OK, Iowa fans, you knew this was coming.
Get ready to hear and read about the “stars” that Iowa’s 19-member recruiting class will receive from the two major recruiting services out there — Rivals.com and Scout.com.
In the quick and dirty world of college football evaluation, experts will award grades for recruiting classes before the 2009 signing day is in the books. Never mind that some of the kids who sign on the dotted line today won’t see the field for three years. There’s a market for recruiting grades. This is as close to gameday as a lot of college football fans will get before spring practice.
The interest is understandable. Peel away the terms “recruiting” and “signing day.” What is this really? This is player acquisition for your favorite college football teams. This is the draft, free agency and the trade deadline rolled into one.
“With its first selection in the 2009 NCAA draft, the Iowa Hawkeyes select . . .”
This creates the market for instant analysis, which is, at best, an educated guess.
College football’s bluebloods are going to get their share of the “four stars.” Rivals’ top five schools today are 1) LSU, 2) USC, 3) Ohio State, 4) Alabama and 5) Texas. Scout’s top five includes 1) Ohio State, 2) LSU, 3) Alabama, 4) North Carolina and 5) Texas.
These are the bluebloods. These schools are there every year, except for North Carolina, which is the anomaly in the star game just as Iowa was in 2005. Four of these teams finished in the Associated Press’ final top 25 (USC, Texas, Alabama and Ohio State).
So, calling Ohio State’s class the No. 1 recruiting class in the country is a pretty good educated guess.
But what about Iowa?
Rivals has the Hawkeyes at No. 61 in the nation and 10th in the Big Ten, just ahead of Purdue. According to Rivals, Iowa recruits average 2.47 “stars.”
If you think that’s low, you might not be interested in reading Scout’s assessment. It has the Hawkeyes No. 73 in the nation and 11th in the Big Ten with 2.33 stars per recruit.
Rivals gives Cedar Rapids Washington wide receiver Keenan Davis and Sioux City Heelan running back Brandon Wegher four stars. Conor Boffeli, Drew Clark, Jordan Cotton, Nolan MacMillan and Brad Rogers rate three stars.
Davis and Wegher receive four stars from Scout. Cotton and MacMillan were given three.
I wrote a story about “stars” in 2007. It has been a hot topic in Iowa City, with the 2005 class — Iowa’s most “starred” class — basically breaking apart through injuries and attrition.
Tom Kakert, who runs Rivals’ HawkeyeReport.com, had this perspective on stars:
“It’s like Roger Ebert reviewing a movie. Roger Ebert might like the movie, but I might go to the same movie and think it’s a rotten tomato. It’s what people see at different points.”
And Jon Miller, who runs HawkeyeNation.com, which is connected to Scout.com, said:
“I think the stars can have a negative spillover effect with some parents and some fans. There’s a segment of the fan base that almost seems to care more about the recruiting season and who the next kids are than the kids who are wearing the uniform now.
“And that’s OK. I understand it. But to me, recruiting is just the beginning of their stories at Iowa.”
Yes, the beginning of their stories at Iowa.
Here’s what head coach Kirk Ferentz said in that story:
“When a guy goes to college, he should be allowed to start a new phase, just like when you go to the NFL. If you’re a first rounder, you get a hall pass, for a little while. . . . After a while, it’s just based on production.
“When a guy goes to college, people don’t realize how much is involved, how complicated it is for a guy to go to college. Not only to go to football, but handle all the other changes in their lives.”
I think the movie analogy is apt. I wrote:
“The movie analogy comes in handy here. Think of the player’s high school career as the previews and then wait for the credits to roll after he’s finished college.
You might have a five star. You might have a half star. You just have to wait to get the complete picture.”
If Iowa could get the five stars, you can bet it would take them. But it doesn’t, and I think Iowa’s recruiting effort and budget is geared for that. Iowa isn’t going to spend a lot of money chasing a five-star QB from California.
Iowa’s staff is confident in its evaluations, for better or worse. Ferentz must’ve seen what he needed to see out of Illinois TE Dakota Getz, who picked the Hawkeyes over his only other offer, Western Illinois, an FCS school. Think about that. You can call it going against the grain and taking a chance. Or you can call it confidence.
Does it work out? Yes, there’s always the Dallas Clark example. Do they miss? Of course, there are plenty of those examples.
Does this model work? After 2001, Iowa has been a regular bowl team and has hovered in the nation’s top 25, as high as No. 8 before re-entering after a two-and-a-half-year abscene at No. 20 this year.
So, yeah, it works, has worked. Can it work better? Yeah, it can always work better.