Five-Star Mutinies

By DJ Byrnes on February 26, 2014 at 3:00p

Urban Meyer is bringing talent to Columbus by the trainload. Each class he's brought in has been more talented than the one preceding it. 

For Ohio State fans, this is great news, because as Urban says: recruiting is the lifeblood of a program. The problem is there are only so many snaps in a game and so many positions on the field. 

Nine out of ten of the five/four-star talents have literally been the star of their team since the peewee days. A lot were coddled in high school and played against inferior talent (see: Pryor, Terrelle). All were fought over by millionaire coaches flying across the country to gas them up.

And after having visions of grandeur whispered into their ear by these coaches, they arrive on college campuses only to find a spot on the bench or (worst case) a redshirt waiting for them.

Let internet commenters tell it, and these 18-19 year-old kids should be satisfied with wearing the regalia of these historic problems. But that's why they're like me: rotting husks of humanity banging their grease-stained fingers on keyboards manufactured by Chinese children. They never had the mentality required of an elite athletic talent.

You don't get to the top of your profession with satisfaction. You don't get to the top of your profession with deference. There are so many roster spots in the NFL, after all.

(I know this spits in the face of what most children are taught, but again, most children are groomed to be working bees.)

A lot of these kids have never faced adversity when it comes to football. Sitting on the bench — or worse, a redshirt — is the first time these kids have ever tasted "failure" in football.

Some will double down and put their axe to the grindstone. Others will compound the problem by harvesting the natural bitterness and refusing to "buy-in" to the program to which they committed.

And while players who don't play not buying into the program might seem like an insignificant problem, the elders of Alabama believe it sunk their dynasty. Here's AJ McCarron:

“That's the kind of thing that ticks me off about recruiting and when these kids come in and they're 5-stars and they expect to play right off the bat. It's a little entitlement and when they don't play off the bat, they get a little ticked off and they don't want to work.”

Now here's Kevin Norwood:

“I'm agreeing with A.J. You spend more time trying to get their minds right and letting them know it's not a bad thing getting redshirted. Me and AJ got redshirted. It's not a bad thing. […] It was tough just getting [the underclassmen] to go to class and keeping them out of coach [Nick Saban's] bad side.”

And for good measure, here's Cyrus Kouandjio:

“We did have some problems off the field. We have a blueprint for success at Alabama, and everybody abides by it. There were a lot of things contributing. People not buying in is the root cause of it.”

These quotes could be sour grapes from a group of guys who failed to get it done in their final year of college football, but they're also some of the most decorated players in the history of Alabama football. It's not like they don't know what it takes to reach the sport's mountaintop.

And lest you think this phenomenon only applies to Alabama, who oversigns and hoards gems like they're Smaug the Dragon, here's a tweet from Vonn Bell's brother in the aftermath of the Big Ten Championship game:

This problem can happen at any program that recruits well, because it's a problem that strikes at the heart of human nature. If a $7 million/year tinpot dictator like Nick Saban had a problem with it, what does that say about everybody else's chances?

I don't have any handy solutions, other than start recruiting 2-star athletes like Illinois, but that would probably cause the streets of Columbus to run red with blood. I don't need that on my conscience. 

I do know it's a problem of which Urban Meyer and his much ballyhooed-psychology degree must stay vigilant. The crumbling of Alabama's dynasty is a warning to all who attempt to replicate it: success comes with a hidden price, and sometimes the biggest enemy is the one inside your own locker room.


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wilkins0802's picture

A lot of good points here, and I also believe it to be true. At the end of the day they are all kids, and have to understand that your not given anything, you have to earn it. Very well written article.

Truth & Courage, 1-17IN, 5/2 SBCT


+3 HS
gerry30's picture

I've gone back ten years on Rivals, Scout, etc. to look at the top recruiting classes (and at others in BIG) to see what percentage of 5* and 4*s names are memorable (for one reason or the other; in the pros, etc.). Recruiting is quite a craps shoot, though rather have fours and fives than twos and threes. I'm surprised at all the 2*s in the MAC and some BIGs now too.  


hodge's picture

I don't know that I'd necessarily say that 'Bama's dynasty has crumbled.  They've won three out of the last five championships.  

Sure, they've lost two straight, but I think it's putting the cart before the horse to really say that 'Bama's dynasty is over.

+10 HS
Damonbuckeye's picture

Pretty much what he said.

TMac's picture

It might not seem like the dynasty's over, but cart/horse/Buckeyes......'Bama time is over, .....UFM & the Buckeyes, January 2015!

