Thursday, December 13, 2007

The Recruitment of Robby Green

Robby Green, a 4-star cornerback from John Curtis Christian High School in River Ridge, LA recently gave his verbal commitment to Bama. If you only casually pay attention to recruiting, you will think this is a big deal for LSU, and is very bad news for us. It really is not.

In particular, if you had been listening to WJOX yesterday at about 8:00am, you would have heard Matt Scallessi (spelling of last name unknown) of Rivals' Bama network saying, "Every big SEC team was after this kid," and that this was a big recruiting coup for Nick Saban. They weren't, and it wasn't.

I don't want to criticize a young player, because I assure you Robby Green is 500x the football player that I have ever been or will ever be, but he was a borderline major college prospect at best. To understand how this is known, you have to know a little bit about how recruiting works.

College coaches are strictly forbidden from talking about recruits in public or to the media. The purpose of this is to keep recruitment from being conducted through the media and to keep the kids out of the public spotlight as much as is possible.

One of the results of this is that there is a cottage industry of "insiders," usually anonymous people posting under aliases who claim (real or imagined) sources within programs who provide them with valuable and otherwise unavailable information about recruiting. These people are one of the two primary sources of recruiting information, and I won't say they're strictly reliable. Some are legitimate, some are not, and one should always be skeptical of someone claiming inside information who has not been demonstrated to be accurate in the past.

The other primary source of recruiting information is the recruits themselves. They are also not strictly reliable. They provide the recruiting media with information that is often self-serving or misunderstood. They may exaggerate their list of offers, or their 40-time, or their level of interest in particular programs.

The players are rated based on several factors, including a) who is recruiting him, b) his measurables, and c) statistics, film, and/or direct scouting. The problem is that the information on who is recruiting him can be very unreliable, as can the information about the measurables, as both of these often come straight from the player himself, who has incentive to exaggerate.

If you follow it enough, you start to be able to instinctively separate fact from fiction. You start to figure out whose information is really reliable, and how to spot an exaggerating player. You also figure out that the services' rankings are often based on misconceptions about a player.

This brings us to Robby Green. He is listed as a 4-star, with offers from Florida, LSU, and other big programs. He is also listed as 6'0" and 175#. This contributed to his 4-star status. According to multiple reliable inside sources, Green did not have an offer from LSU, and LSU would not have accepted his commitment if he offered it to them. He was, by some accounts, on the backburner, to be given an offer if some other possible commits failed to come through for us. According to other inside sources at Bama, their recruitment of him ran hot and cold, depending on who else they thought was coming available. We also know that USC brought him in for one of their summer camps and promptly pulled his scholarship offer upon seeing him in action.

His measurables were also questioned. People who claimed to have met him in person said he was closer to 5'8" or 5'9" than to 6'0". People who saw him on television said he appeared to be pretty short even on television. For a cornerback, there is a huge difference between 5'8" and 6'0". The prototypical size for a cornerback is between 6'0" and 6'1". A small cornerback will struggle with the big receivers you often find in the SEC, often 6'4" or taller. The shorter arms that come with a shorter frame will make it more difficult to break up passes as well.

In other words, a 5'8" or 5'9" cornerback is at a huge disadvantage in the SEC and had better bring great athleticism, or an ability to return punts, or great ball skills, or SOMETHING to the table. I don't know if Robby Green brings any of that.

I'm certainly not saying Robby Green won't amount to anything. I assure you I do not know that to be true, and neither does anyone else. Recruiting is about upside and probability. There is very little certainty when it comes to recruiting. There are very few, if any players that you can look at and say, "He's going to be great," and be completely confident about it. It's also true that people sometimes go from walk-on to All-American, and every year former 2-star recruits get drafted on the first day of the NFL draft. But the odds are longer for these guys, and the probabilities are low, as is the upside of a small cornerback.

Which brings us to why I think Saban recruited Green. I think it was because he wants, for public relations purposes, to recruit a guy out of Louisiana. He wants to show boosters and future athletes that he has a presence in Louisiana. He had been recruiting a few other Louisiana players, like Tyler Edwards, Chris Tolliver, and Chase Clement, but it is becoming apparent that these guys are long shots to commit to Bama, so he went to his fall-back player, one he knew wasn't getting a lot of love from the home state school.

