Don’t hate the player, hate the game.
This tired, overworked expression fits when it comes to recruiting. It applies when we examine how coaches will freely recruit players who have already committed, and it more than fits when we examine the players and their role in making national signing day the spectacle it has become.
Long gone are the days where a signed piece of paper—aka the National Letter of Intent—was the story.
This process of choosing a college and making it official with a signature is still the end game, but it’s how we get there that generates buzz. Some like the scene, others would much rather do without the hoopla, fireworks and (hopefully) live animals. I cannot stress this enough; live animals, which can be mascot-related or simply just random live animals, should be required.
Regardless of where you stand on recruits making the most of their moment, know this: The players, who are indeed taking their decision-making to another level, are doing so because they have a forum and stage that encourages it. We are all to blame—if you’re indeed unhappy with this trend—for what it has become.
In 2013, each high school senior isn’t just selecting where he’ll be attending college for the next three to four years. He’s doing do so by skydiving out of an airplane with an entire marching band, zeroing in on one of three targets below. Each gargantuan platform is surrounded by fire and accompanied with a logo of one of the three schools he is considering. Once he touches down with an entire nation of recruiting zombies watching on live television, then it’ll be official.
Unless…the player touches down, smiles and quickly jetpacks over to another target as one final “gotcha,” which seems very possible. Then perhaps it will truly be official.
Or…the player has a sudden, unplanned change of heart after the stunt while positioning his letter of intent in the fax machine, which he only learned existed seven minutes before someone showed him how to turn it on. Once that signature is in, then it will be officially official. Don’t even ask about transfers.
These surprises and televised memorable moments have helped morph national signing day—along with the long, unpredictable road that leads up to it—from a cult-like 24-hour stretch for the junkies to a national holiday (or “sick day”) for adults around the country. And while the example stunt has not been attempted (yet), the ridiculous nature of this day is being pushed further as interest grows.
After all, we watched former Georgia running back Isaiah Crowell lift a small bulldog puppy up in the sky to announce he would take his talents to Athens. Crowell has since taken his talents elsewhere, but the moment will remain etched upon our memories forever.
More recently, we saw Landon Collins commit to Alabama on live television—which actually came shortly before national signing day—while his mother sat beside him bewildered with an LSU tone and frown. This wasn’t scripted like many others, that’s for certain, but instead the result of a family disagreement caught on camera.
Even more recently, how about on Monday, 3-star Florida linebacker Keith Kelsey picked Louisville as his school of choice in the fall. Before he did, however, he gave Kentucky fans plenty of ammunition for future booing.
Recruits are given a stage, television time and a forum to be unpredictable. Each recruit's decision is a culmination of thousands of letters and hours spent mulling over the future—an incredibly stressful period for an 18-year-old being pulled in every which direction.
Some choose to spend this moment taking advantage of the cameras and the coverage. Others, like 2013 5-star defensive end Carl Lawson, will instead call the school and send in their LOI without making much of a sound. It all depends on the player and the situation.
Companies like ESPN are spending millions of dollars on their national signing day television coverage, hoping for fewer Carl Lawsons and more drama, more indecisive moments, more props, more hats, more cheers, more boos and, hopefully, more live animals.
After all, where’s the excitement in one of the nation’s premier talents simply faxing in decision without the cameras in front. Well, perhaps the Fax Girls will be there to spice up an uneventful commitment.
It’s a combination of things that have added to the circus, and the recruits have certainly played a role. The coverage (raises hand) has been just as if not more influential, however, and the environment has really molded a new era.
Is this a good? Is it bad?
This depends in large part on who you are. For some, a hat ceremony is already too much. For others, they would pay good money to watch coaches of opposing teams battle in a ring for a player’s commitment while the recruit watches in anticipation.
While I do enjoy a good show and see no harm in a little fun, it does worry me a bit to see where it’s headed. It’s a lot to ask of an 18-year-old on the biggest day of his life, and you have to wonder what’s next. Not just for the players, or recruiting’s biggest day, but recruiting in general.
