It’s a question – a fair one IMO – that Pirate fans have been asking for a long time – well – forever in program. When are we going to start getting those 4-5 star guys coming our way? What does it take (besides a national ranking, a BCS conference affiliation, a ton of money, and a willingness to cheat…couldn’t resist that last one)? No, really?
How is that even after years when we won big bowl games, beat UNC or State, placed players in top-level NFL jobs, etc., we still do not see a bump in that the stature of our recruits?
Fair questions all. The answer, IMO, is a pretty simple one and really no different than the types of thought patterns that many of us have used to forge our own futures: Take the best possible path on paper that you can because your future depends on it. Perceptions are reality. For as many NFL players that played at ECU, there are more consistently more coming from the brand name schools. The prestige of playing for a BCS school. The digs at the school you go to. All of these things make a difference. The guy who bucks the system is a rare enough guy and one who bucks the system despite having the grades, no prior injuries, etc., is even rarer. Sure, they exist now and then, but not normally. That road is simply too hard for most guys to consider it. If a 4-star guy goes to Alabama and simply is middle-of-the-pack there, his likelihood of an NFL chance is exponentially higher than if he bucks the system, goes to ECU and does anything short of being an All-America. It’s a numbers game driven by a good dose of reality (those teams are good) and perception (all their players are better).
Even Cheaters U down the road, as lackluster as their teams have been, they place a ridiculous number of players in the pros. What would you do if you had to make that choice with your kid? Particularly if your kid were a high-profile athlete who wanted to stay near home? I don’t like it, but it is sort of how it is. It could change if our BOG gave a damn about educational opportunity equity for ALL of NC’s students…but they don’t.
I don’t fret over missing on the 4-5 star guys…they are professionals already and managing their careers as such coming out of high school. And when we get a nod from one, it is because they are high risk (read: Lucas Thompson…who will never arrive despite his verbal). Or Alfy Hill…more drama than a teen a pop star. We should be careful what we wish for, no?
Where I do feel the frustration – like many of you guys – is when we get a kid and he flips on the way to NSD. That frustrates me a lot because I know how hard this staff recruits.
Don’t think for a second that the uptick in this trend – particularly for the QBs and WRs – is by accident. The brand name schools have already figured out a few things: 1) ECU’s offense is lights out; 2) Our coaches know EXACTLY what they are looking for at those positions…without a doubt; and 3) Why spend time and effort looking for those diamonds in the rough when you can just go see who ECU is recruiting? Damn, so much easier…let the Pirates do all the stone turning and then swoop in and offer the world.
I know for sure that our coaches could care less who is rated what out there…they know what they are looking for and zero in on. The problem is that the brand name schools know this too. If Lincoln Riley zeros in on a QB, these other schools take note. If our receivers coaches zero in on a receiver, you better believe others are noticing. Those schools spend money and time on the top 100 players cause they will get their share…and now they have figured out how to find QBs and Receivers…just follow ECU’s targets. Throw RB in their two since it takes a special eye for the right back for the spread. The silver lining, though, may be that so far, the guys we have lost in this fashion have seemingly been replaced with brighter future players (e.g., Our program’s future at QB is brighter with Kurt Benkert than it would have been with Kanler Coker, IMO, and the same could be said IMO for our future with RB Marquez Grayson than with Jabo Lee). And, for that matter, look how those guys are faring now? Wonder if Dontrill Hyman isn’t missing his Pirates now??
It is frustrating for us fans no doubt, but probably moreso for Ruff and crew who pour their hearts and souls into it. But, alas, I worry not…though I do admit some jaded feelings at times (like I don’t want to see the UNC flip a year ago do well at QB). I do think that despite this backdoor approach by these schools, we end up with the right guys here…because our guys know what we need and are looking for. If our D staff has that attribute as well…we are going to be in good shape for the future.
So, do we need 4-5 star guys at ECU? Not sure how I feel. Sure would love the talent here, but only if the are the self-starter type…you know, the guy who says, “I can be lead that team to greatness” rather than, “My greatness can help that team.” If they are trend busters, if they are guys who would rather pave a new tradition than jump on a bandwagon…then I would love to see them here, but with limited recruiting budgets, burning our resources on those kids – IMO – is a waste of precious few resources. I like how Ruff and crew will determine which of those high-profile players they like and at least throw out an overture (something that frustrated me during Coach Logan’s years) and see if they get a bite. But otherwise, they hunt for jewels out there among the picked over and under traversed. And what they are building here, translates into a very good team rather than a collection of high-end parts.
All that said…it must be nice for those big dollar, name brand schools to be able to just scour our recruiting trail and sweep in to grab the fruits of our coaches’ labors.