Friday, February 02, 2007

The Great Debate: Coaching vs. Recruiting, part 3

So, in parts 1 and 2 I've talked about Steve Spurrier and Ron Zook (as well as Larry Coker and Butch Davis) but I said we were going to look at the 3 most recent Gator coaches. So in part 3 we will look at Urban Meyer.

Now Urban Meyer has a short track record as a recruiter. He has only coached for six seasons and that was for three different teams. If we accept that you can't judge a coach's recruiting ability on his first class at a school because he simply doesn't have enough time to assemble a class, then Meyer only has 3 complete classes to judge by and the incomplete class of 2007. The three complete classes are Bowling Green in 2002, Utah in 2004, and Florida in 2006.

According to Meyer only landed two recruits for Bowling Green in 2002 that were rated. Both were one-star recruits. BGSU's class was ranked 96th out of 100. Since they don't have any information for previous years it's hard to tell whether that was an improvement over what BGSU usually gets.

Meyer's 2004 Utah class had 22 rated commits according to 1 of them was 5-star recruit and there were two 3-star recruits with the rest being 1-star recruits. The class was ranked 68th. The year before Meyer took over at Utah, the school landed four rated recruits, two of them were of the 2-star variety and two of them were of the 1-star variety, for a rank of 84th in the country. It's pretty safe to say that in addition to getting much more out of the Utah players than his predecessor, Urban Meyer brought more talent to the school than it was accustomed to getting.

Meyer's 2006 Florida class was ranked 2nd in the nation. Coach Meyer reeled in 27 rated recruits comprised of six 5-stars, twelve 4-stars, eight 3-stars and one 2-star. The average rating for Meyer's 2006 class was 3.85 stars. Zook's last class at Florida had been ranked 8th with one 5-star, nine 4-stars, eleven 3-stars and three 2-stars (average of 3.33 stars). To be fair to Zook, his best class was 2003 when he reeled in 28 commits including five 5-stars and fourteen 4-star recruits which ranked the class 4th in the country with an average rating of 3.68 stars.

Now looking at Meyer's 2007 class in progress, it's currently the top ranked class with nine 5-star recruits, thirteen 4-star recruits, and four 3-star recruits (average rating of 4.16 stars). If there are no last minute changes for the worse both of Urban Meyer's "complete" classes will be ranked higher than both of Zook's "complete" classes, both relative to other schools and in terms of absolute average of stars.

Everybody, myself included, agrees that Zook did a fantastic job in recruiting the talent that the experts said was out there but it seems that Urban Meyer is just as fantastic if not more so. And Meyer has proven he can win with other people's talent (or lack of talent) in the past.

You don't need to do a lot of deep analysis to understand what I've written here but there's a key aspect to recruiting that I want to touch on before I wrap this up. Just because Florida has the highest rated recruiting class in the country today, doesn't mean that the Junior class of 2009 will be the best. A significant number of these talented kids could find themselves, on the bench, at other schools or out of school altogether for a variety of reasons.

So then recruiting becomes a much more difficult game. It's no longer just about recruiting a guy with a lot stars next to his name, it's about recruiting a guy that is likely to achieve in the other areas that are necessary to get on the field: academics, discipline, etc. Smart coaches will be evaluating players not just on their physical gifts but on their personalities, their backgrounds, etc. If you had to choose bewteen a 4-star with a 3.0 GPA, from a 2-parent household or a 5-star from a broken home with a 2.0 GPA that was generously given to him and who already has an arrest under his belt who would you choose? Talented yet unreliable players are very frustrating as Urban Meyer can attest to in the case of Marcus Thomas. Dolphins fan understand as well in the case of Ricky Williams.

So in conclusion I'll say this. It looks like Urban Meyer is just as much the "master recruiter" that Ron Zook was. But it remains to be seen if his hit/miss ratio is below average, average, or above average. I suspect that Meyer has confidence in his ability to keep players in line and eligible. I suspect he understands that some players are going to wash out and that it's the cost of doing business. But it will be a couple of years before my suspicions are proven or disproven. I'm sure I'm not the only one who will be watching.


Gator Duck said...

Check out the Duck's evaluation of this year's recruiting class over at Gator Duck Speaks.

Anonymous said...

Meyer's track record so far speaks for itself. We were in transition in 2005 and both because of the new coaching staff coming in and negative comments made by Zook to recruits and others we didn't being in a full class for 2005.

However, Meyer brought in top-ranked classes in 2006 and 2007 - OK Zook apologists, WHO'S the master recruiter NOW??????

Urban Meyer gets another edge in recruiting because he receuits wisely. It's not just about the "stars" they get from and - academics, character and attitude factor in as well as their demonstrated talent on the field. As was stated, we don't need any more troublemakers like Marcus Thomas to Taurean Charles coming to UF - we need more players in the mold of Tim Tebow coming here.

VAST difference between Meyer and Zook I want to point out as well - Meyer can balance both his responsibilities as a coach and his skill in recruiting to the point that he's enjoying a huge amount of success. Zook couldn't pull that off; he is one-dimensional and that type of coach doesn't usually succeed in college football. Successful college coaches must wear two hats as a leader and recruiter and be adept at both; they can't have one without the other.