Friday, December 25, 2009

"I'll Be Home for Christmas" --- With No Football???

Like many people, my plans for this Christmas changed after being snowed in with the blizzard.  Typically, much of Christmas is spent with extended family, but this year, I'm only going as far as the new snowblower will take me.  The kids aren't affected that much; Santa still made it so there are plenty of new toys to play with.  But television is a wasteland today.  The Aloha Bowl and Blue-Gray games are history, meaning Christmas is now sadly football free.  In fact, no real sports at all on the television dial.  Just figure skating on NBC and the Not Basketball Association pretending to play hoops on ABC.  Movies aren't much better.  TBS is playing that gawd-awful "A Christmas Story" non-stop.  "You'll shoot your eye out" gladly if you actually watch that tripe.  Best thing so far was Caddyshack.  Not Christmas related at all, but better than a test pattern.

In all the hustle and bustle of the holidays, I did get out to the UNO/Minnesota State-Mankato hockey game last Saturday night.  It's somewhat ironic that we're seeing UNO is so many low-scoring games despite Dean Blais' resume of "race horse hockey".  I'm not overly concerned at this point, as I knew the transition wouldn't happen overnight, but I did expect a better November after a good October start to the season.  John Faulkner has become a steady presence in goal.  One player I keep waiting to see jump up and take the next step is Alex Hudson.  Last weekend, we saw a few spurts from him where he simply dominated the ice, failing only to get the puck into the net.

Briejay fans are up in arms over a now-deleted rant by Creighton guard P'Allen Stinnett where Stinnett posted something on Facebook criticizing fans...and of course, the Briejay fans took offense, and the posting in question quickly disappeared from Facebook.  Truth be told, while Stinnett wasn't being politically correct, he did point out the bandwagon nature of some Creighton fans as of late.  Now I admit I don't follow Creighton basketball (though I probably would have watched a Bluejay game today since there was so little else to watch!), but I have heard the bandwagon Creighton fans criticizing the team and Dana Altman, who's the most successful coach in Creighton history.  Not to suggest that Altman doesn't make mistakes, but the idea that Creighton could do better than Dana Altman is laughable.  And I imagine those same bandwagon fans were the target of Stinnett's rant last weekend.

Dirk Chatelain went back and revisited that overhyped 2005 Nebraska recruiting class yesterday.  Probably the biggest observation is the 15 recruits who either never played or played sparingly; that's almost an entire signing class prior to Bill Callahan's arrival.  But other than Ndamukong Suh and possibly Zac Taylor, very few players lived up to the hype that surrounded their signing.  But how could they live up to the fanfare that awaited them when they arrived in Lincoln?  I said it in 2005, and I'll say it again.  Rivals can only measure part of what makes a great football player.  Coaching matters...and when you look at 2007, matters more.  Good coaching can turn average talent into a good player and great talent into all-American players.  Just look at guys like Matt O'Hanlon and Suh for evidence of that.  Conversely, bad coaching can make great players look average or worse-- just look at Suh in 2007 for evidence of that.

Does that make recruiting invalid or unimportant?  Hardly.  Recruiting is important, and the starting point of building a program.  But it's just that --- a start.  The more important thing to observe is that recruiting rankings aren't necessarily relevent.  Southern Cal and Texas consistently have highly rated recruiting classes, but didn't become national powers until Pete Carroll and Mack Brown took over.  Florida State has been a consistent top-ten program in recruiting over the years, but not on the field in Bobby Bowden's twilight years.  Obviously, you want the best players you can get, but remember, recruiting experts frequently get it wrong. Earlier this week, I heard Jeremy Crabtree of Rivals suggesting that Texas wasn't recruiting the best running back in Texas, causing me to laugh.  I'd suggest that the coaching staff at Texas has a difference of opinion on who the best running back in Texas is, and frankly, Mack Brown's staff has more credibility than Rivals.

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