It wouldn't be June if we didn't have some sort of off-the-field drama to worry about with our college football. And since the realignment talk this summer is at a dull roar at best, and since the resolution of a college football playoff is still several weeks away, how about a little recruiting angst?
We all know that college football fans follow the collegiate futures of football recruits closer than they do the futures of their own children. It's an illness that, at one time or another, any alum or fan of a big-time school has suffered from.
If you have been afflicted, you know it. No need to say it out loud, just admit it to yourself.
Longhorn fans have been on both ends of the whimsical nature of 17-year-olds, with high-profile recruits in years past having decided to switch to another school after committing to the Horns (remember Ryan Perrilloux?) and others deciding to bring their talents to Austin off of a reneged commitment elsewhere (Torshiro Davis this past recruiting cycle).
By and large, thanks to years of practice and airtight relationships with Texas high school coaches, Mack Brown and his staff do a good job of closing on their commitments.
However, this week, one of the top potential gamebreakers and commitments in the Class of 2013 decided to reopen his recruiting. Courtesy of USA Today, here's the story:
Ricky Seals-Jones, considered the best recruit to come through Sealy, Texas, since Eric Dickerson, is backing away from his commitment to play football at the University of Texas.
Seals-Jones, listed as the No. 1 receiver in the 2013 class by Rivals.com and the No. 7 player overall by ESPN.com, said on Feb. 22 he planned to sign with Texas. Recently, however, he attended a recruit picnic at Louisiana State.
It's rare that an in-state player who commits to Texas backs away.
Sealy football coach Jimmie Mitchell said he had not yet spoken with Seals-Jones, but says his star quarterback, who ran for 950 yards and 12 touchdowns last season, may have just decided on a school too soon.
"I can't say I'm real comfortable that this is going on," Sealy football coach Jimmie Mitchell said. "It was a little bit of a shock. We had a plan to visit a number of different schools back in March, but instead he decided to commit to Texas. Now, he's had a change of heart about seeing other places."
Seals-Jones, who is 6-5 and 220 pounds, is also considered a top basketball recruit and LSU and Baylor have given him the option of playing both sports.
Naturally, this has Longhorn fans everywhere scrambling for message boards so they can call Seals-Jones and his family every name under the sun. And it has them looking at the other commitments and targeted recruits to see what Plan B at the wide receiver position might entail. (As you can see, there is a very specific playbook that Spurned College Football Recruiting Dork executes.)
There was a time when I worried a little too much about recruiting. Never to the extent that I got personal with recruits or their families about it, but certainly to the point where I'd fret about depth chart ramifications of "star" players changing their minds.
Thanks to Web sites like Rivals.com now having nearly a decade worth of raw recruiting rankings and historical data to work with, we can better assess just how impactful (or unimpactful, as it were) a decommit could be. Of course, the data is based on a process doused in subjectivity, but it's the best we have.
With that in mind, let's use history to assess just how much Longhorn fans should be chewing their nails over Seals-Jones's possible change of heart. Seals-Jones is the top wide receiver in the country according to Rivals.com. He is also listed as a four-star player (out of five). It's the first time in the history of the Rivals.com rankings that the top wideout has been anything less than a five-star recruit.
So armed with that basis, let's look at the historical collegiate results of five star wideouts from 2002 through 2010 (this upcoming season's junior class), since in theory these players were all seen as "better" than the four-star Seals-Jones coming out of high school. At the conclusion of the roll call for all 33 five-star wideouts from 2002-2010, we will see just how concerned they should be on the Forty Acres.
Let's do this: 2002 -- RYAN MOORE (Dr. Phillips-Orlando, Florida), Miami Moore wound up being a somewhat productive player who floated on and off suspension at Miami and went undrafted in 2007. Five years later, he is a member of the Allen Wranglers, where he was hopefully watching everything Terrell Owens did very closely so he can do the opposite. Other 2002 five-stars: DiShon Platt (FSU), Marquis Johnson (Texas), Ben Obomanu (Auburn). Platt was a colossal bust, Johnson wound up at JuCo and eventually at Texas Tech, Obomanu was a 7th-round draft choice of the Seahawks and is still a backup there today.
2003 -- ANDRE CALDWELL (Jefferson-Tampa, Florida), Florida Caldwell became the all-time leading receiver at Florida with 185 career receptions and played for the 2006 national championship team. He was drafted in the third round of the 2008 draft by the Bengals and has been an NFL backup for four years. Other 2003 five-stars: Chad Jackson (Florida), Robert Meachem (Tennessee). Jackson had a productive three years at Florida and has been a bust as an NFL player (2nd round, New England, 2006). Meachem was stellar in college (over 2,000 yards in career) and was a late 1st-rounder for the Saints. He remains a solid NFL receiver today, now with the Chargers.
