Tuesday, February 03, 2015

Silly season is upon us

I'm not going to lie, this is not my favorite time of the year.

It has nothing to do another fun-filled experience digging out from a storm but the coverage of two events which can bring out the worst in reporters.

First up is national signing day which is tomorrow. Once the hype from the latest batch of recruits begins to subside, it will be replace by 24/7 exposure to the Mel Kiper Jr./Todd McShay non-stop talk of two-gap players and hip flexibility heading up to the NFL Draft.

There are things I love about the recruiting process. Most of all I enjoy the passion shown by players as they prepare to embark in a truly exciting chapter in their lives. Thanks to the social media dominated world we live in, their thoughts, hopes, dreams and aspirations are out there for all the see. I look forward to learning more about them and telling their stories while they are at UConn and truly hope they found the school of their dreams. And that's about it.

I hate the hype of it all. I can't stand when I see posts about how such and such a player is a "huge get" by a program like UConn. The fact is that there is not one person (myself most definitely included) who can say with any amount of certainty which players will have during their time at UConn except for those who actually recruit these players. Once again this year I received an email trying to see if I was interested in talking to their national recruiting analyst to get their take on UConn's recruiting class. I replied as I usually do by politely declining the offer since I can't imagine the person I would be interviewing has seen any of the players will be signing play up close and personal. They would be talking out of both sides of their mouths if I were to conduct an interview with them and I don't consider it to be a good use of my or my paper's time. It's the same reason that when players commit I often times will reach out to either their coach or those who have played against them to get a sense of the type of player is getting. It is also why I was happy to get Az-Zahir Hakim on the phone after he was Geremy Davis' position coach at the NFLPA Collegiate Bowl because he knows what it takes to make it as an NFL receiver. I'd rather speak to people like that or Senior Bowl executive director Phil Savage, a former NFL general manager, than listen to the mindless banter of guys like Kiper and McShay.

I find it laughable when  people trying to sound smarter than they actually are proclaim that a player fits the UConn recruiting mold of big, strong, fast players. I can't believe UConn is the only program in the country trying to get big, strong, fast players but apparently there are those trying to push the story line that this quest began with the hiring of Bob Diaco. I am sure when Paul Pasqualoni or Randy Edsall were in charge of the recruiting side of things they passed on kids because they were too big, too fast, too athletic. 'No, I don't want a 6-foot-6 receiver who can run a 4.4 40, I'd rather grab that 5-8 who runs as fast as the average newspaper reporter.' I don't know why teams like Alabama and Ohio State don't try to follow that model of getting the biggest, strongest, fastest players it can secure commitments from. Next thing you will tell me is that MLB scouts will draft the kid with the best fastball or best ability to hit a curveball out of the park on a regular basis.

I hear plenty of talk these days about star ratings and projecting the success of players based on the other scholarship offers. The fact is those things have meant very little in past UConn recruiting classes.

Five players in 2013 class had rating of 5.2, lowest for any UConn commits. That list includes Folorunso Fatukasi, Cole Ormsby two rising defensive stars at UConn . A total of 13 players in Class of 2006 had 5.2 or lower ratings by rivals including future pros  Martin Bedard, Zach Hurd, Scott Lutrus and Lawrence Wilson. Shamar Stephen, who had the third-most tackles of any rookie defensive lineman during the 2014 NFL regular season, was the lowest rated player in UConn's 2009 class.

Wait, there is more.

Among the former UConn players who had a rating under 5.0 by Rivals were Oakland Raiders Sio Moore, a vital cog on the Oakland defense and Zach Hurd, who also spent some time on the Raiders' roster. Joining Moore as two-star recruits coming out of high school were current NFL players Tyvon Branch, Darius Butler, Ryan Griffin, Danny Lansanah, Robert McClain, Kendall Reyes, Jordan Todman and Blidi Wreh-Wilson.

Byron Jones, perhaps UConn's best pro prospect for the 2015 draft, was a two-star recruit. Fellow pro prospect Geremy Davis was a three-star recruit per rivals but they listed as his other offers were from Air Force, Chattanooga, Elon, Hampton, Jacksonville State, Louisiana Monroe, Ohio, Old Dominion, Western Carolina, Western Kentucky. If a current UConn recruit had the list of offers, it wouldn't be met with a ton of enthusiasm for those who obsess over recruiting ratings and offers but he turned out to be a pretty good player in my opinion.

UConn will announce its latest batch of recruits tomorrow as the letters of intent arrive and basically this is my long-winded way of saying the only way to know how good the recruiting class is and which players will make the biggest impact is to wait and watch.


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