Wanna Play College Football as a RB? Show These 5 Things on Film

Getting a college football scholarship as a high schooler has become increasingly difficult.  With the changes in transfer rules and the advent of the transfer portal,  the scholarship p00l for prep players has shrunk significantly.  Combine that with the fact that running back has become a less important position in today’s game than ever before and we have a need to get it right as a ball carrier more than ever before if you want to play at the next level.

You may be a very talented running back at the high school level but if you don’t effectively showcase your skills or at least package them right,  there’s a chance that you may be talented and unsigned when signing day comes your senior year.   We can do a lot to avoid such an occurrence if we pay attention to the tips I give you in this article.  Here are five important things you need to show on your highlight video as a high school running back if you want a college football scholarship.

(1) Vision

The essence of being a running back is vision.  You have to be able to see the holes and seams in the defense as you are carrying the football.  There is nothing worse that a running back that runs into the back of his blockers or misses wide open opportunities in the defense on a routine basis (Trent Richardson comes to mind).  If you had runs where you spotted the hole,  hit the gas and got the yards then show it.  Coaches will tell you that this is one of the hardest skills to teach a back.  You are either born with that or not.  Showing that ability on film will excite a coach because he knows he won’t have to rack his brain trying to get you to see the holes in the defense.

(2) Cutting Ability

Seeing the holes are great but if you can’t get there then it’s just the same as you being blind.  All the best backs that have played the game have showed an ability to cut on a dime,  find the hole from anywhere on the field and devastate multiple defenders in the process.  A back with vision is exciting.  A back with vision and cutting ability is legendary.  Show the runs where you had to go lateral or cut back against the grain.  While not as hard as vision to teach,  it is a difficult skill to acquire.

(3) Speed

We all know that speed kills.  Running backs that can go 0 to 100 real quick tend to keep defensive coaches up late at night.  A running back that can take a ball and go 60, 70 or 80 yards for a touchdown is a Godsend and they are also very likely to be courted by many schools in the recruiting process.  In the offseason,  it is not a bad idea if you find yourself on the track team.  Having 40 yard dash speed is good but having track speed over distances like 100 and 200 meters can set you apart from all of the others.  Every year college coaches set out on the trail beating the bushes looking for the sub 11 second 100 meter ball carriers that can change the course of a program’s history.  If you have that ability you should lead your highlight video off with that.  If you don’t have that ability,  find some track spikes and the track coach in the offseason.

(4) Break Tackles

Vision, cutting and speed is good but you can’t always avoid the defenders.  Even the best runners get greeted by the guys on the other side of the ball.  One thing that makes defenses feel helpless and hopeless is when they can’t tackle the running back.  If you are the type of guy that can shake off defenders then definitely showcase that on film.  Being hard to bring down is exciting to coaches that are looking to recruit running backs.  They know that tough yards are the type of yards that wear down defenses and secure victory.  Being hard to bring down starts with determination but is honed in the weight room.  Being consistent with the weights,  adding size and strength is your way to being the back that is a headache.  Show this skill or acquire it ASAP.

(5) Hands

The game of football is changing.  Where it once used to be smashmouth in between the tackles,  things have gotten much more spread out.  As such,  running backs have become more active in the passing game.  No longer are you just there for the play fakes and blocking.  Now running backs are that fifth receiver that can be an X factor.  It’s hard enough covering all the receivers in today’s game.  If you can come out of the backfield to wreak havoc on a linebacker that can’t cover then you are valuable.  If you have receiving skills out of the backfield then put it on display.  Whether you have that skill or not,  continue to work on it.  Being versatile as a runner and receiver makes you unique.  Being unique is a great way to win in the game of recruiting.

Being elite in one or more of these areas will land you on a college’s radar.  Being good in three or more of these categories will put some offers on the table.  Having all five of these skills at an above average level will not only land you scholarship offers but will likely get you ranked by the recruiting services.  So,  when you are making your highlight video,  keep these things in mind and while you are training this offseason,  you should be working towards building up these skills amongst other things.  Blocking is still important so don’t turn a blind eye to that either.  Follow these guidelines and you may just be a college football running back one day.

