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Reasonable Expectations for Star QB Recruits October 2, 2008

Posted by flashbuzzer in Sports.
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I recently came across this article on Jimmy Clausen’s press conference where he verbally committed to Notre Dame. It took me back to the spring of 2006, when a tremendous amount of hype surrounded the rising high school senior from Westlake Village, CA.

The article was interesting, and one quote in particular caught my eye. Clausen mentioned that one of his goals was to essentially lead Notre Dame to four national championships during his time in South Bend, which really fired up the crowd at the press conference.

This got me thinking about the hype that usually accompanies the signing of a star quarterback recruit. Quarterbacks are (rightly or wrongly) perceived as the heroes who will lead their teams to national titles. The key question for me, then, was: should a rabid fan base expect their top QB recruit to lead their team to at least one (if not more) BCS titles?

I did a small study of this based on my old prep all-America lists from 2000 to 2003. You can find the lists here. The quarterbacks for each list were all consensus top-5 signal-callers after their senior seasons.

The results were quite alarming, in my opinion.

Let’s start with the team from 2000:

Joe Mauer – Florida State fans who have grown weary of their team’s poor play at QB must be kicking themselves, wondering how things would have gone had Mauer actually suited up for the Seminoles. It’s difficult to call Mauer a bust, though, seeing as how he was the #1 pick in the 2001 Major League Baseball amateur draft. After being called up to the majors in 2004, he played in the 2006 and 2008 MLB All-Star Games and led the AL in batting average for both seasons. He’s now arguably the best catcher in the big leagues.

D.J. Shockley – Shockley redshirted in 2001 and then sat behind Georgia legend David Greene for three years before finally getting the starting job in 2005. He made the most of that chance, going 10-3 and leading the Bulldogs to the 2005 SEC title. His career ended on a somewhat sour note as Georgia fell 38-35 to West Virginia in the 2006 Sugar Bowl.

Brent Rawls – the star recruit from QB factory Evangel Christian (Shreveport, LA) actually never started a game for Oklahoma. He initially beat out Jason White for the starting job in the spring of 2003 before a series of injuries and self-inflicted mishaps caused the Sooner coaches to perform an about-face. He then transferred to Louisiana Tech in September 2003 but was ruled academically ineligible for the 2004 season.

Ingle Martin – Martin signed with Florida and served as a capable backup to Rex Grossman during the 2002 season. He then started the first four games of the 2003 season before true freshman Chris Leak took the reins of the Gators’ offense. Martin wound up transferring to Furman in January 2004.

Next, let’s look at the team from 2001:

Vince Young – this is a case where the recruiting gurus actually got one right. Young’s well-chronicled accomplishments at Texas included an astounding 30-2 record as a starter. After beating Michigan 38-37 in the 2005 Rose Bowl, he led the Longhorns on a march back to Pasadena during the following season. Young inspired Texas to the 2005 Big 12 title before unleashing a mind-boggling performance to beat USC 41-38 in the 2006 Rose Bowl, capturing the Longhorns’ first national title in 35 years.

Ben Olson – after signing on the dotted line with BYU, he redshirted the 2002 season before going on a two-year Mormon mission. After returning from his mission trip, he transferred to UCLA in the spring of 2005, having never played a down for the Cougars.

Trent Edwards – he redshirted the 2002 season with Stanford before starting four games in the 2003 season, backing up Chris Lewis for the rest of the year. He then started for the Cardinal from 2004-06, compiling a 10-24 record. Edwards never led Stanford to a winning record during his three years at the helm of their offense.

Reggie McNeal – he started for Texas A&M from 2003-05, compiling a 16-19 record along the way. McNeal’s high-water mark came in the 2004 season, when he led the Aggies to a 7-5 record, which culminated in a 38-7 humiliation at the hands of Tennessee in the 2005 Cotton Bowl. That turned out to be the only bowl game for A&M during McNeal’s time in College Station.

Now let’s look at the team from 2002:

Chris Leak – this is another case where the recruiting gurus actually got it right, though like Young, there were some growing pains along the way. Leak ended up starting during all four years of his Florida career, and the Gators went 37-14 from 2003-06. Leak teamed up with star freshman Tim Tebow to win both the 2006 SEC title and the 2007 BCS Championship Game. In the latter matchup, Leak led the Gators to a 41-14 crushing of Ohio State, delivering their first national title in 10 years.

Kyle Wright – he signed on the dotted line with Miami and redshirted the 2003 season. After backing up Brock Berlin during the 2004 season, he started for the Hurricanes from 2005-07 and led them to a 21-16 record. Along the way, he briefly lost his starting job to Kirby Freeman at the outset of the 2007 season.

