it’s easy to fix. Janarius Robinson is currently committed to the Seminoles, but has recently taken an extra visit to Alabama, and will take an unofficial visit to Tennessee tomorrow, for their spring game.

 Breland Brandt (4*) Windward School, Los Angeles, California

Status: Committed to UCLA   Height: 6-4   Weight: 220 lbs.

 Breland is a guy that probably won’t end up at defensive end in college. Brandt has the body type to be a smaller, quicker defensive end, but if he moved to linebacker, he could really be a star. If it were my choice, I would look at him at linebacker. Although he has some quality D-end skills, Brandt has more potential at linebacker. I say he wouldn’t translate well at defensive end for two main reasons; his lackluster hands and he doesn’t get a good first hit in the trenches. Brandt has more trouble than the average end getting through blocks, due to his hands not being as quick as they should. He also doesn’t get a good push off the ball, which is essential to being a good defensive end. The positive grounds for a change to linebacker are his overall agility, and his quick first step off the ball. Those two skills are reactionary abilities that can’t be taught. Breland Brandt is committed to UCLA, and as a Los Angeles native, his commit looks set in stone.