Recruiting, Recruiting, Recruiting

The View From the Hill | Gate 21

Tennessee’s quarterback situation is no secret. As of now, Nick Stephens is the only scholarship QB slated to be on the roster this time in 2010, pending the likely addition of junior college QB Nick Lamaison, who would join the Vols when practice opens up in a couple weeks. This is what happens when you fail to recruit a QB for a couple of consecutive years, and obviously it’s certainly an uncomfortable situation.

Adding even more discomfort are two things involving this year’s QB class: first, by most accounts it’s a “down” year – as in there’s no true standout(s). Second, UT has swung and missed on a number of QB targets up to this point, almost to the point where frantically pressing the big red panic button becomes an acceptable behavior.

Nevertheless, Tennessee has one last – and slightly fading – glimmer of hope in Jesse Scroggins. As you probably know, Tennessee’s been in the mix with Scroggins for quite awhile, and all that work will come to a conclusion sometime tomorrow, when Scroggins is slated to announce his decision between USC, the hometown school, Tennessee and Florida. Most feel Scroggins is a Trojan lock. I accepted this as the outcome about a month ago, when SC offered him a scholarship following an impressive camp performance.

TUESDAY NIGHT MINI-UPDATE: Jesse Scroggins has pushed back his announcement to Thursday at noon Pacific, 3 p.m. Eastern time, according to VolQuest and VolNation message boards, which are getting this information from Scroggins’ MySpace page. It seems to me that if he was going to USC, he would have just come out and done so already, or done so with his teammate, safety Dion Bailey, who committed last week. I still think he’s a Trojan, but I’ll just say this: if he commits to Florida, I’ll literally throw up.

Jesse Scroggins announces tomorrow Thursday

After Scroggins, I have NO IDEA where Tennessee will turn next in their search for a QB.

Looking at the bigger picture, however, the following of recruiting has blown up in the last decade or so, thanks in large part to sites such as Rivals and Scout. Some of you may have have dived head-first into the phenomenon, others of you may not have even heard of Jesse Scroggins or may not even be able to name a current Tennessee commitment.

As for me, I didn’t really begin following the year-round recruiting season until I went to college back in 2006. But since then, I’ve probably procrastinated more time by looking at recruiting sites and following the various message boards rumors and what-not than I should have. Why? Because it’s addictive.

However, I’m a relatively glass half-full type of fan, so amidst all the hoopla surrounding the college choices of high school seniors, I try not to get caught up to much into it all. So, as it relates to this year’s class and more importantly tomorrow’s Scroggins decision (and the likely impending meltdown), I’ve offered five reasons why fans shouldn’t be losing any sleep over recruiting at this point in time.

(1) It’s July.

If had the resources and impetus to do a comparison between Tennessee’s commitment list from this time last year and the final signing class, it would be very different. Bryce Brown wasn’t even an afterthought as a possibility; the running back Tennessee had early was Jarvis Giles, who ended up signing with South Carolina. Janzen Jackson and Darren Myles? Marsalis Teague was soon to commit to Florida. Josh Nunes, a California QB, was committed to Tennessee.

Bryce Brown was a pipe dream this time last year

Now this is different for QBs, as they generally like to make their decisions before they begin their respective high school seasons. But National Signing Day is in February, over six months away. Many, many things can and will change by then.

The biggest point I have with this is that the excitement surrounding Lane Kiffin‘s hiring and his staff may have had a big hand in helping sway some of the name recruits who are now preparing for the opening of fall camp. Now, recruits want to see some physical evidence. What’s the offense and defense look like? How many freshman will get opportunities to start and play? How Kiffin’s first season goes should ultimately have a say in the level of this recruiting class. Things go well? The February signing class more likely might reflect that.

(2) These are high school kids. They change their minds.

Exhibit A (Richardson) of recruits changing their minds after a long-term verbal commitment

We see this all the time: Teague and Nu’keese Richardson were long-time Gator commitments before signing with Tennessee. Brown was long believed to be heading to Miami. The aforementioned Nunes saw last year’s Florida debacle and then played the distance decommitment card. Some kids change their minds due to changes in head or assistant coaches. Others are just fickle, as you can expect from high school students who are merely 18 years old and already under more pressure than I’ve ever faced in my life. And still, some switch for other reasons ($$$)…

I’ll even use my own personal “recruitment” as a example. My college choice was between the “hometown” school Tennessee the University of Missouri. Both my parents graduated from UT and I had been coming to games since my first game back in 1992. However, the unknown and strength of the journalism school at Mizzou were equally as intriguing and both big draws. I visited Missouri a couple of times, and enjoyed it. Though I’d been coming to Vol football games for almost 14 years, my first actual tour of the campus came in September of my senior year, one week after the UAB game in ’05. After a mid-October visit to Columbia, I was sure I wanted to go to Missouri. I was so certain, that I basically told my 130-something classmates on our senior-class trip I’d be going to Mizzou.

Fortunately for me, I had until April (not just February) to decide. As I began to have second thoughts about my choice, I thought about how much I enjoyed going to games at Tennessee and how Knoxville felt as sort of a second home for me. I couldn’t pass that up. So, in mid-April, a month before I graduated, I changed my mind. An old saying goes, “the rest is history…”

(3) Recruiting itself is a very inexact science.

Rivals and Scout do an excellent job in studying, researching, ranking and covering recruiting. But as we see so many times, high recruiting rankings don’t always mean automatic all-conference performers and draft picks. Likewise, not all two- or three-star guys turn out to be career second-teamers.