Regardless of our differing stances, this peculiar side to a booming business is not set to subside. Cameras will become more frequent, commitments will become more extravagant and national signing day is likely only scratching the surface of what it will become.
Sure, they’re they ones with the hats, but we’re the ones just dying to talk about it, driving them to take it further. In some cases, we'll do the work for them.
While the players will receive both praise and criticism for their actions on their biggest stage, we’ve all played a part in bringing it to another level. For better or worse, or better yet, whichever includes more live animals.
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Things couldn’t get much better for Johnny Manziel.
After unexpectedly snatching up the starting quarterback job at Texas A&M, “Johnny Football” rose to celebrity status while leading the perennially underachieving Aggies to national prominence. Concluding the season with a 41-13 trouncing of former Big 12 brother Oklahoma, he mesmerized the nation—slashing school and conference records, beating No. 1 Alabama and eventually winning the Heisman Trophy.
Oh yeah, and that was all as a freshman.
Of course, the question now is, “Where does Johnny Football go from here?” He’s achieved more in his first year than most college players do in their whole careers. Amassing 4,600 yards of total offense in 2012, he surpassed Cam Newton’s SEC record.
He also topped Archie Manning’s 43-year old conference record (shared by Rohan Davey) for most yards of total offense in a game, twice, with 557 against Arkansas and 576 against Louisiana Tech.
With Manziel at the helm, Texas A&M could be in position for a BCS bowl appearance next season. Heck, the Aggies might even have a shot at an SEC title.
However, the other side to the coin is that if Manziel continues to impress, he may not stay in college long enough to make good on those dreams. While the gridiron wizard still has three years of eligibility left, he can declare for the draft as early as spring 2014, and he would do so with good reason.
The NFL is filled with more mobile quarterbacks than ever before, with breakout rookies Russell Wilson and Robert Griffin III both making cases for the 2012 Rookie of the Year award—not to mention athletic second-year players Cam Newton and Colin Kaepernick, who are making noise in the league. Kaepernick, of course, will be leading his team in the Super Bowl this Sunday.
And while some of Manziel’s success might be credited to his involvement in head coach Kevin Sumlin’s offense, according to ESPN’s draft expert Mel Kiper Jr., “Manziel isn’t just a product, he’s a prospect.”
In Kiper’s November breakdown of the 2012 Heisman candidates, he showered the QB with compliments:
I think Manziel has potential to be a first-round pick, and more than a Sumlin creation… In terms of the scouting profile, Manziel’s strengths are his accuracy and ball placement, pocket awareness and maneuverability and command of the system.”
The biggest knock Kiper gives is Manziel’s size (6’1”, 200 pounds). “He’ll be dinged on height, but he’s no shorter than Drew Brees, who could be a good comparison at some point.”
Obviously, Mr. Football’s athleticism can’t be denied, but he’d be smart to start tweaking his game in preparation for the physicality that awaits him at the next level.
Take Washington’s RG III for example.
At 6’2”, weighing 217 pounds, Griffin is much less suited to be taking on NFL hits than 6’5”, 245-pound Cam Newton. However, the dazzling runner continued to take on big hits, many coming on designed QB running plays.
There was a toll for Griffin’s heavy hit count, as a frightening blow from the Baltimore Ravens’ Haloti Ngata resulted in Griffin’s sprained LCL. That injury would come back to haunt the Redskins in their first playoff game, as Griffin tore both his ACL and LCL in a 14-24 losing effort against the Seattle Seahawks.
Somebody Manziel might do well to observe is Seattle’s 5’11”, 206-pound Wilson. Wilson, who modeled much of his game after Brees, played all 16 games this season.
