Last week, I predicted the 15 programs poised to dominate recruiting in the next decade.
This week, I'd like to predict 10 programs that, for one reason or another, could really struggle to land top recruits in the next 10 years.
It could be the status of the coaching staff, the growth of a major rival, a pool of talent that is slowly drying up or moving elsewhere, or some other factor or combination of factors.
For one reason or another, recruiting isn't a done deal with these 10 schools. See if you agree.
"Struggle" is a stretch—under Bob Stoops, the Sooners will field consistent top-25 classes no matter the circumstances—but I wonder if Texas' newfound vigor in recruiting top won't create a reciprocal decline in Oklahoma's classes.
Is there enough Texas talent to go around? Is the pool growing fast enough to accommodate the teams that rely on it? Is Texas taking a bigger share than usual? Will TCU's sudden relevance have a ripple effect? How about Tommy Tuberville?
And if the Sooners raid what's left of the players who don't adore Texas, can they still maintain an edge in the conference? If not, will they have to recruit more nationally? Will it wind up stretching OU too thin?
In my mind, these questions keep the Sooners' future prospects in limbo. Maybe not in doubt, but in limbo.
And putting the Bradford example aside, they can't simply rely on their own in-state talent to remain nationally relevant, which means the four- and five-star kids to match Texas' will have to come from somewhere besides home.
It's amazing to think that a year removed from a BCS championship try, the buzz got unfriendly toward Stoops.
Removing Big Game Bob is out of the question. But some coaches recruit better under pressure (evidenced by OU's most recent class, a top-five finish), so making the dissent felt could actually help.
Just don't make it so unpleasant that Stoops decides to leave on his own—he is, in my opinion, the thing keeping it all intact.
This one depends on what Ole Miss fans think of Houston Nutt.
If they think Nutt—a terrific recruiter and an innovative head coach—won't be at Ole Miss for the long haul and is instead using the Rebels as a stepping stone to a larger program, then the Detroit Lions fan in me must protest.
Frequent coaching changes beget a loss of identity, and programs with a free-roaming, gypsy-like identity are rarely conducive to attracting top talent. Nutt's departure would only make the Rebels' head job look more like a way station.
However, if they believe Nutt is there to stay, I'd say Ole Miss has a great shot at remaining in the top 15 teams in recruiting year after year.
They have better facilities, the better stadium, the better college town, and a better track record against the SEC's top teams than their in-state rivals, the Mississippi State Bulldogs.
They're right smack dab in the middle of the most talented state in the country for turning out pro talent.
Plus, Nutt showed with this most recent class that he can grab a few Florida and Louisiana kids without anyone raising too much of a stink.
As long as they can behave like the more prestigious program in Mississippi, they should end up being one.
I don't think Georgia Tech's losses in bowl games are symptomatic of the inevitable failure of the triple-option. Iowa and LSU were both underrated and/or or underperforming teams loaded with NFL-caliber talent.
But that doesn't mean rival recruiters aren't spinning it that way.
After the subpar performance in the Orange Bowl, Paul Johnson's triple option suddenly appears predictable, and beatable.
The larger issues, however, is how well running the triple option applies at the professional level, and this is where Tech's recruiting has the most to lose.
In order to attract the top talent to a system offense year after year, Georgia Tech has to win a lot of games, especially the big ones.
When you win and you rush for a lot of yards, it doesn't matter what system you run. When you lose, the future doesn't look as bright.
Johnson has to show there's life after Chan Gailey's last recruits. In the middle of one of the most talent-rich states, facing a rival in-state school that should turn the corner any day now, there's not a moment to lose.
I guarantee that the Mountaineers will struggle to recruit in the immediate future, and it's not because of a vague philosophical what-if question.
The Eers lost their strongest recruiter, and one of their more charismatic personalities, when tight ends coach and recruiting coordinator Doc Holliday took the Marshall head coaching job (and a few Mountaineer recruits along with him).
That Holliday will now be recruiting in WVU's backyard doesn't help, but the Mountaineers have even bigger issues to address.
Namely, what kind of program will they be for the next decade? Can they get back to being a perennial powerhouse in the Big East like they were under Rich Rodriguez? Or will they be content to notch the occasional upset and settle for a second- or third-place finish in a conference short on respect?
I think the success of their recruiting depends on the path they take. I don't see their recruiting falling too often out of the top 25, but unless they crack into a few BCS bowls, I don't see them landing a top 10 class, either.
Any team whose recruiting future is pinned on the charisma of its current head coach should make sure that head coach will be around for the next decade.
However, I think that even with a substantial contract increase and other lucratives, Jim Harbaugh has designs on a higher office.
I don't think it's Michigan, and the SEC might not be the best fit, but I could see his power running style making a splash in the NFL or at a more traditional power in the Pac-10.
With him, Stanford is way ahead on some terrific 2011 talent off of a steal of a 2010 class.
Without him, the Cardinals will, most likely, resume their uncompetitive ways in and out of conference play.
The chronic problem I see facing Harbaugh (and any of his potential successors) is Stanford's unrelenting compliance department, which continues to reject scholarship offers to promising prospects with iffy grades.
It's honorable, yes, but it's a roadblock Harbaugh wouldn't get at most other schools, and he knows it. His success has to buy him some leniency with them, or else he'll be gone-zo, and it'll be back to square one.
Between Greg Robinson's disastrous tenure and the resurrection of the basketball program, the Orangemen are looking less like the bruising footballers of the Jim Brown era and more like a modern, imbalanced, prototypical Big East program.
