With all the hoopla and the hype and the stars and the rankings — Florida even had a band playing at its press conference on Wednesday; yes, a band — that all accompany modern day college football’s national signing day, a sobering disclaimer is always in order.
Here we turn to an ESPN tweet: On national signing day 14 years ago, Boston College sent out a release touting its class.
Nowhere in the release was the name Matt Ryan.
Meet UK football’s signees for Class of 2017
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You know, the Matt Ryan who ended up starring at BC, who may win NFL MVP honors and leads the Atlanta Falcons in Sunday’s Super Bowl against the New England Patriots.
“For me, it doesn’t matter about numbers, who you have, how many,” said Kentucky offensive coordinator Eddie Gran on Wednesday. “It matters in two years are they playing? If I sign seven guys out of Florida and only two play, I’m not a very good recruiter, I’m not a very good evaluator. If I sign two guys and they both play, that’s really good.”
That said, recruiting is important in any sport, football included. As has been often repeated by Mark Stoops, Kentucky’s head coach, recruiting is the lifeblood of the program. And college football isn’t college basketball. There are no one-and-dones. You can’t build a college football program on one player. You can’t build it on one class.
In fact, when it comes to recruiting, you don’t build as much as you stack. To get matters moving in the right direction, really moving in the right direction, you have to stack one good recruiting class on top of another good recruiting class on top of another good recruiting class. And so on. Keep the supply chain going.
The Cats believe they have done that. It was a loose and happy Stoops that took the podium at Commonwealth Stadium to brag on his 2017 signees Wednesday. He called it his best class “by far” at Kentucky. He praised its character. He told a couple of funny anecdotes. He poked fun at himself.
Question: Why did what was originally thought to be a relatively small signee class blossom into 24 signees?
“Too many good players,” said Stoops. “We had momentum.”
That the Cats do. For the first time since his arrival four years ago, Kentucky’s sales pitch didn’t involve a heady dream, or making excuses for a late-season collapse. This time, UK could sell seven victories, a TaxSlayer Bowl appearance, a new in-operation $50 million training facility and a season-ending upset victory over archrival and ranked Louisville, who just happened to have the Heisman Trophy winner as its quarterback.
“There are a lot of positives,” said the head coach.
That win over Louisville may be one reason that, unlike some pain experienced in previous years, Kentucky did not lose a single 2017 commitment.
“I think it was huge,” Gran said. “A lot of these kids, they could see where we were going. This new building, the excitement, but yes, anytime you win a game like that it just adds. Everything about it, on the road, against who it was, their quarterback, I think it did help us, yes.”
Did it help Kentucky sign any Matt Ryans? Despite what the recruiting services try to tell you, it’s way too soon to tell. As Gran said, give the process two years, or three or maybe even four. We’ll know more then. Hype is not the judge. Production is the judge.
A band playing on signing day is one thing. A band playing after a change on the stadium scoreboard on Saturday is something else.
“I’m really happy to get this wrapped up, to be honest with you,” said Stoops, “and on to developing our players.”