With only a month ago until 2010's signing day, here's a quick refresher on a three important bits of common sense that can help put certain aspects of the football recruiting phenomenon into proper perspective
1. Miami Northwestern is a pipeline to the Miami Hurricanes. What do the names Marcus Forston, Jacory Harris, Aldarius Johnson, Ben Jones, Sean Spence, Tommy Streeter, Kendal Thompkins all have in common? They're all former Northwestern Bulls that currently suit up for the Canes. Now, there are always some exceptions, like in the case where former Miami HC Larry Coker was an inept, bumbling fool, or in other situations where Miami may have backed off NW prospects. However, this generally rule still holds. It does not matter what a player may say in the fall, or how many times he may deny that Miami is his leader. Come signing day, any Northwestern Bull with a committable offer will sign with the Miami Hurricanes.
On a similar note, no one has a pipeline to St. Thomas Aquinas in Ft. Lauderdale. No one (I'm looking at you with this, Wisconsin). They just produce so many prospects each year that a lot of schools think they do, when those guys will jump at an offer from the likes of Miami, Florida, or Notre Dame without a second thought, and leave your sad little program in the dust.
2. Bobby Bowden is going to play everyone for suckers on Signing Day. Well, for years on end, this was the case, although Bowden's legendary propensity for silent verbals has faded as the Seminole program failed to meet expectations in recent years. What would happen would be that come every winter, Florida State would secure verbal commitments from prospects. However, not only did those players not go public, they in fact proceeded to commit to rival factory programs.
As soon as signing day came around, a few letters of intent would be mysteriously absent, and before they knew it, there'd be a gaping hole in the class, and Bowden had signed another All-American. As the years went by, this phenomenon became such a running joke in coaching circles that other programs started to catch on, and exercise more caution in dealing with what were essentially double agents. All's fair when the Urban Meyers of the world laugh at supposed commitments. Don't be taken by Bowden's awww-shucks demeanor; he's as slick as any ambulance chaser armed with a three-piece suit and a gallon of hair product.
3. Talent evaluation is subjective. Year after year, why do certain schools like the afore-mentioned Florida State or Notre Dame win on signing day, and lose come the fall? The easy, knee-jerk reaction is to declare that the entire hysteria over college football recruiting is complete bunk. That's an overreaction, but it's important to not quite get caught up in all of the hype too. As much as the minutae of each specific year and class, look at broader program trends. Dr. Saturday has already tackled this point more comprehensively.
An offer by a program like Virginia Tech or Ohio State to a defensive prospect is worth its weight in gold, because both have shown a proven track record in talent evaluation on that side of the ball. Kirk Ferentz at Iowa is the best offensive line mind at any level, and there are plenty of other examples abound. I mean, Houston Nutt pretty much made a mockery of the entire process by signing a bunch of non-qualifiers certain to attend Junior College, right? There are plenty of other paper tiger classes (*cough*, Minnesota and Tennessee) filled with likely non-qualifiers and Junior College transfers, seemingly collected solely for the purposes of generating unwarranted hype in order to give those staffs slightly more rope. I don't see the harm in letting a little air out of the balloon, not when (and I'll never pass up an opportunity to post this link) the recruiting services make themselves such easy targets.
Yeah, star ratings are subjective (there was a story a few months about about a Clemson assistant bragging about manipulating Rivals ratings, but I can't remember it off the top of my head), which is why they're not worth getting worked up about by themselves. In fact, when coaching staffs actually start getting caught up in that hype, they're in trouble. Which is, again, not to dismiss the entire process out of hand, but it needs to be taken with a customary grain of salt. If your favorite program's coaching staff has a track record of success; if they can fill their future roster needs, and secure the top players that they've targeted, then that particular year's recruiting class ought to be considered a success.