Out of hundreds of examples, I’ll go with two: first, current Tennessee linebacker Chris Donald was a five-star stud out of Huntingdon, Tennessee, ranked as the nation’s top LB and #18 player overall. In his three years in Knoxville, he’s redshirted a year, and played in two games last season. That’s it. Now I don’t mean to throw Donald under the bus, but to this point he certainly hasn’t lived up to his ranking.

I’ll go outside Knoxville for the flip-side of the above example: Jacob Hester. Hester was a two-star prospect by Rivals, from Evangel Christian School in Shreveport, Louisiana, a pretty prominent program. Hester chose LSU over offers from Texas, Oklahoma, Miami and Oregon, and then became the type of player everybody wanted on their team back in 2006 and 2007, and was vital in leading LSU to its national championship. He’s now playing for the San Diego Chargers.

In addition to physical abilities, coaches have to take into account recruits’ abilities off-the-field (ie, character) and in the classroom. Now, let me say I’m fine with a guy who makes straight Cs and dominates on Saturdays, as long as he doesn’t kill anybody, rob any banks, sell drugs, etc. But the grades issues with a number of highly ranked prospects are quite alarming. You get excited about a recruit’s signature to play football for your school, only then to be disappointed when he doesn’t qualify and has to go the junior college or prep school route (and he may or may not end up at your school) – an unfortunate situation for all involved.

Janzen Jackson? LSU lock...

(4) Gotta trust your coaching staff.

This is pretty straightforward. Certainly, Lane, Monte, Coach O and all of them can evaluate and recruit prospects way better than any of us can right? Not only that, but I for one don’t have a clue what exactly the offense and defense are going to look like this fall, so who knows what type of players the Kiffins need for the respective systems better than the Kiffins?

With the current QB problems, Kiffin has been second-guessed lately for passing on four-star QB Tajh Boyd last fall. Boyd had questions surrounding his arm strength and was coming off ACL surgery. So Lane said “thanks, but no thanks” and Boyd signed with Clemson. It’s OK to second-guess at this point, but you gotta believe Lane and offensive coordinator Jim Chaney know what they’re doing.

(5) Recruiting is only half the game.

What good are a bunch of studs recruits if you can’t coach them up, right (I’m thinking of you, Ron Zook…)? Then again, this is easily the most debatable of these five things. In today’s SEC, you absolutely have to have the horses to even think about competing yearly with Florida, Alabama, Georgia and LSU. Tennessee hasn’t since about 2001 (save for maybe the 2005 defense), and that – in addition to coaching and recruiting upgrades from the Georgias, LSUs and Alabamas of the conference – is why they’ve had two losing seasons the past four years.

It’s also possible to take slightly above average recruiting and still be able to compete. Vanderbilt and Kentucky have absolutely less talent than most of the SEC, yet they’ve been very competitive and seen success (by their standards) under Bobby Johnson and Rich Brooks, respectively. But then again, Tennessee isn’t either of those schools (duh).

Games may or may not actually be won via the fax machines the first Tuesday in February each year, but either way, it’s my opinion that coaching can cover up slight deficiencies in recruiting. It’s probably a little more difficult that way, but I think it’s possible. One school can’t get all the best players each and every year, so you have to be able to coach up some of the slightly less-talented players you bring in to be successful.


So that’s some way to approach recruiting here in the summer doldrums, when there isn’t much else to worry about. Some parts of this list are obviously not applicable in January and February, when it’s go-big-or-go-home time, so when it gets to that point, you’re on your own.

About Home Sweet Home... … to me.


Images Courtesy of: • Rivals – Jesse Scrogginssoflafootball.comScout.comSI.com / Dan Patrick’s blog

About the Author: I'm from Memphis but I'm now entering my third year at the University of Tennessee here in Knoxville. I am majoring in Journalism/Electronic Media and hope to go into sports broadcasting/writing/something like that. I'm a huge Vol fan and have been going to games for as long as I can remember. I started my on blog called "The View From The Hill" but moved here to Gate 21 for bigger and better things. In addition to my passion for Tennessee football and basketball, I enjoy watching the NFL and the NBA as well. Basically, sports are a big part of my life. >> Read more from this author

Be Sociable, Share!

One Response to “Recruiting, Recruiting, Recruiting”

Leave a Reply

Additional comments powered by BackType

Support Gate 21
Search the Gate
Categorically Speaking…
As if you cared…
Subscribe
Follow
Share
subscribe
twitter
facebook

Some of the Best!



Support Gate 21


HLL... LIVE!

HLL - LIVE!
Some of Lawvol's Favorite Links from across the web!

Tennessee FanDome

Tennessee Fandome:
Football | Basketball
Our Humble Gate…
Subscribe to Gate21.net:
Subscribe to Gate 21

Enter your email address to receive Gate 21 via email:


We will NEVER use your email address for ANY purpose.
Powered by FeedBurner


YardBarker

Awards & Nominations

2007 CFBA Nominee: Best Looking Blog
2007 CFBA Nominee: Best New Blog

Support Gate 21


SporstBlogs.org
Best Football Sites
Powered by MyPagerank.Net

Gate 21 Graphics


Like Gate 21? Gate 21 is free to read, but costs a great deal to publish. Feel free to donate securely via PayPal:
paypal
Search the Gate
Older Ramblings
Videoification

Tennessee Videos

Lawvol's Funnies

Support Gate 21

Networkin’

Yardbarker Network

YardBarker