Wednesday, November 11, 2009

A friendly debate with Brad Zak

Following my critical post on Brad Zak's ESPNBoston article, Brad reached out to me to defend himself. We took our email conversation and moved it here. I think we see things differently but at least Brad has more space to explain his position. As always you can leave your thoughts on recruiting and player development in the comments.

In an attempt to defend myself from the skewering I took last week, I'd like to clarify a few of the points I made in my ESPNBoston article on Josh Haden's transfer. First of all, I wasn't questioning BC's ability to develop talent, professionals such as Matt Ryan (3-star recruit) and B.J. Raji (2-star recruit) show that BC can prepare players for the highest level. My argument; however, was that it is troubling for BC not to get production from the four and five star recruits they are able to bring to campus. When we are only bringing in two, maybe three top recruits a year it is crucial that we are able to utilize that talent. Schools such as USC, Ohio State and Florida can afford to miss on a few when they are bringing in around 20 four to five star recruits a year, but when you are only bringing in a couple, their performance is put at a premium. I do concede that some guys such as Toal and McMichael were afflicted by injuries and that hampered their production on the field, but I would argue that regardless of injuries BC needs a top-level recruit to come to Chestnut Hill and shine in order to persuade other big-time prospects to follow suit. For BC to take the next step toward making it to the Orange Bowl or consistently being ranked in the top 15, they will need to start utilizing and then bringing in additional top-rated talent.

There are a lot of different goals and arguments in place surrounding your article. First let's table the common ground. Players are important. The team with the best players is more likely to beat the team with inferior talent. Recruiting is vital because it is the method in which a program gets better players.

My problem though with your original article and your defense of it now is still the added emphasis on the highly rated recruits. I think the recruiting systems are deeply flawed and miss as often as they get things right. Sure there is a correlation between winning programs and top recruiting classes, but I still challenge anyone to show me that there is a causation between the two. The top programs' recruits are favored by the flawed evaluators. The system never anticipates the decline of programs like Miami and Florida State just to use two ACC examples. The evaluators also failed to identify the top talent that the NFL drafted out of BC and Wake Forest of late.

Maybe Josh Haden didn't truly merit four stars. How did he get them? Because of his brother's success? Because he was strong for his size? Because he dominated on a lower-level Maryland league? Did he get them because the Rivals evalutors were tipped off of BC and Florida's early interest? I don't know but once he was put on a different playing field he showed he wasn't as good as Montel Harris. And as a BC fan we shouldn't really care as long as the team performs well. If another player comes down the trail and is turned off by Haden's experience at BC, then he isn't a player we need or want.

Recruiting is a lot about self-selecting. Our model is proven to be pretty good and has us competing for the ACC every year. That is what we should be asking for. Setting a goal to have top 5 recruiting classes annually would be a wasted effort since the system is not designed to reward teams like BC. If we want to get to the next level, we just need to get better at finding the right guys for BC, not more four stars.

I think there always has to be an emphasis on higher rated recruits for the program. Now not every highly rated recruit is going to be a big hit and national recruiting is definitely an imperfect science. Scouting is never a guarantee (just look at every NBA and NFL draft) and when dealing with 18 year old kids you have to expect some misses. You can always bash recruiting when looking at individual cases, but a Dr. Saturday article from January pointed out how team rankings can have some hand at indicating success. After a lot of calculations he concluded that the "more talented team" according to the recruiting gurus won two-thirds of the time in 2008, by a little more than a touchdown per game.

I think as BC fans it is in our nature to always feel a little slighted by the national media since year after year they pick us to finish near the bottom of the ACC, despite our success. I am not of the belief that the evaluators favor certain programs. The best athletes are attracted to the most successful football schools and that is why the same names continually pop up on the Rivals rankings lists. I don't think that BC is disrespected by evaluators; we just take a Moneyball-like approach to recruiting by valuing qualities that not every school does. For instance, the A's were able to keep up with big market clubs by valuing walks, and OBP, while BC values intangibles, character and mental toughness to keep them competitive as they lag behind in the recruiting rankings. We aren't necessarily getting the best athletes in all cases, but we are getting guys who slate very well into our system.

