Position Paper: Recruiting Early

Submitted by Brian on March 21st, 2012 at 10:59 AM

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Patrick Kugler, Chris Fox, Taco Charlton and Shane Morris

You may be aware that Michigan's off to a start unprecedented in the recruiting rankings era not only for them but for the Big Ten. Hints of this include relentless "Hello" posts on the front page, your strange desire to actually watch recruits' highlight reels, and Michigan State fans linking a post I wrote a while back scoffing at an MSU class that would beat Michigan four straight years.

The only other area school to rack up so many commitments so quickly is Penn State, which has piled their classes nearly full from time to time over the last decade. Even they haven't been as aggressive as Michigan. Three years ago they had 11 guys by the end of May and 15 by July. Michigan is sitting at 15 barely a month after the 2012 class signed. Their other notably quick-filling class was 2004, when they had 16 of 25 guys by August. Back then that was super quick; nowadays that would hardly raise an eyebrow.

Since Michigan's guys are almost without exception highly touted, this has caused mostly rejoicing in the Michigan fanbase. Rivals have responded with various binky-clutchings and hopeful narratives. There's also a certain portion of the Michigan fanbase that is concerned that Michigan is locking themselves in too quickly. They probably have an entire room full of various insurance contracts covering everything from dog attacks to the zombie apocalypse, but they exist. Occasionally they email me.

Here's a brief primer on why you should be happy Michigan has crammed its class full of four stars by mid-March. In retrospect this post is probably unnecessary.

This Is A Bad Idea Because Penn State Or Texas

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Early Texas commit Sergio Kindle can lift a car and plays in the NFL. Early Penn State commit Austin Hinton was a 6'2" offensive lineman. He does not play in the NFL.

The Penn State counterpoint is obvious: look at the profiles these guys have. Michigan has one recruit (Khalid Hill) who isn't on at least one of the early top 250/300s. They have enough four-star sorts to guarantee themselves a top 5 class already, on every service. Nine commits list an offer from Alabama, Ohio State, and/or Notre Dame, and that's without accounting for Shane Morris, who committed too early for heavy hitters to offer him, and the likelihood others would have picked up offers from the above if they weren't clawing their way into Michigan's class.

In contrast, a lot of Penn State's early guys were guys like Jed Hill*, Austin Hinton, and Dan Lawlor, low-to-mid three stars and saw their careers play out like they were that. PSU's '04 class saw just two four stars among the 15 who committed before their senior years, and most were barely that: Rivals gave 10 of them their lowest 3-star ranking or worse. It wasn't much different in '09. Three of the 16 early commits had four stars. They were outnumbered by guys who finished with two stars. This isn't a comparison.

Texas is. For years they've piled touted recruits like cordwood on their junior day and pursued some select out of state kids after locking up half or more of their class by this time every year. After falling on some hard times, they fired a bunch of coaches, brought in new blood, and took not one commit at their revamped junior day. A new day has dawned at Texas, which has only thirteen commits in mid-March.

Er.

Meanwhile on Mack Brown's Wikipedia page

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…five top five finishes in ten years once Brown's recruiting took hold in 2001 and no final ranking lower than #13 until the recent Davis/Gilbert implosion. If adopting Mack's deal with the devil means we'll get complacent and pay the piper in 11 years, tell me where to sign.

*[Googling for images of  PSU recruits past who did not work out reveals that Hill is now a BEEFCAKE model. I pass this long in the spirit of knowledge and an effort to increase female readership.]

We Don't Have Enough Information On These Guys

I asked all the guys who applied for Ace's job a question: "why do Michigan's recruits tend to slide when rankings are revised?" It was admittedly a bit of a trick question since the mention of Michigan implies that is relevant information; it's not.

