Don't Believe the Hype

By DJ Byrnes on February 4, 2014 at 1:08p
Kenny Guiton was a recruiting afterthought, and he turned out okay.

Unless calamity strikes tomorrow, Ohio State will sign the consensus No. 2 class in the nation; it will be their second No. 2 class in as many years and third top-four class since Urban Meyer arrived in Columbus. With such nationally-recognized recruiting success, it's only natural for expectations to be placed on every member of the 2014 "The Dream" class. 

And most of it will be unfair, because no matter how many stars come attached to a player, they're still 17 or 18 year-old kids who've only dominated high school football fields. Every Buckeye recruit comes with a venerable list of high school accolades, and at Ohio State, high school accolades are worth roughly the price on a handful of dirt.

Former Ohio State mauler LeCharles Bentley warns recruits the worst thing they could do is believe their own hype coming out of high school. Those words are probably too wise for most teenagers, let alone five and four-star recruits, but it's also a bit of wisdom for fans like you and I.

It's human nature to be in a perpetual search for The Next Big Thing. (I'm as guilty as anyone. Look no further than my hyping up of wide receiver Michael Thomas, whose only dominated a Spring Game in college.)

Ohio State fans are notorious for this when it comes to finding a player to fill "the Percy Harvin role." Any slashback with impressive speed is immediately compared to a kid who won five high school track titles in five different events (good enough to capture the team title outright). While Dontre Wilson showed incredible speed in a handful of moments in 2013, he declared himself "Decoy of the Year" after the 2013 season.

That's because Percy Harvin is and was a lot more than just speed; he also brings incredible vision, elusiveness and (his most underrated trait) freakish strength to the table. It's why Seattle's GM John Schneider — now considered to be one of the shrewdest in the business — gave up three draft picks and $68 million for Percy Harvin, a player who had a lengthy injury history in Minnesota. Players like Percy Harvin don't exactly grow on trees.

And while the 2014 campaign is a make-or-break year for Urban Meyer's 2012 class, we can look back with certainty on another heralded recruitment class, Jim Tressel's 2008 efforts. That year the Buckeyes brought in top 50 prospects in Terrelle Pryor, Michael Brewster, JB Shugarts, Etienne Sabino, Andrew Sweat and Mike Adams.

Pryor is fighting for a starting job for the wallowing Oakland Raiders against Moxy Kingpin Matt McGloin. Michael Brewster,  JB Shugarts and Etienne Sabino went undrafted and have since washed out of the NFL. Andrew Sweat retired from football due to concussion concerns and is now working on a law degree. Mike Adams starts for the patchwork Steelers offensive line.

Those guys had very respectable careers for the Buckeyes, but collectively they never touched the ceiling of expectations that was placed on them upon their arrival. Some of it was their own fault, some of it was Tatgate, and some of it was Jim Bollman's employment. Make no mistake, though: preordained expectations played a big role in the disappointment as well.

So much more goes into success on a football field than outright talent. That's why the road to college stardom is paved with unfulfilled potential and broken dreams. 

So yes, it would appear the talent well at Ohio State will once again be thoroughly replenished tomorrow, but Ohio State fans would be wise to temper their expectations. There's already a boon of talent on Ohio State's roster and it is literally filled with former four and five-star recruits. Those guys won't simply be handing their playing-time over.

Competition has a funny way of producing diamonds in the rough. (Think the Smooth Sensation Kenny Guiton or Troy Smith, former recruiting afterthoughts.) It also has a funny habit of breaking those who weren't ready to compete in the first place.

Hype leads to entitlement, which is a terrible burden to carry into competition. (Recently, AJ McCarron talked about Alabama's struggles with this.)  It certainly won't do these freshmen any favors as they enter Urban Meyer's domain.


Comments Show All Comments

jamesrbrown322's picture

I think you underestimate Brewster. I believe he was a 4 year starter, and was punished for how the team fared his Senior year due to Tatgate. Also, he's still in the league with the Jags. He will most likely start for them (granted, it is the Jaguars) next year I believe...
However, I get your point. The player in the 2008 class that I thought would have the most NFL success was Posey, however that has not come to fruition mostly due to injuries.

"Success is not final, failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts." - Winston Churchill

DJ Byrnes's picture

Brewster is being released isn't he? I was under the impression it was all but official at this point.

Californian by birth, Marionaire by the Grace of President Warren G. Harding.

jamesrbrown322's picture

You may be right. He was on IR. I just know that I did see him play a bunch, and he's still active according to websites, but I get your point with the article, and totally agree.
National Titles aren't won on NLOI Day, however the more 5 and 4 stars you have, the more likely you are to have them pan out, or in the case of Alabama, cut them after their Sophomore year if they don't.

"Success is not final, failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts." - Winston Churchill

Furious George 27's picture

Good article.... But in the terms of recruiting shouldn't we only judge the players by what they have done in college? The NFL is full of A/A and Heisman Winners who have washed out of which Troy Smith would fall in that category.

