Interesting piece on ESPN.com by Ivan Maisel, in which he examines the effort by some college football programs to "go national" in their recruiting -- particularly after winning a national title -- and whether that actually benefits them. I thought this was particularly relevant to us, as Harbaugh and staff look to be recruiting the top names from all across the country.
The news hook here is Urban Meyer's talk the morning after winning the championship game about expanding OSU's recruiting beyond "the footprint of Ohio." Maisel's big point is that emphasizing national recruiting beyond a program's traditional recruiting footprint, especially their home state, doesn't really help.
It all makes sense, but what's significant is that recruiting nationally hasn't resulted in more championships. If it did, a team that won it all would do so again four or five years down the road once those picked cherries have morphed into veteran players. In fact, there are plenty of examples of programs that began to recruit nationally and not only failed to win another national championship, but failed to maintain their status as national contender.
He uses USC under Pete Carroll as an example:
But take a look at USC a decade ago. The Trojans won their second consecutive AP national championship in 2004 with a roster of 82 Californians, 18 of whom started. [...] Then USC's coach, Pete Carroll, once at the top, decided that he wanted to -- as Meyer put it -- cherry-pick the nation's best recruits. One of his USC assistants, Rocky Seto, told author Steve Bisheff for his 2009 book, "Always Compete," that Carroll "tells us he only wants [out-of-state] kids who are capable of being first-round NFL draft picks." The 14 freshmen signed by USC in February 2005 included five out-of-state players, four of whom made the USA Today Top 100.
But Carroll never won another national title. By 2009, the fifth year after he had shifted to his cherry-picking philosophy, USC had virtually the same number (81) of Californians on its roster as it had five years earlier. But the Trojans' starting lineup included only 12 in-state players and 10 from out of state. USC went 9-4 that season, got blown out by Oregon and Stanford and Carroll left for the Seattle Seahawks.
Maisel cites Alabama in recent years as another example. He then goes on to ask why "going national" doesn't seem to help -- and happens to mention a certain Stanford program built by a certain coach we all happen to know:
There's also the theory that kids who don't grow up understanding Alabama football and wanting more than anything to play for Alabama -- or fill in your state university here -- don't make the same emotional commitment, that three-star players with heart supply the guts of a team with a smattering of five-star starters.
That's impossible to measure and doesn't take into account a success story like Stanford, which must recruit nationally because of its academic standards. The Cardinal team that won its second consecutive Pac-12 championship in 2013 included players from 30 states and three countries.
Lots of food for thought here. I'd argue Michigan is in a tougher position than many of these programs, because Michigan simply doesn't produce the quantity of in-state talent that California or Ohio or Texas or Florida or even Alabama do. We have no choice but to recruit nationally to some degree. We do need to concentrate on our traditional footprint -- MI, Ohio especially, and Pennsylvania -- and Hoke did a nice job with that, but I think Harbaugh's right to make a bigger effort going after kids in talent-rich states like FL, TX, and CA.