Also, I don't think Rivals is suited for predicting lulls for programs such as Miami and Florida State because their troubles are also attributed to factors such as coaching and poor character. Miami has had 9 first or second round picks in the past four years. They were hurt by the coaching turnover and poor off the field conduct (see: 7th Floor Crew). Florida State has had six first and second round picks in the past four years. Florida State's problems have been centered around coaching as many around the program wonder if Bobby Bowden's still alive. They might not have lived up to their lofty standards, but there is still high level talent coming out of these programs. On the other hand a Rivals systems can help show teams that are on the upswing because their is increased talent coming into the program. Alabama was not in the Top 25 for recruiting in 2003, 2004, were 18th in 2005, 11th in 2006, 10th in 2007, and 1st in 2008. The increase in recruiting has mirrored their resurgence in the SEC and on the national stage.

BC has had a lot of trouble with very athletic players these past few years. We've seen C.J. Spiller and Tyrod Taylor run circles around us as we continually have trouble bottling these explosive players up. We need better athletes to be able to handle guys like this, scheming can only go so far. Losing out on Haden and other top recruits hurts us because our reputation follows us to every recruit. We need to bring in top level athletes to reach the next level, and when a previously highly touted prospect transfers, it can only hurt the BC recruiting pitch.

I understand Doc Saturday's findings, but the once again the whole system is designed to empower the top programs. Big deal that the higher rated ranked class beat the lower ranked program 2/3s of the time. It doesn't take a genius from Rivals to say Florida has a better recruiting class and then look smart when Florida beats Vandy 2 out of 3 times (or more). Florida has natural advantages over Vandy and the gurus tend to reinforce those advantages by favorably ranking the players that are drawn to Florida or Alabama etc.

You also mentioned Alabama. Do you think their current position in the college football landscape has to do with the 2006 recruiting class or with bringing in a world class coach? Also, I think their "recruiting rise" is misleading since they were coming off probation and disruptive coaching changes. The gurus aren't dummies. They aren't going to put a team in transition with limited scholarships in the top 10 of their prediction.

But instead of debating the rankings, let's go back to the main premise again: that BC fans should be concerned with how we deal and develop four stars. I have made it clear I disagree with that focus and want to offer a counter to the Haden anecdotal situation. My situation shows a missed opportunity for BC but one that flew under the radar for most BC fans because the geniuses at the ranking services didn't put the same four star tag on Kyle Koehne. For those of you who don't follow recruiting as closely, Koehne was a 3-star offensive lineman from Indianapolis that BC thought very highly of last year. We ended up losing him to Florida. There was disappointment among those who follow recruiting but not the hand wringing you see when BC loses on a four star. Why? Because he was not a skill player and was only a 3 star. Yet I think his ranking was yet another indictment of the system. If BC -- a school with a great history of evaluating Oline talent -- has the kid at the top of their board and Florida -- which doesn't recruit just anyone out of Indiana -- thinks the kid is going to be a star, why is he only a 3 star? I don't know. Maybe the Midwest evaluators from Rivals didn't anticipate that he would get national interest. Maybe they thought he was too skinny to play Oline at the SEC level. Maybe since he was ignored by Notre Dame and Ohio State they didn't worry. Regardless, if BC wants to break our ceiling we need to bring in more Koehnes and not worry about recruiting rankings. If we identify a player for the top of our board we need to put all our effort into landing him regardless of his rankings. And once we get everyone on campus you play the best players and don't worry about egos or stars or anything else. Worry about winning.

As far as Alabama goes obviously the hire of Coach Saban helped bring them to back into the national spotlight, but arguably his biggest contribution was his ability to attract high level talent such as Andre Smith, Mark Ingram and Julio Jones. Without these highly-ranked players Alabama would just be another middle of the road SEC school with a world class coach. If you need proof look at how Steve Spurrier has struggled in South Carolina.

When I look at the Kyle Koehne situation I think it works against your theory that the gurus try to reinforce the rankings by bumping up players looking at Florida or Alabama. It seems by looking at his profiles, scouts thought he was very technically sound but his athleticism was questioned and most thought he would have to move to guard in college. If Rivals had gone back and changed his ranking from a three to a four star just because Florida began showing interest, wouldn't that show they weren't sticking to their assessment and favoring the top schools?