Looking Back on the High School Career of the Top 10 Picks in the 2016 NFL Draft

We just finished the 2022 NFL draft and much has been said about the prospects including their skill, history, workouts, production, etc.  In a future article,  I will take a look at where they came from to get to where they are but I thought it would be interesting to take a look back six years and reveal the high school careers of the Top ten 2016 NFL draft picks.

Much is made online and in social media about the handing out of stars and whether or not they matter.  Most people want to argue that they don’t matter.  I think much of that has to do with not wanting to give the power to reporters who most likely did not play the game.  Football has already been ambushed by nerds with the advent of analytics.  The gridiron purist just aren’t ready to drop this kind of power into the hands of the hacks that wield the pens.  I understand the unwillingness but do stars matter to the Top 10 of the NFL draft?  Let’s take a look.

The 2016 NFL draft class comprised itself primarily of prospects from the 2011, 2012 and 2013 college football recruiting classes.  As it relates to the top 10 guys drafted,  half of them came from the 2013 class which means they left school early to enter the draft.

(1) Jared Goff – (California) – Los Angeles Rams

By now we all know Goff’s NFL story.  He was in purgatory with the Rams under Jeff Fisher and his primitive offense.  He was rescued by wonder boy Sean McVay and saw un uptick in his career.  That uptick included a march to the Super Bowl where they came up short vs. the New England Patriots.  Soon he fell out of favor and was shipped off to Detroit for Matt Stafford and the rest is history.

Goff was a better than average recruited prospect coming out of high school.  He was a consensus 4-star by the services as a 6’4″ 185 lb. pro style quarterback.  He was the 213th prospect overall in the country,  25th in California,  his native state and the 15th rated pro style passer.  Who was first in that category?  Max Browne who signed with USC and never materialized into what he was projected to be.  247 Sports lists only three offers for Goff which may or may not be accurate.  Whatever the case may be,  he took the best offer and worked his way into a big time QB for the Cal Bears and a 1st overall pick.

(2) Carson Went – (North Dakota St.) – Philadelphia Eagles

Wentz is the kind of story that prospects love.  Let’s face it,  most high school football players are unranked and unheralded.  With that being the case,  it would stand to reason that he would be popular.  The 6’5″ 220 lb. Wentz was overlooked by schools all across the country.  There were two big reasons for this.  One,  he was in North Dakota which is hardly a hotbed for high school football (few things are hot in North Dakota) and two he was a late bloomer.  Wentz was 5’8″ as a high school freshman.  Wentz had one offer out of high school and that was North Dakota St.

It took Wentz three years to become the starter at North Dakota St. but when he did get the job,  he excelled.  Wentz led the Bison to their fourth and fifth straight FCS championships and put up solid numbers.  Ultimately,  NFL teams became impressed by his stature and skill set leading up to the draft.  This one time virtually un-recruited high schooler was now the 2nd overall pick in the draft.  As opposed to Goff who was from the 2013 college football recruiting class,  Wentz was from the 2011 class,  the only member of the Top 10 from that recruiting class.

Wentz had a solid first year by rookie QB standards and followed that up with an outstanding sophomore campaign.  He led the Eagles to the playoffs before tearing his ACL and missing their Super Bowl title run.  Ultimately,  Wentz was shipped out of Philly after losing his confidence and is now on his 3rd team in three years after signing with the Commanders this past off season.

(3) Joey Bosa – (Ohio St.) – Los Angeles Chargers

Bosa was a 4-star defensive end coming out of famed St. Thomas Aquinas High School in Ft. Lauderdale, FL.  He was the 37th ranked overall prospect,  9th in Florida and 4th at his position for the 2013 class.   The top Strongside defensive end for the 2013 class was Robert Nkemdiche who is currently a NFL free agent.

According to 247 Sports,  Bosa had 14 offers coming out of high school though I suspect he had more.  He went on to have a great career at Ohio St. and parlayed that into a 3rd overall selection in the 2016 NFL draft.

Bosa has lived up to the billing at the NFL level.  He was the defensive rookie of the year in 2016 and has made the Pro Bowl four times already.