Robert Lane – this touted recruit pulled off a Signing Day switcheroo and ended up with Ole Miss instead of LSU. Oddly enough, he played multiple positions and only started one game at QB during his Rebels career. He finally settled in at tight end and started every game there during his senior season.

JaMarcus Russell – Russell signed with LSU and redshirted the 2003 season before backing up Marcus Randall during the 2004 season. He then started for the Tigers from 2005-06, leading them to a 22-4 record. Russell led LSU to the 2005 SEC West title and then sparked them to a 41-14 beatdown of Notre Dame in the 2007 Sugar Bowl.

Finally, let’s look at the team from 2003:

Rhett Bomar – things started off very promisingly for Bomar at Oklahoma, as he led the Sooners to an 8-4 record in the 2005 season. Then things went south very quickly thanks to a notorious car dealership scandal that I won’t get into here. He transferred to Sam Houston State in the fall of 2006.

Chad Henne – Henne actually started during all four years of his Michigan career as he led the Maize and Blue to a 36-14 record from 2004-07. His true freshman season was actually remarkably successful as the Wolverines went 9-3, shared the Big Ten title with Iowa and lost 38-37 to Texas in the 2005 Rose Bowl. Henne also led Michigan to the 2007 Rose Bowl, where they were pasted 32-18 by USC. He also had some trouble beating Ohio State during his time in Ann Arbor, going 0-4 against the Buckeyes.

Xavier Lee – this multidimensional threat actually only started 6 games during his Florida State career, going 2-4 in the process. Perhaps he was a victim of poor coaching/player development on the part of Jeff Bowden, or maybe he was somewhat overrated. He ended up declaring early for the 2008 NFL Draft.

Anthony Morelli – his signing with Penn State sent the Nittany Lion faithful into a frenzy. After sitting behind Michael Robinson, he started in 2006-07 and led Penn State to a combined 18-8 record (with identical 9-4 records in both seasons).

The overall results were quite eye-opening. Of the 15 quarterbacks who actually played college football, only two of them (Young and Leak) started for national title-winning teams. Two others (Shockley and Henne) won or shared conference championships as a starting QB, and a third (Russell) started for a BCS bowl-winning team. The rest had either solid careers, mediocre careers or completely flamed out.

Based on these results, here are what I think constitute reasonable expectations for a star QB recruit. If the recruit starts for two seasons and his team goes to a bowl in each season, that should satisfy his fan base. Anything on top of that (BCS bowl berth, conference championship, or national title, let alone multiple national titles) is just gravy.

Hopefully rabid college fans will remember that quite a few factors go into winning a national title, including good player development, strong offensive line/defensive line play, luck, etc.


My Top 10 Sports Moments May 23, 2008

Posted by flashbuzzer in Sports.
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I’ve always enjoyed watching sports, especially when I know that I’ll remember a particular sporting event for years to come.

Here is a top 10 list of sports “moments” that I’ve watched, in no particular order. Two caveats are in order. First, I saw all of these on TV. Second, none of them are really “moments” per se.

1. 2003 Fiesta Bowl One of the common themes in this list is that of one strong (and seemingly invincible) team facing off against another team that was supposed to be utterly destroyed. In this case, a Miami Hurricanes squad that was riding an incredible 34-game winning streak was aiming for its second straight national title (some would argue that Miami should have been playing for its third straight championship). On the other hand, an Ohio State Buckeyes team that won its last 3 games in heart-stopping fashion was trying to stop this dominant force. A riveting double-OT thriller ensued. I remember rooting for Roscoe Parrish to take his 4th-quarter punt return to the house. Glenn Sharpe…why did you commit that pass interference penalty?

2. USC 34, Notre Dame 31 (10/15/2005) A USC Trojans squad that was riding a 27-game winning streak and aiming for a third straight AP national title seemed unstoppable. On the other hand, a Notre Dame Fighting Irish team that was starting to establish an identity under first-year coach Charlie Weis was eager to pull off a shocker in South Bend. A wild struggle ensued, perhaps fueled by ND’s decision to go with their lucky green jerseys. Reggie Bush helped his Heisman campaign with 3 touchdown runs along with an illegal push of Matt Leinart into the end zone for the winning touchdown. I remember rooting for Dwayne Jarrett to take Matt Leinart’s 4th-and-9 pass to the house.

3. 2006 Rose Bowl Like Miami three years earlier, USC was on a 34-game winning streak, and was being anointed by several ESPN talking heads as the greatest team of all-time. The Texas Longhorns, though led by the incomparable Vince Young, were supposed to roll over for the mighty Trojans. In a mesmerizing battle between the nation’s top two teams, Young was just dynamite with 267 yards passing and 200 yards rushing. Reggie Bush, the Heisman winner, came up short with just 177 yards rushing and receiving along with one foolish lateral. There was much merriment in Austin afterwards as the Longhorns celebrated their first national title in 35 years.