ONE Not Done!

Tanner's picture

It would have been a little easier to stomach having our young 5 stars on the bench if we weren't putting out literally the worst defense I have ever seen at Ohio State 

+25 HS
bull1214's picture

there are lots of 4/5 star players that are given that designation due to their potential not their readiness to help right away. thats a much forgotten factoid.

+4 HS
OSU_ALUM_05's picture

I definitely think recruiting players with my athletic ability is the solution here.  

If you get a bunch of guys like me on your team here's what you'll have:  10+ second 40 yard dashes; 3+ inch vertical leaps; 1 rep on the bench press (with help from the spotter); an arm that can make any throw within about 7-8 yards of actual distance from the pocket; and someone who's terrible at contact sports (unless sex is considered a contact sport, amarite? .. but I digress).  Anyway, you get a guy like me on your team you get miserable athletic talent, but I stay out of trouble, I got good grades in college, I'm a generally nice person and I would have absolutely no illusions of grandeur when I got to campus.  Basically, I'd be the perfect teammate.  Get a group of guys like me and we'd have no "buy in" problems and no "entitlement" problems at all - we'd have a family atmosphere in the locker room from start to finish.

Now, we would absolutely get the shit kicked out of us every Saturday - but we wouldn't have locker room problems.  The stadium would be empty - but we wouldn't have locker room problems.  No one would buy merchandise (except maybe to mock us) - but we wouldn't have locker room problems.  

5* recruits be damned.  A team full of OSU_ALUM_05s is the way to go here to solve the problems in college football.




Yeti's have feelings too.

+23 HS
D-Day0043's picture

Now that is honesty! Lol! One of the best posts I've read on here in a while.

I am D-Day0043 and I approve this message.

+3 HS
bdegroff's picture

Amen brother!!!!

buckeyedude's picture

Is that you John Blutarsky?



Earle's picture

These kids spends years hearing how great they are.  Then they get on campus and immediately find out how much better they need to become.  It's no surprise many of them struggle early on, especially from a mental/emotional standpoint.  Not to mention the fact that they are often still maturing physically while competing against grown men 4-5 years further along in their development.  I know we have great expectations of them and throw .GIF parties when they commit, but true freshmen who make an impact from day one like Joey Bosa are rare indeed.

Have you tried Not Your Father's Root Beer?  It tastes just like the real thing, but it packs a punch (5.9%ABV).  It's a little sweet for me though.  Two is my limit.

+5 HS
gumtape's picture

Somebody once asked Bill Walsh why he didn't draft a team of good character guys, hard working, coachable, etc. He said that if he did that, they would look really good chasing the other team down the field while they were getting scored on again and again.

High and tight boo boo

+4 HS
vitaminB's picture

Urban knows what he's doing.  The first phase of any players development is the "un-recruitment" where you remind them that they are a cog in a much larger machine.  You have earned the right to get your foot in the door, everything else must be earned all over again.

+1 HS
Nutinpa's picture

You could be right...makes sense in fact.

Then again...tell that to Mike Mitchell; Warren Ball; Brionte Dunn; Michael Thomas; Rod Smith, Gareon Conley......

You might get some different answers.

vitaminB's picture

Those that get it and work hard and contribute on special teams will play, those that don't don't.

+1 HS
BuckFly's picture

Reminds me of another team with a +200 year winning record


+4 HS
chadb5646's picture

Hodge & Damonbuckeye, I do believe the reference to the Alabama dynasty crumbling was just a bit tongue-in-cheek! This speaks to the root of a very serious issue today and that is the "entitlement mentality" that is so prevalent in today's younger generation. They all get to play & receive trophies and none of them are taught anything about failure. Hard work and dedication makes you a winner in the real world! GO BUCKS!!

+3 HS
Nutinpa's picture

I didn't think it was tongue-in-cheek at all.  Just a (very stretched) example to prove a valid point. 

And yes to be clear....if Bama's dynasty has crumbled, I'll take that problem all day long, lol.

+2 HS
OSU_1992_UFM's picture

Just goes back to the "everyone gets a trophy"

As soon as a kid feels hes been slighted/undervalued he develops an attitude. Some guys use it as motivation, others as an excuse

Spring football is like non-alcoholic beer.  It looks like what you want, but only intensifies your desire for the real thing--Earle

+4 HS
TUNBUCK89's picture

The correlation between recruiting sucess and on field team success has been estabished. However, i would love to see the percentage of 5* players who contributed significantly to the team success as a true freshmen. I would expect that the pecentage is pretty low proving that the expectations of most 5* players to come in as true freshmen and contribute in a significant manner are not justifed and that the few 5* who are capable to do that are the exception and not the rule.

