There is a popular website called “24-7” that keeps up with the mystical world of college recruiting (247Sports.com) and trying to determine what an 18-year-old will decide to do from one minute to the next has gotten to be a hot topic. For instance, 24/7 is saying that currently Alabama has the best recruiting class in the country, Tennessee is second and Texas A&M third.
But when it comes to which schools offer the best circumstances for a coach to lure the best talent, the consensus for years has been that the University of Texas is the top spot because the state has the best high school talent in the country. Add the Longhorn prestige, its fan base, the alumni’s deep pockets and the sizzling rumors Mack Brown may step down, and the guessing game begins.
J.C. Shurburt, a columnist for the website, just came out with his opinion of the “Top 20 College Jobs For Recruiting” and, while it was obvious the Southeastern Conference would dominate the list with seven of its members chosen, I don’t think Texas is the best any longer. Shurburt picks the Longhorns, citing the huge high school talent base, their own TV network and the great location of Austin.
So let’s look at J.C.’s Top 20 with my comments – not his – following each one:
1. TEXAS: Once the undisputed king, there are many who notice A&M’s alliance with the SEC gives the Aggies an upper hand and when you look at the new-found brilliance of Baylor, Texas Tech, Texas Christian and SMU it is harder to believe Texas has the swagger it once did.
2.OHIO STATE – Urban Meyer had two years of winning before the Buckeyes fell in the Big 10 championship so there is a lot of karma in Columbus but a light schedule and lack of a dominate Woody Hayes-type team hurts OSU’s allure. The tradition, the facilities, the pro players and – let’s face it – Meyer himself make Ohio State a super choice.
3. LSU – Shurburt made LSU his highest SEC pick, citing running out of the locker room to the roar of a Tiger Stadium crowd and mentioned a wealth of in-state talent. The trouble with LSU is that the Tigers lacked the spark of greatness that has symbolized the team in the past. Off-the-field incidents, losing 38-17 to Alabama hurt, but the 27-24 win by Ole Miss soured the Tigers.
4. GEORGIA – The prettiest campus in the SEC is in Athens, with pretty girls, pretty fans, pretty good teachers and pretty good teammates. Georgia is a definite Top Five with talent easy to find, easy to lure and easy to sign. Mark Richt is a well-established gentleman and you know you are going to win 9 or 10 games a year. What’s there not to love?
5. SOUTHERN CAL – Los Angeles would be the best weather in the country, not to mention the “Left Coast, and playing in the Coliseum, so I would put the Trojans in the Top Five. Shurburt is down on USC after the Kiffin-Ogeron mess but the Trojans have dominated the PAC -12 forever and if given the choice between tinsel-town and Eugene, Ore., even I could sway a recruit.
6. FLORIDA – The Gators have it all, especially for a kid from the frozen north, and if you can look at this year’s disastrous season as an anomaly, Coach Will Muschamp will right his ship quickly. Six offense players abruptly decided to “transfer” this week, which every enemy recruiter will use against Florida. The truth is the ousted kids had “some help” deciding to play elsewhere and that scares recruits. The Gators shouldn’t be in the Top 10.
7. FLORIDA STATE – The Seminoles are every bit as attractive as most schools in the SEC except for one thing. They are not in the SEC. They should be. They have had a chance but, no, they are the biggest bully in the Southeast that “doesn’t belong.” Look what happened to Georgia Tech; once it was a destination but no longer. FSU belongs in the Top 20 but this year is in the Top 10 due to the unbeaten team and Jameis Winston’s success.
8. ALABAMA – The Crimson Tide has dominated recruiting for the past five years and has the national championships to show for it. The facilities are fabulous, the Bryant legacy huge, and the winning unparalleled. Add the fact that to be part of a showboat signing class is a huge honor in itself and I have to say Tuscaloosa would be the best place for a recruit this year.
9. NOTRE DAME – The Irish were on top for so long, the “Subway Alumni” legendary, but Notre Dame no longer has the swagger it did 25 years ago. Sure, the “First Down Moses” and the “Touchdown Jesus” are as historic as the stadium but, by today’s standards, “yesterday” means little compared to a recruit’s “tomorrow.”
10. PENN STATE – The horrible Jerry Sandusky scandal now beginning to cool, the Nittany Lions are a regional school where the great teams have to recruit nationally. Sure, everybody loves Happy Valley but if you have ever tried to get there, that in itself is a feat. Shurburt knows the area produces great talent but Clemson is more fun and didn’t make the list.
11. TEXAS A&M – The Aggies have such a glorious tradition they should be in the Top Ten of this list. A&M has thrived in the SEC – just ask Johnny Football – and now laughs about leaving the Big XII. A recruit will take a somber look at the Corps of Cadets but when they find out how it works they will love A&M until their dying breath.
12. AUBURN – The Tigers should be a Top Five school, not just with Gus Malzhan’s heroics but the best fan base in the country. Auburn takes care of its own, has a homey feel, and plays with such a rush that any recruit would be thrilled to wear the orange-and-blue on the Gus Bus. With the right coach in place, Alabama and Auburn fit together just fine.
13. MIAMI – The Hurricanes barely missed the NCAA’s Grim Reaper and with the crime problem so bad there are some parts of Miami that are dangerous during the daytime, Shurburt missed this one badly. Sure, the talent base is splendid but the Hurricanes have fallen in the last decade. Miami should have been replaced by Ole Miss, SMU or Texas Christian.
14. OREGON – Money from Nike, a lightning-fast attack and an exciting modern tradition have Oregon too low. Geez, these guys wear a different uniform in every day and don’t have the backbreaker schedules you see in the SEC and Big 12.
15. MICHIGAN – Any high school recruit who was in the Big House when the Wolverines almost upset Ohio State would have signed a letter-of-intent that day. It was a classic game but, more importantly, a fitting tribute to all the good Michigan has done for years. The talent isn’t like Texas or California but UM scouts nationally.
16. OKLAHOMA – This is another school too low on the list. Bobby Stoopes' only problem is that he has to turn down so many kids who want to play in Norman. Oklahoma State’s resurgence has added to the Sooners’ luster and never underplay what happens to a kid when he plays in the “Red River Rivalry” against Texas during the State Fair.
17. TENNESSEE – The Vols are down but Butch Jones' debut year was so exciting that this is about right. UT is having a great recruiting class and once Tennessee renews its strut the Vols should be one of the top programs in the country. Neyland Stadium is one of the best venues in the country but the Smoky Mountains, the river, the Southern genteel – no wonder former players never go back home.
18. NORTH CAROLINA – The Tar Heels football program has forever played second fiddle to the acclaimed basketball program and the reason is a lack of football talent. Chapel Hill is gorgeous, the university is fabled, and the admissions standard is high. While UNC is a gem of a place, don’t expect them to dwell in the weekly Top 25 in the near future. Duke and Virginia would be easier to recruit players.
19. STANFORD – This is a Top 10 location for a coach but the admissions standards cut deeply into the recruiting list. Stanford must recruit nationally to have continued success but Palo Alto may be the best university town west of the Mississippi. Recent success has prospects eager but they better have taken advanced-placement courses.
20. UCLA – Last on Shurburt’s list is UCLA, some 15 places behind Southern Cal but in the same city. Go figure. The Bruins have always been “the other team” so if I was a coach that would be an uphill slope I don’t need. I’m thinking for the No. 20 spot like Colorado, Tulane, or South Carolina would be a far better fit.