Around The-Ozone Watercooler: Do Fans Make Too Much of Recruiting?
By the-Ozone Staff
It's late January, and that means Signing Day is right around the corner. It also means that our annual discussion about recruiting has returned to ye olde watering cooler.
Is recruiting overblown? Underblown? Just right? Is it all just a big old crapshoot that ignores the ability of the truly great coaches to develop good players and make them better?
Everybody recognizes the importance of recruiting, but it's how fans react to that importance where the disagreements come.
Brandon Castel: Recruiting has to be one of the strangest things in all of sports. Recruiting coverage is even more strange. Here we have grown men (and women) around the country waiting anxiously to see if some 17 year old kid, who may never see the field, will put their favorite school in his top 10.
Will he take a visit? Even better. Forget the fact there are 105 guys on the current roster, many of whom were high-profile recruits just a few years ago. Some of them go on to soar to celebrity status as “amateur athletes” at these football factories around the country.
That’s not meant to be a dig at college football, because these players are still required to go to class and, presumably, get an education. But fans aren’t following Ohio State to find out how Braxton Miller is doing in his sophomore math class as long as it isn’t going to jeopardize his ability to score touchdowns on Saturday.
We are a nation obsessed with football, so it makes sense there would be thousands – if not millions – of people in America who are into the minutia of college football recruiting. After all, it is the lifeblood of every program in the country.
If it wasn’t important, Urban Meyer wouldn’t be leaving his family behind to hop on a plane headed for Texas then Florida then Georgia then Pennsylvania and finally back to Ohio. He understands the importance of getting the right players into his system.
Let’s be honest, Ohio State could attract enough talent to win games without Meyer ever leaving the state. But winning championships means finding the best football players in America, no matter where they grew up.
There is no denying the importance this process plays in a team’s on-field success. Where would the Buckeyes be if they didn’t snag Ryan Shazier out of Florida or Johnathan Hankins out of Michigan? What about Terrelle Pryor out of Pennsylvania? OK, maybe that’s a different story, but it highlights the fact we tend to idolize these kids before we really know what they are all about.
No doubt, there are already OSU fans wondering what number Jalin Marshall or Ezekiel Elliott or Mike Mitchell will wear at Ohio State. After all, they need to know what jersey to get. But for every Cam Heyward or Beanie Wells who becomes a star, there is always a Rob Rose or Maurice Wells who never lives up to the hype.
Maybe that’s the real lesson.
Tony Gerdeman: Fans make too much of everything, but that doesn't make recruiting any less important than any other aspect of college football. They love recruiting because it gives them another season in which to root for their favorite teams, and gives them more opportunities to see their favorite teams stick it to their least favorite teams. It's simply another competition to pay attention to.
Now, recruiting isn't the be-all, end-all, as is proven with the likes of Mack Brown and Texas. Every year they land blue chip after blue chip, and every year Brown finds a way to blow it. You still have to develop the talent that you land.
However, Mack Brown also won a National Championship on the arms and legs of Vince Young, who was the number one quarterback in the 2002 recruiting class, so that alone should tell you how important recruiting is.
People who downplay recruiting love to cite all of the two and three-star players that go on to become All-Americans, which is absolutely accurate. However, I'd also like you to take a look at the roster of the Indiana Hoosiers or the Connecticut Huskies, because you'll find a ton of two and three-star recruits there as well.
Recruiting is just another appendage of college football, so I can't fault anybody for being enamored by every aspect of the sport. Those who downplay recruiting's impact tend to point to exceptions to the rule. However, when it comes to college football, it's the exceptional who rule. That, my friends, comes from recruiting, and because of its importance, it's hard to say that too much is made of it.
That doesn't mean that some don't take it too far, because they absolutely do. Tweeting derogatory things to recruits who spurn their school for another is pretty despicable, but I guarantee that those people are doing similar things to existing members of rival football teams as well. It's not that fans take recruiting too seriously, it's that idiots take everything too seriously.
I've always enjoyed recruiting because it's a year-round thing. There is no offseason. But back in the day, you had to work a little harder to get the information that you wanted. Today, it's so easy to get information that anybody can do it, including the crazies.
Relative to everything else, recruiting is no worse than any other part of college football fandom.
