Do College Football Teams Rebuild or Reload?

Jeff ContizanoCorrespondent IAugust 20, 2008

So often in the sporting world, especially college football, we hear the terms "reload" and "rebuild."  But what do they actually mean?

Is it good that my team is returning 15 starters?  Or is our shiny new five-star recruit a better sign?  Well, sometimes it's both.

It is often said that subpar or average teams rebuild, and the real quality teams have enough talent stockpiled to "reload."

Take a look at LSU from 2006-2008.  In 2006 the Tigers finished with an 11-2 record, and after dominating Notre Dame in the Sugar Bowl, they lost JaMarcus Russell, Dwayne Bowe, Craig Davis, and LaRon Landry to the NFL Draft.

What happened next year?  We saw senior Matt Flynn battle his way through the SEC with a ton of talent around him and eventually defeat Ohio State in the BCS Championship Game.

Les Miles had a lot of talent on that team, and by the time they were needed, the players formerly behind the stars stepped up and became stars themselves.  If a team is able to consistently do this every year, they will be successful.

Call me a homer, but I'm going to use my Michigan Wolverines as an example.  I've always been amazed at how Michigan has fielded a solid quarterback, wide receiver, and running back.

Let's start in 2000.  Anthony Thomas was a fantastic running back, Drew Henson was solid at quarterback, and David Terrell was a good wide receiver.

Move forward to 2001-2003.  We saw John Navarre emerge as a quality QB, with Chris Perry emerging as a great RB.  Marquise Walker was a standout WR, and then came Braylon Edwards.

2004 was the start of the Henne/Hart era.  Since then Michigan has undergone some major changes, but look at how many great players Michigan has had in the last 10 years.  They've always had a good QB, RB, and WR.

So how does this happen?  Well, when you're obviously a premier team in the country, the top-flight recruits will be coming to play for you (one of Lloyd Carr's biggest knocks was that he had so much talent on Michigan's roster, but he never took advantage of it).

Other teams do a great job with the guys they recruit.  Many coaches, like Mike Riley of Oregon State, have been applauded for their efforts with the "lower quality" or "leftover" recruits in places like California and Florida. 

If you noticed, many of the championship teams of late don't have a 1,500-yard rusher and 1,200-yard receiver anymore.  Instead, they have two 800-yard rushers, and four 500-yard receivers.  Coaches are spreading the ball around, and with that talent stockpiled, it becomes much harder for teams to counter offenses.  Miles (LSU), and Urban Meyer (UF) have done a great job recruiting and using talent.

Now take look at "rebuilding."  We all watched Hawaii's fantastic run last year, but look at what they lost at the end of the season: Colt Brennan, who passed for a solid 14,000 yards in his career, and their top four wide receivers.  Talk about a makeover!

Even with good recruiting, it will be hard for the Warriors to even compare to the team they had last year.

Often "rebuilding" takes place when a new coach/staff takes over a team, but a lot of times it is more the case of reloading.

Unless a team is totally changing its system and philosophy (*cough Michigan*), there really isn't a rebuilding stage going on—that is, unless a team has lost most of its starters via the draft, injury, or transfer and has to remold the entire team, or at least the offense or defense (UCLA anyone?).

In some cases, a coach has to rebuild the identity of the team, and through recruiting it may take a few years for that coach to have the players he wants to fit his system.

Which is more common in CFB?  Well, I think that most teams do a good job of reloading, without a major drop-off in talent or production.  The real top-tier teams (UG, UF, LSU, OSU) have really mastered the art of recruiting and have their top talent in with their star players (see Tebow w/Chris Leak, Terrelle Pryor w/Todd Boeckman).

As mentioned before, the old players move on, and new players move in and produce just as well.