Locker Room: Recruiting looking very different

By Dan Callahan

The Patriot

First of all it’s early in the recruiting process. It is not final until February 2018 as far as the next college football recruiting class is concerned. However, it is likely time for some programs to become concerned. Other than Alabama, there has been a big drop off in SEC domination in football the past three years. If the recruiting numbers hold up for 2018, you might expect that decline to continue. And while it’s still early before it’s time to tabulate final results some other folks are really starting to come on, and the balance of power in college football appears to be changing, and there may not be a dominating conference, just a group of dominating teams from different regions.

Try these numbers on for size. The SEC has exactly two teams in the top 20 in national recruiting as of right now…………two. Those are LSU (3) and Tennessee (12). Florida has a recruiting class ranked at this stage at 27, Auburn 29, South Carolina 35, Alabama 41, and Georgia 63! It will not stay that way. All these teams will elevate in the rankings as the months go by, but how far will they climb? There is a rules change that will allow high school players to officially sign grant in aids as early as December starting next year, but already they are committing sooner than in past years. Teams from the past appear to be on the way back, and the southland is being raided from all across the country for recruits, and they appear excited to play in other conferences and regions of the country.

Examples. Ohio State has three recruits out of Florida, two from Georgia and one from Tennessee, and these are big time players, all four and five star recruits. The Buckeyes five star quarterback Emory Jones is from Franklin, Georgia. Michigan has four star recruits from Florida, and three from Georgia, one is Joe Milton, a four star quarterback. All of these players were recruited by the heavy hitters in the SEC, and certainly Georgia. All eight of Clemson’s recruits are from what could be termed ACC country, and also SEC territory. It’s a great year for quarterbacks in Georgia, but the Bulldogs aren’t going to get any of them. Clemson has a five star quarterback, the number one rated signal caller in the land, Trevor Lawrence, from Georgia.

There are reasons for some of the changes in recruiting. For instance, some programs, and Alabama is one of them, is taking its time and picking who they want to recruit carefully because the program is young and Nick Saban will not be able to sign a full load of 25 recruits for the 2018 class. Ohio State experienced the same situation last year. It’s not a problem, having a lot of young talent in your program is a good thing. Clemson last year finished in the top 15 in recruiting, but only signed 15 players. That indicates high quality. This year the Tigers will recruit a full load to campus. Nebraska is off to a huge start with the next group of recruits, but will at some point drop in the ratings because it too has a very young program and may not be able to sign but 15 players. So just because you don’t have a top 10 class, doesn’t necessarily mean anything is wrong.

But who’s leading the way according to Rivals, the recruiting source I chose to monitor. Miami under Mark Richt already has 17 recruits committed and at present has the number one rated class. If you are an ACC program, that’s a bit scary. Penn State is number two, four is Ohio State and I believe the Buckeyes will eventually finish with the top rated class in the country and could sign as many as eight, five star players. Notre Dame is coming on strong at number five, Clemson is six, and Dabo Swinney’s program appears as if it will remain in the top echelon of college football. Nebraska is seven, Florida State eight, Washington nine, and Southern Cal 10.

On the home front Virginia Tech just got a commitment from its top rated recruit, Darryle Simmons, a big wide receiver at 6-2, 197, out of Philly. It’s the Hokies first 4-star recruit. They have seven commitments so far, including five, 3-stars. Tech’s class is ranked 30th in the country. Bronco Mendenhall and UVa is having improved success over his first year at the helm. The Cavaliers have seven commitments too, seven are 3-stars, and defense appears to be a focus so far with three linebackers in the fold.

Basketball Recruiting:

I wonder about college basketball, and if education in some areas is even a factor anymore. Example. Kentucky just set the record for signing five star recruits in one recruiting class, six………….six!  Kevin Knox was the last one, and it’s likely he’ll be depth. That makes no sense to me. Almost 60 underclass players signed agents and have entered the NBA Draft. That’s in addition to seniors. You wonder why the NBA Players Union agrees with this. There are 30 teams. I don’t know who all of them are to be honest. I was just informed there is a team in Sacramento. That’s 30 teams and a total of 450 players. With something like 100 players entering the pool every year, you would think present NBA roster holders would want a bit of job security.

The part you don’t hear much about. About two thirds of all these underclassmen will end up in places like South Korea, Australia, Japan and so forth. Many of them will end up nowhere, maybe at your friendly Subway Shop. UCLA sent three players to the draft early, Kentucky four, Oregon three, Duke three, and even NC State, a terrible team, had three. Duke had a player who barely averaged three points go. It has just damaged my view of what I think college basketball supposed to be, but when legal stuff gets involved, and that’s how it happened, the schools back off, and you have pillars of education like Duke not graduating very many basketball players.

Kentucky and Duke are the champions of one and done, that also means one and done most of the time with education as well. But it is what it is. Go cheer for dear old whoever, but make sure you pick up a program. By the way at least four and maybe five of those six five stars for UK are expected to be done with college in one year, likely one semester of bowling classes. But you wonder who’s advising these players, or even if they care, but just look at the players who decided not to go early last year and how much it will undoubtedly help their draft status and pocket book. How about Josh Hart from Villanova, Frank Mason of Kansas, Kennedy Meeks of Carolina, and Sindarius Thornwell of South Carolina. All could have gone a year ago, but returned. It just surprises me people can’t see how well that works out most of the time. But if education is just something you don’t care about, then you don’t care.

Hokies Again:

I should mention that even without a lot of returning starters, Virginia Tech just might be better next season, and Buzz Williams appears well on his way to elevating the program in Blacksburg. The Hokies have signed the 19th rated class in the country. It is headlined by swing guard Nikell Alexander, the 29th rated player in the country. There’s a new point guard in Wabissa Bede, rated the 69th best player in the land. Add to that three star power forward recruit P.J. Horne.

How good is 19th? It’s one spot higher than national champion North Carolina. By the way, Duke has now had eight consecutive substantially higher rated classes than the Tar Heels, but it hasn’t seemed to matter to Roy Williams’ program. West Virginia had the 40th rated basketball recruiting class, and Virginia fans have to be disappointed that the Cavaliers did not crack the top 40.