I'm encouraged by our ability to bring in a player like Shakim Phillips who has the potential to be a gamebreaking wideout for us. Look at the teams we've played and around the ACC and you'll find guys like Spiller, Taylor, Golden Tate, Ryan Williams, and Jonathan Dwyer who always have the ability to hit a big play. It should be no surprise that all those guys listed were at least 4 star prospects (Taylor and Spiller 5 stars), and that they had a big hand in either beating BC or in Dwyer's case most likely leading his team to the ACC championship game. From what we saw of Haden he probably wasn't the answer and would never have an effect like any of these guys. We can still be a very good team without Josh Haden or many four and five star recruits, but if we are looking to be a great team then I believe we'll have to start bringing in these top-rated guys.

ATLEagle: I agree that greatness is dependent upon great players. I just don't think we should trust the recruiting system to find and identify all those great players. If BC never gets another five-star recruit, you won't hear a complaint out of me. I will care once we stop competing on the field and will be alarmed when we stop seeing BC guys playing in the NFL.


eagle1331 said...

I can't buy an argument that has no statistics. As someone who "follows" BC recruiting, I could care less about stars. We continually see guys ranked 2 and 3 stars getting poached by the Florida's and Ohio States to fill up their recruiting class after they realize we've identified diamonds in the rough.

You've previously said, Bill, that when you pile up 4 and 5 star guys, you don't notice when a few are misses. I agree and, moreover, will add that you don't notice when the 2 or 3 star guys on that team exceed expectations because you simply assume they were 4 or 5 stars.

Bama's rise in recruiting and rankings is all about Saban. Kids went there to play for him, in droves. Whether or not they would have excelled in BC's football system, one will never know. The fact of the matter is he is fielding a team of 4 and 5 star kids and whether that is because the recruiting gurus hit the nail on the head, he has coached them up, or 1 or 2 guys are making the whole team better, we will never know.

Losing Haden is not a big deal. A 2 star, unheralded kid has continually played better. Moreover, when you are a 4 star recruit, enough smoke has been blown up your ass that you are less likely to a) take the backseat to someone or b) switch positions because you got beat out.

Toal was not mis-used, he was hurt, and he was great when on the field.

BC takes kids with potential, talent, and fit, plugs them into our system, and competes every year. I could care less if they have 0 stars.

In fact, I think that our continued ability to get 2 or 3 star kids (who show up the 1 or 2 4 star kids we get) and compete shows the opposite of what Brad is arguing. By taking these guys and competing consistently is showing we know how to identify talent and use/grow players for their ability better than the Bama's of the world that rely on 4 or 5 star kids who only manage 1 or 2 fewer losses than us a year.

cullenmi said...

I think we are missing Brad's argument. He seems to not be arguing over whether we develop talent but rather to eventually become a perennial BCS team you need 5 star players. His logic is that a 5 star recruit has to succeed at BC for more 5 stars to show up. I think that his argument would make sense but I don't see us as a perennial BCS team.

I think Bill and Eagle 1331 make sense. We develop two star players and field competitive teams that compete for the ACC championship every year. Brad just wants to not competing but winning and 5 stars are the way to get there. Makes sense but not sure how realistic it is to expect BC to become the premier destination for 5 stars based on location, size, and stature in Boston.

almost_paul said...

BZ: "BC needs a top-level recruit to come to Chestnut Hill and shine in order to persuade other big-time prospects to follow suit."

So is a five-star DT going to decide against BC because Raji was was only a two-star guy in high school? Is a five-star QB going to drop BC because Ryan was only a three-star? That doesn't make any sense. If you put guys into the NFL, it doesn't matter what they were ranked in high school. If Montel Harris is the next Steve Slaton, he is going to attract recruits to BC just as well as Haden would have.

Danny Boy said...

It seems like both sides are having fundamentally different arguments. I think Cullenmi is right in that Brad is arguing that BC will never take the next step without some highly regarded recruits.

BC fields a solid team annually. We plug in new guys and keep chugging along. We coach up role players and do great things with them. If we could coach up some physically gifted athletes, I think we could do even better things year in year out.

Almost_paul, our ability to find diamonds in the rough may actually be hurting our case in recruiting top talent. Remember most 4 and 5 star recruits have been starters their whole life. They have lived in the spotlight. If we have demonstrated that stars dont mean squat once you're on campus, and we will play the best player, we may scare away some insecure athletic gods. They want to know that they'll be playing day in and day out, without having to look over their shoulder.