I think only one person gave me the right answer, which is that touted recruits are expected to drop because they're already rated in the top 1% of high school football players. The threat of moving down is much greater than the potential to move up. As the year goes on, kids will show up at camps or blow up in their senior seasons and get placed above Michigan's current commits, and they'll fall for no other reason. When Ondre Pipkins surges to five-star status he slides every other recruit in the nation down a slot. That's why Scout is reasonable to give only their top 250 four stars right now when their entire 300 will have four at the end of the year—they're saying that the guys at the end are likely to slide off as unknowns or late bloomers leap ahead of them. On average, Michigan's committed recruits should see their rankings slide in the 10 months before next February.

That said, Texas recruiting class rankings the past ten years: #2, #3, #3, #5, #14, #5, #5, #20 (just 15 kids), #10, #15, #1. Texas's rankings have been depressed by relatively small sizes since they don't oversign—for example, when they finished #15 in 2003 they were second to Michigan in average star ranking*. If the Longhorns have seen their class rankings backslide because they're jumping the gun, it hasn't been by much. The on-field results didn't suffer until they encountered the kind of complacency bred by wild success.

Meanwhile, what are Michigan's coaches going to find out about Michigan's recruits before their senior seasons? Nothing. Recruits will go to a bunch of camps over the summer that college coaches can't attend and rankings will go up and down. There's one event at which coaches actually get new information about the guys they're recruiting: summer camp. The thing is, Michigan got most of the kids in the area into their camp last year. It's now more a tool for the subsequent class. Michigan had Kyle Bosch on campus a half-dozen times before he committed. They've got nothing new to learn until September.

*[That class: Burgess, Woodley, Crable, Hall, Long, Kraus, Jerome Jackson, Ryan Mundy, Brandent Englemon, and guys who didn't play. It finished #17 in the overall Rivals rankings, which is nuts. No one takes opportunity cost into account.]

Michigan Expects These Guys To Be Committed In February

A favorite of opponent fans. Decommits are increasing at about the same pace early commitments are and inevitably a guy or two is going to find that he fits better somewhere else. Last year Michigan lost commits from Caleb Stacey, Anthony Standifer, and Pharaoh Brown. Standifer was probably an academic thing since Notre Dame turned him down when he tried to commit a few months later.

In their place, Michigan signed air after a string of late recruitments went against them… and still lassoed a class somewhere between 5 and 10 in the country. If they experience the same attrition rate next year, they'll probably replace the departures with decent three-star sorts or better… and a class solidly top five. Decommits are more common, but they are not common.

Michigan's Going To Miss Out On Emerging Seniors

The most fun is when the person making these arguments makes this one back to back with the previous one. It's true that there's going to be a four star or two who emerges and gets snapped up by MSU or Iowa or something and goes on to be a thorn in Michigan's side. When you've got guys who you think are nationally elite already in your class, that's worth a shrug. Also, when someone falls out of the class or there's more attrition than expected, Michigan will have the room to take a Willie Henry or a Frank Clark or a Dennis Norfleet.

This Doesn't Matter Because Michigan's Decaying Old Staff Had The Worst Possible Transition To Its Kind-Of-Incompetent New Staff, Operated With No Upperclass Quarterbacks For Three Years, And Hired Greg Robinson

That's the ticket, Michigan State fans.

In Conclusion

Recruiting good players is good. I probably didn't need to write this post.

Comments

mgordoblue

March 21st, 2012 at 11:18 AM ^

Very good write-up on the subject, however I fail to envision a femaie who was on the fence before on this somewhat geeky football-centric blog but some BEEFCAKE is what won her over.

AAB

March 21st, 2012 at 11:18 AM ^

but wanted to point out that an Alabama offer probably doesn't mean anything anymore.  Saban has offered approximately 4000 guys, including an in-state guy who doesn't have offers from Michigan or Michigan State.  Because he's Nick Saban, and is evil, I think it's safe to say an "offer" from Alabama at this point means "maybe some day we'll think about possibly actually taking a commitment from you."  When he calls Logan Tuley-Tillman personally and asks him not to commit to Michigan, that's probably a real offer.  Some of the other ones coming out of the offer cannon...I dunno.  

