OpEd: The Worst Week of the Year In College Football

Matt Cashore-US PRESSWIRE

Increased exposure for the recruiting process has also exposed fans to more and more of the drama that used to go on behind the scenes. Players pick schools for any number of reasons, and because these players are still kids, they change their minds. It's a big decision for these kids; it's where they will spend the next four or five years of their life. It doesn't help when they have fans criticizing them for whatever choice they make.

For recruitniks everywhere, this is a big week...the biggest week of the offseason. Brandon and Brian will have comprehensive coverage of National Signing Day for those of you who are interested. They'll do a great job, I'm sure.

For me personally, I'm not interested. Most years, I put my blogging on hiatus because I absolutely despise national signing day. Not because it's not important, but because of the excesses of some recruitniks. My hatred for recruiting coverage became firmly entrenched during Bill Callahan's time in Lincoln. Recruitniks told us that recruiting was going to solve everything that was wrong with Nebraska football. Finally Nebraska had a coach that put recruiting above everything else.

And we soon learned that it was above gameday coaching and player development, at least when it came to Bill Callahan. Two losing seasons in four were too many for most Husker fans, and Callahan and his motley band of recruiters were sent packing. John Blake went to North Carolina where he eventually found himself in boiling hot water with the NCAA. Fortunately, nothing like that happened in Lincoln during those dark four years, but it made it clear to me that recruiting is only part of the job of the coach.

Recruiting is important. There is no free agency in college football (except with Wisconsin quarterbacks, I guess); no trades. You only get one opportunity each year to build your roster. Get it wrong, and you'll be suffering the consequences for quite a while. Look at Nebraska's situation on the defensive line this season.

But I don't buy into the "star" ranking system. Sometimes those rankings are spot on, but frequently they are not. Does anybody still believe that Marlon Lucky was a five-star running back? He was a good player, but excessively overhyped by the recruiting system.

And overhype is the problem. It feeds into the egos of young players, and really sets them up for disappointment when they arrive on campus and find themselves on a roster with 100 other players who play at that same level. Some of them handle it well: they work hard and get better. Others are so talented they still surge to the top anyway. But others find themselves mired on the depth chart and look for an out. Braylon Heard appears to be the latest. Last year, Aaron Green bolted for playing time at TCU. Over the last 10 years, 13 of the 17 Nebraska I-Backs didn't finish their careers in Lincoln.

It's not just I-backs or Nebraska. Remember Harrison Beck? The hype was he was the greatest passer ever to come to Lincoln; the reality is that the kid couldn't hit the broad side of a barn. He completed one of ten passes in his career, then ran away to North Carolina State when he found himself slipping down the depth chart. He didn't do much better there, and eventually finished his career in division 2. The Beck situation isn't uncommon either. Eight of the top quarterbacks, according to Scout, from the 2010 signing class are no longer at the school they originally signed with. It's now the norm in college football...and it's a bad thing.

Increased exposure for the recruiting process has also exposed fans to more and more of the drama that used to go on behind the scenes. Players pick schools for any number of reasons, and because these players are still kids, they change their minds. It's a big decision for these kids; it's where they will spend the next four or five years of their life. It doesn't help when they have fans criticizing them for whatever choice they make.

Certainly we've seen plenty of drama in recent weeks as players have changed their mind. Some have chosen to go elsewhere, while some are now coming to Nebraska. Fans shouldn't think badly of these changes. But some do. The worst example I can remember is former Nebraska announcer Jim Rose's two hour tirade against Josh Freeman in 2005.

There are more reasons than football that factor into a player's decision as to where to play. But fans don't always understand that. Sometimes it's academics. Sometimes it's family. Sometimes it's distance. Yet every time a recruit chooses somewhere else, recruitniks wail in agony almost as much as they celebrate when a recruit says he's coming.

That manic-depressive response frustrates me to no end. It's the reason why I try to unplug as much as I can this week. That's not to paint everybody who follows recruiting with the same broad brush, but unfortunately, the overall result of this week is something I'd rather completely ignore.

I just don't need the drama.

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