2004 -- EARLY DOUCET (St. Martinville-St. Martinville, Louisiana), LSU Doucet was a solid, unspectacular receiver for some very good LSU teams, and became a third-round pick of the Cardinals in 2008. Today, he's a third receiver/backup in Arizona. Other 2004 five-stars: Cameron Colvin (Oregon), Fred Davis (USC), Lance Leggett (Miami), Xavier Carter (LSU). Colvin was a non-factor most of his career, mostly due to injuries. Davis became an all-PAC 10 tight end at USC and a 2nd-round draft pick. Leggett was nothing special. Carter switched to track and field while at LSU.
2005 -- PATRICK TURNER (Goodpasture-Nashville, Tennessee), USC Turner was a nice player at USC, but never came close to the productivity expected of a number one overall wide out. He was drafted in the third round in 2009 by the Dolphins, and after getting cut he signed with the Jets where he occupies a roster spot today. Other 2005 five-stars: Fred Rouse (FSU), DeSean Jackson (Cal). Rouse was a college football nomad (multiple transfers) and is now a CFL refugee. DeSean Jackson was one of the best wideouts in the nation and is now a Pro Bowler for the Eagles, drafted in the second round mainly because of size concerns.
2006 -- PERCY HARVIN (Landstown-Virginia Beach, Virginia), Florida Harvin was a key offensive weapon from the time he set foot on campus, and a big part of two national championship teams at Florida. He was drafted in the first round of the 2009 draft by the Vikings and was named NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year for 2009. Other 2006 five-stars: Vidal Hazelton (USC). Hazelton transferred after his sophomore season and was an undrafted free agent to San Diego in 2011.
2007 -- RONALD JOHNSON (Muskegon-Muskegon, Michigan), USC Johnson was better early in his college career than he was late. On the whole, an average career at USC. He was a sixth-round pick of the 49ers in 2011, and is in Eagles camp now. Other 2007 five-stars: Terrance Tolliver (LSU), Chris Culliver (South Carolina), Dwight Jones (UNC), Arrelious Benn (Illinois). Tolliver had a star-crossed, moderately productive career at LSU. Culliver was moved to corner and became a third-round pick. Jones was highly productive at UNC, but recently quit football as a rookie for the Texans. Arrelious Benn was a star at Illinois and a second round pick of Tampa Bay.
2008 -- JULIO JONES (Foley-Foley, Alabama), Alabama Jones was the most talented player on the 2009 national championship team for Alabama, and became the sixth pick in the draft with Atlanta trading a king's ransom for him. Other 2008 five-stars: A.J. Green (Georgia), DeVier Posey (Ohio St), DeAndre Brown (Southern Miss), Jonathan Baldwin (Pitt), Michael Floyd (ND). Green was a star and became a top 5 NFL pick. Posey was spectacular at times and is now a Texan (3rd rounder, 2012). Brown was at his best as a freshman, but was injury prone and left school early. Baldwin was highly productive, but a bit of a head case (an eventual late first rounder, though). Floyd became ND's all-time leading receiver and a top 15 pick.
2009 -- REUBEN RANDLE (Bastrop-Bastrop, Louisiana), LSU Randle evolved into the top deep threat for LSU by his junior and senior years, and was a second-round pick of the New York Giants in the 2012 draft. Other 2009 five-stars: Andre Debose (Florida). Debose is probably best known for being one of the few non-Hurricanes named in the Nevin Shapiro scandal. Led Gators in receiving yards in 2011 (432 yards)
2010 -- KYLE PRATER (Proviso West-Hillside, Illinois), USC Prater transferred to Northwestern after two nondescript years in Los Angeles. Other 2010 five-stars: Da'Rick Rogers (Tennessee), Markeith Ambles (USC). Rogers led the SEC in receiving in 2011. Ambles was never a factor at USC.
CONCLUSION: By my count, if we are going to put players into "buckets" (which is what I like to do, put people in buckets), then I would list the categories as follows:
Total non-factors (bust, hurt, left football, etc): 8 (Platt, M Johnson, Colvin, Carter, Rouse, Hazelton, Prater, Ambles) Average players: 10 (Moore, Obomanu, Doucet, Leggett, Turner, R Johnson, Tolliver, Culliver, Brown, Debose) Star players: 10 (Caldwell, C Jackson, Meachem, Davis, D Jones, Benn, Posey, Baldwin, Randle, Rogers) Superstar players: 5 (D Jackson, Harvin, Jones, Green, Floyd)
(Funny sidebar: How about USC having six of the 33 five-star wide receivers on this list, and the only one who really became a star was Fred Davis, who they move to tight end? Weird.)
So in the end, if history is to serve as our guide, if you are a Longhorn fan and you are worrying about the possible loss of Ricky Seals-Jones meaning that you're losing at least a "star" quality player, then you're worrying about the near equivalent of getting the "red or black" bet right on roulette (15 of 33 players are "star" or "superstar").
If you're worried about losing a potential superstar/gamebreaker/future high draft choice, then you're worried about something that has happened about 15 percent of the time (5 of 33 are "superstar"), or about the odds of pulling a 20 on blackjack.
So the bottom line on the appropriate degree of Ricky Seals-Jones-related stress is this, Longhorn fan: Go have about ten drinks and picture yourself sitting at a roulette or blackjack table, sweating out the above two scenarios. Then, react accordingly.
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