Mac Engel

Root of TCU’s success is making stars rather than recruiting them

Trevone Boykin wasn’t the most highly regarded recruit in TCU’s 2011 class, but he has developed into a star quarterback.
Trevone Boykin wasn’t the most highly regarded recruit in TCU’s 2011 class, but he has developed into a star quarterback. AP

Next to hot dog-eating contests, National Signing Day has morphed into the dumbest one-day “event” on our sports calendar. There are far better alternatives than tracking the indecisiveness of a 17-year-old who ultimately may yield squat for a favorite team.

The phenomenon of National Signing Day, and high school recruiting, has become such an absurdly big business that to fight it as a member of the media, or the head coach, is spitting into the ocean. Every February, classes of prospective kids are ranked, evaluated and sold as “great groups that address our needs” when in reality no one has a clue, up to and including the head coach.

The whole thing is a joke, we are the suckers, and the kids are the fools who actually believe this junk will translate into success on the college and pro levels.

At TCU on Wednesday, head coach Gary Patterson celebrated the incoming class of recruits that feature kids with speed, length, range and whatever other buzzword analysts use to prove how smart they are. TCU “missed” on defensive tackle Daylon Mack of Gladewater, who chose Texas A&M over TCU and Texas. If he had selected TCU, he would have been the first five-star player to sign with the Horned Frogs.

A five-star is the one thing that TCU has yet to land in Gary’s tenure, and — as one TCU coach told me — all it takes is one and the others will come. It would be nice if they did, but it is not a necessity. If there is anything that the Patterson era has told us about recruiting, it is how wrong all of it is.

I asked GP if he felt all of this hype and attention for recruiting is indeed unhealthy.

“A highly ranked recruit, it’s not good for him,” Patterson said. “It’s like some of these [TV] shows we have on; they send you to unbelievable places, buy them nice clothes, they get married and then they go back to reality and they don’t buy you nice clothes. The quicker you can ‘de-recruit’ a recruit the better chance he has to be successful. Bottom line is, for a kid to move forward and mature, he has to be able to understand who he is.”

Never believe a coach who says he does not want a five-star player, but do believe the coach who insists the stars next to his name do not matter because they don’t.

Let’s jump into Big Mac’s Hot Tub Time Machine and go all the way to February 2010, when TCU was coming off a Fiesta Bowl appearance. The Frogs signed 18 players in that class, including a pair of four-star recruits named Curtis Carter and Ethan Grant. Don’t feel bad if you never heard of either running back. Neither played a down for TCU.

Also in that Class of 2010 was quarterback Sam Carter. Sam Carter has been named second-team All-Big 12 as a safety for three consecutive years, and has been one of this team’s better defenders for the past few years. BTW: He is also a great guy, and a model student-athlete.

Now let’s jump back into Big Mac’s Hot Tub Time Machine and go to February 2011 and look at that class for a team that was coming off a Rose Bowl win, and a scheduled move to the Big East Conference. That class was ranked 23rd nationally by Scout.com, the highest ever for TCU.

It was ranked so high primarily because of a pair of four-star receivers — LaDarius Brown and Brandon Carter. Brown was ranked by Rivals.com as the No. 4 athlete in the nation, Carter the 33rd best in the nation. Both players were maddening in their careers at TCU and both were kicked out of school.

In that same class was a JUCO signee named Jason Verrett, a defensive tackle named Chucky Hunter, a safety named Chris Hackett, a receiver named David Porter and a quarterback named Trevone Boykin.

None of those players was as celebrated or as revered as Brown and Carter, and every single one of them has had a far greater impact on this program than all of those guys with all of those stars behind their names.

Stars are pretty and a guy like a Daylon Mack would certainly attract other “five-star” types to TCU, but it’s not a necessity. There is a good chance Mack will flop because, well, flop happens.

The Super Bowl between the Patriots and Seahawks featured exactly no players who were five-star recruits coming out of high school.

Exactly nobody knows how a kid is going to grow up, if he is going to grow up, if he will fall in love, if he has already hit his ceiling, if he is lazy, if he is tough, if he needs to go home, if he will become a dad, if he will lose interest, if, if, if.

And yet we are all suckers for this “star-studded event,” and eagerly await the next hot dog-eating contest.

Listen to Mac Engel every Tuesday and Thursday on Shan & RJ from 5-30-10 a.m. on 105.3 The Fan.

Mac Engel, 817-390-7697

Twitter: @macengelprof and The Big Mac Blog

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