Does this mean that we should recruit solely base on stars and prospects? Absolutely not. BC has found a great formula for getting the most out of its players. We just need to find a way to get players with a higher ceiling, and then get the most out of that. BC shouldn't slacken our standards, but target the athletes who would fit our system (and they do exist).

matthew2 said...

(Brief aside) Joe Lunardi has us as one of the last 4 in... FSU/MIA on the bubble too...

I know this is more than ridiculous to already be posting, but still, I'm excited for Dartmouth on Friday!!

Andrew said...

A.)So the best QB recruit in the country, 5 star, comes to BC, continues to be the best QB in the country, and gets drafted as such.


B.) Some random 3 star recruit, Matt Ryan, comes to BC, and goes on to become the best QB (NFL ready) in the nation, and is drafted as such.

So most 5 star recruits would rather see option A happen than B? Maybe, but if they are that stupid, I don't want them.

conlonc said...

"If we have demonstrated that stars dont mean squat once you're on campus, and we will play the best player, we may scare away some insecure athletic gods. They want to know that they'll be playing day in and day out, without having to look over their shoulder."

While this is sometimes true, then why does USC get 15 top RBs to line up for the practice squad? Why does a Matt Cassel never even get snaps in games? Why do great players go to programs where they know they won't see the field until their final one or two years? It's because there's more than just that. And different kids are looking for different things. If a kid is unintelligent enough to realize that despite his God-given talents that a guy who has been on campus for 3 or 4 years is more game ready and will be able to contribute more to the season than him, then he's not a guy we want.

Some programs are willing to take guys who are looking for a two year stint so they can flash their stuff and move on to bling. BC is not one those programs. Let them be scared away - I don't want them representing my universtiy and am proud that we don't sell out for wins, but earn them instead.

CT said...

If the recruiting services are "deeply flawed," how else would we explain Dr. Saturday's study?

There's a correlation but not a causation? I don't understand. If you're looking for another reason why the football factoris who get better recruits are perenially ahead of others, I guess you'd say correlation. Hmm, why do Florida and Oklahoma and Texas win so much? Because their recruits are post-ranked after they commit? I don't get it.

How is the recruiting system "not designed" to reward teams like BC? I'd argue that, based on the numbers that BC has put in the NFL, the program is right about where you'd think we should be. Top 25. No better, no worse. We've got 21 guys in the NFL at the moment. That's well below Miami and LSU who have over 40.

Now, if we want to get to the next level, we have to find more "BC guys," not 4-stars? Why are these mutually exclusive? Besides, if Texas doesn't look for "Texas guys," doesn't this argue in favor or recruiting rankings? Is there such a thing as an "Alabama guy?" Or are they nearby recruits ranked higher than most?

The best players a) stay within 3 hours of home ( article pointed this out) and b) follow cultural trends and branding and c) might be hurt by our emphasis on graduation rates. Few in the south have BC on their brains at all. There's no talk about the school down here. None. It's much more difficult to walk into a senior's house and argue against 18 yrs (or generations, really) of identification with their state school or nearby cross-border school (So. Ga. is drawn to FSU and Auburn as much as UGA).

Simply put, the best players are attracted to the best programs. They have more cache. Their gameday experience blows away BC's. The emotional pull is everything.

I'd bet if you asked Doug Flutie about BC's speed and athleticism he'd look at you cross-eyed.

Alabama's rise is about Saban--his ability to recruit! He did it at LSU in fertile ground and he's doing it again. We can know how he's doing it...look at the playmakers on his team and what they were ranked. You don't need 11 4 and 5 star guys on each side, but a few make all the difference. We get one in Toal, for example, and all the people poo-pooing the recruiting services are over the moon in anticipation of our one "great" recruit. Can't have it both ways.

I think it's silly to compare our program to Alabama's. We know how to identify talent better and be competitive? What? 1 or 2 fewer losses per year exactly separates the good programs from the very good. That's the whole point. To avoid those 1 or 2 losses. Alabama is competing for nat'l championships in the SEC, we're competing with Clemson to win our division in a weak conference. There is no comparison. And tradition, forget it.

