I’m usually kind of hesitant to write about recruiting, for a few reasons. For one, I don’t really know anything about these players, how good they are or what they’re thinking, and neither do most other people, whatever they might tell you. Outside of a few Youtube clips or maybe a single game here or there, I’ve never seen these guys play, and even if I have, I’m no talent scout. A couple of years ago I went with Danny and Andrew to watch Bothell play O’Dea. I could tell that Zach Fogerson was kind of special. Michael Hartvigson and Colin Porter were huge and stood out. I’ve also been to plenty of games where guys really stood out and weren’t anywhere close to being D-I recruits. I can’t usually tell the difference. If you’re relying on me for scouting, you’re in trouble.
The second reason I hesitate to write about recruiting is that it’s a pretty charged topic. The management aspect of sports has grown almost as compelling as the game itself. Prince Fielder and the Mariners roster construction has received far more attention than the Mariners’ season, and that’s not just because the Mariners were terrible. With fantasy sports becoming so popular, we like to play general manager. That’s hard to do with college sports, and so we speculate on recruiting.
That’s not necessarily bad. It’s just another way to enhance the experience. It’s fun to look ahead at future Huskies or Cougars or whomever. Where things grow a little hazy for me is that the players in question are really just kids. Prince Fielder is a grown man who is being paid millions of dollars to pick where he wants to play. Most of these recruits are making a major choice for the first time in their lives, and it’s an important one. Very few of these kids will make any money from sports, so their choice of college will play a major role in their futures, from occupation to where they spend their lives to friends and girlfriends. They’re getting a free education from football, but I think football should be secondary in a decision like that.
I’m not saying don’t follow recruiting. Recruiting can be fun. Just keep a level head. These choices are infinitely more important for the athletes than they are for us fans. I would encourage us all to be supportive of their decisions, even if they disappoint us. They may be athletes, but they’re teenage kids first, and teenagers need all the support they can get.
I’ll get off my soapbox now so we can talk about the Huskies for a minute. Husky recruiting is not going well. It started nicely, with commitments from two of the top QBs in the country and a slew of solid role players. The state of Washington has an excellent group of players this year, and most expected that the Huskies would score commits from most of them eventually. (For the uninitiated, commitments are verbal and non-binding until February 1st, when recruits can sign Letters of Intent, which locks them into their choice and guarantees them a scholarship once they’re accepted into the school.)
Only that hasn’t happened. There are five guys generally considered to be elite recruits in the state this year. Mercer Island QB Jeff Lindquist is going to be a Dawg, and he looks like a good one. The top guy overall, OG Josh Garnett, is looking out of state, probably Stanford (I have no insight here; anything I say about where guys are leaning is consensus off of recruiting sites and such, and may or may not be accurate). Cedric Dozier, a WR/CB, is going to Cal. RB Keivarae Russell is going to Notre Dame. The last guy, massive OT Zach Banner, is undecided between UW, USC and Oklahoma, but it doesn’t seem good for the Dawgs.
In the midst of this, UW cornerback coach Demetriece Martin left to join Jim Mora’s staff at UCLA. From a coaching standpoint, this doesn’t seem like a huge loss, because… well, our cornerbacks. Wow, they’re not that great. Martin recruits Southern California, though, and quite well. Since he left, two guys have switched commitments from UW to UCLA, at least one more has decommited, and several guys who were strongly considering UW have decided to go elsewhere or seem to have less interest than they did.
All of this has Dawgman.com and other recruiting boards in a tizzy. I don’t think I’ve ever written “in a tizzy” before. Sorry. I’m here to tell everyone, “Lighten up!” Sure, most of this news has been bad. It’s just not as bad as some people make it out to be. Life will go on. The Huskies will still field a team next year and the year after, and probably even the year after that. And guess what? The recruiting season isn’t over! There are still over three weeks until signing day and they promise to get even crazier. So, here are a few recommendations if you’re thinking about taking the plunge into the wild world of 2012 recruiting:
- Don’t try to figure these decisions out. What’s important to me might not be important to you, much less to an 18-year-old from Compton. Which leads me to another point: these kids are 18-years-old! Nothing against the high schoolers out there. I love you guys. I hope to make a career out of teaching you about books that you don’t care about. You’re funny and inquisitive and cool and unexpectedly kind, but clear thinking is not your strong suit. It’s not even completely your fault. Science has proven your brains often incapable of making rational decisions. And as I’ve said before, this is a big decision for you, and I know you have a girlfriend and that Notre Dame-Rudy infatuation and a deep love for Kid Cudi to think about. For those trying to understand a decision or guess what these guys are going to do, just stop. Teenage brains work differently, and sometimes not at all.
- Don’t presume to know what the coaches are thinking. As I’ve said, I know nothing about most of these players. The coaches do. They talk to all of these guys every day and are prohibited from even mentioning their names to the press. Everything we know is from the players and high school coaches and rumors and Twitter and many other unreliable sources. We don’t know the coaches’ strategy or plans or anything. Maybe they haven’t offered Bellevue’s Tyler Hasty a scholarship because they don’t think he’s good enough, or maybe it’s because of how things went with his brother J.R., or maybe they plan to but they have five other cornerback offers out and one of them needs to say no first. Maybe he has an offer and has never said anything about it. All I’m trying to say is that fans don’t know very much in this process. Conjecture is fine, but don’t pretend you know anything for sure unless you do actually know something for sure. And don’t believe anyone who tells you anything.
- Remember that recruiting doesn’t end until the letter is signed. Last year, De’Anthony Thomas was a USC commit up until the night before signing day. Reportedly, UW then offered nearly his entire high school team to try to make him a Dawg but Oregon did something with shoes and he is now a Duck who will haunt us on the field for at least the next two years and in our memories forever. The Huskies will lose at least one more recruit before signing day, as will probably every team in America. They will get commits from players who have not been rumored to be interested in the Dawgs. Weird things will happen. Who knows, the Huskies might hire Tosh Lupoi from Cal or Ed Orgeron from USC, considered the two best recruiters in the Pac-12 and they could bring 5 players with them. These things happen. Until names are on paper, anything can happen.
So, this post has gotten really long. Sorry. If you want to get into recruiting and haven’t already, here’s what you do. Check out the prospect databases at Dawgman.com and the mostly level-headed stories and comment threads at UW Dawg Pound. Follow Chris Fetters, Brandon Huffman and Adam Gorney on Twitter. Wait excitedly for commitments from Psalm Wooching and Keoni Bush-Loo, cuz who doesn’t want to cheer for those guys? Get excited about Jeff Lindquist and Cyler Miles, each of whom will probably win the Heisman. Realize that Davonte’ Neal committing elsewhere isn’t the end of the world. If you’re going to write things about recruits, be nice. And when you finally get to February 1st, text or tweet things like, “Durkee is in” and “The Cerritos connection is starting to pay dividends” and “So begins Ryan McDaniel’s Reign of Terror”. Have fun! Recruiting’s crazy!