(4) Ezekiel Elliott – (Ohio St.) – Dallas Cowboys

Elliot was a 4-star prospect in the 2013 college football recruiting class.  He was the 69th overall prospect in the country,  first in Missouri and 5th rated all purpose back.  The number one rated all purpose back that year was a kid out of Georgia named Alvin Kamara who signed with Alabama and ended up at Tennessee.

Perhaps Elliot was maligned because he came out of Missouri.  He was a three sports star at John Burroughs high school and played in the Army All America Game.  Entering into Ohio St. he was backup to Carlos Hyde,  an accomplish runner for the Buckeyes.  After Hyde graduated,  Elliott took over as the starter as sophomore and never looked back.  He cranked out outstanding sophomore and junior campaigns.  As a junior he led the Buckeyes to a College Football Championship win over Alabama.  He turned all of that accomplishment into a 4th round pick overall.

Zeke,  as he is called,  remains a premier back in the NFL but his stature has declined since his awesome rookie year.  Between off the field problems and injuries,  Elliott has turned into a platoon back for the Cowboys with a big contract.  Cowboy fans are hopeful that his rookie form will return.

(5) Jalen Ramsey – (Florida St.) – Jacksonville Jaguars

Ramsey was the first 5-star recruit taken in the 2016 draft.  Coming out of high school he was the 16th ranked prospect nationally. He was first in Tennessee and second at his position.  The number one ranked cornerback in the 2013 class was Vernon Hagreaves out of Tampa, Florida.

Ramsey is the highest ranked college prospect out of the Top 10 draft picks from this class.  He managed his 30 offers into signing with Florida St.  He would have an instant impact in Tallahassee.  He became the first freshman starter at defensive back since Deion Sanders and was a big part of the national championship team.  He did not compile big turnover stats at FSU (only 3 INTs) but he was used more as a jack knife for the Seminoles instead of a mainstay at corner.  After much success in three years,  Ramsey left after his junior year to become the 5th overall pick.

There’s no disputing the success of Ramsey’s pro career.  He is arguably the best cornerback in the game depending on who you are arguing with.  He is amongst the highest paid and he was a key cog on defense this past season as the team won their 2nd Super Bowl in team history.  Ramsey has lived up to the hype.

(6) Ronnie Stanley – (Notre Dame) – Baltimore Ravens

Four star rated Ronnie Stanley was the 125th rated recruit in the 2012 college football recruiting class.  At 6’6″ 285 lbs.  he was hard not to notice.  The Bishop Gorman graduate was ranked number one in Nevada and was the 12 rated offensive tackle that year.  The number one rated tackle in the class was D.J. Humphries out of North Carolina who signed with Florida and is now a member of the Arizona Cardinals.

Stanley had 18 offers as a 6’6″ 285 lb. offensive lineman.  He signed with Notre Dame in 2012.  Since playing sporadically in his freshman year in South Bend,  Stanley has started every game in his career since then for both Notre Dame and Baltimore.  He has started all 79 games for the Ravens and was a pro bowl selection in 2020.

(7) DeForest Buckner – (Oregon) – San Francisco 49ers

Buckner hails from Hawaii and was a ranked a 4-star in the 2012 class.  He was the 224th rated prospect making him first in Hawaii.  He was the 15 rated weakside defensive end in his class.  Number one at weakside defensive end that year was Noah Spence who signed with Ohio St.,  ended up with Eastern Kentucky and is now on his fourth NFL team,  the Cincinnati Bengals.

At 6’7″ 238 lbs.,  there was little chance that Buckner would go unnoticed but being from Hawaii may have dampened his hype a bit.  Either way he had nine offers and chose Oregon.  He would go on to develop into a monster for the Ducks and be voted the Pac-12 defensive player of the year in his final season.

Buckner carried on his high production as a member of the 49ers becoming a Pro Bowler twice.  In 2020,  the 49ers traded Buckner to Indianapolis for a first round pick and became an All Pro that season.

(8) Jack Conklin – (Michigan St.) – Tennessee Titans

If you liked Carson Wentz’s story,  you’ll love Conklin’s.  In terms of rankings, ratings, etc.,  Conklin was a virtual nobody coming out of high school.  No rating,  no ranking and no offers after playing for his father at Plainwell High School in Michigan.  What Conklin did have was a 6’5″ 285 lb. frame and that was enough for Michigan St. to allow him to be a walk on.  Two years later,  Conklin was a full time starter on the offensive line for the Spartans.  He would start 38 of the next 39 games in his career and be good enough to forgo his final season in East Lansing.

