Thursday, May 17, 2007

By the numbers

Is this the book about the two cities?The Sporting News has an article up about Noel Devine and the hype surrounding him, although Devine is never mentioned by name. Writer Matt Hayes points out that 5-star recruits miss all the time and uses the names Brandon Barrett and Jason Gwaltney as examples. He claims that some unknown recruit will eventually mean more to WVU than Devine. Will Devine be the next Slaton or the next Gwaltney while someone like Terrence Kerns is the next Slaton?

First of all there is an excitement about Devine in Morgantown, but it is not as unrealistic as with Gwaltney. Gwaltney signed after Avon Colburn and Quincy Wilson had graduated leaving a vacuum at tailback with only Jason Colson left to fumble carry the ball. People expected Gwaltney to walk in and start. The same cannot be said for Devine. Devine is not expected to start, only to complement the offense this year. He could see time at returner, slot, and running back. Devine is a nice stereo upgrade package to the new car, but Slaton and White are the engine that runs the team. Therefore Devine doesn't have as much pressure coming in as other 5-stars have had. Instead of being Mitch Mustain he is more of a Tim Tebow.

As for Barrett and Gwaltney not being superstars, it wasn't because they didn't have the physical ability to play. The problem with both of them was in the classroom (which Hayes points out Gwaltney has found again) and not on the field. Gwaltney averaged 4.1 ypc and scored 3 times in his limited time on the field (mostly in short yardage) while Barrett was electric at the Spring Game last year. Meanwhile Reynaud, White, and Slaton were not 5-star recruits, but they were all 3-stars and would have been higher if not for question marks on their eventual positions. There is an interesting article at rivals that breaks down the NFL draft based on the player ratings out of high school. In the draft this year about half of the top 100 picks were 4 or 5 stars out of high school and the average ranking for a first round pick was 3.63.

There is a reason that USC, Texas, Florida, and Ohio State have been good recently. They have great recruiting beds and coaches that mine those beds effectively. Not every 5-star recruit works out for them either, but they have recruiting depth that most schools do not. Should player A not pan out they have 3 guys behind ranked nearly as good. For instance USC has Joe McKnight coming in who may have been the best high school running back in the nation, but behind him they have another 5-star and a 4-star running back should he not work out.

WVU usually doesn't have that luxury. Slaton was signed before Gwaltney was a done deal and had Gwaltney already been signed who knows what the feeling would have been about the recruitment of Slaton. Likewise WVU signed Terrence Kerns this year. Kerns is a 4-star out of Maryland and could be the next Slaton just as easily as Devine, but Kerns waivered when he thought Devine was coming and may not have signed if Devine had signed on signing day. Instead WVU got great depth at running back for the second time in 3 years, but that is not the norm for WVU.

WVU fans constantly point out that the Mountaineers win with players that aren't high in the star rankings. As if WVU would rather take a 2-star guy than a 5-star guy. That is ludicrious. WVU gets 3-star guys because the spread option allows them to take a 3-star all world athlete with no position and let him stay at quarterback instead of reciever. Smaller linemen are used due to a zone blocking scheme that utilizes speed over size. The stars are still granted based on projections into any system, not WVU's. So while Pat White is an all-american with us, he wouldn't be playing quarterback at USC. Reynaud is perfect for the screens and crosses WVU uses, but may have had trouble fitting into a deep ball offense. WVU takes players that fit the system or tweaks the system to fit the player. Other coaches don't have to do this because of where they are located.

WVU will always be at a disadvantage due to the small size of West Virginia. The state produces a few DI players a year while California, Texas, and Florida are overrun with players. WVU is in a unique position. Not many big time schools are able to stay at a high level for a long period of time without either a huge recruiting back yard or a big time tradition. For example, Virginia Tech has gotten better as the Virginia Beach and Tidewater areas have grown and Frank Beamer has been busy soaking his goiter recruiting in those areas. WVU will never have number 1, but is trying to get to number 2. Will WVU be a Nebraska that can thrive for a number of years or a Kansas State that burns bright for only a few. Both are similar to us as far as recruiting, but Nebraska has a better shot at returning to glory than KSU based upon their name and history. However, even with that history Nebraska has taken longer than Texas or USC ever would due to the recruits those two can get in their back yards.

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