While Wilson still used his fleet feet to extend plays, his strategy centered around creating time for his receivers to get open, rather than racking up tons of rushing yardage. When Wilson did decide to run, his tendency was to slide in front of defenders, rather than barrel forward in Tim Tebow-like fashion.
There’s no doubting that Johnny Manziel has the talent to take his career as far as he wants. However, if he wants to last, he’ll have to become more like Wilson, and less like RG III.
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As the BCS comes to an end in 2013, so too ends what's become a huge part of the BCS era:
These are the teams that have the best chance of making one final run at a BCS berth before the college football postseason changes forever. Some of these teams have produced some of the best BCS bowls in history, such as Boise State's thrilling win over Oklahoma.
Others, like NIU's big loss to Florida State, have been complete duds.
So, what five teams have a chance to bust the BCS one last time? Read on.
As we near National Signing Day on Feb. 6, several high-profile recruits ranked in the ESPNU 150 have committed in January.
That includes athletes on both sides of the ball, ranging from defensive ends to running backs.
Here's a look at the top five commits of January 2013.
5. Derrick Green, RB, Michigan
Ranked No. 38 overall by ESPN, Green is a physical, downhill runner, who almost always falls forward and can push the pile, racking up yardage after contact.
At 6'0", 215 pounds, the Virginia native has the frame and strength to be an asset for Brady Hoke's pro-style offense in 2013. He's very decisive with the pigskin, and he runs with the kind of no-nonsense attitude Hoke will love.
Green is arguably Michigan's most important recruit of 2013, given his ability and how he fits in with the program.
4. Tim Williams, DE, Alabama
The No. 36 recruit according to ESPN, defensive end Tim Williams has the strength, burst and explosiveness to be a nightmare for opposing offensive linemen.
But Williams' appeal goes beyond his physical abilities. He's also very good at recognizing blocking schemes, and he takes direct, decisive angles to the ball. Combined with his motor, it's somewhat of a perfect storm.
The Louisiana native does need to add some bulk, and developing his pass-rush skills will make him a more complete player. But he's already an excellent run-defender, which should serve him well in the rough-and-tough SEC.
3. Elijah Daniel, DE, Ole Miss
The No. 34 overall recruit according to ESPN, Daniel has the size and length to hold up well in the SEC.
The Indiana native shows surprising quickness and athleticism for a 249-pounder, with the ability to bend around blocks. He's not a speed-rusher, per se, but he does have the ability to side step opposing linemen to get into the backfield.
He'll need to develop his technique to be a major player in the SEC, but he has the physical tools and motor to be an impact player in due time.
2. Max Redfield, S, Notre Dame
The Fighting Irish scored a touchdown when Redfield committed to them on Jan. 4.
The No. 23 recruit in the class, Redfield has the size and athleticism to step in right away for Notre Dame with Zeke Motta headed to the NFL. His speed, combined with his explosiveness, translates well to the next level.
Redfield's physical attributes, as well as his awareness and hands (he played receiver at Mission Viejo High School), could make him a hard-hitting ball hawk for Brian Kelly's defense.
After the season Notre Dame had on the defensive side of the ball, Redfield stands to continue the tradition of playing hard-nosed football at South Bend.
1. Laquon Treadwell, WR, Ole Miss
The No. 19 recruit in the class and the No. 1 receiver, Laquon Treadwell should have no trouble transitioning to college ball in the SEC.
The Illinois native is a graceful, explosive wideout with the ball skills and ability after the catch to weave his way through defenses in the coming years. Considering his measurements (6'3", 195 pounds), he plays with much more fluidity than you would expect.
With a natural feel for the game, deceptive speed and incredible leaping ability, it won't be long before Laquon Treadwell makes his mark on college football's landscape.
His last name isn't "Treadwell" for nothing.
What are your thoughts?
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As the UCLA Bruins enter winter workouts in preparation for the 2013 season, there is plenty of excitement and anticipation for the second year of the Jim Mora era.
