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What the Howl: Recruiting is imperative

Published: Thursday, February 7, 2013

Updated: Thursday, February 7, 2013 18:02

The Alabama Crimson Tide has won three national championships in the past four years. Over that time, head coach Nick Saban led his squad to two SEC championships and a 49-5 overall record, including zero losses to non-conference opponents. The Crimson Tide have re-established their reputation as the jewel of the Southeastern Conference, the toughest conference in the country.

The reason is very simple, yet some college football fans deny its importance. The past five seasons saw Alabama land in the top five of national recruiting rankings, including four first-place finishes – a simply stunning mark.

To quote new Arkansas State head coach Bryan Harsin, recruiting is “the lifeblood of any program.” Saban and his staff are obviously very talented coaches, but the best craftsmen need the best materials. You cannot sculpt and mold a few dozen young men into a dominant, national championship-caliber football team if they do not first possess superior athletic ability.

Excellent coaching can mask athletic deficiencies, imparting to players good technique enabling them to play beyond their natural physical ability, but teams with good coaching and mediocre talent will still falter against teams that have both.

Vanderbilt is a prime example. Outside of Alabama, the Commodores are probably the SEC’s best-coached team, yet they are always one of the weakest teams in the conference because of academic standards that make recruiting difficult. However, their recruiting has picked up the past few seasons, and the result is a team that is improving each year.

Conversely, Ron Zook was a dynamite recruiter at Florida, but as a coach he failed to capitalize on the talent he reeled in. It wasn’t until Urban Meyer went to Gainesville that the Gators reemerged as a national power.

Recruiting isn’t only about physical prowess, however, as a lazy soul in a hulking body is worthless.

Florida State traditionally recruits as well as most anyone in the nation, and yet a string of blue-chip athletes lacking discipline took its toll on the Seminoles last decade.

Teams must not only recruit the best talent – they must either find talent with a solid work ethic or otherwise find talent that will submit to the ruthless will of disciplinarians like Saban.

Hard work beats talent when talent doesn’t work hard, but the combination of the two produces elite athletes.

Thus it is no coincidence that Arkansas State has risen rapidly in the Sun Belt as recruiting has improved.

Hugh Freeze and Gus Malzahn are both terrific coaches, but it helped that they had some of the conference’s best players to work with. Harsin must continue to reel in the best players available if ASU is to maintain its place at the top of the conference.

Sun Belt schools most always compete for the scraps left behind by major programs, but consistently out-recruiting and defeating our conference foes will result in more national prominence and the ability to recruit better athletes.

Recruiting is imperative to the future of the program. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.


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