Yeah, well…that’s just like, your opinion, man.

45has2's picture

I agree with your take on judging collegiate athletes. However, I think you may be a little premature on judging Troy as "washed out". He far exceeded expectations in Montreal, he is every bit as tall and talented as Russell Wilson and there is a precedent of another washed out NFL QB going to the CFB, lighting it up and then returning to the NFL. Warren Moon is now enshrined in Canton. Tim Tebow is truly a washed out QB. He's out of the NFL and out of football.

"I don't like nice people. I like tough, honest people." -W.W. Hayes

iamcbs's picture

Thanks DJ, this is absolutely the best piece I've ever read on 11Warriors, bar none!! I have just two words in echo of the sentiments you expressed in this article, Justin Zwick!!

I am not afraid of an army of lions led by a sheep, I am afraid of an army of sheep led by a lion~Alexander the Great

Denny's picture

It's like you're saying that actual collegiate football games matter more than recruiting, which is a foreign notion that will be soundly rejected throughout all eternity. Everyone with half a brain knows crootin' is all that matters.


German Buckeye's picture

All hail the MNRC (mythical recruiting national championship)!

andretolstoy's picture

Why is LeCharles Bentley not part of Meyer's coaching staff in some capacity?

EvanstonBuckeye's picture

I think his own gig, O-Line Performance, has been pretty good to him. I would have to imagine that being a coordinator at a powerhouse could pay pretty well, but you wouldn't have autonomy of running your own biz.

andretolstoy's picture

Tough call. But then again, he's in a pretty good position.
O-Line is definitely my favorite, and IMO, the most underrated position on the field.

mtrotb's picture

The only downside to getting all this top talent every year is going to be people who don't want to wait to play or people whose hype is bigger than their talent.  I have a feeling that soon we are going to start losing some good players like Bama does.  Let's take a 82 player roster.  Let's assume 15 are redshirting, that takes us to 67.  With many of the special teamers now being starters that eliminates playing time for some 2nd and 3rd stringers.  Let's say tops that 50 guys play consistently every games, that leaves 17 or so people who have to decide if they want to wait or if they are leaving.  I don't see a lot of career 5th year players with little time who are content with the degree, especially if we start pulling more and more people from outside Ohio.


Furious George 27's picture

Its an open competition, if player A is not living up to the hype and is not doing anything to improve, do you really want them to stick around? Realistically the best that could happen is you get all this talent and they are good enough to leave after 2 or 3 years which allows for reloading. The real problem is not having enough talent to push people to improve or get out of the way and you are stuck w/ a Storm Klein and a Pitt Brown starting.

Yeah, well…that’s just like, your opinion, man.

Seattle Linga's picture

If the incoming recruits had the mentality of:
"I haven't done anything yet and I have to prove myself every day"
That is when they will begin to grow as players and individuals

+1 HS
toad1204's picture

They've been conditioned by recruiting to think they are God's gift to football for the past 2-3 years. 
If you have coaches traveling across the country to tell you how great you are week after week it'd probably become hard not to believe. 

Nothing like dancing on the field in 02... 

BigKat45's picture

I was gonna make this same point, and then I saw it, so I'll second it. Imagine you're a Tony Brown, for instance, and you have Nick Saban and Bama, and Les Miles and LSU, and Mack Brown and Texas, and Urban Meyer and OSU coming hard after you, guys you watched win title after title as you were growing up, and now they want YOU to come play for them. They tell you that you're gonna be just like ________ who won championships and was drafted in the first round. Then you pick the lucky one, and that guy is psyched to have you and the others are sincerely bummed out.
The unique players, the real stars, are the ones who are able to wipe the slate clean (I think we have one in Kwon, btw) and say I'm ready to earn everything I want. Think about how many kids play HS football vs D1 college ball vs NFL ball. Most just don't have that mindset.

"Well-prepared players make plays. I have yet to be in a game where the most prepared team didn't win.” - Urban

Furious George 27's picture

I blame eSECpn for making it a huge media production... I think coaches have been telling recruits what they want to hear for a long time, its all part of the recruiting game.

Yeah, well…that’s just like, your opinion, man.

Seattle Linga's picture

So sad but true and in more case than not - they are a handful of lies.

mc22's picture

This is why I like the black helmet stripe that Meyer makes freshman wear.
They have to earn it to get it off.
It starts everyone  - no matter the stars - in the same place.

hodge's picture

" Ohio State, high school accolades are worth roughly the price on a handful of dirt."

That probably explains why Captain Jack Sparrow was so overrated...

Barnsey69's picture

The consistently successful programs do not perpetuate the entitlement that many blue-chippers feel they deserve before they ever play a down for their chosen school. You have to earn your spot on the field.

