Recruiting stars don’t always align right


Recruiting is the lifeblood of every college football program.

With national signing day coming up Wednesday, prepare to hear the recruiting news spewing across every sports media platform.

You’ll hear which team has the best incoming class, which teams missed out, which teams did the best at what positions and so on.

Your appetite for arbitrary rankings — a specialty of college football — will be satisfied.

You’ll hear who Rivals.com says got the top class and who landed the most of ESPNU’s top 150 players.

You’ll be seeing stars, likely three, four and five at a time.

My advice: Do not get too excited one way or the other.

In fact, you would be better off dismissing the ridiculous rundowns of rankings as soon as you hear them.

Everyone will tell you recruiting is inexact, especially in football.

In sports like basketball, where one individual can have a much greater impact, the odds are much better. Kids sometimes start getting recruited as early as middle school.

If a basketball player has the size and the skill set, chances are he’ll pan out at whichever college he chooses (and then, of course, jump ship to the NBA after one season).

Or, at least, there’s a greater chance the basketball player will pan out than a football recruit who seems to have the same level of qualifications; so many factors always weigh in.

There is greater competition for playing time, which usually means a longer delay before seeing action. Plus, football is so much more of a physical game that top recruits sometimes either cannot keep up or are derailed by injuries.

These recruiting misses are not limited to one sport.

But they don’t seem to stick out as much in other sports as in college football, primarily because of the frenzy that accompanies each recruiting cycle.

Hindsight will always reveal each year’s booms and busts. ESPN.com just took a rear-view mirror look at the class of 2007 and, not surprisingly, the discrepancy between the rankings then and how the players actually panned out is huge.

USC landed 10 of ESPNU’s 150, which gave the Trojans the honor of being named the top recruiting class that year.

Then-coach Pete Carroll landed the top three prospects in the nation: running back Joe McKnight (No. 1), linebacker Chris Galippo (No. 2) and running back Marc Tyler (No. 3). The class also included quarterback Aaron Corp (No. 33) and receiver Ronald Johnson (No. 47).

In 2007, you would have thought that by grabbing the two top running backs and the top linebacker, the Trojans would be primed for greatness on both sides of the ball by now.

But you never know which way the football will bounce.

McKnight was a solid presence in USC’s backfield, yet despite his ability, he never emerged as a game-changing player.

The New York Jets selected him in the fourth round in last year’s draft, but his USC career ended far below expectations.

Galippo struggled with injuries early in his career, then was a Butkus Award semifinalist in 2009 before losing his starting spot for part of 2010 and finishing the season with 29 tackles.

Galippo could still redeem himself with a breakout season in 2011.

Tyler came into USC with a broken ankle and then battled more injuries, but he is coming off his best and most complete season.

As a result, he could be set for a big 2011, when he will almost certainly be the featured running back.

Then there’s Corp, formerly known as the fifth-best quarterback recruit in the country.

He lost the starting job to then-freshman Matt Barkley, had an awful performance in his only start of the year and then ingloriously transferred to Richmond.

Meanwhile, Cam Newton, who began his career at Florida, was ranked No. 58 by ESPNU.

Sure, it took him a few transfers and a little fatherly direction to land at Auburn, but you can’t argue with a Heisman trophy and a national title.

You get the point by now.

No matter what hype a kid brings to his college campus, there is no guarantee he’ll pan out on the field.

Forty-yard dash times and high school touchdown totals lead to scholarships, but they don’t necessarily amount to success.

That being said, USC’s prospective recruiting class is currently ranked No. 5 in the nation by Rivals.com, No. 6 by Scout.com and No. 4 by ESPN. And the Trojans’ class includes eight ESPNU150 signees.

Book me a seat at the 2013 BCS National Championship!

“Middle Ground” runs Tuesdays. To comment on this article, visit dailytrojan.com or e-mail Josh at jjovanel@usc.edu.