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On The Recruiting Trail

Feb. 1, 2011

By Matt Winkeljohn
Sting Daily

Recruiting is a big deal to a lot of people for many reasons, and today’s the biggest day on the football recruiting calendar – signing day.

Whether or not you’re planning to attend the Georgia Tech Signing Day Celebration this evening at 6:30 at the Twelve Hotel, whether or not you receive texts as signed letters of intent roll in (details on how to sign up for that here), chances are that if you’re reading this you’re going to make an effort through the day to keep tabs on Tech’s haul.

The energy created by what happens today is arguably as important, in my view, as the players who sign with the Jackets. Many fans are really, really into this. Players are into it as well. That energy is a positive, more perhaps the lifeblood of a program than the physical merits of the players.

I just wish recruiting was condensed so that some of its drama was not drawn out over so long a time. The folks who really get into recruiting, and there are plenty, check recruiting rankings and stuff like that almost year-round. There is no equivalent elsewhere in sport that I can think of at the moment.

Time for transparency.

I’m far from a recruiting nut. I follow loosely, and after having been responsible for covering a great deal of recruiting for the AJC in a former life, I have to admit there were/are aspects of the game that drive me nuts.

I rarely knew when a young man might change his mind and do something other than what he’d told me in an interview, and more than once players changed their minds after I’d written something about them. When that happened, I felt like I had failed (much like I did yesterday when I referred to Daniel Drummond as Jon, and erroneously reported that Anthony Williams was moving to the offensive line).

Imagine how a coach feels when a kid de-commits.

That’s a miserable term there.

In speaking with head coach Paul Johnson last week, we didn’t talk at all about recruiting specifics; that wasn’t the point of the interview.

But we did speak in general about recruiting, just briefly, and coach Johnson loathes the term commitment and not just because of the strange recruiting cycle he and his program have gone through of late. The term means something to him that it does not always mean to the kids who “commit.”

He believes a different word is needed. I agree.

I also think that rather than having one signing day, in February, there ought to be three. One should be a week in late August, before high schools and colleges begin their seasons. Wow, would this take a lot of pressure off a lot of people, and with all the scouting done while players are juniors and at summer camps, combines and the like, there’s already plenty of intel on these kids.

Another would come in November, as in basketball and many other sports. This would be roughly equatable with the end of the regular season.

The last date/period ought to be in June to leave a window for kids who had problems qualifying, or medical issues, or whatever.

I imagine that in many cases there would be no scholarships left in June in some programs. Then again, perhaps some college players would decide after spring practice to transfer or drop out, and there might be some creation of scholarships that way.

If my idea were to work as I envision, the two early signing periods would take care of the majority of the process, dilute its buzz in winter, and a more realistic offseason might be created.

I wish, too, that somebody could come up with way to do away with press conferences for players, and repeated media interviews for kids ranging in age between 16 and 18. It can’t be a good thing in the grand scheme that recruiting writers are calling these kids dozens of times each, sometimes beginning in their sophomore years in high school.

Some of them might love that stuff. But all of it feeds into a monster of a product that creates expectations that are not only difficult to measure up to, but difficult to measure at all.

The “star” rankings that some of the services use are absurd.

Some (but not all) high-falutin’ players don’t work out – often because they’re practically grown men ahead of their time and they dominate their peers the entire time they’re growing up. Then, they get to college, and get drilled by bigger and older players and they never catch back up, struggling to overcome some adversities they’ve not been girded to face.

In some cases, those players were propped up by unrealistic projections in the scouting game.

Other times, decent players who got to be decent by busting their humps at everything they do keep doing that, even with their two-star rankings, and they keep tracking upward.

Give me more of those guys. The Jackets will be getting a big share of them today.

This was an inexact outing so send sane suggestions regarding the recruiting process to stingdaily@gmail.com.

–RamblinWreck.com–

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