I wish Robby Green luck at Bama, and word is that he may yet actually get an offer from LSU, if the other cornerbacks on the board fall through. If he does, that's fine with me. Just don't believe the hype you're hearing from Bama Kool-aid vendors and less knowledgeable sources that Bama just reeled in a big fish out of Louisiana. Green is not a big fish. He's a class-filler.


Anonymous said...

Great info and you really answered a lot of questions I had about this guy.
Your blog is a good one!

gerry dorsey said...

great right up, but i take a couple of exceptions. of course everyone would love to have 6'1" cb's, but those are few and far between. hell there aren't even that many of them in the nfl. obviously 5'8" is too short, but 5'10" can be more than adequate. also, i understand the thinking behind saying that saban is doing it for other recruits, but i'm doubting saban is signing anyone, much less a db (which he coaches the hardest), as a "pr move."

also, i hope you've picked up enough in my comments that although i'm a bama fan, i'm no kool aid drinker.

Poseur said...

On the flipside, class fillers sometimes end up being star players. And sometimes star recruits don't pan out at all.

Getting wrapped up in an individual player's decision is always a mistake. Look at the class in total instead.

gerry dorsey said...

just realized my illiteracy. this is a great "write up," not "right up."

alabama education...illiterate...yada yada yada....

Richard Pittman said...

Oh it is certainly true that class fillers sometimes become stars. It happens regularly enough that you just can't count out any player. In fact, I think K-state this year had a former walk-on reach All-America status, and Ole Miss had a former walk-on as its part-time starting QB (and he had a decent season). This is why I don't criticize Green. I'm not going to tell you he sucks, but I do think he's not all that desirable of a recruit.

jmpbama92 said...

Like I said, "LSU wins a game or two in the SEC finally and they'er fans think they know it all. I find it amazing that you guys who couldn't get on the football field as a water boy would critisize a player that is an all-star in your state for going to a better university. Crazy Cajuns

Richard said...

"I find it amazing that you guys who couldn't get on the football field as a water boy would critisize a player that is an all-star in your state for going to a better university."

Hey, I could have been the water boy if I had applied myself.

I'll be the first to admit that I am not an athlete. I am a sports geek. I'm also quite confident in saying I know more about the recruiting process than 95-99% of college football fans. I know this situation.

And I'm not criticizing Robby Green. I'm not questioning his character or his morality or even the fact that he is a better athlete than me. He surely is. But there are lots of people who are much better athletes than I am who never get a sniff of a Division I scholarship.

And you also don't need to be an athlete to understand these things. Charlie Weis never played college football. Granted, he's a terrible college coach, but he was a pretty good pro coach, and he never played there either.

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Rob said...

I am sure no one will come to read this as this is posted so late. I usually don't post, however, this whole article is the most ridiculus bull crap I have ever read. Robby Green is rated high by all of the services I can find (Rivals, Scout, ESPN, Tom Lug and others) and they have forgotten more than you know. I suppose the rest of our top three recruiting class sucks as well and our National Championships are fake. I know, I know our coach sucks too. Get a couple of National Championships and all the sudden LSU is the center of the football universe and the top of the class in the SEC. I will let you in on a secret that you and all the other LSU fans already know, your coach is a joke and when he runs out of talent LSU will be in bad shape. Looking forward to playing LSU in the future. Roll Tide.

Richard Pittman said...

Thank you for your kind words.

As for Green, I think time will tell. I think if you're expecting an early contributor, you'll be sorely disappointed. He could develop, or he could not. Neither of us know.

As for Les Miles, you may have noticed that he's recruiting like gangbusters. He's not going to "run[] out of talent" any time soon. Though your point is acknowledged. If he indeed ran out of talent, he sure would be in trouble, as would any college football coach in the country.

That "joke" is 34-6 in three years, and has won the SEC West twice, the SEC once, and the MNC once. He's only lost two games at home, and has only lost by more than a touchdown once in his LSU career. He hasn't lost an out-of-conference game. He's 3-0 in bowl games, including two BCS games.

If you insist he's "winning with Nick Saban's talent", consider that he's done more with that talent than Nick Saban did. Saban only had one season with fewer than 3 losses. Miles is 3 for 3. Saban only had one two-season stretch with fewer than 6 losses. Miles has had two and seems likely to have another after this year. In 3 seasons, Miles has won as many bowl games as Saban did at LSU.

anyway, I think this will make a good full post. Maybe you'll see it.