(While I am on hiatus for the next month, I am leaving behind six articles--(July 1) an analysis of Illinois' 2007 recruiting class, (July 2) Illinois' recruiting class for 2011, (July 3) Notre Dame's recruiting class for 2011, (July 4) Iowa's recruiting class for 2011, (July 5) Wisconsin's recruiting class for 2011 and (July 6) Northwestern's recruiting class for 2011. Please archive past articles. And enjoy the summer)
The fickle "we used to love "em, now we don't" folks on Illiniboard.com are engaging in an interesting analysis of Illinois' 2007 recruiting class.
It says a lot about the evaluating process that fans need to understand before they leap to silly conclusions.
There were high expectations for Illinois' class of 2007. I ranked them No. 13 in the nation. Rivals and Scout ranked them No. 20. It was led by two five-star players, wide receiver Arrelious Benn and linebacker Martez Wilson of Simeon. Illini Nation couldn't have been happier if the class included Red Grange and Dick Butkus.
It was a real good class with national recruits. But what you can't tell sometimes when you are evaluating talent is character. And Illinois' class had a lot of characters. I probably overrated the talent. But it clearly was a top 20 class coming into school. Fans thought it was a great class. They criticized me for not ranking them higher. In hindsight, it's easy to see how it all came unglued, how they never came together.
Benn was the No. 1 wide receiver in the nation and Wilson was the No. 1 outside linebacker in the nation. Few people, if any, disputed those evaluations. But Benn was better as a freshman than as a junior, when he left for the NFL. Wilson was offered by everyone but he hasn't played up to expectations. Why didn't they develop?
They got lineman D'Angelo McCray from Florida, a great prospect. Now he is attending his fourth school. Darius Hodge, a running back from Harrisburg, Pa., went to four high schools in four years. He was a troubled kid. He never showed up. Josh Brent, Mark Jackson, Anthony Morris, Brian Gamble, Phil Haig, Enrique Wilson, Mike Garrity, Nate Bussey, Troy Pollard and Craig Wilson all looked good on paper and on film. But they never made an impact.
Five of the top seven signees no longer are on the roster. And only eight from the original class of 22 players remain in Champaign, including backup tackle Craig Wilson of Thornton.
I can't look into the heads of prospects and determine if there will be problems down the road, on or off the field. In most cases of recruiting classes that don't play up to expectations, like Illinois' class of 2007, it can be traced to injuries and academics and off-the-field issues, things that nobody can foresee on signing day.