+1 HS
scrotieMcboogerballs's picture

another problem coaches face is that in order to get these 4 and 5 star guys, they HAVE to tell them they will (or should) play as a freshman. Then when they either don't play or are redshirted, they feel like they have been lied to or 'disrespected'. If a coach says to a 5 star guy "you are not going to play as a freshman", that 5 star player will be finding another school.

"Who do you think you are?!?!...I am!!"  -Pete Weber, bowling legend and dominator of the English language

+1 HS
TUNBUCK89's picture

I think Urban only promises a CHANCE to play for any recruit if he is capable of beating out the competition. Case in point: Joey Bosa.

Edincostarica's picture

I agree. I do not think a successful, smart coach will make the promise of a player starting right away. He may say he has a 50% chance of starting or 70% for example but it is ultimately up to the player and his progression within the system versus other talented players.


TMac's picture

This is where the much talked about "Leadership" is required from the team, It can't all come from the coaches, the upper classmen have to step up in their position groups and be mentors to young talent, even if the young talent is gunning for their spot. Leadership in the locker room can't be overvalued, it's necessary!

ONE Not Done!

kmp10's picture

Ohio State is the ONLY team not Alabama that doesnt play their 5 star players

What is this goofball saying? 

'Ohio State is the only team, not Alabama, that doesn't play their 5 stars'


Ohio State is the only team not named Alabama that doesn't play their 5 stars...

Punctuation is your friend. Learn to use it so that Tweet-phobic older guys don't have to stare at your comment trying to decipher your nonsense.

+1 HS
Go1Bucks's picture

Learn to use it so that Tweet-phobic older guys don't have to stare at your comment trying to decipher your nonsense.

Actually, I am still trying to decipher the nonsense of your last sentence.

Go Bucks!

-2 HS
Bamabucknut's picture



is about competition

Get Used To It.

+2 HS
okiebuck's picture

Well put BamaBucknut; competition not entitlement; and no matter what, don't become complacent !

"Fate has cards that it don't want to show"

JLP36's picture

HS football is very easy physically for 5 star athletes.  When they hit campus, they have to compete physically against grown men AND do it with a head full of scheme.  It is a hell of an accomplishment to do that successfully as a frosh.  Not everyone is Joey Bosa.

Lost in the recruiting talk is that there are a lot of 3 star 18 year old boys that mature into 5 star 20 year old men.  Many of them had superior FB instincts and intellect to the 5 star kid in HS, but lacked the NFL ready body at that point.  Some may be a little tougher mentally because they have had to work a little harder for it.


+4 HS
PittBuckeye's picture

Bells brother has always had just a little bit too much to say on Twitter, I'm glad his brother can be insanely talented so he can pop off on Twitter and somebody cares.

+2 HS
ScarletNGrey01's picture

The key is to recruit 4 and 5 star players who leave their egos at the door.


The will to win is not as important as the will to prepare to win. -- Woody Hayes

+4 HS
Go1Bucks's picture

The woes of the "Time Out" and "Everyone Gets a Trophy" generation.

Im getting weepy.



Nice write up and great read as always.  Of course, I don't expect anything less.


Go Bucks!

Seattle Linga's picture

Everyone should have to earn their stripes and playing time and Urban gets "it" - most coaches don't 

Shangheyed's picture

Meyers has admitted that he thinks they should have played more first yr players in the well admitted the schemes (needs more attack oriented offense rather than contain) were a problem too.  There were coaching changes as a result...

The focus is on the new coaches to make this an elite unit.  Seems pretty clear this issue is being addressed and we can see if the changes have worked in 2014. 

It is a shame it didn't happen sooner... I would argue Meyers should have been involved earlier...much earlier, and maybe last year's final two games would have ended differently... this isssue was no secret in the second half.

Poison nuts's picture

This is a great piece & so spot on. It's an interesting subject. Places like OSU have a bit of a double edged sword when it comes to recruiting. As for unhappy relatives of players, the good news is Vonn Bell's brother doesn't play at OSU - so his dismay at OSU's starting team selection practices don't bother me much. On the other hand - Vonn Bell probably should have played all year but never mind that...