In 2016,  the Browns would make him the 8th overall selection and the starting hasn’t stopped.  Conklin has started everyone of the 79 games he has played in his career for both the Titans and now the Browns.  He made the all rookie team in 2016 and has twice been voted an All Pro.  Not bad for an offer-less no star in the class of 2012.

(9) Leonard Floyd – (Georgia) – Chicago Bears

Leonard Floyd was a specimen in high school but not the most recruited kid in the country.  Yes he was a 4-star and yes he went to Georgia but he was the 140th ranked recruit in the 2012 class and the 14th rated outside linebacker.  The consensus that season had him ranked as the 12th overall prospect in Georgia out of Dodge County high school.   The number one rated outside linebacker in the 2012 class was Floyd’s Georgia teammate Josh Harvey-Clemons.  Clemons was eventually dismissed from Georgia,  went to Louisville and was drafted in the 7th round in 2017 by the Washington Commanders.  He is currently a NFL free agent.

247 Sports list only five offers for Floyd when he came out.  He enjoyed a gradually solid career at Georgia and developed a reputation as an athletic and versatile linebacker prospect.  After dazzling scouts at the NFL combine,  Floyd climbed into the top 10 and was taken by Chicago.  He played four solid years in Chicago but was released in a cost cutting move by the Bears in 2020.  He signed with the Los Angeles Rams that year and has enjoyed his two finest seasons on the Super Bowl champions.  This offseason he signed a four year $64 million dollar extension with the club.

(10) Eli Apple – (Ohio St.) – New York Giants

Apple,  though not a five star,  was much heralded coming out of Eastern High School in New Jersey.  He was the 52nd overall ranked prospect,  second in the state and the 7th rated cornerback in the 2013 class (Vernon Hargreaves).

He listed 15 offers by the end of his recruitment and chose the Ohio St. University.  He redshirted as a freshman and then had two solid years for the Buckeyes.  After his junior season,  he turned pro and scouts fell in love with his potential.  The New York Giants made him the third Buckeye chosen in the top 10 in the 2016 draft.

Apple’s career is not what many had hoped.  His time in New York was tumultuous and he was eventually traded to New Orleans.  He would spend a couple of seasons with the Saints before going to Carolina and then Cincinnati.  In 2021,  Apple enjoyed one of his better years as a pro for the Bengals as they went all the way to the Super Bowl.

If you go by the 247 rankings,  only one of the top 10 draft picks in the 2016 class was a 5-star (Jalen Ramsey).  At 16th,  he is also the highest rated of the picks.  It is interesting to see how many of the top rated players at the various positions didn’t really pan out in college.  Ohio St. was impressive with 30% of the Top 10 coming from Columbus.

What these rankings do tell us is that on some level,  rankings matter.  They give you early and more consistent chances in college.  However,  they also reveal that life is not over if you are unranked.  The recruiting stories of Wentz and Conklin show that it’s not where you start but how you finish.

 

 

5 Ways Freshmen Can Help Themselves Get Recruited to Play College Football

By: Chad Wilson
Twitter: @GridironStuds

We are in the midst of wild times when it comes to college football recruiting.  Over the last 5-6 years we have witnessed more changes than perhaps all the years that existed before it.  With the rapid onset of more freedom for college football players,  the unintended and probably unforeseen victims have been high school football players.  If you want to put yourself in the proper position to secure a scholarship when you are senior,  it’s best to make the right moves as a freshman.  In this article, I discuss the five important moves you need to make.

Along with the changes in college football,  prospects are facing increasing pressure to be noticed sooner in the recruiting process.  The early signing period has ramped up the need for colleges to identify potential signees earlier in their high school career so that the relationship building can start.  I have received more questions lately about how to get recruited as a freshman than I have ever before.  Getting offers as a freshman are not always something that you can control but I can tell you how to put yourself in the best position possible to get offers when they count.  Let’s look at the 5 best ways to help yourself when you are in your first year of high school. 