4. 1993 NCAA Men’s Division I Basketball Tournament Final The North Carolina Tar Heels were looking for head coach Dean Smith’s second national title (and second in New Orleans). On the other hand, the Michigan Wolverines were sparked by the Fab Five, who were looking to avenge their national title loss to Duke the previous year. I remember pulling hard for the Fab Five, since Michigan was my favorite team back in the early ’90s. While I felt bad for Chris Webber after his infamous timeout call, I couldn’t justify his obvious travel only seconds earlier after rebounding Pat Sullivan’s missed free throw. This would be the final hurrah for the Fab Five, as Webber would subsequently declare for the 1993 NBA Draft and head off to the Golden State Warriors.

5. 1999 NCAA Men’s Division I Basketball Tournament Final The Duke Blue Devils were in the midst of an incredible season, and they entered the title game with a 37-1 record. On the other hand, the Connecticut Huskies were supposed to step aside for the inevitable Blue Devil coronation, though they had a sparkling 33-2 record. The heart-stopping duel between the two best teams in college basketball that season was just fantastic. Khalid El-Amin delivered on his pre-game promise to “shock the world” by scoring the last 4 points of the game for UConn. Fantastic defense by Ricky Moore on Trajan Langdon boosted the Huskies to an upset of a team that featured at least 5 viable NBA prospects (William Avery, Langdon, Shane Battier, Elton Brand and Corey Maggette).

6. 2005 NCAA Men’s Division I Basketball Tournament Final Like Duke in 1999, the Illinois Fighting Illini entered this title match with a 37-1 record. I got the general impression before this game, though, that people were confident in UNC’s chances. Like the 1999 championship game, this matchup featured the two best teams in college basketball that season. Somehow Illinois attempted a mind-boggling 40 3-pointers, making only 12 (which probably sealed their demise). In this harmonious convergence of talent, Sean May was the best player on the floor, and I give credit to Tar Heels head coach Roy Williams for going with a point zone to keep Raymond Felton on the floor in the first half.

7. 2008 NCAA Men’s Division I Basketball Tournament Final The Memphis Tigers one-upped both Illinois (2005) and Duke (1999) by entering the title match with a 38-1 record. On the other hand, some people were giving the Kansas Jayhawks a decent chance to win the game. Derrick Rose, who turned in a listless first half while possibly being troubled by a stomach ailment, came alive in the second half to almost single-handedly push the Tigers to the title. Mario Chalmers’ super-clutch 3-pointer allowed me to win my first NCAA Tournament pool, which was pretty neat. Interestingly, Memphis became the fifth team in NCAA history to win at least 37 games in a season, and all five of those teams did not win the NCAA title.

8. 2002 NBA Playoffs – Western Conference Finals The Los Angeles Lakers were on their way to a 3-peat, which had been last accomplished by the Chicago Bulls in 1998. The Sacramento Kings were having a pretty good season of their own, though, and were the top seed in the Western Conference playoffs. This riveting series shifted into overdrive on a spectacular 3-pointer by Robert Horry to win Game 4. After a horribly officiated Game 6, the Lakers captured the series in a Game 7 overtime thriller. This series would be the high-water mark for a Kings team featuring Chris Webber, Peja Stojakovic, and a blossoming star in Mike Bibby.

9. Super Bowl XLII The New England Patriots entered this clash with an 18-0 record, and they had annihilated various teams during a record-setting regular season. The New York Giants, on the other hand, were supposed to be a Giant punching bag for the Patriots in their quest for perfection. The Giants’ defensive line, though, got significant pressure on Tom Brady and threw a Justin Tuck-sized wrench into the Patriots’ offense. Brady finally got untracked late in the fourth quarter and led the Pats on a go-ahead touchdown drive. Then Eli Manning responded with the drive of his life…can you say David Tyree + ball + helmet = upset?

10. 2004 Olympics – Swimming – Men’s 200-meter Freestyle The pre-race hype for this event was amazing, as it was dubbed the “Race of the Century.” Michael Phelps came into the Olympics with legitimate hopes of winning 8 gold medals, and this event wasn’t even one of his best. Ian Thorpe, a former world-record holder in the event, was going to be a serious threat, and Pieter van den Hoogenband was the defending Olympic gold medalist. In a fun-filled battle, van den Hoogenband hit the halfway mark at world-record pace. Thorpe finally chased him down in the last straightaway to set a new Olympic record, and Phelps took the bronze.