One the greatest developments of the internet boom this century, especially in the sports world, is the explosion of the recruiting services. And let’s not lie, when it comes to college basketball recruiting, Kentucky fans eat up those services as much as any fanbase in the country. In general, guys like Evan Daniels have an easier job evaluating talent because of the AAU circuit, while football’s summer scene is not as organized. Which brings me to this fact: BE CAREFUL WHEN USING THESE SERVICES TO EVALUATE A FOOTBALL RECRUITING CLASS.
We all know Joker and Co. have been putting together “the best recruiting classes in school history”, but that is largely based on stars next to a guys name. But as Boise State, TCU, and Utah are proving, that doesn’t always make a great team. Look no further than 2009, when Kentucky recruited highly touted guys like Dequin Evans and Ryan Mossakowski, along with Morgan Newton. Evans was a starter for 2 years, but never made a serious impact. Mossakowski never could get past Newton on the depth chart, and Newton himself has struggled to be a great college QB. But, that problem doesn’t just rest with Kentucky. As you see above, Newton was ranked the 14th best dual-threat QB in the Class of 2009. Take a look at how the 13 guys ahead of him in those rankings have ended up:
#1 Russell Sheppard: no longer plays QB for LSU, but instead is a wide reciever. Was suspended for the first 3 games of the 2011 season.
#2 Tyrik Rollison: transferred from Auburn after his freshman season, now at Sam Houston State
#3 Geno Smith: became the WVU starter last season, has thrown for 30TD and 6 INT in just over a season as a starter. BUT, he has yet to rush for a single touchdown and only has 8 yards rushing through 2 games this season.
#4 Kevin Newsome: Sat the bench for the first 2 years at Penn State and is now searching for a transfer.
#5 Tate Forcier: started freshman season at Michigan, going 5-7. Was benched behind Denard Robinson for sophomore season and then transferred to San Jose State.
#6 Cody Green: Was backup QB first two season at Nebraska, has since transferred to Tulsa
#7 Nathan Scheelhaase: redshirted 1st season, became starter his 2nd season, leading Illinois to a 7-6 record, continues to be starter this season (2-0), has over 2,000 yards passing and 1,000 yards rushing in 15 games
#8 Shavodrick Beaver: benched first 2 seasons, transferred from Tulsa
#9 Casey Pachall: redshirted in 1st year, backup to Andy Dalton last season, starter this season for 1-1 TCU, has thrown for 457 yards and rushed for 56 through 2 games this season
#10 Jordan Reed: redshirted 1st year at Florida, moved to tight end last season
#11 Raymond Cotton: transferred after redshirting at Ole Miss, now at South Alabama
#12 Blaine Dalton: was arrested and dismissed from Missouri before ever playing, now a walk-on at Florida International
#13 Jordan Luallen: did not play 1st season at GaTech, transferred to Cincinnati, has not played this season
Only 3 of the 13 are currently starters at quarterback. And Geno Smith is really not a dual threat. 8 of the 13 guys have transferred to other schools, and another 2 are no longer playing quarterback, including the top dual threat QB in the entire class. Morgan Newton may have actually been the 2nd best QB of this group, and he was a 3-star prospect according to Rivals.
Do recruiting rankings matter? Of course. When Alabama signs 15 5-star guys, that does give them an advantage over the schools that sign zero. But of those 15 5-star players, maybe 4-5 actually become key contributors. The rest flame out too, but you don’t hear about them because of all the talent around them. But at Kentucky, if their top recruits don’t pan out, it leaves a huge gap in the program. The point is, be careful. Be excited when your team signs 4-star guys, but until they hit the field, there is no way to predict.