Outside of a few schools (USC, OSU, Texas) that are notoriously stingy with offers, at this point I think early offers to kids out-of-region have lost a lot of their meaning.  

Carcajous

March 21st, 2012 at 11:27 AM ^

I'm not sure this is true, though I know it is a commen perception.  Scout lists Alabama as having about 100 offers out (about the same number as Michigan).  Scout's database might be off a little, but it is at least a ballpark figure.

100 offer out for an eventual class of 25 is not an unreasonable number.  

Carcajous

March 21st, 2012 at 11:52 AM ^

Thanks, that's about what I thought.  I suspect there will be very few new offers going forward since the class is pretty full and we are still looking good for a few guys high up on our list.

Side note... any idea what the approx. number for Bama is at this point (offers)?

Erik_in_Dayton

March 21st, 2012 at 11:29 AM ^

I don't think an OSU offer means much anymore either.  My OSU fan-friend (who reads Bucknuts, etc.) told me that Meyer is taking the opposite approach to Tressel's.  Meyer has a bunch of commitable and non-committable offers out there.  What a "non-committable" offer is remains a mystery of the universe. 

azul97

March 21st, 2012 at 11:37 AM ^

A point that Brian didn't mention here (but something I believe he and Ace had before) is recruiting early gives a chance for the commits to bond, be it over social media, or phone call or unofficial visits which I would think: decreases the chances of having commits decommit, helps in letting the commits "recruit" other targets early, and creates momentum and a positive atmosphere that would be enticing to some of the other targets.

Ace

March 21st, 2012 at 12:28 PM ^

Anyone who follows the commits on Twitter (I know, I know... part of the job) would say that certainly helps. I don't know if that's an intentional part of the strategy on the part of Michigan's coaches, but it's certainly worked—every commit I've talked to has discussed the bond with future teammates playing a factor in their decision, and it's tough to see any of the guys constantly tweeting out "#Team134" deciding to leave the class.

For example, the player cited as being the most likely to decommit (mostly by Buckeye fans) is Dymonte Thomas. Thomas and Shane Morris have already agreed to room together in college, and they've visited each other's homes and talk regularly. That kind of early bond wasn't impossible to form before social media, but it was much more difficult.

Also, the tight-knit nature of the class certainly played a part in the eight-commit weekend (TGMFWITHOMFW); when the dominos started falling and guys realized how much the other recruits wanted to be a part of the class, they wanted to hop on board as well.

UMaD

March 21st, 2012 at 12:37 PM ^

but I'm not sure how well that worked out last year.  People often make a big deal out of recruits bringing in other recruits but it seems very blown out of proportion to me - e.g., Ricardo Miller, Eric Manguson.  Another example is Brionte Dunn who had friends and family and an ideal situation open to him at Michigan...but went with his heart.  I'm sure there are many examples that support your idea, but I think it's something that is very overrated when signing day finally arrives.

Callahan

March 21st, 2012 at 11:46 AM ^

The only real downside of the early commit is that they don't pan out because either they were early developers or perhaps they don't work as hard. As you mentioned, these kids are all highly rated but for Khalid Hill, who is destined to play a position (H-back) that likely doesn't exist at his high school. Not taking kids because they might decommit is foolish. That's like not asking women out on dates because you're afraid they might not marry you later.

I think some people's apprehension is based on the number of decommits under Rodriguez, even though much of that was in one year. Those seemed to be caused more by the southern kids taking a good offer and waiting to see if something better comes along closer to home. (Thinking Dequinta Jones and Pearlie Graves here. Hell, you could probably throw in Shavodrick Beaver as well, if you want to consider Tulsa to be "something better closer to home.") 

