From the Sidelines

Published 12:00 am Monday, February 1, 1999

MICHAEL KIRAL / L’Observateur / Febuary 1, 1999

National Signing Day is this Wednesday and the recruiting battles are heating up. Top recruits are making their last visits and making thedecision that will have a major impact on their lives on and off the field.

The National Champion-ship game was almost a month ago and the season does not start for another seven months. Even spring football is aboutthree months ago. Recruiting is college football’s version of baseball’s HotStove League, keeping interest in the sport high during the offseason.

And judging by the recruiting/award parties being held by Louisiana Football Magazine around the state, that interest is red hot. The one heldat the Hooters restaurant in Metairie Monday night honoring athletes from the New Orleans area drew a standing room audience. According to reports,the same was true at the ones held in Baton Rouge and Lafayette this week.

Recruiting sites have popped up the internet, letting fans get the latest in recruiting news. Talk shows discussed the latest gossip on where the toprecruits are heading. Many fans take recruiting almost as seriously as thegames themselves, comparing how their teams did against their biggest rivals.

LSU fans put up as big a cheer Wednesday night at the recruiting party in Baton Rouge when West Monroe’s Brady James announced he was committing to LSU as any heard in Tiger Stadium this year. With James,Lafayette’s Treverance Faulk and Ouachita Christian’s Eric Edwards having verbally committed, the Tigers could have a Top 10-ranked class this year.

Tulane is also having a successful recruiting season with players like Patterson’s Kerwin Jones and South Lafourche’s Renzi Sandras announcing they will play for the Green Wave. Southern may have gotten a steal whenCarencro’s Theo Babineaux committed to the Jaguars.

Fans will also lament the ones that got away. Tulane lost out on St. Jamesrunning back Chad Jasmin who followed former Green Wave coach Tommy Bowden to Clemson.

LSU had its eyes on Evangel’s Cole Pittman who went to Texas. LSU alsolost out on Allen Tillman, a quarterback from Mississippi who signed with Auburn. Newman’s Eli Manning went to Ole Miss and Glen Oaks’ RoderickRoyal is headed to Florida.

But former Hahnville and Nicholls State head coach Darren Barbier, now an assistant at Tulane, pointed out on a talk show the other night that it is not the ones that got away that hurt you. It is the players that are broughtin and don’t contribute that are the ones that do the most harm.

Barbier pointed out that if you bring in four bad players a year, over a four-year period that is 16 bad players on the roster. And those are 16scholarships that could have been used on other players.

Just ask LSU fans about that. In 1992, Curly Hallman brought in a stellarclass of running backs that included Jay Johnson, Artie Moore, Robert Toomer and Robert Davis. By the time Gerry DiNardo came aboard in 1995,only Toomer remained.

But while it was the running backs that garnered much of the attention of that top-ranked class in the country, a number of players that would make a bigger contribution to the Tigers were overlooked. Ben Bordelon, JamesGillyard, Tory James, Eddie Kennison, David LaFleur, Gabe Northern and Sheddrick Wilson would all end up playing in the NFL.

And who could have foreseen that Tulane’s recruiting efforts in the mid- 1990s would culminate in an undefeated 1998 season? Players like Shaun King, Toney Converse and P.J. Franklin might not have made national newsthen but they sure did this past season.

So have fun following all the recruiting battles and seeing who signs where Wednesday but don’t take it too seriously. Having a Top 10 classdoes not guarantee a Top 10 finish in the polls. On the other hand, adiamond in the rough may lead a team to the top of the mountain.

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