By Ed McGranahan
Back when Dabo Swinney was recruiting for Tommy Bowden, many of the players came with stout resumes, lots of stars. Clemson was a major player then, too.
So what’s happening now isn’t new, which probably explains the root of your occasional exasperation.
The phrase “pulling a Clemson” was coined because of a sense that with a roster of big sticks the program occasionally whiffed at an easy one.
However, there are a few flaws in this exercise which seems to command more time and scrutiny and passion than ever, exceeding all common sense.
The rankings by the Big 3 – ESPN, Rivals and Scout – generally include the usual suspects. Alabama is the consensus No. 1, but that’s becoming a trite story line. Florida State, LSU, Texas A&M and Ohio State are all in the heavy cream with Notre Dame, Auburn and Georgia nearby, but how in the name of Rocky Top did Tennessee sneak back into the picture?
What should be interesting to those here is that while Rivals and ESPN rank Clemson 12th and 13th, Scout has the Tigers at No. 31.
Each service has a method of calculating its rankings, which smacks of something scientific. It’s not. At best it’s a shell game, or shill game.
Back before people were willing to pay hundreds of dollars for the information, when the random radio talk show host and newspaper reporter were willing to invest the time, recruiting news was part of the beat. Editors thought it was a waste of energy.
With an assist from college coaches eager to help, it was simple to track the prey, but analyzing the talent was left to the professionals.
As we have learned, that process can be flawed.
So why pay for evaluations by people whose livelihoods don’t depend on it? If, for instance, Tennessee hasn’t actually signed the No. 2 (Scout) or No. 3 (Rivals) class shouldn’t the lemmings bail?
It’s crazy, actually. A lot of coaches can’t get them right, yet we’re willing to take the word of some guys who spend hours looking at clips on YouTube.
Since one of the baselines for determining a team’s ranking is the stars arbitrarily assigned to each player, manipulating the stars affects the final calculation. There are numerous examples of parents complaining their son’s reputation was damaged by the loss of a star.
Back during the frontier days, before ESPN, the internet and high school combines, a recruiting analyst in the Upper Midwest would bump the grade of any prospect that committed to Notre Dame because – after all – who knew better the Pope’s team.
By that standard today, every player recruited by Alabama should be a blue chip.
They are? Never mind.
Why the disparity in rankings, of individual players and entire classes?
If it’s possible, explain why Jae’lon Oglesby is a three-star by one recruiter and four-star by another? Or how DeShaun Watson received only four stars from one service as the top dual-threat quarterback prospect and five from another?
That does bring us back to the original issue. What’s the difference that makes the class Clemson signs today No. 31 and not 13?
Does it matter?