Elite teams show value of recruiting
"It's not the X's and the O's but the Jimmys and the Joes."
It's not clear who originally said that, but it's often attributed to Texas legend Darrell Royal. Who said it isn't important. What is important is that the quote is right on the money.
Recruiting does matter.
"Having great players can make any coach look good," Florida State recruiting coordinator Tim Brewster said.
"Any good head coach understands the importance of recruiting and how talent can help you overcome a lot of different things. There's a tremendous amount of quality coaches in college football today, but the best ones are the ones that know that getting talent in recruiting translates to wins on Saturdays."
The numbers back that up.
The teams that have played in the past seven BCS National Championships -- Alabama, Auburn, Florida, LSU, Notre Dame, Ohio State, Oklahoma, Oregon and Texas -- averaged recruiting classes that ranked No. 8 overall.
Only two teams didn't boast top-10 averages: Auburn and Oregon, who had eight-year averages around No. 12.
Florida has the best average at 3.87, followed by Texas at 5.62 and Alabama at 5.87. It should be noted that the Crimson Tide -- winners of three of the past four titles -- have finished no lower than third in the past six recruiting cycles.
There are myriad statistics that prove the importance of recruiting, but on the whole, how you do on the recruiting trail can be useful for creating a baseline for a program's expectations.
You miss out on recruiting a talented quarterback who fits your system, like Mack Brown did after Colt McCoy departed, and it explains part of the Longhorns' recent struggles.
Don't recruit quality depth along the defensive line, and you're not going to win many games in the SEC. Just ask Tennessee.
Colorado and Utah know all too well that if you don't get gifted defensive backs each recruiting class, then you're never going to have success against the high-flying Pac-12 offenses.
There's a reason coaches pour so much time, effort and emotion into the madness that is dealing with 17- and 18-year-old recruits. Their livelihood depends on it.
Great coaches develop all talent
The debate of coaching versus recruiting is no debate at all. No one captured why coaching is more important than recruiting better than Jake Gaither, the Florida A&M coaching legend, some 50-odd years ago. Gaither described the ability of Alabama coach Bear Bryant.
"He could take his'n and beat your'n," Gaither said, "and take your'n and beat his'n."
Coaching is alchemy. Coaching is two-star plus two-star equals more than five-star. Recruiting may be the lifeblood of college football. But coaching is the brains and the heart and the soul of it.
We all love coverage of recruiting. We read about it because it holds the possibility of new life, and change, and success. But recruiting is not coaching. There's a long list of assistant coaches who have become head coaches because they know how to recruit. But the head coaches who know how to recruit and don't have the ability to lead a program don't last long.
Ask Ron Zook, who brought personability and salesmanship to Florida and Illinois and got fired from both jobs. Ask Urban Meyer, who took Zook's recruits and won a national championship at Florida. Coaching is Meyer winning at Bowling Green and at Utah with the same degree of success as at Florida and Ohio State.
Recruiting is Michigan beating Appalachian State. Coaching is Appalachian State beating Michigan.
Coaching is Boise State's Chris Petersen signing players the big boys overlook and winning more than 90 percent of his games. Coaching is the 17 Broncos who have played for Petersen and been drafted by NFL teams.
Coaching is Barry Alvarez building a program at Wisconsin, or Chip Kelly taking Oregon from good to great. They didn't have blue chips. They had a clear vision.
The top men in the game are as effective in recruiting as they are brilliant in coaching. Bobby Bowden led Florida State to 14 consecutive top-five finishes because he harvested the state's wellspring of talent. In the past four years, Alabama has won three BCS championships and had 13 players selected in the first round of the NFL draft. Like Bowden, Nick Saban found the talent. And like Bowden, Saban developed it.
The grapes that grow on Howell Mountain in Napa Valley make the best cabernet sauvignon in the world. But without the right winemaker, all you'd get is another bottle of Two-Buck Chuck.
Recruiters work day and night to coax the right players to sign with their school. Only then do coaches begin their work.
Recruits are grapes. Recruiters are farmers. Coaches are winemakers.