I don't get it.
Okay, I get why people can get really excited about recruiting. We've got our own guy who's really excited about recruiting, and he's great. But there's a reason I don't have the job of "ATQ Recruiting Guru". It's because I just don't care that much about recruiting.
Let me modify that statement by saying this: I do like National Signing Day. That's when it becomes real. That's when recruits become more than just a dream; they get to make plans to come to Eugene for good, they get a uniform number, and we get to speculate on their career arc, and inevitable back-to-back Heisman trophies. But before Signing Day? It's a dreamers game, and I'm an insomniac.
High school recruiting is the celebrity gossip of sports. ESPNU's coverage of The Opening? That was a red carpet event. Interviews, idle chatter, and very little of anything important. The recruits got a chance to show off their skills against the best in the country, in front of scouts from every major school in the country. It's great for the players, it's great for the schools. But why is it on television? Does it really make ESPN that much money in advertising? Am I missing out on the new trend of being fascinated by watching standing vertical leaps? Is Mack Brown scouting from home?*
My biggest issue isn't even with the dreaming; it's that, even after all the rumors have settled and the LsOI have been signed, it's still a crapshoot. Remember, Lache Seastrunk had just as many stars to his name as De'Anthony Thomas. For every Jonathan Stewart and Haloti Ngata that end up with great careers at Oregon, there will be a Seastrunk or a Cameron Colvin that never lives up to expectation. And for every Marcus Lattimore, Tajh Boyd, or Terrelle Pryor that spurns Eugene only to sparkle somewhere else, there will be a Bryce Brown that ends up not being worth all the lament we afforded him.
My solution? No expectations whatsoever. If every freshman on the roster redshirted next year, I'd be fine with it. Let them learn the system, get acclimated to being a student-athlete, and get bigger and stronger. If they can come in and contribute right away, bonus. De'Anthony Thomas, Patrick Chung, Max Unger? They're the exceptions, not the rule. And when these players finally do see the field, it'll be eighteen months since their recruitment, and they'll be different players from the ones whose grainy YouTube highlight videos we drooled over. So again, I ask: what's the point of getting all uppity over recruiting?
I'm clearly missing something. Recruiting coverage and popularity has completely blown up, with ESPN showing high school all-star games, corporations like Nike and Under Armour holding elite camps as a way to gain exposure (and sell a lot of gear), and sites like Rivals and Scout, the US Weekly of sports, making subscription money from junkies so addicted to recruiting that they willing fork over cash for rumors. That makes me behind on the times, and I saw what happened when I resisted the flannel shirt and snapback resurgence. Never again. So I implore you, recruiting geeks. Convince me that I should care about recruiting. Convince me that spending time researching a 17 year old kid, who may never play a down for or by in any way associated with Oregon football, is a good use of my time and energy. Convince me, please. Because I hate being the guy that doesn't understand what the deal is.
*I'm kidding of course. Mack Brown doesn't have to recruit. He has Texas HS coaches do it for him.