Friday, October 30, 2009

ESPN raises the wrong questions

This article on ESPNBoston is generating a bit of buzz for all the wrong reason. BC guy Brad Zak used the Haden situation to ask "is BC not the place to develop top talent?" I hate to be so blunt -- especially towards a BC guy -- but this is beyond stupid. If you want to measure BC's ability to develop top talent, you should probably use Wins and NFL Draft picks as a measurement, not how some teenage recruit panned out. In fact, Haden's situation should be more of an indictment against the flawed and foolish recruiting rating system so many fans are slaves to. It has been a while since I stated my case about recruiting, so let's use this article and Haden's issues to take another look.


First let me say that recruiting is important. You need good players to win and you need to sell potential recruits on your school. But overlooked in recruiting is eyeing talent. We give too much credit to the evaluators at Rivals, Scout and ESPN. They don't know anything. Sure they have some measurables and if all the big powers are going after a kid, it is probably safe to say he is good. But there are so many other factors in play, that using the recruiting systems as anything definitive is dumb. I always fall back to the NFL. Look how many top picks become total busts even though the NFL teams are able to make more informed decisions when they select their players. You also need to look no further than your real life experiences. If you've ever hired someone or worked in recruiting, you know how challenging it can be. Someone who looks great on paper or was great in job A doesn't always fit with job B. It happens.


Then there is just the unplanned. Who knows what would have become of Toal or Haden if not for injuries? You can't plan on a guy like Montel Harris stepping up and exceeding his recruiting rankings. That is not BC's fault. If Haden transfers and becomes a star at his next stop, I won't use that as an indictment against the staff either. Sometime players develop at different rates. Take Andre Callendar. After his second season, few would have predicted the dominant performance of his senior season.

But don't use my theories or anecdotes to judge the process. Use the recruiting services themselves. Below are the four and five star recruits from Rivals' database going back to 2002.

2002 -- Josh Beekman, Will Blackmon, Shadu Moore, Jeremy Simpson, Jim Unis
2003 -- Dorien Bryant, Andre Callender, Ryan Poles
2004 -- Brandon Robinson, Brian Toal (five star)
2005 -- Andre Jones, Pat Sheil
2006 -- Richard Lapham, Jordon McMichael
2007 -- Corey Eason, John Elliott
2008 -- Mike Goodman, Josh Haden, Okechuckwu Okoroha
2009 -- Dillon Quinn

If you look at this group and their careers, how can you put much weight into the star system producing stars? Some never stepped on campus or left shortly thereafter. Some had unfortunate injury situations and others just weren't that good. What's more interesting are the names that aren't on the list. Where's Matt Ryan, Herzlich, Silva, Tennant, Castanzo, Kuechly, etc?


I am glad ESPNBoston is covering BC but this effort missed the boat. Maybe as a follow up, Zak should ask who is evaluating the evaluators?

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22 Comments:

At 11:01 AM, Blogger Erik said...

ATL dropping the hammer!

 
At 11:03 AM, Blogger cullenmi said...

Great response. This guy obviously has done no research as his major names in the articles were all injury prone. Lets look at all the ND, UT, OU, FSU recruits who were top 5. The reason these programs look so much better is they have 10 5 star guys every year so if 3 pan out they look great. For BC we get 1 every 2 years so if they dont pan out all of a sudden we cant coach top recruits. That has no logic.

 
At 11:31 AM, Blogger MJ said...

Recruiting is educated guessing. Key word being "guessing."

 
At 11:39 AM, Blogger Dan said...

This article was clearly done by someone with very little knowledge of BC football.
Toal was actually a great linebacker, when he was healthy. In fact his freshman year was very much in line with what Keuchly is doing this year (oh crap I hope I didn't just jinx Keuchly). After that he just had a slew of very serious injuries. I'm no doctor, but I don't think bad development leads to nerve damage and a broken leg. The McMichael thing is particulary amusing because if he had done even a shred of research he would've seen both Boston papers did a piece on him a few weeks back after his one handed catch detailing how his lack of impact was do to hip problems that went undiagnosed going all the way back to High School. Really not a very good article.
I like the idea of ESPNBoston as a way to broaden support for BC but in order to do that some well written and maybe even semi-positive articles would be nice.