Michael Chung: Have we gone too far? As a recruiting analyst with the O-zone—at the risk of losing my post— I would have to answer a resounding yes! We forget that these are kids, not heroes or celebrities, and the priority is their future, not one’s beloved sports team.
Just recently, news leaked that Ezekiel Elliott was taking a visit to Missouri. Ohio State recruiting fanatics instantly were up-in-arms via twitter and social media. In response to Elliott’s visits, Marc Givler of Rivals and BuckeyeGrove tweeted some real rational wisdom, “I always cringe when fanbases attack recruits/commits on twitter. Probably not the best idea if you want your team to land (a) kid.” Givler also tweeted, “I've said this a million times but fans can't win a recruit over twitter for their team but they can sure as heck lose them for their team.”
I am in 100% agreement with Givler. As responsible citizens, one must remember that fans are getting worked up over where a 17-18 year old is choosing to go to school. These are young people and if they are 17, the parents must sign the Letter of Intent. Ezekiel Elliott is 17 and when February 6 rolls around, his parents will sign his LOI. Tweeting Elliott’s mother and attacking on Twitter does nothing positive for anyone.
Alex Anzalone talked to me over the phone after his OSU de-commitment. I asked him what were some of the things he had to endure. He responded by saying:
1.) OSU fans apparently went on the website ratemydoctor.com and wrote false reviews of Alex’s dad essentially trying to tarnish his reputation as a physician. Dr. Anzalone is a pediatrician.
2.) Anzalone received a number of threatening tweets that were so vulgar that he was not comfortable sharing them.
3.) Fans emailed his dad’s office complaining about his son’s de-commitment.
Have we gone too far?
When covering the Army All American Bowl, I had a chance to spend time with some USC commits; many also had an OSU offer. Looking at these young men—most of whom were 5 star prospects—it hit me that these young people are not superstars, they are kids. Had they not mentioned their names to me or were not wearing an Army All-American Jersey; I would not have known that they were ball players. They just looked like normal 17 and 18 year olds.
Fan is short for fanatic but even fanatics should have limits. When dealing with young people, we as a fan base must realize that the priority should not be our personal favorite team but the future of a young man who will most likely have a career outside of football for the long-term of his life. We should not go too far.
Patrick Murphy: Over the last several years, high school athletes’ recruitment has become immensely popular for fans of their college teams to follow. It has become easier due to more extensive coverage by ESPN and other sports networks and with the invention of social media. Fans now have access to their team during the offseason, which keeps them interested all year long.
Ohio State fans are no different. Because they are some of the most passionate in the country they keep tabs on what is going on regardless of season. While Ohio State fans have always adored the Buckeyes, the interest in the prospects has never been so high. It is true that the coverage and access is greater, but there is one man who can be blamed for the over-the-top following 17 and 18 year-old athletes: Terrelle Pryor.
The former Ohio State quarterback that fans have grown to dislike was one the most sought after high schoolers in recent memory. For many Buckeye fans, he may have been the first player whose name was recognized before he put on the uniform, maybe even before he decided to attend the “University of Ohio State.”
He was part of a recruiting class that was ranked at the top of many polls and attracted attention of fans that normally paid no attention to players until they were on the field. There have been many great players recruited to this school, yet Pryor was the one that attracted the most attention.
Following recruitment has grown into an obsession that is close to the games themselves, at Ohio State and beyond. Signing day now comes with a full day’s coverage by experts, who tell fans how good these players “will be” at their schools.
What makes the obsession with recruitment so unnecessary is that these youngsters are yet to prove anything while they are being recruited. They still must come to school, put in the work, and prove it on the field.
There are plenty of Buckeye legends who were not thought greatly of in high school, yet became stars when they arrived on campus. Household names like Troy Smith, James Laurinaitis, A.J. Hawk, and Santonio Holmes were not considered big-time recruits, while Mike D’Andrea, Justin Zwick, Maurice Wells, and Robert Rose were highly recruited.
While it is true that recruiting is the lifeline of every program it does not guarantee success. For years fans paid little attention to recruitment, but now it has become a season of its own. It has grown into a monster that creates unnecessary expectations and huge disappointments. Players have been subject to threats and hate messages to players that choose a different school.