The Koehne example contradicts ATL's point, does it not? If Fla. liked him, wouldn't he have been ranked higher, by that logic?

9 of the top 10 picks in the '08 draft were 4 or 5 stars (the lone exception is one we know). The first 4 rounds of that draft saw 8 players drafted that were ranked as best at their positions in high school. In '08, you had a 50% chance of being drafted in the first 3 rounds if you were a 5 star, a 10% chance at 4 stars, 3.6% at 3 stars, and less than 1% as a 2 star. (

Recruiting rankings DO matter. They're not an exact science. But the trends are there.

I agree with Brad Zak's argument. BC will never get to the next level unless and until it recruits higher ranked guys. We might have a very good year every now and then, but will always be in a rebuilding mode afterwards--rather than a reloading one--with our approach to finding "BC guys."

Apologize for the length.

jared said...

I am a freshman in college and played high school football in a talent rich private school division in Texas last year. My team was mainly composed of hard-nosed blue collar players and we would abuse the many rich, suburban teams we played with our aggressive, physical style. We were not exceptionally big or fast, but we were disciplined and team oriented.

Throughout last season we faced three of the top quarterbacks in Texas. The first we upset in dramatic fashion despite our young, inexperienced secondary. Quarterback #1 threw for less than 70 yards and failed to convert on third down repeatedly. Quarterback #2 dismantled us, throwing and rushing for over 550 yards combined. He was awarded with several player of the year honors but was only recruited by a handful of community colleges. Quarterback #3 knocked my team out of the playoffs but was maintained to about 100 passing yards, nailing the key completions when the game was on the line.

Of the three, which would you expect to be a top recruit? If you guessed the first you are correct. His name is Connor Wood, and he was Texas' top recruit this year. Originally recruited by Iowa, Wood was a meager two star recruit. Seemingly out of nowhere, he began to be recruited by Major Applewhite at Texas. Overnight, his Scouts profile jumped him up to a four star recruit. His size, speed, skill set etc. did not improve, only his recognition.

I am not trying to say that Wood is not a good player, clearly he has a cannon for an arm and a strong frame, however, it is appaling that he is one of the top QB recruits in the nation when, just in the division I played in, there were two quarterbacks who were clearly superior.

The recruiting process is broken. With thousands of teams across the nation playing ball, it is impossible for coaches to watch every game and see every elite player. This is why recruiters let combines and camps bring the recruits to them. A no-name player could show up to a camp, run a 4.3 second 40 yard dash, bench press 500 pounds and catch balls like a mad man and before the coaches even see the young man put his pads on, he is ordained as the program’s messiah.

I have seen firsthand the importance of who you are, where you come from and who you know in regards to recruitment. Coaches will recruit out of their "spheres of influence" where they have established connections with local coaches and scouts. A mediocre high school kid playing in a town that is a talent pool for a certain university is exponentially more likely to be recruited than an outstanding player from a young school in a smaller town. Likewise, an affluent suburban kid that attends every camp and combine around for years is almost guaranteed to be recruited, while an athletic inner-city player that has never marketed himself as a recruit faces an uphill battle.

The beauty of Boston College's program is that they know what they want from a recruit- intangibles that are not measured at combines and cannot be glorified in highlight reels. A guy like Alex Albright isn't flashy. He probably didn't record 15 sacks in his senior year in high school but Jagodzinski and Spaziani wanted a selfless, heart-on-sleeve defensive lineman. Albright has performed exceptionally well this season and he didn't need a five star ranking on Rivals to earn his success.

Melman said...

Bringing in 2 and 3 star recruits has some big advantages too. These players tend to stay until they graduate and are willing to redshirt for the most part. On the opposite end of the spectrum, the 4 and 5 star players that many factories recruit are much more likely to enter the NFL draft as underclassmen. There are plenty of examples of colleges who bring in lesser rated talent and their system allows them to not only compete with but beat the schools which the elite recruits flock too. BC's winning streak against ND and Wake's recent dominance over FSU are good examples of this. Utah's crushing of Bama can't be explain if good coaching and star ratings were solely the keys to a winning program.

I'm not saying BC shouldn't try to land the best players possible but Rival and Scout rankings should play absolutely no role in how BC evaluates a player and how that player should be treated once he gets on campus.