On a postive note, Baldwin is getting some face time on the front page of ESPN College Football Page for the Halloween pieces the blogger wrote.

 
At 11:43 AM, Blogger Colin said...

Agree 100%. The recruiting hype and talent evaluation on ESPN has always aggravated me, especially on the collegiate level. If you're even a moderately talented or large-sized HS athlete, you are likely going to dominate (in general) at that level. Its usually a man amongst boys scenario. That performance does not necessarily mean that when confronted by equally sized/talented players you're going to have the heart or the ability to step up you game.

Love the Pro analogy too. If a 4-5 star guy flames out at BC its because we don't know how to develop talent, but if a pro team (See: Raider's blow a #1 pick on JaMarcus Russell), its because that player in and of himself is just bad.

 
At 11:58 AM, Blogger Lally said...

I guess we know who's behind Observer College now

 
At 12:23 PM, Blogger CT said...

"First let me say that recruiting is important. You need good players to win and you need to sell potential recruits on your school. But overlooked in recruiting is eyeing talent. We give too much credit to the evaluators at Rivals, Scout and ESPN. They don't know anything. Sure they have some measurables and if all the big powers are going after a kid, it is probably safe to say he is good. But there are so many other factors in play, that using the recruiting systems as anything definitive is dumb."

While I agree with the idea that people are too infatuated with the next big-name recruit, the science of talent evaluation, like anything, generally gets more right than wrong--it's just that flame-outs are reported and remembered while successes aren't. It's akin to the intelligence community in that respect.

I think the guy that wrote the article is just plain wrong. If you look at the NFL talent BC currently has vs. many other big name schools, the numbers are intuitively correct with respect to where our program is in relation to those bigger football schools. So arguing that we aren't the place for top-line talent is specious, so long as you wouldn't argue that our football program should be on par with Oklahoma.

But, just as importantly, while recruiting rankings are indeed, as ATL said, overblown, there IS merit to them over and above the business industry that such evaluation has spawned. As with most things, the rankings should be used as a guidepost for where your program is...if you look at the numbers below, see if BC's numbers make sense in the larger perspective of program strength and success.

These are the # of players in the NFL by school (on ESPN.com and not necessarily all draft picks, but certainly most). While there are no recruiting stars next to them, an unscientific cursory glance would suggest the schools that get the bigger names are more successful. USC doesn't go after the guys we do, but cherrypicks who they want (and sometimes loses, as with Jimmy Claussen). Can you win without a lot of NFL talent? Yes. Year in and year out? Probably not. It's the big difference between rebuilding and reloading.

BC - 21
LSU - 41
FSU - 30
Miami - 42
Florida - 31
Texas - 41
USC - 37
Tenn - 34
UCLA - 15
Ala - 22
Ariz - 18
Ark - 18
Aub - 28
Va Tech - 24
UVA - 22
MD - 25
UGA - 38
Ga Tech - 21
Wake - 14
Duke - 3
Clem - 16
Cal - 30
Conn - 9
Neb - 30
UNC - 24
NCSU - 20
ND - 31
Okl - 27
Ore - 22
Iowa - 24
Vandy - 11

The larger point is that BC fits just about where it should with the talent it gets. The consistently higher-ranked programs are indeed on another level in recruiting. And those recruits that are relied on to shoulder the burden are generally not 2 or 3 stars. At BC they are. And that's okay. For where we are as a program.

Sorry for the long post.

 
At 12:42 PM, Blogger mod34b said...

Here is a 2009 NFL salary list -- shows some BC talent! (Man, Snee is getting some coin!)