Thank the Maker that I was born in Ohio, cradle of coaches, US Presidents, confederate-stomping Generals, and home of The Ohio State University Football Buckeyes- 2014 UNDISPUTED National Champions!

BoFuquel's picture

Fortune knocks once, misfortune has much more patience. The Peter Principle. GO BUCKS!

I wish I didn't know now what I didn't know then.

kcbrez's picture

LCB's advice - don't believe your own hype - is wise indeed. It's so true that youth is wasted on the young. I hope the young Bucks listen to those who came before them.

Unky Buck's picture

...high school accolades are worth roughly the price on a handful of dirt.

Is that better or worse than a hammock of cake?

Rock over London; Rock on Chicago. Timex: It takes a lickin' but keeps on tickin'

boojtastic's picture

Not to be needlessly contrarian, but I believe ESPN has the class at 6. That kind of undermines the "consensus" element of the "consensus #2 class" phrasing.

Unky Buck's picture

That's only if you respect ESPN's rankings. Given that no one in their right mind should respect their rankings (being that, along with their top 300, they are a joke), it's easy to discount that they even provide one.

Rock over London; Rock on Chicago. Timex: It takes a lickin' but keeps on tickin'

Seattle Linga's picture

I second that motion Buck

boojtastic's picture

to be fair, you can find fault with any of the services, but yeah, ESPN is #3 of the big 3. (Although I'm sure TAMU thinks they're great.)

Unky Buck's picture

Oh, there's certainly fault in any service. No one is going to be perfect. But I'd put them #4 of the Big 4 (Rivals, Scout, 247, & ESPN) and it's a very distant 4th. It's a very subjective system that tries to be as objective as possible. You're going to run into some variances and the ranking systems can be a little weird too. But what's different with ESPN and the other services is that the others offer fairly comprehensive reports and have rather large staffs to ensure what each one feels is their best. While ESPN feels they're doing this, they're not. They have a small staff (that only got smaller) and they're focused on the main schools. Couple that with the fact that they're in bed with the SEC and you can see why OSU is ranked #2 across the board but #6 to them. Their evaluations have never been that great (I was an Insider for damn near 10 years before I dropped it last year and I never liked them) and their myopic stance towards 15 schools (OSU included) makes it hard to really look at them with any credibility. They can't properly evaluate players with the limitations that they have so how can we take them seriously? They're more about the show than they are about the substance...which is why watching NSD is rather unbearable on that network.

Rock over London; Rock on Chicago. Timex: It takes a lickin' but keeps on tickin'

Chise47's picture

The further I read into the comments section here, the more it seemed to become a beat up on Brokeback E$pin commentary.
If, in fact, these "highly" rated recruits are just used to reading their own clippings, & glorifying themselves in front of cameras/microphones put in front of them, then doesn't it become all that more critical of the coach recruiting them to get to know the person they are trying to bring into the fold?
Work ethic is rooted in family conveyed values                            .
I repeat                                                                                 .
Question about site rankings: E$pin sucks because we're rated 6th to them ? Scout has Sam Hubbard as our top recruit. (Plays safety in HS, watched 4 of his games this year.) Kyle Berger as our #2 recruit, missed all SR. year. (Seen him twice last year.) Is Scout right ? Are these 2 better than Kwon, Lattimore, E.Smith, Samuels, & Dixon ?
E$pin favors the $EC/Southern athletes, Scout favors the Midwest: To each their own. As long as all of our recruits turn out to be AA's, Heisman winners, National Champions & HOF's, who cares ?

GOOMBAY's picture

"Moxy Kingpin Matt McGloin."
Flawless victory. 

Scout's picture

  Being a Buckeye and a Jags fan, I have to correct your comments on Brewster. Brewster went undrafted, but made the active roster his rookie season and started in 7 straight games until he broke his hand. He repeated on the active roster this past season as well. I'm not quite sure the Jags organization is aware they are releasing him as I was just at a function for Jacksonville Doctors, just a couple of weeks ago and Brewster was there as a representative of the team. He represents the Jags and Ohio State extremely well.

  Brewster has been the number one backup for the Center and Guard position the past two years. Our 14 year veteran Center just retired and Brewster, I'm sure, will be competing for that position.

  I do not understand why you would write about our former players with such negativity and false information. The sad thing is people believe what you write.

  Mr. Byrnes have you started for 49 straight games for the Buckeyes, won a Rose Bowl, won a Sugar Bowl, which was taken away but was no fault of Brewster's, received 1st team All American Honors and have a Buckeye Tree in Buckeye Grove and on top of all that a degree from Ohio State, then played in the NFL for  two years? I don't think so, but Brewster has accomplished all of these. 

    I hardly consider him a 5 star recruit who has had a washed up career.

   Please do your research before trashing our former Buckeyes!!

    Best of luck to Brewster and all our former Buckeyes in whatever they pursue!