Monday, January 17, 2011

just a thought on recruiting

I had an interesting revelation the other day, while I was thinking about the back-to-back national championships this state has earned. You'll have to hang with me a moment to get there.

I was having a conversation with my cousin's husband (cousin-in-law?) Jamie the other night, and I remarked at how many of the players on the Auburn team that recently won the national championship — you may have read about this — were not recruited by Gene Chizik or any member of his staff. Glancing at the Auburn two-deep for this season, I see the majority of the team in fact belongs to Chizik's predecessor, Tommy Tuberville. Glance at his 2006, 2007 and 2008 recruiting classes, and you'll see names like Darvin Adams, Terrell Zachery, Zach Clayton and Lee Ziemba. In fact, of Auburn's starting 22, only Cam Newton and a handful of youngsters really belong to Chizik.

Of course, that led me to the 2009 national champs, coached by Nick Saban. Significant contributors on that team included the following: Greg McElroy, Leigh Tiffin, Justin Woodall, Roy Upchurch, Brandon Deaderick, Mike Johnson, Baron Huber, Cory Reamer, Javier Arenas, Marquis Johnson and Preston Dial.
And what do those guys have in common? They were signed in 2005 and 2006, by Nick Saban's predecessor, Mike Shula.

This isn't a terribly uncommon thing in college football history: Alabama's 1992 national championship was recruited almost exclusively by Bill Curry, and Auburn's undefeated 1993-94 team was attributable primarily to Pat Dye. More recently, Urban Meyer won a title with Ron Zook's crew in 2006, while Les Miles hoisted the trophy with a team recruited mostly by, yes, Nick Saban (don't tell LSU fans this, though ... they get a little prickly).
The big difference between those guys and the Shula/Tuberville combo: Conventional wisdom at the time was that those guys couldn't recruit, and that was one huge reason they had to go.
When Mike Shula was fired after the 2006 campaign, the biggest comparison between him and his successor was in recruiting: Nick Saban and his staff recruit at what is commonly known as "a championship level." Every service that follows recruiting has consistently rated Saban's classes in the top-5 since he started, a huge difference under Shula (his last class, the one with Javy, Greg and Andre Smith, rated 18th on ESPN). To be completely fair to Shula, he was operating under probation during his entire tenure at 'Bama, but he still wasn't recruiting at a high enough level to keep his job. At least, that's what we all said.
As for Tuberville, the prevailing party line from Auburn patrons since his ouster was that he was getting absolutely worked by Saban, Urban Meyer and Les Miles, on the recruiting trail. Tubs' last two classes were 7th and 19th on ESPN, respectively, and the sound beating that occurred in 2008 prompted Jamie to say he felt like he'd been gang-raped.

Three years later, that class is helping hoist a championship trophy. And you wonder why I hate this time of year and love it all at once.


David said...

I guess that simply means that the recruits Saban and Chizek were able to find made a significant difference - or more probably, coaching matters more than we think...
I think of Terrence Cody, Cam Newton and Nick Fairley as the recruits that were significant player contributors to make the championship happen

dbh said...

Fairley, incidentally, was a Tuberville signee as well: he wound up in juco and Chizik had to recruit him back to Auburn before the 09 campaign.

Amanda said...

I think it does show how much coaching and the character of the kids is important. Take Arenas - not recruited by another big-time school, only comes to Alabama to be on special teams, then ends up being so good he makes big-time plays in the SEC and national championship games. That's all on coach Saban's coaching and Arena's personal character - drive etc. Recruiting is still important - but character and drive ("competitive spirit" as Saban likes to call it) are probably at least as important as "athleticism." (Prince Hall, BJ Scott, anyone?) Talent only gets you in the door, drive gets you out the door to 'the league.'