We're a week from signing day, the Christmas for college football recruiting junkies.
Full disclosure: I used to be one of those people. I used to be one of those folks who could tell you which three schools were fighting it out for the nation's 23rd-rated offensive tackle, and where he's leaning. But something changed in the last few years. Be it the overload of the hat dances — the ceremony where a prospect puts five hats on the table and pretends he's going to pick each one before picking a school — or the post-signing day theatrics that have become a high-stakes game of can-you-top-this, my interest has faded.
Now, that said, I am ...
a) aware of the value of recruiting in general;
b) fairly well-versed in the comings and goings on the recruiting trail (it being a big part of the profession and all, especially in the South);
c) just as competitive and passionate as your normal SEC fan.
This is not to poke fun at the recruit-nics out there. It's just not for everyone.
Whether you have no idea what Rivals.com is or if you're planning on calling in sick next Wednesday to watch teenagers fax pieces of paper, there are three things that are overwhelming each recruiting season:
1) How incredibly difficult this week must be for coaches who have to make their living in large part on these decisions made by teenagers. Think back to being a senior in high school and having a tough enough time picking between Hardee's and McDonald's, never mind juggling the sales pitches from recruiters such as Nick Saban, Trooper Taylor, Mark Richt, et al.
2) As impressive as the SEC's streak of six consecutive national titles is, the most overwhelming year-in, year-out stat about the SEC is on national signing day. Come next week, Tennessee likely will finish somewhere in the top 20 in the recruiting rankings nationally. Maybe as high as 12th, maybe as low as 17th or 18th. A solid class, no doubt, that 100 other FCS programs would gladly take. If UT finishes 18th nationally in recruiting, that will likely be good enough for eighth or ninth in the SEC. Read that again.
3) Gang, remember these are rankings that are subjective and made by folks who spend more time hitting keyboards than hitting the practice field. Yes, Eric Berry was a five-star commit, but so was Chris Donald in the same class. Yes, Cam Newton was a five-star player coming out of high school, but Nick Fairley was a two-star offensive tackle. The last five top-ranked players in the country were, in order:
2011 — Jadeveon Clowney, defensive end, South Carolina
2010 — Ronald Powell, defensive end, Florida
2009 — Bryce Brown, running back, Tennessee
2008 — Terrelle Pryor, quarterback, Ohio State
2007 — Jimmy Clausen, quarterback, Notre Dame
What does that tell us? You guessed it. Recruiting is hardly a science.