While it is nice for fans to be aware of the incoming talent, the frenzy has become too much – and caused many issues – about something that is so unsure.
Ken Pryor: There is no need in discouraging fans from getting caught up in the pomp and circumstance that is high school recruiting for football and/or basketball. Its here to stay so you may as well get with it, ignore it, or turn off your computers and televisions and go dig a hole for yourself.
The recruit game (somewhat like the drugs in America) has interwoven itself so deeply into the socio-economic fabric, to get rid of it would almost be detrimental to so many other facets of society.
Internet websites and magazines would be rendered virtually non-essential if not non-existent were it not for following the recruitment of blue chip athletes. We are treated on a daily basis with stories, anecdotes and the like for young men who seemingly are taking full advantage of their 15 minutes of fame. And why shouldn’t they? Everybody else is!
I’m quite okay with receiving tweets from m BCast and Gerd throughout the course of my day regarding the recruiting battles, visits, and stories including re-tweets from the recruits themselves. They enhance my work day and make the day go by quicker than it normally would.
Without the following of recruiting we would lose the likes of Phil Steele, Rivals, Scout, Bucknuts, Tom Luginbill and myriad others. These folks provide some serious insight into the kids themselves and allow fans a glimpse of what they can expect from that player before he ever arrives on campus.
We would also lose entertainment. How many of us can’t wait to check out the ESPN 7 on 7 tournaments featuring various recruits the Buckeyes have offered? I know I did. Games I missed, I caught them later on DVR.
You don’t like the recruiting game? Then I guess you don’t like watching the US Army All American game featuring all the best players in the nation. If they aren’t in that game, then they can be seen in the Under Armour All American game.
I don’t know about you, but I was quite pleased with what I saw from Beanie Wells in the Army All American game. Not only did It give me a glimpse of what to expect from Beans, but the entire B1G Conference was given fair warning as well.
The recruiting onslaught also allows for the average fan to impact getting the best players to come to their favorite university. If a fan knows who player X is, then those fans might go out of their way to show him love when he arrives at the spring game, the local restaurant, or out on the town. Ohio State fans are very familiar with this concept on the opposite end of the spectrum as it relates to Alex Anzalone. You win some, you lose some. The point is, we wouldn’t even know who some of these guys were if it were not for their faces being made available throughout the recruiting process.
The key words we hear all the time are “fan experience” or “fan interaction”. If fans can’t follow recruiting, then they may only develop a limited affinity for the players or the team.
Its all part of the process now. The experience for the casual fan is more interactive than ever before. I’m okay with this…until my favorite player is spooked by posing in a picture with a miscreant. Then I might change my mind…momentarily.
John Porentas: With deference to my colleagues above, recruiting information and interest in it is not new. I first remember following recruiting back in the 1980s when Earle Bruce was landing classes that included names Jim Lachey, Steve Maggs, Keith Byars, Chris Carter, Chris Spielman, Tom Tupa, John Frank, and others.
Back then, there was one guy selling recruiting information, a guy named Joe Terranova (not sure on the spelling of that) who was the founder of the industry that exists today. He published a news letter about three times a year. His full-time gig was at Ford Motors in Detroit where he was an executive and also dabbled in recruiting while following his favorite team, the Illlinois Fighting Illini. His writing style was very entertaining. He poked fun at both recruits and coaches and didn't take himself too seriously. It was a great product.
Personally, I have no problem with people following recruiting for all the reasons that Tony Gerdeman pointed out above. That's just good clean fun. What grinds on me is the insistence of those covering it that they can predict success or failure. I've met a lot of those people, and I'm pretty sure some of them would be mystified if confronted by an actual jock strap. Too often they are people who haven't played or coached the game they are covering, yet they are "expert" at evaluating talent.
Joe Terranova would hate the looks of industry he founded. For him it was interesting and fun, but he didn't take it or himself overly seriously. The hyperbole and and hubris that is now associated with recruiting coverage translates to the vitriol and bad behavior we see on Twitter today.
So yeah, it's gone a little bit over the cliff, and that's too bad. I know I pay less attention to the process because of the way it is covered and how serously some people take it because of that coverage, and I doubt I am alone.
Hey, cool. I just Googled Joe Terranova and got this.
Feature story on Joe