SaturdaysOnShea said...

18 and 17 and even 16 year old kids are stupid. They often choose schools for the completely wrong reasons (e.g. Ryan Williams going to VT because he couldn't get the number he wanted at BC). So frankly, I don't care what Rivals and Scout say about a recruit and how good they consider him to be. Take, for example, the BJ Raji play against ND when Raji pushed the ND lineman back into his own running back. Raji was a two-star recruit who, in that play (and many others) man handled an ND recruit that was ranked as a five star... so really, who was the better player.

But, I can see a cycle in this thing. As BC continues to develop talent, continues to compete and hopefully soon, win the ACC and continue to climb the rankings, you'll see more four and five star recruits coming to Chestnut Hill. Now here, as long as they buy into our system and our style of play, the "Blue Collar" football that we are often characterized as, that's good and I want them here. But if they're going to be a bunch of primadonas, then I don't want them here.

Attracting four and five star recruits is not what matters in the end. What matters is winning games. Florida wins games with four and five star recruits. BC wins with two and three star recruits. Let's also point out that in 2008 Miami and Clemson had the top two ranked recruiting classes according to ESPN and Notre Dame the #9. In 2009, Miami and Florida State had the 8th and 9th spots respectively. Look at these schools, their current records, their records against BC and their recruiting class rankings according to ESPN. Frankly, its all a joke. BC, who is getting two and three star recruits is able to consistently compete with and often beat teams made up of four and five star recruits.

At some point, someone will realize that its not the talent you get, but how you develop that talent to play at the next level. And it seems that BC does a pretty good job at that.

mod34b said...

John -- great points.

next time the would-be 4/5 star recruit has some doubts, show him the Raji manhandling of the ND guy.

Ps. you're "seeing stars."' The ND guy was not a 5 star recruit. As ATL noted a year ago"

"I don't want to spark the whole recruiting rankings debate again, but let's all agree that sometimes the experts get it wrong (Raji was a 2-star, Olsen a 4-star).

But who really is aspiring to be like Florida or Texas or Ohio State or Oklahoma? I don't think anyone has that desire. BC is getting better and better program-wise every year and we are moving in the right direction.

We probably could use a better PR agency to get the BC story out there than better recruits at this point (seriously). If we build (the illusion that turns into reality) tehy will come. They will!

Unknown said...

Surprised at ATL. As CT says, 4 and 5 star kids turn out to be statistically better than 2 and 3 star guys. Not in every instance, but no known evaluation of talent/future productivity can be right more than in the aggregate -- which is precisely what we are talking about -- or should be. Is ATL or those who are on his side satisfied with BC's talent -- or do they think it would be a good idea to step it up? This is a different issue than, "Are we satisfied with with BC's success in getting the most from the talent it gets?"

Knucklehead said...

Josh Hayden did not live up to his Rivals 4-star ranking(out of 5 by the way) while at Boston College. If he did live up to the ranking he would have played more, been more productive, and as a rsult he would have been happier and most likely would have remained at Boston College.

On a side note, for example, Jim Unis and Brian Toal got hurt and never lived up to their rankings but they didn't leave the school because they realized the value of the education in the long term and the fact that they were not going to make the NFL.

According to Hayden's comments about wanting a state U. . . . it sounds like he is looking for a party school where he can "get down" and have little expectations placed on him. There is nothing wrong with that. He is admmtting that he made a mistake and leaving with class.

Old Heightsonian said...

I just want to thank Brad for reaching out and Bill for posting this discussion. Since I haven't posted in a while, I'm sure I speak for many others who appreciate reading intelligent, passionate debate about Boston College football. So thank you both.

Bill, you've been doing this for quite a while now. Hats off.

Brad, you mentioned the mainstream media. Frankly I don't think it's so much the fact that we are consistently underrated by the media that irks BC fans so much as that we are entirely ignored. The Globe's coverage of Boston College has been on the decline for years and has never been worse than this year. The Herald is only slightly better. Even your own media outlet, ESPNBoston, at the time of this writing, has not a single BC-related article posted on its main page and is lumped together with the likes of Holy Cross and UMass in a general "colleges" page. I sincerely hope that you are able to use your new platform at ESPNBoston to address the dearth in BC media coverage.

Thanks again, and GO EAGLES!

