Byline: Chris Logue
I Certainly Hope it’s Coaching.
Is it the coaching or is it the recruiting? Which side is more responsible than the other for putting the train on the tracks and moving forward? For once, I thought that ESPN, especially SportsNation, had an interesting take. If even for a moment it was refreshing.
After doing some research on recruiting ranks, records and the coaches at respective schools, I believe the answer is clearer than you might think. Get acquainted with the following chart, because it breaks it all down for you. Cheers for making it easier.
After including the keywords under the logo’s, it should significantly reveal my hand. Michigan State is only revealed to 2014 because at that point we acquired a very hot commodity in coaching. “Give me sought-after defensive coordinators in 2014 for $1,000, Alex.”
Breaking it down as “Turmoil to Stability” and “Stability” was important in making my case and it should be very self-explanatory as to why. During the rash of hires by the athletic department, the philosophies changed as the pages turned and while the pages turned, the turn-stiles did not (man, I ‘turnt up’ as my fellow youth would proclaim).
As Mark Dantonio and Narduzzi began their venture in East Lansing, it was just a matter of time before they took some seed and turned them to roses. The success, in records, continued with only two intermittent scuffles. In their time together, MSU only had a top-25 class twice and half of that time was spent on the losing side.
For the most part on the recruiting balance, the pair had only average classes, and Helping to suggest that coaching goes farther than production on the recruiting trail. In that time, MSU averaged (3)-4* players and (.25)-5* players in each class. The majority found themselves either being under-recruited or simply existed as second-tier prospects.
Look at our Panthers. Woof. It couldn’t be more opposite but Pitt also broke the mold once in this grand point I am trying to make. While it’s variably skewed by timing, in 2007, Pitt had the 21st ranked class but vastly underperformed and missed making a bowl game in what was Dave Wannstedt’s third season at the helm.
Without stability in coaching, the Panthers suffered and continued suffering. Remember, it took a James Conner record-breaking performance against Bowling Green to prevent a third consecutive <.500 club.
Since taking over for the rotating door at coach, Pat Narduzzi has righted the ship, despite the often-foul interpretations of the players that are committing to the team each season. In three recruiting cycles, Narduzzi has bettered, if only slightly, the production on the trail than what was the norm for the Spartans.
Since 2015, he has averaged (3.33)-4* players per class and is hungry to add his first 5*. To cater to the fairness obsessed, he has had players committed and in camp that were on the brink. But parachute land back to the point, that’s where the coaching comes into play.
Take another look at the table and see where the green matches the green, yellow matches the yellow and the red matches the red – it’s deceptive, especially on the Spartan bill. To me, that demonstrates that consistent coaching, not recruiting can have a greater impact on the overall trajectory of a program, which should be a welcomed narrative to our Panthers. And, as the table suggests, we go from red to yellow.
Will it go to green in the next three years? It might be close, but that outcome is more on the side of a five-to-seven-year plan. Will the athletic administration and fans give Narduzzi that kind of time to build before pulling a fatal Jenga block? Time will tell.
Here is an excerpt from ESPN’s Ivan Maisel in favor of the coaching side of the debate:
”We all love coverage of recruiting. We read about it because it holds the possibility of new life, and change, and success. But recruiting is not coaching. There’s a long list of assistant coaches who have become head coaches because they know how to recruit. But the head coaches who know how to recruit and don’t have the ability to lead a program don’t last long.
Ask Ron Zook, who brought personality and salesmanship to Florida and Illinois and got fired from both jobs. Ask Urban Meyer, who took Zook’s recruits and won a national championship at Florida. Coaching is Meyer winning at Bowling Green and at Utah with the same degree of success as at Florida and Ohio State.
Recruiting is Michigan beating Appalachian State. Coaching is Appalachian State beating Michigan.
Coaching is Boise State’s Chris Petersen signing players the big boys overlook and winning more than 90 percent of his games. Coaching is the 17 Broncos who have played for Petersen and been drafted by NFL teams.
Coaching is Barry Alvarez building a program at Wisconsin, or Chip Kelly taking Oregon from good to great. They didn’t have blue chips. They had a clear vision.”
Doesn’t that kind of sound like a Pat Narduzzi route? I think so. Here’s where it goes three-months-expired milk sour..
Being compared to Chris Peterson while at Boise State isn’t bad. Not at all. After all, he just took Washington to a place only four teams get to go to in a single season, the College Football Playoffs. This is sobering, but shouldn’t be a complete shock, from Jeremy Crabtree of ESPN:
“The teams that have played in the past seven BCS National Championships — Alabama, Auburn, Florida, LSU, Notre Dame, Ohio State, Oklahoma, Oregon and Texas — averaged recruiting classes that ranked No. 8 overall.
Only two teams didn’t boast top-10 averages: Auburn and Oregon, who had eight-year averages around No. 12.”
“…..There’s a reason coaches pour so much time, effort and emotion into the madness that is dealing with 17- and 18-year-old recruits. Their livelihood depends on it.”
There’s got to be a happy marriage somewhere in the middle of the two philosophies. Classes consisting of players like Jordan Whitehead, Tyler Boyd, Aaron Donald, Damar Hamlin and Paris Ford don’t grow on trees in the backyard (although this crop of players kind of did, brilliant job, Chris).
Here’s how I look at it and I hope you disagree because if we all agree, I am doing something wrong. Pat Narduzzi needs to broaden the Pitt footprint to replicate the uptick in recruiting he shared at Michigan State but all of that will happen naturally if he grows as a coach, first. “So, which comes first, the__________or the__________?”