Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Recruiting Wrapup - Sorta, Kinda, Not Really...

No, I'm not dead, nor did I get lost in Key West. I've just been - uh - busy/lazy/preoccupied/parenting/working/flying/playing Wii....


If you've dug deep enough into the bowels of college football blogdom to find my little bend in the colon, then you don't need a recap of LSU's recruiting class of 2008. In fact, the only reason you're here is because you've read everything else and now you have to choose between my blog and Brittany Spears' latest police report. Welcome!

The Tigers put together a damned strong class yet again. Some folks are a little disappointed, mostly because our LB class might be a little weak this year (MIGHT) and we didn't land a high quality RB. And some are getting wrapped up in the Rivals/Scout rankings (11 and 6 respectively). And still others are concerned that Lord Saban landed the #1 class in most rankings.

But, FEAR NOT! LSU's class is probably underrated, even according Rivals' own experts.

I was asked several times by reporters yesterday why LSU didn't capitalize more on its national championship season. After all, they finished ranked No. 11 in recruiting.

My response is that team recruiting rankings are far from foolproof. At some level, I am a guy who helped develop this industry and the coverage of recruiting on the Internet, and I will go on record as saying that team recruiting rankings are not the be-all, end-all.

Let's face it, Saban had a very strong Alabama class to pick from. 2009 promises to return the favor for LSU. And LSU landed 14 of 14 LA prospects that it offered. That is pretty incredible.

As for LB, I think Baker and Theriot are going to be really good in the years ahead. The real question at LB is not the recruiting class, but who steps up to replace Highsmith and Sanders out of the depth chart we already have. As for RB, we're deep (Scott, Williams, Murphy, Holliday, Ridley) for at least a couple more years, and 2009 promises to be a bumper crop of LA-bred talent (Eddie Lacy, Michael Ford, Montrell Conner, Kelvin York), so life is good.

Overall, this class - barring a rash of academic or legal calamity (everybody, QUICK!! knock on wood!) - will only strengthen what has been and will continue to be an incredibly deep LSU roster. There is some worry that Deangelo Benton may not qualify academically again, and Chris Tolliver seems to be an academic-qualification question in some folks minds as well. So we'll see.

But rather than rehash the class in detail, I'd like to wax philosophic. K? K.

Here are some random thoughts vis-a-vis the recruiting of high school football players.

Al Gore and the Internets

Remember when 99% of your sporting news arrived either rolled up and wrapped in red rubber band on your driveway or stuffed weekly/monthly in your mailbox? Back when Tiger Rag was only available in newsprint, LSU football news travelled to most of us only as fast as a writer could write, a publisher could publish, and a mailman could drive.

But thanks to Al Gore and his discovery of the internet, all that has drastically changed. These days, "insider" information can blitz its way across the planet at the speed of a broadband connection - apparently INSTANT and SIMULTANEOUS. In short order, what was a small core of number-crunching, detail-oriented recruiting geeks exploded into a huge cadre of information junkies, binging on every detail of the skills and lives of thousands of high school juniors and seniors each year.

Of course, the marketplace being what it is, not much time elapsed before the money makers started making money. Rivals and Scout started charging to access premium parts of their web sites. Sports Illustrated and ESPN are following suit with free versions of their own recruiting services.

So, now - for free or for a fee, depending on your level of addiction - ANYONE can watch film of ANY high school football or basketball player considered a college prospect. I think this is AWESOME. My wife, on the other hand? She'd like her husband back...I'm working on that!

Social Networking Tools

Watch any teenager for more than 20 minutes straight and you can bet they'll check their cell phone at least 4-5 times. Communication has changed. Kids are connected, 24-7. And the boundaries of geography or school identity are no longer applicable. Email, blogs, MySpace/Facebook, texting, cell phones - a potential college recruit can develop a new social network in a matter of hours. Consider how easy it would be, for instance, for a kid to develop a comprehensive and very active network of football buddies from across the state and nation after a university-sponsored football camp. Once that happens, there are no limits to the amount and type of information that the kids can share. And not just among teammates - add to that coaches (current and potential), potential recruits from other schools, player advocates, etc.

How long before a group of 7 or so all-star athletes leverage this to enhance their future earning potential? Can we legally regulate this kind of thing without invading privacy? If not, how long before the following scenario plays out?

Seven high 4-star and 5-star players meet at football events, like a junior day and then the AAA game the next year. They decide that they will go to the same school so that they can possibly help that school dominate on the national level. They do this because they know it means more national attention, which means higher NFL draft potential, which means more $$$.

A bit far fetched? Maybe in details. But certainly not in theory. In fact, I'm sure this is happening on a small scale as you read. I'm just waiting for someone to break the story.

That's enough on recruiting in 2008.

2009 has already started, though. Expect a few posts about the guys coming up in this next class, because I'm told it's going to be a special year for LA football recruits. Which means, if LSU repeats its in state success, it will be a special recruiting year for LSU.

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