Old facilities, a bad stadium, an out-of-touch fan base and pathetic on-field competition have distanced the 'Cuse from its dominant ways of old. You have to wonder whether the harm hasn't been irreparable, at least for the current generation of players.
Of course, the Doug Marrone experiment gets a few years before we can declare anything. But Marrone would have to really overachieve to convince his AD that the program is worth spending anything more than the bare minimum on.
Maybe a good tournament run by the basketball program would bleed into the budget...or maybe it would make things worse. Either way, how many four-star players have Syracuse in their top five right now? How many do you see there in 10 years?
Texas A&M's Mike Sherman really turned on the recruiting mojo in the most recent cycle, landing Rivals' No. 16 class despite a last-day defection by star outside linebacker Corey Nelson.
But hasn't that just been the way with the Aggies for the past 10 years? Missing out at the last possible moment?
Even if the Aggies fire Sherman, is College Station a lucrative spot to coach anymore?
Look at the state of things: the Longhorns are cleaning up, the Red Raiders hired one of recruiting's most charismatic personalities, and the Horned Frogs are channeling some upward mobility. Oklahoma way ouptaces the Aggies in the pecking order, and even Houston is making a run.
All the while, the Aggies have been stuck in neutral. And in this sport, neutral is reverse.
Next year, A&M should have the conference's most seasoned quarterback and one of its most promising tailbacks returning after a breakout season. But in spite of that momentum, the coach is on the "hot seat," which can both kill that momentum and make for a tumultuous recruiting year.
Failure to capitalize on the Big 12's uncertain destiny would spell certain doom for Sherman. Beyond him, it could get even worse.
Every program in the north is watching its in-state talent move south to warmer weather and better competition.
Minnesota is a fitting microcosm of that struggle. The Gophers have done well with their in-state three and mid-four stars, but when it comes to all-star talent, the top prospects are following the exodus to the South.
Four-star wide receiver Bryce McNeal went to Clemson; Seantrel Henderson opted for USC. And it's not just Minnesota: Ohio's Jordan Hicks took off for Texas, and Penn State let NY prospect Dominique Easley slip through its fingers.
Despite growing up across the Big Ten landscape, these kids aren't committing to the Big Ten schools, and the trend doesn't look reversible anytime soon.
Minnesota is another once-proud program putting its coach on the hot seat, but it's a Catch-22. Stick with the status quo for safety but miss out on the big prospects, or fire the coach, despite his proven recruiting talent, and risk turmoil without any reliable or desirable plan B.
Unless something changes in the dynamic, in-state schools will watch as more and more talented players take the first one-way ticket to a balmy vacation. Minnesota, and all the rest of the northerners, have their work cut out for them.
How can a program be both poised to dominate recruiting and facing a steep uphill climb?
Answer: Rodriguez, Rodriguez, Rodriguez. Any time a coach faces a make-or-break year, recruits two and three years away sense the instability. And it's a rare recruit indeed that is drawn to uncertainty in a program.
Despite what the clueless trolls like to spew, Rich Rodriguez is not the reason Michigan is struggling with its relevance in the conference and in the canon of college football. The program needed to be torn down and rebuilt.
But nonetheless, damage has been done while that project was under way, and it's ill effects are manifesting in the Mitten State.
For the longest time I've been in denial as a Wolverines fan that Michigan State can recruit at the level of Michigan, and even now I'm still not convinced. If you know Sparty like I do, you know getting close still means they're a hundred miles away.
But landing top in-state defensive end Will Gholston and top in-state and national linebacker prospect Lawrence Thomas in consecutive classes is, in a word, troubling, particularly since MSU hasn't exactly blown the doors off the Big Ten either.
MSU isn't Michigan's only nemesis, obviously. The Buckeyes own the rivalry. The hometown news rag thinks witch hunts and cynical why-not-fire scenarios are an appropriate substitute for honest and upbeat journalism. And now, the program faces recruiting sanctions and another offseason of negative press.
But losing Rodriguez at the program's weakest moment would be worst of all. He's a terrific recruiter even in the worst of times, and in the event that Michigan did fire him—and with him, lost the ties to Ohio and Florida and Louisiana and Arizona as recruiting hotbeds—the new coach probably wouldn't have his own home state talent to turn to. What a nauseating thought.
Forget for a moment about Florida's No. 1 class and its recent outstanding recruiting successes, and take a closer look at the current state of the Gators' coaching staff.
The head coach has owned up to a debilitating heart condition that will curb his ability to coach as holistically, and as effectively, as he has in the past.
Many of the major assistant coaches that got Florida to this point have moved on to other jobs (Charlie Strong to Louisville, Billy Gonzales to LSU), including one high-profile one (Dan Mullen to Mississippi State) within the same conference.
The Gators hired Teryl Austin as defensive coordinator after their temporary replacement took another job after only a month. That turnover adversely affects recruits immediately and years down the road.
If the head man can't do it all, and the assistant coaching staff can't either, how can the Gators feel safe that they will dominate recruiting for the next decade?
Fortunes change in college football; in Florida's case, it nearly happened overnight and could again. Ten years ago, Bobby Bowden was still one of the hottest names in recruiting. But poor (and nepotistic) coaching hires eroded the relevance of his program, and it's only recently been saved by Jimbo Fisher.
Urban Meyer is too sharp to make a similar mistake, but he better move fast on that coaching staff. Florida State is making home state recruiting interesting, and there's always Alabama, Miami, Auburn, Georgia, Tennessee, LSU, Clemson, South Carolina, South Florida, Ole Miss, Mississippi State, Texas, USC, Ohio State...