TheHoke.TheHok…

March 21st, 2012 at 11:50 AM ^

HS kids do go through very different growth sperts, so a valid point.  The ideal preference is for coaches to have the full gamut of information on recruits (Junior summer camp, Senior year film) before accepting committments, then cherry picking the best.  Some schools are actually able to do this, but I imagine it's more difficult with less in-state talent.

sundaybluedysunday

March 21st, 2012 at 11:50 AM ^

Michigan had several spots open this past year come All American game time and it didn't land a single recruit even though they obviously had offers out there. And yet they still had plenty of recruits playing in each of these games. No offense but this argument just holds absolutely no water. They already have a half dozen or more prospects that will eventually attend one of these games and you're worried that they are out of the race? They're across the finish line before the gun goes off.

sundaybluedysunday

March 21st, 2012 at 12:00 PM ^

Yes, the Pocic thing does hurt, especially since the rumor is that he's favoring Ohio now, but Michigan has players that are somewhere between nearly as good to better than him already in the fold and a bird in the hands after all. Fox is like 8-10 spots behind him on rivals, and LTT is more of a project but has the perfect body for a tackle and with the prospects we've brought in has time to develop. And O'Daniel is good, but so is Gedeon. It's no guarantee that one is better than the other. My point is much like Brian's. If you're concerned you're too busy splitting hairs to look at the big picture, that these are very, very good high school football players with a lot of potential.

death by trident

March 21st, 2012 at 11:56 AM ^

In all honesty though, schools are beyond lucky if they get (4) five star recruits.  The bulk of the top recruiting classes are made up of (10-15) four star guys.  I like signing guys early if they match the skillset that the coaches are looking for.  I think sitting around and waiting for the five star guys to come in droves is a bit silly. 

Hardware Sushi

March 21st, 2012 at 12:02 PM ^

I won't downvote you because that's, like, your opinion man. But jeesh, thanks Captain Obvious...when we fill spots we can't add more players to them

I don't see how most of the guys we're getting aren't very top prospects. 4 of our offensive linement are top 13 OTs to Rivals, 2 are top 10 tackles (the third is 11th) and 2 are top 4 guards to scout, our QB is consensus top-3, we have a top-tier TE commit, a top-tier safety, a big WR that our coaches want....

...I can go on, but when you make generalizations like "most of the very top prospects prefer to hold out until AA or signing day" and contradictions are right in front of you, it sounds like you didn't read anything above. Or you're dilusional and think we'll grab 15 of the country's top-25 players.

Additionally, since all the very top prospects choose the same school at AA games or on signing day, we should probably just fill out our class then, right? I mean, we have such great examples from waiting last year....

Dunder

March 21st, 2012 at 1:17 PM ^

that a disproportionate number of this 'most of the very top' that signs late also happen to be kids surrounded by handlers and bag men and they are riding out the auction.

Hoke would be backing off and opting out of those anyway. How many times did we bemoan 'why isn't Carr chasing after so and so'.  And later on so and so would have himself and/or his school in trouble?

UMaD

March 21st, 2012 at 1:38 PM ^

Texas is primarily picking amongst 5 stars.  If the 5-star they offered at junior day says no, they move on to the next high 4-star Texas kid.  Michigan, while doing great, isn't quite on the same level (though OL was this year was pretty damn close.)  Texas can have almost whoever they want, when they want. Plan B for them is no real drop-off, so why not hold-off until more is known about recruits? 

For them, the risk of losing a kids interest is smaller than the risk of misevaluation.  So, it's smarter to wait.

For Michigan an early commitment is more beneficial.  We can't afford to wait till signing day for more than a handful of guys, because our Plan B types aren't quite at Texas' level.  There is more to be gained from 'a bird in the hand' for Michigan.

kmedved

March 21st, 2012 at 11:57 AM ^

As we know, the staff tells guys not to commit if they still want to take an official visit to another school. This should generally help with decommits, insofar as it helps Deontay Greenberry to Houston type situations from developing.

It doesn't completely eliminate decommits obviously, and probably slows down getting commits in the first place (Ty Isaac wanting to visit USC first for instance), but it does mean once they're in the class, they're probably not likelyto leave.