Snee, Chris G/RG $14,890,000
Kiwanuka, Mathias DE/LE $600,000
Hasselbeck, Matt QB $6,754,200
Colombo, Marc T/RT $2,006,240
Cherilus, Gosder $1,780,000
Raji, B.J. DT/NT $2,050,000
Brace, Ron DT/NT $754,000
St. Pierre, Brian QB $629,320
Ryan, Matt QB $6,600,000
Koppen, Dan C $1,506,720
Beekman, Josh G/LG $374,800
Woody, Damien T/RT $6,100,000
Trueblood, Jeremy T/RT $475,760
Silva, Jamie S/SS $295,0000
Hovan, Chris DT/RT $1,606,240

 
At 12:42 PM, Blogger Nick P. said...

The ESPNBoston article just seems bizarre to me. Why the sudden criticism from the author? I've never even heard of this guy covering BC before. What makes him the expert?

I'm happy to see some criticism of BC from the press for a change, but I would rather see it come from the regular beat guys that cover the school.

 
At 12:54 PM, Blogger Raj said...

Getting paid by the father in law. Keep the cash in the family

 
At 1:25 PM, Blogger Eagle in Brighton said...

ATL: 1
Brad Zak: 0

 
At 1:26 PM, Blogger joet said...

It is just a poorly written piece, in my opinion. He is all over the place to start and then has to come up with a conclusion, so he throws out that BC can't develop highly ranked recruits. He defeats his own argument by stating that most of his examples have battled injuries. It's hard to develop if you are not playing/practicing due to injuries.

 
At 1:32 PM, Blogger ATL_eagle said...

CT:

Others have taken your stance too but I would counter that the Rivals believers use a correlation to declare victor when there is no great causation. Proponents say USC and Florida have top recruiting therefore the system works. I have always felt the Rivals of the world slant their rankings toward the top programs and therefore make themselves appear smarter. But by attaching themselves to the top programs, they often miss or don't anticipate declines. If you live by Rivals Miami and Florida State never should have dropped out of the top tier given their recruiting. Charlie Weis' Notre Dame teams should be much further along, etc.

Also good coaches like Stoops and Carroll won National Championships early in their tenures with less heralded recruits. Since they did, it allows the Rivals of the world to piggyback on that success and declare USC's subsequent recruiting classes/talent better than everyone else's.

My pocket theory is that success at this level is 33% sales (getting the best guys to come to your school), 33% development (finding the Raji's of the world, making a Matt Ryan better) and 33% coaching.

 
At 1:51 PM, Blogger Katie said...

The ghost of Baldwin is on the espn.com football homepage right now! http://sports-ak.espn.go.com/ncf/index Go Eagles!!!

 
At 2:04 PM, Blogger Patrick said...

For the most part, the players that excel at BC are guys that are smart and pretty good athletes but they play with a chip on their shoulder because they were overlooked by the bigger schools. A perfect example is Montel because all of the big schools were looking at his teammate in HS and now he's showing them all that they were wrong.

 
At 2:23 PM, Blogger MP said...

Spot on ATL. A complete and thorough smackdown! Enough said.

 
At 3:49 PM, Blogger AHuber09 said...

Someone please correct me if I am wrong but I think the Snee salary has the comma in the wrong place, meaning he makes 1.5 mil.

 
At 4:21 PM, Blogger conlonc said...

One thing left unmentioned is that BC's NFL numbers a bit different from most in that it tends to be mostly lineman, ie non-skill positions (Matty Hass, Matty Ice and Blackmon being the exceptions)whereas the miamis of the world have skill players out the wazoo in the NFL. Experts and common fans alike like flashy shiny things and tend to overlook the importance or impact of the dudes in the trenches - therefore BC gets less credit for the talent they do develop.

 
At 4:44 PM, Blogger mod34b said...

The Snee salary is for real, not a typo.

