Throughout the month of February, college football fans make their way back to the blogs to post their views on football recruiting. This is a key month for colleges, as this is when their future football teams are created. For the Ohio State Buckeyes, this year’s recruiting class, uncharacteristically, did not place in the top 25. And, predictably, Buckeye “fans” made it clear that they are not happy. Many bloggers have labeled this class as “soft” and question head coach Jim Tressel’s tenacity and aggressiveness as a recruiter.
As I read through the multitude of negative posts, the writers’ loyalty as Buckeye fans rarely comes into question, but their knowledge and understanding of the recruiting process is suspect. Matt Barker’s blog post, “Looking Back at Past Recruiting Classes and how the Buckeyes Fared Since 2002” is a well-constructed article that counters the Tressel naysayers and parallels my viewpoint on the subject of OSU recruiting. Barker methodically lays down the facts and lets the reader circle around them to hopefully come to the same conclusion that he and I did: Jim Tressel’s tenure as head coach at Ohio State has consistently produced top-ten rated football teams which are a product of carefully planned and executed recruiting practices.
In his post, Barker responds to the negativity heard from Ohio State fans with facts and stats, presented in a concise and professional manner. His comments are easy to follow, even for a football novice, and he lets the statistics speak for themselves. He highlights the careers of recent Buckeye football recruits and compares their Rivals.com “star rating” to other athletes from the same class.
Without being disparaging, Barker focuses on how college football fans spend too much time worrying about computer analysis and ratings, and ignore “real life” issues such as a college’s coaching strength and the challenge of fitting an athlete into a particular school’s training program. Barker’s arguments are backed up by specific examples of three-star player successes, which arguments quickly dispel the theory that five-star athletes are required to produce winning teams.
While generally lacking in the typical fan emotionalism, Barker gets his point across in an entertaining fashion which is enjoyable to read. Barker does an excellent job of making his points and backing them up with interesting and credible data that I agree with. His arguments also put it on my list of favorite college blogs.
The main complaint voiced by bloggers is the lack of five-star athletes (who, according to Rivals.com, Scout.com, and ESPN.com are the best players in any given year) in this season’s recruiting field. The Bucks typically pull in two or three of these five-star athletes each year, but (so far) the OSU recruiting class of 2010 does not include any.
To respond to these complaints, Matt draws attention to Santonio Holmes, a player ranked as a three-star by Rivals.com in the year he was recruited. This is a brilliant example of a lower-ranked player who proved to be one of the best receivers in OSU history. After his training and career at Ohio State, Holmes was a first-round NFL draft pick and recently won a Super Bowl MVP award. Malcolm Jenkins and James Laurinatis are other great examples of outstanding football players who could only generate a three-star rating on Rivals.com but matured to become first-round draft picks after playing under Tressel and Ohio State.
Barker next compares this year’s OSU recruiting class to those of recent years. He respectfully concedes that a decrease in the total number of athletes and the number of “five-star” athletes is evident. But who is to say Rivals.com is the most reliable recruiting source? Do you think Tressel, a MAJOR college football head coach, does not know his recruiting better that a website?
Since Jim Tressel has held the position of head football coach at Ohio State, the Bucks have yet to have a disappointing year. In 2002, Tressel won his first National Championship at Ohio State. In 2006 and 2007, Ohio State had a combined record of 23-3 and two successive National Championship game appearances. Year after year, Ohio State is able to proudly retire their season with ample wins to put them in the top ten in the entire country. There are hundreds of college football coaches who would love to be able to say the same for their team.
So where does all this success originate? Like any football team, OSU’s success starts with its recruitment. When looking back at some of the Buckeyes’ best players, it’s true that many of these athletes came into the program labeled as five-star athletes on Rivals.com. But it’s the two- and three-star athletes, trained and molded by a talented and dedicated coaching staff and fellow players that make Jim Tressel the successful coach he is today. Because the cases laid out in Barker’s blog are logical and accurate, it is hard to dismiss the success stories which originated in Tressel’s camp.
Players like Chris Wells and Tedd Ginn Jr. are five-stars who had outstanding years with Ohio State and now play on Sundays. At the same time, three-star athletes A.J. Hawk, Malcolm Jenkins, Brian Hartline, and Brian Robiskie are NFL stars playing on those same fields. Unlike the recruiting websites who hang random star ratings around a player’s neck, Coach Jim Tressel is able to see the potential that these young athletes have.
Barker doesn’t preach in his blog, something I admire. I believe a successful, championship team is not simply recruited, but created by your recruitment. For Buckeye fans who disagree with this year’s recruiting class, we suggest you carefully examine the Bucks recent recruiting classes and count just how many three-star athletes OSU Coach Jim Tressel has taken under his wing and converted to the skillful and successful players we enjoy watch on NFL Sunday!
Ohio State bloggers and writers would be well served to put a little less heart in their posts and a little more research into their heads before they rattle off naive and uninformed exposés on their blog sites. But for those fans who continue to express their bitter feelings toward this year’s recruiting class and to denigrate Coach Jim Tressel’s style and effectiveness to the public over the internet, thanks for giving fans like Matt Barker and me an opportunity to share our opposing opinions and justify the decisions made by Coach Jim Tressel and his coaching staff.