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Column: Recruiting More than High School Stars

Column: Recruiting More than High School Stars

OXFORD, Miss. – No matter how fans debate it, at the end of the season, there is one national champion. No matter how fans debate it, each bowl game has a winner. But the one thing fans can always debate is who wins the recruiting battles each year.

That is a good thing with which to fill broadcast airtime and newspaper column inches because it is easily argued one team had a better class than another.

Here at The Rebel Walk, our Lee Ann Herring-Olvedo does a great job of keeping up with recruits from coast to coast, and her reporting is one of the most popular topics on our site. The site’s staff and Ole Miss fans love to read how many four-star or five-star players are going to come to Oxford.

There are several sites that are dedicated to ranking the schools’ haul of high school players and, again, that is great debate fodder.

But a high-school signing class is a lot like an NFL Draft class. Teams really must wait a few years to find out how the players pan out. Let’s say a college signs five, five-star recruits and five, four-star recruits. Chances are that school will be ranked highly for that class. But from the time a player signs, many things can happen to that top class.

A player can get injured. A player could get into off-the-field troubles and must leave school. A player could not make the grade academically. And in this age, a player could simply decide to transfer. Three years after a school signed that great class, only a few could remain on the roster.

In addition, some players hit their peak in high school. Rick Mirer signed with Notre Dame years ago and ESPN’s Beano Cook said the Fighting Irish would win four national titles and Mirer would win three Heisman Trophies. That prediction was not even close on either account.

Still, it is good for the game that outlets rank recruiting classes. It is so good; the rankings should be expanded. Some outlets have started ranking the transfer portal, too. Which team brought in the most players is being monitored, but those rankings are incomplete. What should also be ranked is what a team received in the portal versus what a team lost in it.

For example, Ole Miss lost running back Henry Parrish III to Miami in the portal. But the Rebels brought in Zach Evans and Ulysses Bennett IV via the portal, making up for the loss of Parrish. 

Evans, who came to Oxford from TCU, left a big void for the Horned Frogs as did Bennett from SMU did for the Mustangs. Those two teams will be missing talented backs, while Ole Miss fans will likely be happy with their exchange.

A team that replaces its lost players in the portal with ones that either fill the void or even improve the position should be ranked higher in this new poll.

There is another recruiting trend that needs to be ranked —and that is how well a coach recruits the team he already has on campus.

With the transfer portal, it is easy for a player to leave his team on a whim, so his coach must almost re-recruit him to stay at the school each year.

Jaxson Dart is a high-profile transfer who came to Ole Miss from Southern Cal. Luke Altmyer, the Rebels’ talented QB who watched and trained a year under Corral, and Dart are reportedly in a hot competition for the starting job this fall. No doubt, head coach Lane Kiffin talked with Altmyer when recruiting Dart, encouraging him to stay in Oxford. 

Mason Brooks transferred to Ole Miss from Western Kentucky and is penciled in as a starter on the Rebels’ offensive line. After the Sugar Bowl, several Ole Miss offensive linemen were probably eyeing a possible starting gig this season — until Brooks arrived in the spring. Still, Ole Miss is deep on the offensive line because the reserve linemen decided to stay.

There should be a ranking of player retention in college football. Especially in this time of college football musical chairs.

J.T. Daniel left Georgia for West Virginia after Stetson Bennett led the Bulldogs to the national title. But suppose Bennett goes down with an injury this season. Would Daniel be better off in Athens coming off the bench or as a starter with the Mountaineers?

The fact Daniel left Georgia could hurt the Bulldogs in certain scenarios this year. The same thing could hurt Oklahoma if UCF transfer Dillon Gabriel doesn’t play as well as former Sooner Caleb Williams — who went to USC to take over for Dart — or Spencer Rattler who left OU for South Carolina.

As important, or as fun it is to debate recruiting classes and transfer portal rankings, let’s not forget the job a coaching staff must do to keep players from leaving.

Players will come and go with the new transfer rules. The most important recruiting rating should be which teams keep continuity on their roster.

That kind of ranking would truly be a five-star.

Steve Barnes
Steve Barnes

Steve Barnes joins The Rebel Walk staff as a senior writer and brings a trifecta of journalistic experience. As a writer, he has covered college sports for Rivals.com, Football.com and SaturdayDownSouth.com as well as served as a beat writer for various traditional newspapers.

He has been a broadcaster for arena football and several national tournament events for the National Junior College Athletic Association as well as hosting various shows on radio.

A former sports information director at Albany (Ga.) State University and an assistant at Troy and West Florida, he has helped host many NCAA conference, regional and national events, including serving five years on the media committee of the NCAA Division II World Series.

Barnes, a native of Pensacola, Fla., attended Ole Miss in 1983-84, where his first journalism teacher was David Kellum. The duo has come a long way since that time.

He will bring a proven journalistic track record, along with a knack for finding the out-of-the-ordinary story angles to The Rebel Walk.

Barnes continues to reside in Pensacola a mere ten minutes from the beach because he does have taste and a brain.

About The Author

Steve Barnes

Steve Barnes joins The Rebel Walk staff as a senior writer and brings a trifecta of journalistic experience. As a writer, he has covered college sports for Rivals.com, Football.com and SaturdayDownSouth.com as well as served as a beat writer for various traditional newspapers. He has been a broadcaster for arena football and several national tournament events for the National Junior College Athletic Association as well as hosting various shows on radio. A former sports information director at Albany (Ga.) State University and an assistant at Troy and West Florida, he has helped host many NCAA conference, regional and national events, including serving five years on the media committee of the NCAA Division II World Series. Barnes, a native of Pensacola, Fla., attended Ole Miss in 1983-84, where his first journalism teacher was David Kellum. The duo has come a long way since that time. He will bring a proven journalistic track record, along with a knack for finding the out-of-the-ordinary story angles to The Rebel Walk. Barnes continues to reside in Pensacola a mere ten minutes from the beach because he does have taste and a brain.

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