I don't respond to as many as I should, but I do enjoy lots of the comments under posts. Sometimes I start to respond and it gets too long and just becomes its own post. That's what this is. A comment from OrangeJulius on the Daniel Barker post sparked a few thoughts in my head, and as I was typing them out I realized it was too long for a response to a comment. So let's talk about it here.
First, the comment from OrangeJulius:
The first class was encouraging, but this one smells a lot like Beckman/Turner so far. I hope Lovie can turn it around. It's almost like he exhausted all of his "early PT" capital on the first class, and maybe there isn't much left in bank.
I think that's mostly true. We're entering a quiet period here, which means recruiting falls off the radar for a while, and post-June camp season is always a good time to take stock, so let's take a look at this class and its Beckman/Turner-ness.
First off, July 1 is always kind of a recruiting transition period. June is camp season, which means there are tons of offers and tons of verbals. A player who was completely off the radar shows up at a Georgia camp and gets a Georgia offer and the ranking services are scrambling to see who this kid might be and how he got offers from Georgia/Auburn/Ole Miss in two week's time. A guy like Tony Adams (cornerback in last year's class who goes from lowly-ranked kid with no major offers to an offer at the Illinois camp and an offer at the Mizzou camp) will often see his ranking go up in July as the services re-evaluate their rankings. So there will be a fair bit of movement in the rankings the composite rankings the next few months - some players moving up, some moving down.
Taking that into account, how does this class compare to last year's "encouraging" class? I'd say they're a little more similar than most might think, but that doesn't necessarily mean they'll end up in the same spot. I'll attempt to explain.
Last year's final class had six players clearly head-and-shoulders above the rest. The 247 composite rankings assign a numerical value to each player, and if you can get past "is a guy rated .8744 REALLY that much better than a guy rated .8481?" (answer - absolutely), then you can begin to separate a class into tiers. Last year's class had a clear upper tier (like, the kinds of players who have led Wisconsin to so many bowl games over the last 20 years tier). Those players and their ratings:
Ricky Smalling: .8868
Kendrick Green: .8801
Delshawn Phillips: .8737
Larry Boyd: .8721
Owen Carney: .8695
Carmoni Green: .8680
I would argue that Olalere Oladipo is close to that tier (.8512, offers from Penn State and Michigan State), but since we're comparing classes here, Oladipo is rated right about where Kievan Myers is rated (.8524), and Myers had similar solid offers (Mississippi State, Missouri, West Virginia), so let's draw a chalk line there in comparing the classes.
(Note: the composite rankings aren't anywhere complete yet. For example, four players in our class have been given a .8333 placeholder rating mostly because they're three-stars on Scout. Jordyn Slaughter got a 5.6 rating on Rivals, so once that's factored in, his composite score will go up. Carlos Sandy got a 5.4 rating on Rivals, so once that's factored in, his composite score will go down. And once ESPN and 247 evaluate the players themselves - they've yet to assign a rating - then the players will go up or down. So comparing at this point isn't exact - all we really have to go on thus far is that Scout has given all nine players three stars, plus the offers the players have received.)
Going back to OJ's comment, I'd say two things:
- Yes, this class so far is extremely Beckman/Turner-like.
- That's not all that different than July 5, 2017, which was a slow-starting class that finished strong.
Five of the six players listed above chose Illinois during what I'm choosing at this very moment to call "Phase II" of recruiting: post-camp, possible senior blow-up, wait-until-the-winter-to-make-a-choice kids. (Phase I would be early-decision, spring-coach-visit, camp-season recruits.) So to reach OJ's "encouraging" and not "Beckman/Turner", it will take a close like last year. And then some.
If we go back to that "Myers=Oladipo" line from earlier, I'd say that below the line, Slaughter/Hardge/Sandy/Pearl et. al. would be fairly similar to Epstein/Smith/Thomas/Lowe at this point last year. The big difference, of course - Ricky Smalling. So to even up the classes from July to July, Lovie needs a Smalling (I don't see a single Smalling considering us, so don't hold your breath).
To even up the classes February to February, again, drawing our line at "Myers=Oladipo", Lovie needs to close like he closed last year. Boyd and C. Green verballed in August; Phillips, K.Green, and Carney verballed in December. That's both encouraging (I don't know of one person who thought we would land any of those five players on July 5th last year - it wasn't until Green and Carney's encouraging - and long - visit in the end of July that we began to get our hopes up), and daunting (we don't have a Smalling as a standard-bearer, and guys we were hoping would be Smallings like Adeoye Ayodele and Quincy Patterson have chosen other schools).
But remember, Lovie said on Signing Day that he wanted each class to be better than the last, and this comparison I'm doing just gets him back to square. So it's quite the uphill climb. Do-able - again, he landed all of those players in the "second half" last season - but certainly way up that hill.
I'm actually a bit surprised that we're at nine commits right now - when I wrote the Low And Slow post, I thought we'd be at five come July. But the process has seemingly played out much like we talked about there. Long-evaluations over early verbals, coaches want to see a kid in person, sit down with him, get an idea of the person and the player, etc. The hope is that really begins to pay off in the fall and winter. Like last year.
If it doesn't? Well, let's cross that bridge in February once we see the full signed-and-sealed class. I'm hopeful Lovie can close this class like he closed the last class, but I'm always hopeful. If we're 2-8 in November with, as OJ mentioned, a lot of the "early PT capital" used up, it's going to be a really tough row to hoe.