After showing marked improvement as a program in 2012, UCLA is armed with a solid core of returning starters and a stacked recruiting class, so expectations are elevated.
But there are still a number of questions left unanswered, the most notable of which comes in the wake of RB Johnathan Franklin's graduation.
Who is going to step up to replace The Mayor's production?
Franklin was UCLA's heart and soul last season, leading the way on the field, in the locker room and just about anywhere the Bruins needed leading. The senior captain compiled 1,734 yards and 13 TDs en route to becoming the program's all-time leader in rushing and all-purpose yards.
Needless to say, Franklin's departure raises serious doubts about the depth and experience in the UCLA backfield.
There are a few returning Bruins plenty capable of shouldering the burden, but only time will tell if any of them can handle being the go-to guy week in and week out.
As we move forward in this slideshow, it's important to consider the framework for these way-too-early stat projections.
Returning (or incoming) personnel, production lost to graduation and individual players' statistics from previous seasons will each weigh heavily in the decision to divvy up touches.
Read on for complete statistical projections of UCLA's most likely leading rushers for the 2013 college football season.
With 22 commitments already in the fold, Ohio State head coach Urban Meyer is looking to put the finishing touches on his 2013 recruiting class.
Unfortunately for the Buckeyes, that finishing touch won't include 3-star offensive tackle Dan Skipper, Meyer's top offensive line target.
The former Tennessee commit reopened his recruitment after Derek Dooley's termination, and it quickly became a two-horse race between Arkansas and Ohio State. Meyer and the Buckeyes lost that race, though, according to The Denver Post.
Arkansas landsabig recruit in Colorado prep OL Dan Skipper (6-10, 295), who also had offers from Tenn, Ohio State, Michigan and Ole Miss— Dudley E. Dawson (@Dedsports) January 28, 2013
Despite the fact that Arkansas will be going through a transition with new head coach Bret Bielema, Skipper is very familiar with offensive coordinator Jim Chaney and offensive line coach Sam Pittman, both of whom were coaching at Tennessee when Skipper initially committed to the Volunteers.
Meyer was looking to add depth to an offensive line that recently lost one of its most heralded members in Joey O'Connor, but he will have to look elsewhere now that Skipper is off the table.
The only other prospect on Meyer's radar is Cameron Hunt, a 4-star offensive guard who is currently committed to California. If Hunt decides to stick with the Golden Bears, Meyer will likely be stuck with what he has.
Ohio State's 2013 recruiting class features just two pure offensive lineman—4-star offensive tackle Evan Lisle and 3-star offensive tackle Tim Gardner—although defensive line prospects Billy Price and Donovan Munger could both make a switch to add depth on offense.
The Buckeyes return four starters from last year's offensive line in 2013, but all four of those starters will be graduating after the end of the season. Building depth now for 2014 and beyond is one of Meyer's top priorities.
*All recruit rankings per ESPN
Follow David on Twitter @davidreg412
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Coach Brady Hoke and the Michigan Wolverines have landed the top running back recruit in the nation, according to Rivals, in Derrick Green.
Michigan fans always cheer for the Maize and Blue, but now they will cheer for Green in the fall.
Green is expected to have an immediate impact on the field as Michigan makes the shift to the pro-style offense. The number one ranked running back is the center piece of Hoke's strongest recruiting class.
However, Green's commitment has deep implications that extend beyond adding an impact player to the Wolverines offense.
With the 2013 season just seven months away—I know, it's never going to get here fast enough—it's never too early to start counting your losses before the spring game picks you right up again, right?
We've gone through each Pac-12 team's core units* and noted the losses in each unit. Some teams have a few holes here and there while others aren't so lucky. We then went ahead and ranked each team from the lowest to highest returning core starters.
In other words, if you return enough guys in each unit to not have to rebuild—rather, reload—you're looking pretty good.
*Some schools' depth charts were not official, so keep in mind that these evaluations are based on the best information we have at the time.