Don't judge a coach by his first class -- judge him by his second
Last week, 11 second-year BCS coaches completed their second recruiting classes
New coaches have very little time to recruit first class; second haul is more telling
Rich Rodriguez, Rick Neuheisel, Houston Nutt and others landed promising hauls
It isn't fair to judge a coach on his first recruiting class at a school. Typically, the new guy has two months or less to cobble together a group that mixes players recruited by his departed predecessor with players he barely knows. The second class, assembled after coaches have had a year to forge relationships and evaluate, always provides the superior measure.
In 2001 at LSU, Nick Saban laid the foundation for years of success with a class that included tailback Joseph Addai, receiver Michael Clayton and offensive lineman Ben Wilkerson. In 2002 at Ohio State, Jim Tressel brought in linebacker A.J. Hawk, receiver Santonio Holmes and offensive lineman Nick Mangold. In 2006 at Florida, Urban Meyer signed receiver Percy Harvin, linebacker Brandon Spikes and quarterback Tim Tebow, a trio which helped the Gators win two national titles in three seasons.
Last week, 11 second-year BCS-conference coaches wrapped their second classes at their respective schools. How these players develop should chart each coach's destiny.
Bobby Petrino hopes his class will help the Razorbacks compete with the SEC's heavyweights. First, Petrino secured West (Helena, Ark.), cornerback Darius Winston, the top-ranked player in the state. Then, Petrino went across the state line to St. Louis and nabbed tailback Ronnie Wingo Jr., who also received offers from Missouri, Oklahoma and Tennessee.
In the giant division, Petrino re-signed offensive lineman Anthony Oden after a year at prep school. The younger brother of Portland Trailblazer Greg Oden stands 6-foot-8, weighs 328 pounds and played tight end in high school in Indianapolis. "This is part of the process as we build the foundation for our program," Petrino said. "Recruiting is certainly a big part of that. One thing we try to say as a staff is for us to beat them on the field we need to compete and beat them in the recruiting process."
Art Briles didn't have to wait until year two to sign his signature recruit. Quarterback Robert Griffin, who Briles recruited while at Houston and signed in his first Baylor class, proved himself a certifiable star as a freshman. With this class, Briles set out to build around Griffin so the Bears can compete in the wood chipper that is the Big 12 South. "We've stepped it up," Briles said. "We're looking for men because we're playing in the Big 12, and it's a man's league." Two men Briles would like to see protecting Griffin in the future are Dickinson, Texas, guard Ivory Wade (6-5, 306) and Oroville (Calif.) Butte Community College transfer Danny Watkins (6-5, 290).
David Cutcliffe has a far smaller pool from which to draw than his ACC counterparts, but that didn't stop the former Ole Miss coach and Tennessee offensive coordinator from trying to find 4.4 runners with 4.0 grade point averages. "This field will see more speed than in a long time, maybe ever," Cutcliffe told reporters on National Signing Day. "When these guys establish themselves, it remains to be seen. But we know they can run. That is the biggest deficit we faced overall on both sides when you compare us to the rest of the league. It's something we knew we had to address quickly."
One such speedster is Hillside (Durham, N.C.) back Desmond Scott, who also received offers from much of the SEC and the rest of the ACC. Arden, N.C., linebacker August Campbell can also run, though at 6-3 and 205 pounds, he may need to either bulk up or play safety.
Paul Johnson came to Georgia Tech, and Yellow Jackets fans partied like it was 1976. The option still works, but it presented an interesting recruiting issue. Would offensive players sign with a school that runs an offense that isn't used in the NFL? That didn't stop St. Matthews, S.C., athlete David Sims from picking the Yellow Jackets over offers from Kentucky, Michigan, Oregon and others. Sims, 5-11 and 205 pounds, played quarterback in high school and should get a shot under center in Atlanta.
Johnson also deserves bonus points for signing Roswell, Ga., defensive end Euclid Cummings, who might have the most appropriate first name of anyone who ever signed to play at an engineering school.