1. Run Track

Yes,  you read it right.  You secret to becoming the prospect that schools focus their eyes on is by getting on that 400m oval and learning how to run.  Guess what you do in football from the moment that ball is snapped until the time that whistle blows?  Run.  If you can’t run,  you can’t play.  I recommend that all players at all positions run track as freshman.  Yes,  that includes you offensive linemen too.  Start your athletic base off with a solid foundation on running.  If you are an offensive lineman,  you may not be able to run track when you hit your junior and senior year but you can benefit from getting it in at least in your freshman year.  Athletic linemen are recruited linemen.

If you are playing the other positions,  you want to stay on that track for as long as you can.  If you are really good in another sport that conflicts with track then I understand but if there isn’t another sport then do yourself a favor,  put the track spikes on.  Colleges recruit speed almost as much as they recruit height.  One of those things you control and that is speed.  You can find it training and competing in track.  For those of you who say,  I’ll just go to a speed trainer my answer is no unless your school has no track program or it’s really deficient.  The weekly track meets will stir up the competitor in you.  It will push you beyond on your limits and make you faster than the best trainer will. 

2. Get Serious About the Weight Room

Along with being fast in football,  you will need to be strong.  Don’t wait till your junior and senior year to start lifting seriously.  Whether you like it or not,  colleges recruit body types.  If you don’t look the part,  it’s really difficult for them to make an investment in you.  Many prospects will careless approach the weight room as 9th graders.  They give up an entire year of development physically only to wish they had an extra year at the end.  Don’t let that be you.  Start learning how lift weights the right way.  Start consistently building up your strength and your frame.  Who knows,  if you throw on size fast,  you may get a school to throw an early offer your way.  You’ll have to continue to develop to keep the offer but it’s good to have that early interest. 

3. Buckle Down on Your Technique

Speed is good,  size and strength is great but technique wins most of the time in this game.  Learn the ins and outs of your position.  Determine the techniques that it takes for you to defeat your opponent and dedicate yourself to mastering them.  I am not big on having a trainer prior to turning 13 unless you are a quarterback but once you hit high school you should be soaking up all the knowledge you can from your coaches.  If additional training is needed to hone your skills then by all means,  go get it.  There’s nothing more delighting to a coaching watching film of a prospect or observing him at camp than when he demonstrates the proper way to block, tackle, run routes, etc.  Be a master of technique. 

4. Guard Your GPA Like Your Life

Ask any senior what it’s like trying to raise his GPA and he will tell you it’s like trying to live on the Sun.  The real trick to graduating with the GPA you need is by kicking off your high school career the right way in the classroom. Once you have started accumulating semesters,  it is difficult to change the score as you go down the road.  So starting off with a high GPA is to your advantage.  Besides,  the distractions will be plenty if you start accomplishing all of these other goals and begin to get recruited. You will have coaches calling you,  trips to take and you will suddenly become more attractive to your female classmates.  Try improving a GPA once that starts!  So while you are a little nobody,  build the GPA of a king.  Rank out those A’s with a passion. 

5. Collect the Email Addresses of Coaches & Join the GridironStuds App

One of the best pieces of advice you will get out of this article is this one.  As a freshman,  build a spreadsheet and in it,  you start adding coaches.  Next to their names add their meal address, Twitter handle and phone numbers.  You will continue to add onto this document every year but start it now.  That list will be as powerful as anything else you could have if you want to be a recruited high school football player.  On that list you will want to have the head coach,  the coach for your position and the recruiting coordinator.  Use that list to follow them on Twitter.  Once you get on the field and start making plays you will be able to contact them with info about you. 

In addition,  every high school football player should be using the GridironStuds App.  Building a profile as a freshman allows you to show your progress through the years. So when a coach begins recruiting you he can see your history of development and get a better idea of who you are.  It makes it easier to recruit you.  The later you pop up on the app,  the more competition you are going to have trying to grab a coach’s attention.  Download it and build your profile today.  Click here to download.

So there you are.  As you can see there is quite the investment you need to make if you want to have a chance at getting college football scholarship offers. It’s why only a handful of the 1 million plus high school football players each year are able to sign on the dotted line.  If you start early and take these steps you give yourself the head start that makes you a winner on national signing day your senior year.  It’s tough to look into the future when you are 14 years old but the smartest freshman know that the future depends on what you do now.