Here is a blurb from wikipedia. (any you thought Matty Ice was the king of swing!!!) P.S. Snee and other BC linemen are not non- skilled players!! (good lord, conlon, where did you get that idea)

Snee signed a new six-year contract extension to remain a Giant through the 2014 season. The deal has a base salary of $41.25 million and includes $17 million in guarantees. Snee also gets a $13.5 million signing bonus and can earn another $2 million in incentives. $23 million will be available in the first three seasons and his annual base average is $6.875 million.

Snee's strong play in 2008 earned him his first Pro Bowl selection as one of the NFC's starting guards.

Based on his consistent performance, Snee is ranked among the NFL's elite offensive lineman.

Snee, the son of Diane and Ed Snee, married Kate Coughlin, daughter of New York Giants coach Tom Coughlin. They have two sons.

 
At 10:32 PM, Blogger CT said...

I'm neither a Rivals believer or non-believer. I'm an agnostic. I think there is a general pattern, however, where higher ranked recruits change programs. I do think there is an absolute correlation between elite talent mined from talent rich states like Florida, Texas, and California (schools in Fla., Mack Brown, and Carroll have an overwhelmingly high pct of guys from their own states on their roster) and wins and losses. I don't see how you wouldn't. Now, to be sure, there's a difference b/t getting NFL capable QBs and free safeties, but on the whole, I'd argue it is those guys in the Top 150-200 that make the difference.

I don't know if Rivals slants their rankings or not to reflect their success or lack thereof (see link below). Maybe you do. I have no clue. What I think I do know is that Miami and FSU's declines coincided with a resurgent Florida (and SEC--which is a huge draw to kids), USF, and even UCF, as well as a reduction in scholarships. There're also institutional issues, as in staff stability and facilities, to be sure. And I'd further argue that Willingham, by many accounts, left the cupboard pretty thin and it takes at least four recruiting classes to reorient the ship--would anyone argue that ND isn't headed in the right direction? I don't think they're lagging behind at all. Expectations there are SEC-like.

Even if one concedes that Stoops and Carroll won championships with less heralded recruits (Carroll? Really?), I don't know how one overlooks the success of the top programs in light of the top commits they do get. To me, there is a reason the football factories win more. They draw better. Maybe there's a reason TOB said what he said about a ceiling. I'd argue his point that expectations should be lowered at BC, but given the talent that's brought in, we probably do a bit above average in output.

You cite Dr. Saturday often on your blog. Here is a link to a really good article on precisely this issue. And it mirrors what I'd argue is correlation: a general trend that sees more recruiting points equal more wins.

http://rivals.yahoo.com/ncaa/football/blog/dr_saturday/post/Hug-your-friendly-neighborhood-recruiting-rankin?urn=ncaaf,137146

I think the 1/3 player, 2/3 coaching theory is fine for malleable kids in college. But if that 1/3 at USC is 125% the player at BC or Purdue, then that equation changes pretty rapidly.

 
At 4:05 AM, Blogger Coast said...

I have to agree with CT here. Further, I'll add that power schools in California, Texas, and Florida (and Ohio, Penn) have an easier time reloading and returning to power than schools without that "built-in" local base. Now is the reason those schools are power schools because of the talent from which they can draw? That's another question. In addition to those power recruiting states, schools who draw heavily from those areas (such as OU w/ Texas kids) have a quick turn-around as well.

OU, Texas, and USC had pretty lean years in the '90s. I think it would take a team from other regions much longer to "get back" than it did for those three. Florida State and Miami are in a funk, but I don't doubt their inevitable return.

Very interesting comments tonight. I love the reading.

 
At 9:29 AM, Blogger mod34b said...

would anyone argue that ND isn't headed in the right direction? I don't think they're lagging behind at all.

Yes, i would disagree with that assessment.!

ND is not lagging behind at all??? Nonsense. ND is, at best, the equivalent of a middle-of-the pack ACC or Big east team, hardly on par with the grandiose expectations of the insane Domer Nation.

ND is mediocre and their coach is a toad. nuff said!

 

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