Sammy Vegas over at DoubleExtraPoint joined the Recruitnik nation last week in fidgeting towards the panic button over the status of Husker football recruiting. Only one thing is keeping him from declaring DefCon 5: It's the start of July.
And it's an important factor to keep in perspective. A lot can change. Harrison Beck looked like a "Day One" starter in the West Coast Offense in July 2004. He's now a backup at NC State. Josh Freeman looked like he'd be a dual-threat freak for the Huskers in July 2005. He's now a somewhat inconsistent starter for Kansas State. Blaine Gabbert promised he wouldn't do a Josh Freeman in July 2007. He'll be enrolling at Missouri next month.
For much of this decade, recruitniks have tried to drill into us the importance of recruiting. And they're partially right. It is important to recruit great players. Very important.
The problem comes in when recruitniks turn that into an obsession with recruiting rankings. Sometimes they get it spot-on right. Sometimes they don't. And further more, recruiting is only part of the puzzle. There are other factors, such as coaching and development, that come into play. It isn't an either-or situation...it's an "and" situation. You need great players, but more importantly, you need to develop them and coach them up.
Look at that 2005 recruiting class at Nebraska. Four star recruits such as Harrison Beck, Frantz Hardy, Leon Jackson, Chris Brooks, Justin Tomerlin, and Rodney Picou never made an impact at Nebraska. (Brooks still has a couple of seasons of eligibility yet, though.) Zackary Bowman would have made a bigger impact if he'd have stayed healthy. Marlon Lucky's been a fairly good running back, but hasn't matched his five-star hype to date. Ndamakong Suh, Zach Potter, Phillip Dillard, Ola Dagunduro, and Steve Octavien have also made decent contributions as well. It's a hit and miss thing.
They point out some of the highly regarded players during the "golden era" of the middle 90's. Guys like Will Shields, Ed Stewart, Calvin Jones, Derek Brown, Lawrence Phillips, Grant Wistrom, Ahman Green, Ralph Brown, and Mike Brown. Very true. Great players in high school, and great players for the Big Red. Some of them went on to be great players in the NFL as well.
But then there are the other guys who weren't so highly regarded. Mike Rucker and Mike Minter, who had long careers in the NFL with the Carolina Panthers. Russ Hochstein, who has a few Super Bowl rings. Chad Kelsay also played in the NFL. Aaron Taylor won an Outland Trophy.
Then there are a bunch of names the Recruitniks wish they had never heard of: Sacho Becvarovski, Justin Ferrell, George Guidry, Robert Pollard, Derek Allen, Jeff Perino, Chris Rainey, Trey Crayton, Constantine Dumitrescu, Brian Knuckles, Dorrick Roy, Jim Stiebel. Certainly most Husker fans never heard of them; they were highly regarded only until they signed with the Huskers.
Sometimes it's injuries (see Zackary Bowman) that come into play. Some guys can't handle school. And some guys were just overrated.
Conversely, some guys were underrated. And some guys blossomed when they got into a program where they were well coached and developed. It's not an either or thing. A two or three star guy may become an NFL player with the right coaching. And if there is one thing we learned last fall, a four or five star recruit can look like an eight-man benchwarmer if he's poorly coached.
Is Bo Pelini doing a good job of recruiting? Hard to say. Signing day is still seven months away. A lot can change. Tom Cudd, over at the BigRedNetwork, puts things in a little bit better perspective. I do believe that Pelini and his staff are going to be the exact opposite of his predecessors when it comes to coaching and development. Are they going to be the exact opposite in terms of recruiting? Maybe, but we really won't know whether that's better or worse for three or four more years.
In the meantime, let's wait and see how Pelini does. Especially this season with Joe Ganz, a 2-star quarterback at the helm.