Why Is He a 5-Star? Malachi Nelson

By: Chad Wilson
Twitter: @GridironStuds

We are all keenly aware of how recruiting works by now.  The players play.  The schools hand out the offers and the writers issue the stars.  We are also aware that every year there is a debate over whether a star really deserves the rating.  Today we are going to take a look at the 2nd overall rated quarterback in the 2023 class in Malachi Nelson out of Los Alamitos High School in California.

With all of the talk going on right now about whether the number one guy with the famous last name,  Arch Manning,  should hold that top spot or should even be a 5-star,  Malachi Nelson is quietly showing his worth.  I had a chance to watch the tape on the young gun slinger and here is what I observed.

Easy Thrower

Some quarterback have to put a lot of effort into their throws.  I am sure you have seen that type.  Any time they have to launch one deep or throw to the sidelines,  it seems their whole body has to go into the throw.  Worse yet,  some guys have to wind up to make such a toss.  This is most definitely not the case for Nelson.  Whether he’s fitting the ball into the seam between defenders,  going up top on the secondary or hitting a guy out of his break on a deep out,  it’s just a flick of the wrist for Nelson.  The kid is what I call an easy thrower.  We see this from guys like Josh Allen and Patrick Mahomes.  There’s little effort to make a throw and there are definitely all types of advantages to that.  Nelson can make all the throws and do so from many different positions.  On top of that,  he has the confidence in his arm that all big time quarterbacks have.  Can it get him trouble?  Sure but we haven’t seen that yet.

Great Ball Placement

Accuracy is up there for me when it comes to evaluating a quarterback.  If you can’t hit your mark,  what are you anyway?  Having a gun and the intelligence is great but at the end of the day,  you have to hit the guy between the numbers to make it happen.  Nelson is that guy.  Not only can he let it fly but he can put it where he wants to.  He’s especially accurate on deep throws where he shows a proficiency for dropping it in-stride to wide outs and often times to the proper shoulder to keep it away from defenders.  Some quarterbacks work their whole lives to obtain this important skill,  Nelson seems to have been born with it.

Pocket Awareness

With all of the focus on defense these days being on rushing the passer,  it is key to have a QB that can feel the rush,  get to an open area and get the ball downfield.  What is typical for high school quarterbacks when pressured is to abandon the play and look to run for as many yards as they can.  That’s not the case with this prospect.  Nelson knows when to step out,  under or pedal out of trouble.  This often comes with him staying behind the line of scrimmage with his eyes downfield so that he can locate one of his playermakers in the open.  Wide receivers love this as they know that the pocket collapsing doesn’t automatically mean that they are now running a dummy route.  Nelson makes a ton of big plays by extending plays with his pocket mobility.  That’s going to be a plus at the next level.

Athleticism

When all else fails and it’s time to take matters into this own hands,  Nelson can do that too.  We have all seen how athletic the quarterback position has become over the years.  Nelson fits right into this trend.  As such,  the playbook does not become limited with him calling the signals.  The RPOs and QB designed runs are still on the table as Nelson can execute them for big yardage.  Is he Michael Vick or Lamar Jackson,  no but he’s athletic enough.  Combine that with his throwing ability and he’s a bonafide problem on every play on every Friday Night.

Polished

While I am expounding on his athletic gifts,  I would be remised if I did not point out that it seems Nelson has received some pretty solid coaching and or training as he has come up in the ranks.  He shows a solid mastery of the necessary skills to be at the top of the high school football game.  To get there he had to be coachable by somebody.  This is a comfort to schools that are interested in him because a player’s true attitude is hard to forecast.  Watching Nelson’s skill level and attention to detail shows that he’s capable of watching and learning from somebody.  Few things are more important than that for a college football player and most notably quarterbacks.

So as I tour through the class of 2023 wondering about the 5-stars,  I need not do that about this prospect anymore.  Turn the tape on and you’ll realize quickly why Nelson is highly regarded, committed to USC and being pursued by a host of others from coast to coast.

