Yeah, like anybody really knows for sure.
Longtime readers of this blog know much as I love the hectic pace of Signing Day and will report analysis of recruiting gurus/websites, I stick by the theory that nobody knows nothin' at the mid-major level. Look how often the big boys whiff on recruits and they're taking guys my daughter (great run after catch, hates watching football) can pick out as good players. Down in Group of 5 Land, it's truly like television programming (Family Guy's in its 11th consecutive season on the same network that twice before canceled it).
Who knows which young man finds greater joy in Proust, pipe or Paula than in post patterns or pass protection? Who knows which young man finds the work ethic that another loses? Who knows who reacts to the challenge of the next level with elan and who suffers shrinkage? Who knows which kid truly responds to a particular coach or which position coach fails the players under him? Or does that coach or coaches stay? Staffs change like the time at G5 schools.
What does it mean that Rivals.com, as of this moment, puts FIU at 99th nationally and No. 8 in Conference USA? Or that 247Sports.com puts FIU at 107th and 10th? About as much as it meant in 2013. Remember that FIU class? Only the defensive backs kept that from being the consensus worst rated class in FBS that year. Here's the top rated recruits from that class, according to ESPN:
(What follows isn't to make fun of or throw shade on the young men, who came into a calamitous situation at FIU and I hope are having good college experiences. But, rather, I'm making fun of and throwing shade on analyst projections.)
1. Vontarius West, defensive back -- Saw his first significant playing time this season as a backup linebacker.
2. Travis Wright, quarterback -- Spent the late summer bounce passing throws like the quarterback of a basketball offense. Then, there were questions about his eligibility. Then, he was gone. Never played a down at FIU.
3. Chris Flaig, offensive lineman -- Non-football related health issues sidelined him for the 2013 and 2014 seasons.
4. Jordan Budwig, offensive lineman -- Started all 24 games his first two seasons before a shoulder injury ended his junior year before it began.
5. Willie Smith, defensive back -- Never enrolled. Now playing at Division II Ferris State.
Hmmm...maybe Rivals.com knew better. Let's look at their top five from that year:
1. West -- Oh, OK.
2. Xavier Hines, defensive back -- Redshirted, didn't play a game as a redshirt freshman, got into 11 games in 2015, started one.
3. Silas Spearman, running back -- Ran for 130 yards in FIU's only 2013 win, then suffered a knee injury that wiped out 2014. Played four games in 2015.
4. Smith -- Well...
5. Wilkenson Myrtil, defensive back -- Started two games in 2013 and 2014 each, at cornerback. Started three games at safety before suffering a season-ending concussion.
Now, let's look at 247Sports.com. They tend to have the best take on this recruiting thing:
West -- Huh.
Hines -- Huh (again).
Jordan Gibbs, linebacker/defensive end -- Redshirted in 2013. Moved to fullback in 2014. Jettisoned by 2015.
Budwig -- OK.
Jeremy Derrick, linebacker -- Redshirted in 2013. Didn't get into a game in 2014 or 2015.
Anybody see tight end Jonnu Smith, FIU's best offensive player since T.Y. Hilton, on any of the lists? Or linebacker Treyvon Williams? What you do see: injuries, players re-cast in different roles, players just not working out for whatever reason.
Whether or not you like Ron Turner overall as a coach, you have to like that he insists on FIU doing its own homework on players such as talking to custodians -- the eyes and ears of educational institutions -- to discern a player's character (oh, future recruits take note that they really do watch your Twitter account). And FIU does its own player evaluations. You'd be surprised how many times coaches can be lemmings, although you shouldn't be considering how every sports league is a copycat league. The same coaches who bellow about leadership turn into lockstep followers all too often.
Quarterback Maurice Alexander's lack of ideal size limited his offers despite showing some moxie the few times Booker T. got in a tight situation his senior year. Turner loves Alexander's leadership charisma. Running back D'Angelo Ware averaged 12.9 yards per carry in Florida, where speed in the secondary can turn 50-yard average-boosting runs into 20 or 25 yarders. He was offered by Troy, FAU, Georgia Southern and New Hampshire (FCS).
John Madden recalls that during his Raiders coaching days (yes, kids, the guy with his name on the video game used to coach) NFL player personnel ace Ron Wolf would say about a player something like, "He'll be a good player in the league, but he won't be a good player for us." Few players FIU's got a shot to get come one size fits all.
Long-winded way of saying maybe 247Sports.com and Rivals.com are right. And, even if they are, it might not matter one bit.