It isn’t only the kids who have stars in their eyes on national signing day.
There’s another group of so-called “recruiting experts,” sometimes referred to as “recruitniks,” who turn recruiting into astrology by assigning a number of stars to a prospect.
Now it’s highly possible, mind you, that these “recruitniks” know not as much about any individual prospect as the waterboy on his team, for he, at least, sees him play live, knows what kind of kid he is, what kind of teammate he is, might even know if he throws his dirty laundry on the floor or in the hamper at home.
But, nonetheless, these people have made a career out of giving five stars to can’t miss players and saying “I told you so” when they make it as an All-American and then a top NFL draft pick.
It’s sort of like picking the only quarter out of a jar filled otherwise with pennies and thinking you are one bright dude.
Of course, when that five-star prospect turns out to be Jason Gwaltney, however, you never hear another word out of them about him.
The thing is, they have created a culture in and unto itself, left to breed upon the Internet, where everyone is far more expert than the recruiting coordinators, who just happen to be the only guys whose opinion counts.
As recruiting classes go, the one the West Virginia football program signed on Wednesday is not considered very good.
The Mountaineers were ranked 43rd in the nation by Rivals, standing 3rd in the Big East. Scout ranked WVU 53rd in the nation and 5th in the Big East.
They landed no five-star recruits, no four star recruits, 15 three-star recruits and some two-star recruits.
So, you might say they were dismal failures.
You might, if you didn’t know better.
Bill Stewart, the lame duck head coach, believes he does know better and he’s not buying that pound of baloney.
“Two, three, four, one, five stars ... they’re our stars. These guys are our stars,” he said during his Wednesday afternoon press conference to reveal the players who had signed with WVU.
He made a pretty impressive case for it.
“Who recruited Marc Magro?” he asked. “Pretty good football player.”
He was just beginning to heat up.
“Stevie Slaton got dropped (by Maryland). Pretty good football player. Patrick White, two stars. Pretty good football player. Owen Schmitt, couldn’t even walk on a couple of states near us. Pretty good football player.”
Now one may argue that it was Maryland and not the “recruitniks” that made the mistake on Slaton and that White had two stars because everyone thought he was going to play baseball, but Magro was a pretty fair linebacker and Schmitt is still banging heads in the NFL.
The point is that the trick isn’t to find the superstars. Everyone knows who they are, but a college team has only one or two or three of them, maybe a few more if it is a national championship contender.
But which of the two-star players can develop into three stars or four stars while in college? That’s where the sharp recruiters come in.
Is there a place for the rating systems?
WVU’s coach in waiting, Dana Holgorsen, says there is.
“It’s a starting point,” Holgorsen admitted. “But in the end you watch tape and make the decision. If you like what you see and the player fits your system, you recruit him.”
In the end, the ratings may give you an idea on talent but you as a coach have to make the judgment as to how the player will fit into the system and where he will be as a junior or senior. A tall, thin wide receiver might blossom into a muscular tight end, a two-star cornerback who is a step slow may well be a four-star safety if he can put on 15 pounds and add some agility and speed.
In this class, Stewart has one such player, a tight end named Cody Clay out of George Washington High in Charleston.
He was recruited as a tight end, something that may or may not fit Holgorsen’s system when he takes over, but fear not.
“Cody Clay, I talked to his mother and father extensively, and I told them he’s going to grow into a big man and may wind up a center,” Stewart said. “The best center I ever had was in North Carolina and was a high school tight end. But he was a knee bender, he had ball skills and great explosion. Cody Clay fits that mold. He could enter here, gain 30 pounds, so I just don’t know.”
The truth is if the coaches don’t know, do you really think the “recruitniks” know?
Stewart believes the whole idea on building a winning team is summed up in a banner hanging in the WVU locker room.
“Downstairs, we have some slogans. You win with class; you win with people. These guys fit that mode,” he said of his current class.
E-mail Bob Hertzel at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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