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Recruiting rivals can get star-crossed

Published: Sunday, Feb. 1 2009 12:00 a.m. MST

During the pregame broadcast of last month's Sugar Bowl, former Oklahoma coach Barry Switzer made a lot of people — especially in Utah — mad when he said there was no one on Utah's roster that Alabama would have recruited.
Actually, Switzer wasn't that far off if you look at the ratings from top recruiting services.
Last year, Rivals.com ranked Alabama No. 1 in recruiting, followed by Notre Dame and Florida. Alabama had three 5-star recruits, 19 4-star recruits and eight 3-star recruits.
Utah? The Utes were ranked clear back in 60th place behind such powers as Central Florida, Baylor and Southern Mississippi. Utah had one 4-star recruit (David Kruger) and nine 3-stars, which means Alabama might have wanted a handful of Utah's recruits.
Four or five years earlier, they may not have recruited any of the players that Utah used on Jan. 2 to beat them.
Consider the main stars of this past year's 13-0 team. Brian Johnson, Paul Kruger, Sean Smith, Brice McCain, Brent Casteel, Zane Beadles and Louie Sakoda were all listed as 2-star recruits coming out of high school.
Among the 3-star recruits from the 2004 and 2005 classes were Randy Faletoi, Tim Harris, Eugene Oates, Terrance Aptid, Tilifili Liufau, Eric Shyne and Reggie Turner.
How many of them do you remember?
Recruiting has never been considered an exact science, but the star-system used by Rivals.com and Scout.com and others can give a general evaluation of who the top players are coming out of high school and junior colleges. What the players do in college is up to them and their coaches.
Scout.com bases its rankings on "talent, need and balance" of players who have committed to a particular school. Their player evaluations are made by "a team of recruiting experts who attend off-season combines and camps on college campuses, go to hundreds of games, and review miles of game film."
Rivals uses similar experts and awards points for its rankings "through a formula that rewards teams for both the quantity of commitments and the quality of those players."
Prospects with higher star ratings earn more points for the school to which they commit, while prospects that are ranked among the best at their positions and on the Rivals 100 earn more bonus points.
Most seasons, it's the traditional powers that win the February recruiting wars, schools such as Florida, Ohio State, USC and Oklahoma. Notre Dame is usually in the top 10, although it hasn't translated to success on the field in recent years for the Irish.
Utah and BYU usually don't crack the top 50, although they have been moving up in recent years. This year each is ranked in the top 40 by one of the two major evaluators of recruits (BYU No. 36 by Scout, Utah No. 39 by Rivals).
There are approximately 40 5-star recruits in the entire country, and the Utes have one in James Aiono, a 6-3, 282-pound defensive lineman from Snow College. Latu Heimuli, the 300-pound tackle from Highland High, is listed as a 4-star recruit by both Rivals and Scout.
BYU's 4-star recruits are Craig Bills, a defensive back from Provo, and Kyle Van Noy, a wide receiver from Reno.
But to show how inexact these ratings are, consider that Utah's JC quarterback recruit from Texas, Terrance Cain, is given a 4-star rating by Rivals and a 2-star by Scout.
The Scout.com rankings put the Cougars at No. 36 with four 4-star recruits and nine 3-stars, while the Utes are listed at No. 52 overall with one 5-star, one four-star and eight 3-star recruits.
Utah State, under new coach Gary Andersen, is ranked No. 93 by Scout.com, fifth among the nine WAC schools. Scout has Hawaii as the highest-ranked WAC school, while Rivals has Boise State as the highest WAC school.
The various rankings can still change over the next few days with several top recruits still out there. If either the Utes or Cougars sign Xavier Su'a-Filo, the heralded offensive tackle from Timpview High, their final rankings will certainly improve. Su'a-Filo has been recruited heavily by the likes of USC, LSU and UCLA besides Utah and BYU.
Of course, what the rankings really mean for any school won't be known for a few years from now.

Recruiting has never been considered an exact science, but the star-system used by Rivals.com and Scout.com and others can give a general evaluation of who the top players are coming out of high school and junior colleges.


E-mail: sor@desnews.com

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