Well, Thank God That's Over

You know the best part about the few days after National Signing Day? It's the longest possible time before the next National Signing Day. You can bask throughout this entire day knowing that it will be a full 360 more days before you have to endure this absurd melodrama again.

Now don't misunderstand me, I'm glad that we met our needs, landed a slew of highly-talented prospects, and once again pretty much had our pick of the litter on the recruiting trails, and admittedly I'm still giddy over the Cyrus Kouandjio signing. For what it's worth, our current situation is immeasurably better than our old plight of ending up with a class full of marginal talents, character cases, and likely academic casualties, and I'm certainly not taking the fruits of our success for granted moving forward.

Having said that, I'm tired of the the entire recruiting process as a whole and quite frankly it becomes more and more insufferable with each passing year. The recruits who switch back and forth between three schools, the "soft" verbals, the hat tricks, the forged LOIs, the Signing Day switcheroos, the sense of entitlement, the recruits who promise to shock the world who inevitably do what everyone expected all along, the message board melodrama, the self-proclaimed "insiders" with their disturbing ego trips and the sheep like followers who hang on every word they say, the handlers, the innuendo of cheating, the Kool-Aid drinking homers, the Facebook wooing, the obsession over the slightest changes in recruiting rankings, the whole nine yards. One is more unbearable than the last.

And from the outset, let's be rational adults about this whole thing and dismiss much of this little pretend world for what it is, specifically regarding the self-proclaimed recruiting "experts." Just because you claim expertise and put content behind a pay wall does not mean the operation in question is not little more than a thinly-veiled sham. These recruiting services purport to legitimately evaluate the entire nation's stock of prep and junior college football prospects, and it's simply not feasible. Even the Nick Sabans and Mack Browns of the college football world don't attempt to do that, they narrow down based on specific geographic areas -- hence the reason Nick Saban is constantly referring to the five-hour radius surrounding Tuscaloosa -- and move forward with a manageable task. Why? There simply aren't enough hours in the day to legitimately attempt to evaluate 3,000+ prospects each and every year, especially when you have to spend a significant amount of time doing the menial tasks unrelated to evaluations (prospect interviews, message board postings, travel, media content generation, etc.). Do the math, it just does not add up. You end up evaluating the top 300 or so prospects with at least some meaningful depth, while those not deemed worthy to be in that lofty category upon initial inspection get a couple of minutes worth of a quick glance and a rubber-stamped rating.

And the people trying to accomplish this insurmountable task aren't even remotely qualified to do it. Go to the major recruiting services and identify for me a single person with any meaningful background as a football coach or a talent scout on any level. Good luck. Or, hell, good luck even finding much, if any, real biographical background on just about any of them. In truth, most of these guys couldn't get a real football job if their lives depended on it and several of them got their current jobs solely because they posted frequently on recruiting message boards many years ago. It's tantamount to a kid who just earned a D- in his high school Street Law class pretending to be a lawyer, the whole notion is laughable upon even an initial glance.

In essence you have grossly unqualified people attempting to accomplish an impossible task, and proclaiming themselves to be "experts" and convincing some gullible people to shell out $120 a year to access their "evaluations" and read their "news" doesn't change that underlying reality in the least. I think a lot of people get caught up in the pretend notion that all of this is meaningful and legitimate, but all the make believe and wasted money simply does not make it so.

And frankly, notwithstanding the more fundamental issues regarding the inherent shortcomings of recruiting services, many of these homer sites affiliated with those services are just outright scams. Their business model is essentially predicated upon getting gullible, credulous people to pay them legitimate sums of money for "news" and "insider" information that is all but certainly either conjured out of thin air or procured with such a reckless disregard to truthfulness that for all intents and purposes it may as well have been conjured out of thin air. Many of them are really little more than mechanisms to swindle dumb people out of hard-earned money.

To be sure, on some level recruiting rankings matter -- if you're in the SEC and have a class ranked in the low 20's, you've got some cause for concern -- but on the whole it's a murky, convoluted endeavor that cannot easily be reduced to a raw numerical ranking. Can anyone, no matter their qualifications, legitimately make a meaningful distinction between, say, the third-best class in the country and the eighth-best? And when it comes to any individual prospect, it's largely a crapshoot. The top two or three players in the country in any given year generally  perform at a high level -- it usually doesn't take a Steve Belichick to spot a Julio Jones on the prep circuits -- but on the whole the underlying connection between expectations and end results is not nearly as strong as many presume. Even with five-star, supposed-can't-miss recruits, in any given year roughly about half of those signees will either be outright busts or fairly pedestrian players, and the percentages go on down from there.

The fact of the matter is that, despite what some people would like to believe, while recruiting is important, it's only one piece of the larger puzzle. Player development matters, dedication matters, strength and conditioning programs matter, academic support systems matter, roster management matters, facilities matter, schemes matter, film preparation matters, playcalling matters, and so on and so forth. Quality recruiting is necessary for on-field success, but even so it is only just one of many necessities required to overcome the pain of defeat on Saturday afternoon. A lot of people might not want to accept that, but even so that refusal does not make that reality any less valid.

The mere fact that we have reached a point to where National Signing Day legitimately generates greater interest and discussion from many than that generated from a national championship game is disturbing enough in its own right, but I must unfortunately confess that this melodrama is seemingly growing larger with each passing year. For now, just enjoy these precious few weeks of relative sanity before this circus begins anew.

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