Check out Malachi Nelson’s junior year highlights:

College Football is a Mess and it’s Not the Coaches’ Fault

By: Chad Wilson _ Editor GridironStuds Blog
Twitter: @gridironstuds

College football has always been more about the coaches than the players. Those players are in and out of there in 3, 4 or 5 years. Coaches were the figure heads of programs for years Osborne, Switzer, Schembechler, Hayes, Bowden, Frye, Stoops.

At some point winning your conference or going to a bowl was no longer enough. You had to be in and win the championship game or you weren’t squat.  With that came relentless pressure to win it all but only one team can raise that trophy each year. If it wasn’t you then the fans and the media designated you for the hot seat.  Suddenly every program adopted this standard of “we compete for championships every year.”  You better keep repeating the company line at every press conference or here’s your blindfold and your cigarette.

No one wants to get fired and since this is the career a man has chosen he has to play the game. That’s when the lies get told.  Coach can’t tell the recruit the truth because a) he doesn’t want to hear it and b) he won’t sign with his school.  Coach can’t tell the media the truth because they’ll make sure they don’t have a job around the same time Saint Nick starts shimmying down your fireplace.

No recruit wants to hear that he might redshirt and no beat reporter wants to hear that we might have a hard time winning seven games this season. Nobody wants to wait for success they need it now or holy pink slip.

Armed with these facts, college coaches must skirt the truth and always have an exit plan. Few of them feel safe. So the moment they reach success they MUST consider their options.  You heard me right. Winning brings anxiety and starts the college coach on his way to getting fired.  That’s it,  that’s the prize.

Signed a top 10 class? It better not be #22 next year. Played for the conference championship last year? You better not lose four games this year.  Had a Heisman candidate at QB this season? The blue chipper you just signed better be the deal or you know what time it is.

Everyone’s on the coach’s head for lying and leaving but he’s not necessarily chasing a pay check. He’s chasing security. He’d love for his son and daughter to graduate from the same high school but you see that’s not how this thing works.  I’ve watched the masses blame everything we have going on in college football on the coaches. They’re blaming it on the guy that works 20 hour days, has estranged relationships with his family while devoting his life to someone else’s kids. They’re blaming the guy answering texts for an entire Christmas Day because God forbid if you don’t tell that 5-star Merry Christmas and your rival does.  Activate the the notes app on the iphone and draft that tweet….. “please respect my decision.”

Ten years for $9.5 million means no one is going to feel sorry for that guy.  All those who don’t have that kind of household revenue think they’d do anything to get it so coach should just shut up and take his medicine.  You haven’t walked in those shoes.  I think if you asked the coaches,  a majority of them would tell you that they would take half of what they make to just have a semi normal life and some job security.  They’d like to be able to park their car in the same driveway long enough to stain the brick pavers.  Hell,  they don’t have time to spend the money anyway.

You finger pointers in the fanbase, in the media , on the board of trustees and at the recruiting table,  check yourselves. Guess who needs to absorb a major part of the blame? Yea that’s right,  it’s you.  At this point,  college coaches are nothing more than frogs on lily pads simply looking for a safe place to land.

Committing to the Uncommitted in College Football

By: Chad Wilson
Twitter: @gridironstuds

Two days ago I had a vision of Brian Kelly doing an in home visit for LSU watching Notre Dame play a college football playoff game with a recruit and his family.  Soon thereafter he fields a question from the recruit’s mom…. “do you plan on staying at LSU?”  Sounds like a Saturday Night Live skit but that’s actually real life in 2021.

That vision is not what lead me to writing this article.  It was a question I was asked on Twitter by a follower:

The tweet was in response to a comment I made on the following tweet

It’s a really good question and I will share my thoughts on it in this post.  If you have followed me at all on the tweety bird app you have seen my recent obsession with impatience of fanbases and the weak administrations that give way to their carefree whims.  Social media and Twitter in particular,  is a space where anything can and will be said.  As such,  fans say a bunch of things and they say it a lot.  The stadium boos and yells at the TV have been replaced with endless tweets on a Saturday evening as the sting of a loss and missed expectations start settling in.  Who’s expectations were these?