Harry Collins said...

I get tired of all this crap talk about taking BC to "the next level." BC is precisely where it shoud be.

There are 65 schools making up the 6 BCS conferences, and 54 are huge state universities with commensurately huge budgets, endless resources, and many places to hide the so-called "student-athletes" needed to make runs at NCs. The other 11 are small private schools like BC. Of those 11, only two are making the necessary "commitment" (read: relaxed academic standards) to run with the big boys: USC (doing it) and Miami (will be doing it again soon). 8 others (BC, Vandy, Baylor, Northwestern, Stanford, Wake, Duke and Syracuse) have decided they will not compromise academic integrity, electing instead to comfortably travel in coach with the occasional lightning in a bottle year upgrading them to first class (e.g., BC in 2007). Only one program has an identity crisis, and that's ND. The delusional Domers want the NCs AND the academics. But as is evident from their 15 years of medicority and coaching carousel, you can't have it both ways, that ship has sailed, and quite a long time ago, the Lou Holtz sellout years notwithstanding (when ND briefly made the "commitment"). If you look at the history of college football, there are eras. The early years were dominated by the Ivy League, then the service academies/Notre Dame in the 40s-50s-60s, and now the state universities.

The pool of 4 and 5 star recruits that can actually cut it at the 11 private schols is tiny, and we have to compete with the other 10, plus the state u's intterested in them. The fact that BC lands a few every now and then is great, but to ask for more is unrealistic, so leave well enough alone. Sure, try for more, just don't expect it.

I'm confortable with the status of BC's program. They compete in a highly entertaining conference. They graduate their student-athletes. They give us more thrills than downers every year. Yes, they go to crappy bowls when bowl eligibile because of the flawed system that is the FBS, but that's a tired story that needs no re-hashing. The bottom line is that it's fun to be a BC fan. Same goes for BC hoops. I am an older guy (43), and have certainly seen some dark periods for BC sports. But this era (the past 10 years and counting) has been absolutely great. You young guys should appreciate it more.

Harry Collins said...

One other thing underscoring the success of the BC revenue sports. If you define success in football as a bowl season, and success in hoops as an NCAA tourney appearance, as I do, then BC in the 200os has 9 for 9 in football and 7 for 9 in hoops (I think). I'd be curious to see how many other BCS schools are 16 for 18 like us. I'll bet it's less than 10 programs. I'll take that.

ATL_eagle said...

Because this was a back and forth perhaps might points weren't as clear as I would like. (Brad, feel free to add anything too).

Let me clarify my points a bit.

-- The flaws in the recruiting system.
I am not sure how ESPN does it, but Scout and Rivals evaluate by regional panels. Much of the evaluation is based by their JR year and camps. This is based often on bigger, stronger, faster. That is a good baseline but not definite in any team sport (just look at all the combine warriors). The place where I say the system rewards the programs is because when Mike Farrell talks to a JR and he says "I've been hearing from Alabama, USC and Florida" Farrell et al will make him a four star. So as I said, the evaluators are working off whispers, what the kids say and a couple camps. Considering the thousands of kids playing high school football, you can't expect a system like that to ID all the good prospects.

-- Correlation vs Causation.
The top teams have a strong correlation with the highest rated classes. But they don't win because they went after the best players according to Rivals and Scout. Rivals and Scout tabbed those players as the best because they went to the top programs.

-- Koehne.
I said he was a flaw in the system because a three star even though a program like BC rated him their best prospect (behind closed doors) and a school like Florida went out to Indiana to get him. Yet he was only a 3-star (presumably) because the Rivals midwest team either didn't think much of him because of his "athleticism" or more likely because ND and Ohio State and didn't express interest in him early. If Florida had been on him early or if the east evaluator had a chance to rate him, he probably would have been a four star. That's a flawed system. Regardless in my mind, not landing a Koehne is a bigger issue than some of the other four stars we missed out on last year. We need to land the players we like the most.

-- Next level.
I think we can get to the next level (winning the ACC/BCS bowl) with our current recruiting foundation and strategy. We just need to find one or two more diamonds in each class.

Nick P. said...

I've always thought of recruiting rankings as not a forecast of a player's total potential, but rather their ability to make an impact early in their career.

