Recruiting often a shot in the dark

Published 12:00 am Saturday, February 10, 2001


Two of the most important periods in college football is the first week of January and the first week of February. The first is when the games that decide the national championship are played, the latter when the national signing period begins. Success in one of those weeks often leads to the other. The road to the national championship often begins on the road to a high school student’s house. On the other hand, having a successful team often makes recruiting easier. You think it was a coincidence that Florida State, LSU, Michigan and Oklahoma had the best recruiting classes in the country? Each had winning seasons in 2000 and made bowl games. Of course, it also helped that those programs also have coaches ranked among the best recruiters in the country. Recruiting is a time-consuming year-long grind. Already college coaches are already casting an eye on next year’s class. College recruiting is a bigger crapshoot than the NFL Draft. NFL scouts have to keep an eye on hundreds of colleges. College recruiters have to find the best talent among thousands of high schools nationwide. And remember, these are 17 or 18-year-old players whose athletic abilities may or may not have peaked. There are hundreds of stories about can’t-miss prospects who missed badly. On the other hand, there are those who had moderate success in high school who became stars in college and in the NFL. Just ask Marshall Faulk, a sophomore defensive back at Carver and now a two-time NFL MVP. Rankings of recruiting classes on National Signing Day have even less significance than preseason polls. LSU’s 1992 class recruited by Curley Hallman was ranked number one in the country by many experts. That class went through losing seasons before making a bowl in 1995, in large part due to the class recruited that year by Gerry DiNardo. DiNardo then recruited a string of top 10 classes only to see the Tigers suffer consecutive losing seasons in 1998-99. LSU again has a top three class this year under Nick Saban. That class includes Blue Chippers like Michael Clayton, Marquise Hill, Marcus Spears and Ben Wilkerson. Tulane came on at the end to nab players like Fred Perkins and Tristan Smith. Of course, there are the ones that got away. LSU would have loved to have added players like Chris Spencer and Jason Mitchell. Wednesday was also a special one for athletes around the local area. Sixteen signed college scholarships. Hahnville’s Dawan Landry (Georgia Tech), St. James’ Davin Dennis (Kansas State) and Lutcher’s Chris Johnson and William Adams (Southern Miss) signed scholarships with teams that were in the Top 25 during the 2000 season. Those 16 athletes were rewarded for four years of hard work. Some will become stars on the next level, joining the likes of Gathers, Edward Reed, Casey Roussel and Kenneth Johnson, all award winners this past season. Others may get to see only limited playing time. But all will have the advantage of continuing their careers and more importantly, their education. Good luck to all those who signed this week, especially those from the area. If they continue to perform on and off the field like they did the past four years, the River Parishes will be well represented for years to come.