Recruiting is something that is highly praised—very highly praised.
If you have a good class, you get everyone crawling all over you and you are expected to have an outstanding season.
Also, these high-caliber athletes are expected to be “God” as soon as they touch the field and magically become amazing and break records left and right.
Let me tell you something that I have experienced during my period as an Illinois fan (football particularly): Recruiting is not everything.
Getting a top recruiting class does not guarantee you a conference championship, it doesn’t guarantee you a top 25 ranked team, and it even doesn’t guarantee you a bowl game.
Yes, getting top recruits could help you tremendously, but there are plenty of times when this has proved not to be the case.
For example—yes, I am going to hit hard on the Illinois football program—in 2006, 2007, 2008, and 2009, Illinois has four very good classes. In 2006, Illinois had the No. 31 ranked recruiting class. In 2007, they had the No. 20 ranked recruiting class. In 2008, they had the No. 23 ranked recruiting class. And in 2009, they had the No. 32 ranked recruiting class.
Where has that got them?
No. 1 - The past two years, Illinois has a combined record of 8-16.
No. 2 - Illinois was on the brink of firing their head coach, but instead, they fired everyone else: offensive coordinator, defensive coordinator, QB coach, and TE coach.
No. 3- Recruiting went downhill. Along with the amount of players Illinois has transferred, they were starting to lose interest in the top recruits they were going after.
The most noticeable losses were Corey Cooper, Kyle Prater, and C.J. Fiedorwicz.
Cooper was a solid verbal before the season last year, but eventually went to soft verbal. He was a soft verbal until Signing Day, when he decommitted and decided he would be playing at the University of Nebraska next season.
As for Prater, he was never committed to Illinois, but was highly interested. Illinois was on the top of his list, but eventually began to lose interest in Illinois once he saw how they were performing.
He eventually decided he was going to attend the USC, jumping on the Lane Kiffin bandwagon.
Fiedorowicz was the same as Cooper. Illinois had him early in the recruiting process, but as things began to go downhill for Illinois, he began to slowly drift away. Along with the disappointing decommitment, Fiedorwicz took some “shots” at Illinois.
"I wasn't happy with what is going on at Illinois," Fiedorowicz said. "I like all the coaches at Iowa. They will be staying around for a long time. I went to the Iowa/Minnesota game last weekend and the atmosphere was so much better than at Illinois. Now I feel good about my decision."
"Illinois doesn't throw to the tight end, maybe 10 times all year," he said. "But it is an important part of Iowa's system. (Former Wheaton Warrenville South tight end) Tony Moeaki is in on every play."
"I hung out with him on Saturday night. He loves the Iowa program. He said there is no better school that he'd rather go to. He feels a part of the offense."
All right, he has made his mark, embarrassing both the coaches and fans. He should just stop right there.
But, he didn’t.
"I saw the fans weren't into it. There wasn't a lot of fan support. Illinois wasn't playing well. And I never saw the tight end on the field. I decided to look around."
No. 4- With all that has happened, Illinois has the No. 70 ranked recruiting class. And in preseason ranking by The Sporting News, they are the No. 94 team out of 120 D1 teams.
So, back to my point—the recruiting classes for Illinois may have been extremely pleasing for a couple years, but the lack of coaching has brought much pity and embarrassment to the Illinois football program.
Now, there are many examples that are out there that showcases where you can get a lower ranked recruiting class and still compete with the best teams in the nation.
For example, Iowa is a program where they don’t always pick up the big names like Alabama, Florida, Texas, USC, and Ohio State.
But that hasn’t stopped them from being in the discussion as a national championship contender.
In 2006, Iowa had the No. 39 ranked recruiting class, in 2007 they had a recruiting class ranked No. 28, in 2008 they had a recruiting class ranked No. 53, in 2009 they had the No. 63 ranked recruiting class.
Even with no recruiting classes ranked in the top 25 or higher, Iowa was still able to get in the higher than No. 10 in the AP polls last year, finish second in the Big Ten, and win an Orange Bowl.
Do you know why?
It’s simply because Kirk Ferentz does not recruit players because they are ranked high, he does not recruit players because they have a certain amount of stars by their name—he recruits players who fit his program and are the right people to make this team a championship caliber team.
So a message to everyone out there: Don’t look into rankings like they are do-or-die because rankings don’t mean everything in this world.
They are simply make-believe numbers that try to rank a player’s potential in the collegiate level, even before they have taken one step onto the field.
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