State Of The 'Crootin
I think I've decided that April is May this year. Every May I slow way down on posts - need to let my writing batteries recharge - and with no spring football this April, April has become my May. But that doesn't mean I can't weigh in on football recruiting.
Someone sent me a tweet today asking me to do just that - "weigh in on the current state of football recruiting". Don't mind if I do.
First, let's go back through Lovie's first class. If you were reading at that time you already know this - I was panicked. We reached August 1 ranked something like 72nd nationally. And then we hit a nice little burst with Larry Boyd and Lere Oladipo, but by the time December 1 rolled around, we were right back down in the 70's. Both times I was in a total panic. Mostly because of the size of the class.
See, last year's roster had 24 seniors. And with players that left during the (multiple) coaching changes, we ended up having 31 available roster spots. I figured we'd bring in 29 (backdating four players to the 2016 class), and when you're planning on 29 and you're only at 7 players on August 1st, panic at the disco. We ended up bringing in 26 players with one backdated, which means there are still four open scholarships as we approach the season.
This fall there are... eight seniors. So with four current open spots plus eight seniors, that's 12 open scholarships for the 2018 class. 31 last year, 12 this year. From thirty one to twelve.
Now, will we be at 12 come February 7th? No. Normal attrition is between 3-5 players every year, so I'd guess the number will end up between 15-17. But that 12 number could still go down. If we were to add a transfer player this summer, or if we take the walkon who wins the starting punting job this fall and put him on scholarship, then we might go down to ten available scholarships.
My point: this class might be half the size of the last class. Which means Lovie can be kind of... picky. Selective. I know that probably sounds like an excuse, but it's the reason I'm not really all that panicked about the 2018 class just yet. I've had moment where I'm distraught, but those are mostly related to specific players. When Chicago Solario Academy QB Quincy Patterson picked Virginia Tech, I was inconsolable. He was the #1 and #2 target for me. We need our QB of the future, Chicago produce a Juice clone... and he's headed to Virginia Tech. That was a rough one.
For the rest of the class, though, I'm not all that concerned just yet. Let me say it this way. On January 15th of this year, we had 13 spots remaining for the 2017 class (we filled 9 of them between January 15 and February 1). Right now, we have... 11 spots remaining for the 2018 class. Last year I was totally panicked that we had 7 players committed on August 1. This year I might be.. nervous if we have 7 players committed on August 1? As in, nervous that we've taken a few "reach" players when I'd rather be patient and go through December/January with several open rides.
I really do want Lovie to be picky here. I want to see what kind of relationships Donnie Abraham is building with Tampa-area recruits. I want time to find the senior-year breakout players like Kendrick Green and Alex Palczewski. I don't want the class to fill up with random targets - I want us to take our time and land 11 really good players. (OK - 14.)
This is the polar opposite of my approach to football recruiting last year, but 1) I didn't understand Lovie's recruiting methods very well last year, and 2) 31 to 12. Now that I understand how he's a relationship building recruiter (don't pressure a kid for a commit - build a relationship and they'll come to you asking to commit), I'm less prone to get nervous when other schools move their verbal number into double digits.
For example, PJ Fleck landed his 11th 2018 player at Minnesota today. If Lovie landed his 11th today... he'd pretty much be done. In mid-April. And I never want to be done in mid-April. There's spring visits where the assistants hit the road (started this week), there's camp season in June... there's time to chase our Plan A recruits and, if we strike out, continue to pursue our Plan B kids through the fall and winter.
Look at it like this. A year ago today we didn't know the following names:
I'm perfectly content to let this class play out, hoping Lovie finds more Boyds and Greens this spring, summer, fall, and winter. If we're only going to bring in 12-17 players, I hope we make sure that all of our Plan A options are exhausted before tossing out a bigger net.
We all raved about the expanded recruiting department last year. Adding a former NFL scout to just review film is a great way to build a big board. So now we must let that play out. Let them find those Plan A targets and then pursue them across multiple seasons. If we get to December and we're only a 3 recruits, yes, then I'm going to start to panic.
But where we are right now... I'm content to wait and see.