These annual expectations are hatched in the minds of people who work a 9-5 doing something that’s not football.  For certain their 9 to 5 does not put them in the building or practice fields of their beloved football programs.  So on top of not having the general knowledge they don’t have the functional knowledge of what’s going on in the football department.   All they see is what they get on their streaming device on Saturday afternoon.  The real ones know that there’s a lot that goes into the product on your screen.

Over emotional college football fans should not be the lynch pin for what direction an athletic department heads in.  The adults in charge have the ability to ignore the average fan protruding his anger through aggressive screen taps on a social app.  However,  our traditional media have increasingly shown an inability to ignore the circling buzzards and deliver the madness to the feet of the admin at press conferences.  Far be it for me to try and reverse this current trend developed by the fans and the media.  Believe me,  I’ve tried and they just have too much invested in it.   I don’t have an in to the athletic directors and presidents at these esteemed universities so I have to craft my message to you,  the recruits and parents of the recruited.

There was much to consider when my two sons were going through the process.  They both did so within the last decade just to give you some perspective.  Crazy as it sounds,  neither came up in the world of the transfer portal,  NIL and rampant coach ejections.  Sure,  coaches were getting fired during their time but that rate has seemingly doubled since my last faxed in his national letter of intent.  So,  whether or not a coach was going to get fired was on the list but not high up on the list of things to consider.

If they were to enter into the process today,  potential coach firing would be much higher on the things to consider list.  Coaching turnover is an important factor in choosing a school.  There was a time when the biggest worry is that a guy would have success and leave for a bigger job at a bigger school or the NFL.   However,  Nick Saban’s dominance has benefitted Alabama and U-Haul,  everyone else,  not so much.  Coaches are being given very little time to equal the success that Saban has taken a lifetime to build.  Yes,  Saban has been at Alabama for 15 years but to discount what he learned in his journey leading up to Tuscaloosa would be foolhardy.

Fanbases are convinced that Saban has the secret recipe that calls for a sprinkle of this and a splash of that.  If their recent hire by their school does not have that recipe and bake that pie in 2.5 years,  out come the pitchforks.  Some schools like Oklahoma St., Iowa, TCU, Utah and Northwestern don’t pay attention to the crusaders.  Other places like Texas, Florida, Florida St., USC and Miami are virtual voodoo dolls for their Twitter fans.

My strategy to you as the recruit and family getting ready to open the doors to the theater of the insane is to find a quiet seat in the corner. Make it a pledge to survey the landscape and pay attention to the history of the universities in question.  Are they helter skelter and run guys out of town quickly?  Better to avoid them.  There’s one way to make schools behave in college football and that is through the actions of recruits.  Start rewarding the programs that provide the stability for the players that you would desire for yourself or sons.  There’s a logo on that letter of intent but let’s be real,  you are signing it because of what a man told you.   When he leaves,  most of it is null and void.

When that next coach shows up on campus you are at his mercy.  You are at the mercy of his system,  his personality and the promises he makes out on the recruiting trail as he attempts to impress his new boss.  None of that is what you committed to when you fed those papers through the fax machine on an early December of February morning.  Maybe you’ll get a like-minded guy to the one who left but I doubt it.  After all,  they fired that guy remember?

I applaud Penn St. and Michigan St. for recently making long term commitments to their head coaches with 10 year contracts.  That makes it a little harder to dispose of the program leader like an ink pen that deared to not produce a quality stain when used.  Sometimes you gotta give it another try or shake it a little bit.  We teach our young men very little about handling adversity when a 7-6 season following a 10-2 one means you don’t get to finish out the season.  How dare you look at them with squinted eyes when they hit the transfer portal.  It seemed crazy when Jimbo Fisher inked the first 10 year deal for a coach at Texas A&M.   Jimbo’s bringing in a top class to College Station.  Tucker and Franklin’s deals no doubt spearheaded the similar ones given to Lincoln Riley and Brian Kelly.   We can argue about the absurdity of paying a coach $100 million but for now,  I take my hat off to the only resemblance of commitment that this game can produce for us at the current moment.

Speaking of commitment,  carefully consider yours when it comes down to it.  At the end of the day,  a life lesson learned now or in the future will be a commitment to the uncommitted typical ends in broken dreams and resentment.  Do it enough and it will drive you crazy and get you committed.