For example, a five star LB comes in and starts as a true freshman. As a freshman he is the third best LB on the team, which is great because he's so young. So far, the star ranking looks dead on. Fast forward to his senior season. Now he is still the starting LB, but perhaps he is still just the third best and not on the radar for any conference honors. How accurate does the star rating look now?

The rankings really need to be taken with a grain of salt because they are inefficient at predicting long term success. How else can one explain the success of two star recruits. Even considering the statistics one person posted that a five star recruit has a 50% likelihood of making the NFL, that is such a low percentage of predictive success, that the system just can't be seriously regarded as a leading indicator of future total success.

Dan said...

As a grad student in I/O Psychology, my peers and I spend a lot of time helping organizations select and develop top talent.

In this field the validity of selection tools is constantly being debated. The fact of the matter is that the correlation between high performance on some measure of selection whether it be IQ tests, SATs, GREs or in this case Rivals or Scouts rankings and high performance is actually quite low. 0.3 is actually considered to be good.

The effect of such a low correlation is two fold. 1) Some of those people who score high will still be duds. 2) Some who don't make the cut will end up being amazing somewhere else. As an example, I'm sure many BC students know friends that were rejected by BC but probably would have done very well and knew kids that got in and then failed out. However, while the correlation is low and the science inexact, choosing people who score high on a given selection tool (in this case star rankings) will on average yield better results than choosing from the population at large.

ATL_eagle said...


That is interesting about the population at large because I think BC isn't doing that. We are recruiting more selectively from the top and upper middle tiers which I feel can be as effective as going after the Top 100 from rivals assuming you have a good model for IDing guys and making them better.

Dan said...

I definitely agree that we are not just randomly picking people. However, athetically speaking in this case, as you pass each star level or group of 100 your technically picking from a "better basket" of potential candidates.

We are simply using a different method of selection that is more likely to find guys that "fit" our particular system. Our method is clearly weighted towards intangibles whereas the recruiting services put more weight into current physical development. While I for one agree with BC's methods, I think the ideal scenario is to find the guys with the best fit and physical ability. There are certainly more 4 and a few 5 stars that meet our criteria and are physically bigger/stronger/faster than the average bc player and we should continue to strive to land more of these type of players. I am not a star for stars sake kinda guy. But you can't ignore that the physicals play a role.

Generally speaking you have to consider it in terms of a multiple regression. There are many factors that predict success as a player and each team needs to weight those factors for there situation. BC tends to notice the other factors more and/or better.

Justin said...

Pretty surprised how little redshirting has been discussing in this debate. With the exception of Kuechly and a few others, most of our top players end up redshirting before stepping into the spotlight. This turns our once 3 star recruits into much better "freshmen" than those of the top programs.

I agree with ATLEagle that our recruiting system is tailored to get the right guys, not just the ones with the most stars, but there is no denying that redshirting a bulk of our players turns them into stars that help our team compete with the best.

Wake does the same thing and they've seen similar success. BC and Wake just aren't schools (and I prefer this way over any football factory school) that promise kids they'll play on day 1 and treat them like they're the kings of campus.

BC's program is based on guys buying into the system and the team mindset. Sadly, there aren't many hot-head 4/5 star recruits that want to hear that. But hey, FSU and Miami can take their top recruits. We'll just keep winning division championships and developing high class NFL players that are also high class people.

almost_paul said...

Harry: I liked your breakdown of the private BCS schools. And it’s good to be reminded of the many good things BC Athletics have accomplished. However, one can appreciate and critique at the same time. I don’t think anyone would be on this site if they didn’t appreciate BC sports. I don’t have the history you do with BC, but I’ve heard about the lean times enough to understand that my four years at BC (02-06) were off-the-charts successful. But let’s not get fat and happy. Debates like this are necessary to keep the momentum moving forward.

BCMike said...

Ironic he chose to use Julio Jones as an example. Kid has all the skills in the world, but hasn't been a difference maker at all.

See if you can spot the player by the stats:


Player A

Player B

Player C


Player A = Julio Jones
Player B = Colin Larmond
Player C = Richie Gunns

Coast said...

Harry Collins:

You're high as a kite if you think Baylor runs an integrity-rich, clean program.

They get in as much dirt as the big dogs do, they just can't convince the right kids to come to Waco.