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Should We State Fans Be Concerned With Football Recruiting At This Point?

August 9, 2010
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With only four commitments on the board following summer camps, two of whom are a punter and a longsnapper and the other two of whom are both lightly regarded prospects, is it time to start worrying about the state of State’s 2011 football recruiting class?

The answer to me at this point is both “yes” and “not necessarily.”

(Before we go any further, Exhibit A where “The Monkey Boards” have value: this excellent annual thread from posters Nate2010 and toddl that gives a clear, concise breakdown of prospects on the board and how much need there is at every position. The first posts from Nate and the updated posts from Todd throughout the thread are required reading whenever delving into the current status of State football recruiting.)  

“Yes,” in the sense that most schools are locking up a majority of their class now in the way of verbal commitments. While it’s possible that Tom O’Brien can close the football season strong and catch the eye of some prospects that may have given up on State after three losing seasons, most of them may have already verbally committed elsewhere.

While a verbal commitment carries no “legal” weight to it, un-committing is typically looked upon unfavorably and very few prospects do so. Given TOB’s background, he usually doesn’t target a wishy-washy kid to begin with, so hoping for some last-minute switches if State surprises on the field is unrealistic.

I say “not necessarily” for this reason: For the first time since O’Brien took over, State actually has the luxury of not needing to sign their maximum number of prospects. There’re only 17 open scholarships heading into signing day, so State could wind up signing only 18-20 kids and be fine with respect to scholarship numbers.

Given the four that are on board at the moment, the remaining 13 kids could come from a group of prospects taking a wait-and-see approach to the year and make their decision after their courting schools complete their seasons. There won’t be much elite talent within that group, but I could see some three-star kids willing to wait until the football season concludes before making their decision.

For the sake of State football (and O’Brien), we State fans should hope there are at least 13 undecided gems out there to fill out our full compliment of scholarships. We can’t afford to go through a “dead” year where we sign only 12-15 legit prospects. If O’Brien and the Pack struggle this year and Debbie Yow decides to let O’Brien go (perhaps in part looking at the impending recruiting results), Pack football and the new coach might find themselves in a similar position to where O’Brien was when he took over four years ago–facing a depleted roster too thin to field a squad capable of competing for a few seasons.

The “hole” in the recruiting classes at the end of Amato’s tenure made things difficult for O’Brien, especially when the injuries came and he had to turn to walk-ons to take their places. State football can’t afford to be in that same position five years later.

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7 Comments leave one →
  1. Plz2BStateFan permalink
    August 9, 2010 2:14 pm

    Its a big deal. It looks bad to recruits who dont see many kids signing with State.

    If we build some momentum this season, I hope there are still some quality recruits left.

  2. Wufpax#1 permalink
    August 9, 2010 3:05 pm

    A lot can happen between a junior and senior season in High School football. A 3-4 star junior does not necessarily translate into a 3, 4, or 5 start senior season. Conversely, an under developed and off the board junior may make a big splash in his senior year.

    I am comfortable that TOB and his staff have their eyes on some prospects with a lot of upward potential. I can recall a number of deficiencies noted concerning TOB when State hired him, but recruiting was not one of them.

    TOB tends to recruit to need with an eye toward potential and coachability, unlike his predecessor who loaded the cupboards with talented athletes and then he had them play out of position and we all remember how that turned out over the last couple of Amato’s seasons. It also reduces the risk of seeing what is happening over on the Hill happening at State. I would rather have one George Bryan than a team full of Marvin Austins.

  3. Alan Pate permalink
    August 9, 2010 3:13 pm

    No. Wait until the season, and recruits come to the games.

  4. August 9, 2010 7:13 pm

    Forgive me in advance for thinking out loud…

    This raises a question for me: Why don’t coaches alternate between a year of full-press recruiting and a year of wait-and-see? Or the more extreme version of the question: Instead of endless full-press recruiting, why not take every other year off?

    It may sound crazy, but hear me out:

    1. Consider what we economists call the “opportunity cost” of recruiting. The immense amount of time and resources devoted to recruiting every year could be redirected to more productive purposes, like actually improving the players already on the roster.

    2. Less time recruiting one season does not necessarily mean a proportional increase in time recruiting the next season.

    3. Less time recruiting one season does not necessarily mean a lower total talent quotient. In fact, I would argue just the opposite. Because there are “network effects” where recruits see that Lorenzo Brown and Ryan Harrow have already committed, that makes CJ Leslie more likely to commit. Therefore, when you are willing to take more prospects in a given season, you are more likely to increase your total talent quotient.

    4. In the in-between years, you can take commitments from only the prospects with the highest pre-existing desire to play for State without having to waste your time wooing them.

    5. It might signal to recruits that their would-be head coach has a little bit of that Belichick-style maverick in him. It’s a Purple Cow.

    6. If recruits knew that more of their would-be coaches’ time would be devoted to them rather than to recruiting future HS stars, they might be more apt to commit.

    Honestly I don’t see a good reason not to do it, but then again I am probably missing something (e.g. NCAA rules or conference politics).

    • August 9, 2010 10:56 pm

      Justin,

      It’s an interesting theory. But there are a couple of reasons why I don’t think it’s employed by many–if any–coaches:

      #1. Recruiting, from player to player, is not a 12-month enterprise. Coaches target and recruit kids not just following their junior years but also during them, or after their sophomore years, or sometimes during or even prior to their sophomore years. So a talented kid might need 18, 24 or even 36 months of solid, consistent recruiting in order to secure his services. In your theory a coach might start on a kid during an “on” cycle when he’s starting his junior season, but if you’re planning to cycle “off” during this kid’s final season, do you back off him if you haven’t locked him up yet? Seems counter intuitive to invest that much energy and resources into a kid to back off him later during an “off” year.

      #2. Consistency is key. I don’t know that a coaching staff can switch from full press to low key recruiting and back again on a year-to-year basis. I don’t know that the potential gains from entering a “rest” phase would outweigh the potential lost recruits that might change a program. The other thing to consider is that the level of talent within the state of North Carolina–the primary talent pool–varies from year to year as well. You can’t very well pass up on a bumper crop of kids because of being in an “off” year. You have to consistently pursue as many top kids as you can each and every year.

      Other factors can throw a monkey wrench into the on/off cycle as well. You may foresee needing only 17 kids in a given class like State this year, but what if you lose a kid to transfer, two to disciplinary reasons, another to academics and maybe a kid tries to go pro unexpectedly. Suddenly you need to fill five more scholarships you didn’t anticipate being vacant a few months ago.

      Again, it’s an interesting theory, but I just don’t see how it would work. You’d be trying to make an extremely fluid aspect of college football bend to your will, and that seems like undertaking a losing cause.

  5. Wolfpack94 permalink
    August 10, 2010 8:48 pm

    Just got my wolfpacker magazine, the recruiting problem is answered in the top 30 NC high schoolers. We offered to almost all of them, one accepted. We are not winning the recruits plan and simple.

    • August 10, 2010 8:55 pm

      Well, that’s disheartening.

      In light of the “re-ignition” of the UNC investigation story late yesterday and this afternoon, I wonder what impact those proceedings had have, do have and will have on in-state recruiting.

      Bottom line for State though is that we have to win some daggone ballgames. Games we weren’t expected to win.

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