UMgradMSUdad

March 21st, 2012 at 12:04 PM ^

The point Brian makes about our perception of "early" being far different than it used to be is spot on. The recruiting game has changed, and part of that seems driven by social media, the proliferation of scouting services, and the push to have players rated earlier and earlier. Very few programs can have the luxury of waiting until late in the process and having a slew of 4 and 5 stars at the end all jump into the fold.  Michigan is certainly not in that position.

UMaD

March 21st, 2012 at 12:08 PM ^

Texas's rankings have been depressed by relatively small sizes since they don't oversign—for example, when they finished #15 in 2003 they were second to Michigan in average star ranking...No one takes opportunity cost into account

This is exaclty right.  A small class means you have less need (a sign of a stable program with high retention).  Discounting a recruiting class for occuring in that context is silly.  Average star rank is WAY BETTER than summing up total stars.  Quality>>Quantity.

Furthermore, having a smaller class need means you can focus your efforts and take a deeper look at potential recruits, potentially reducing the inherent risk and uncertainty.

(This of course assumes each team is operating under the same constraints, which is blown away by oversigning -- but that's still a relatively uncommon behavior outside of the SEC.)

UofM626

March 21st, 2012 at 12:18 PM ^

Nothing mow that Liar Liar is in town, he will continue to offer almost every top player on the board yearly and see what sticks. He doesn't have to deal w the academic side like a Michigan, Stanford, ND, Northwestern, even UCLA and USC have harder entry requirements

OSU offer is a joke...anyone serious about there education would turn them down over any of the schools I just spoke of.

Geh Blau

March 21st, 2012 at 12:37 PM ^

It seems like player development and individual attitude is way too important to get hung up on these luxury problems associated with early commits.  If these kids have 4* talent and we sneak a 5* here or there along the way, the rest is on the coaches and the players' character.  

The all too obvious case that stands out in my mind is Mattison's 2011 Renaissance - and with a bunch of top 250/300 talent the difference between #50 Overall and #75 Overall doesn't carry that much weight for me.  There are the Chuck Woodsons and Reggie Bushs of the college world, but betting the house on finding them doesn't seem nearly as smart as grabbing 20 other highly talented teammates.

jaws4141

March 21st, 2012 at 12:42 PM ^

Michigan better beat MSU this year.  I'm getting sick of Spartan fans talking shit.  They laugh when I mention recruiting and say it doesn't matter.  They think that Dantonio is a superior coach over Rodriguez and even Hoke.  Five loses in a row would be significant.

ColoMichiganman

March 21st, 2012 at 12:47 PM ^

The ability of hoke and co to recruit is incredible, not only at Michigan but also when you look back at San Diego state and ball state. They turned two programs around while recruiting far inferior talent than they can now. What is obvious is that stars only matter up to a certain point, this staff knows exactly what they want and are getting these players and quickly, if they can make ball state a 1 loss team it's scary thinking about what Michigan could be in the next few years.

MosherJordan

March 21st, 2012 at 1:19 PM ^

But if we all but fill our class by April, what's going to sustain us after the spring game during the long, hot summer? Tuesday's Recruitin is going to be pretty stale giving the same "still just waitin' on Levenberry" updates.

 

jabberwock

March 21st, 2012 at 1:26 PM ^

Brian- in your last paragraph you write:

"The most fun is when the person waking these arguments makes this one back to back with the previous one."

I don't know whether I should add an an m (making) or an n (wanking)?

both are appropriate, please advise.

cjm

March 21st, 2012 at 2:48 PM ^

<blockquote> Recruiting good players is good. I probably didn't need to write this post. </blockquote>

 

So true and yet perfect that you ended the post this way.

maznblu

March 21st, 2012 at 3:27 PM ^

Isn't another advantage of early commits being able to spend more time on the 2014 recruiting class and beyond?

Being one of the first colleges to contact them seems to be noticed by these kids.  I would think that a strategy of heavy early commits would help the program keep ahead of the game and continually give M an advantage in recruiting.