Which is the better route, getting a bunch of 4&5 star kids & trying to deal with the egos and/or apathy that could come with it or getting under-rated/unheralded 3 stars like MSU & molding them into a team that was possibly the best in the country this year? Of course, here's the thing - will MSU be that good next year? I doubt it. They have some great coaches who will get the best out of their kids, but I doubt that they can compete every year the way they did this year without some better recruiting. We'll see I guess. I like the classes OSU has gotten so far (under UFM). Are they talented? YES!! But they're not the #1 recruiting class with a bunch of 5 star kids. They are mainly 4 star kids who are talented, have loads of potential & from what I've read anyway, seem like humble kids. Now, hopefully they come in & compete with the other 3-5 dudes who are at OSU on scholarship & play their same position. I'd like to believe that not having the very best recruiting class in the country might actually be a good thing...sort of. But, much like the author, I'm also just a dude hitting a keyboard. Luckily they pay UFM loads of money to know how to deal with athletes who are gifted. I'll stick with what I'm good at...watching -- & of course complaining like the world will end should there ever be another loss, which as we all know, there won't be...I mean, there's just too much talent to lose. ;)

"Do not pass me, just slow down - I can move right through you" Superchunk - Precision Auto.

buckskin's picture

Thanks for this article, there is much truth to it.  When someone is told their whole life how great they are, they can become soft and lazy.  Woody's advice about compliments would do these young men well; unless of course the one giving the compliment is "a lady over eighty".  It is hard to measure the affect of adversity in an athletes life.  Would Michael Jordan have the same drive if he didn't get cut in high school?  Would Jerry Rice play his whole NFL career like had something to prove if he didn't get overlooked by colleges in high school?  I wonder how many of these highly rated players would react to situations like these.   

bull1214's picture

if you take away the star designation of recruits, fans would have very little choice but to trust that the coaches know what they're doing. so how about we just do that anyway?

buckguyfan1's picture

We rode a continuous winning streak through the entire season last year.  It appeared to me that the defensive coaches were reluctant to change in general and maybe most notibly in personel.  I don't want to say they were playing not to lose, but ...

TheHumbleBuckeye's picture

Excellent article DJ. There was something to be said about Tressel's approach of loading up on 3/4 star Ohio guys that would bleed to wear scarlet and gray, and then mix in a few playmakers from out of state. Loading up the roster with fiercely loyal Ohioans had the effect of entrenching the out-of-staters in a "This school, this tradition, is and always will be bigger than me" mentality. Sure, some of those lesser talented guys never amounted to more than special teams or scout players, but they would run through hell in a gasoline suit to wear that jersey. And sometimes, Tressel's loyalty to Ohioans was rewarded, like in the case of offering a three star kick returner in 2002 with our last scholarship (Troy Smith).

buckeyestu's picture

Alabama is a long way from crumbling. I am looking forward to Urban and TOSU getting to the level of Bama, and I am confident that will happen. I hope that all this 4 and 5 star talent get on the field this year, especially on the defense side. Kwon is already my favorite player and I expect him to be the starter at middle linebacker. Hopefully Coach Ash rejuvenates the Silver Bullets.

Jeeves's picture

Well Ohio State did have the same record as bama last year and keep in mind their last two "titles" were games they shouldn't have been in. With saban panicking over higher paced play and Malzahn looking very strong at auburn I doubt bama gets a sniff at the playoffs this year. 

bull1214's picture

bama's season is in the hands of coker or as i call him, mettenberger jr. i dont see it going real well for bama unless they run the crap out of the ball like they should've done this year but didnt.

Buckeye_in_SEC_country's picture

We've got a bunch of kids who are studs in their region, but not necessarily studs on the national stage coming in.  The national stage guys like Bell, Kwon, and Dixon are the guys that probably expect to play early.  I think the other guys know they could have to sit for a year or 2.  

Squirrel Master's picture

I think Urban is very good at avoiding this situation with these elite talents. He does show that he is willing to play underclassmen if they can beat out the incumbants. He also is good at making sure they know they have to work to get what they want. We all know what he does to humble them from the beginning.

come on, you know what it is. Just think, what does Urban do that has every freshman work until they are accepted? What makes them apart of the team? Some kind of symbology that they belong?

(I knew you would get it)

It is the perfect way to get them to all buy in and make them believe that no matter who they were in HS they are all equal when they come into OSU, at the bottom of the depth chart. Some take all season before it happens, and yet they are still proud when it happens. I don't know much about Bama's locker room but I bet OSU's has much more camaraderie.

I saw a UFO told me to have a goodyear!

OSU_1992_UFM's picture

These guys should know by now that when you come to play for Urban, you earn your right to one here cares what you did in high school because guess what.......THIS IS NOT HIGH SCHOOL. You earn it, you earn getting the black stripe removed, you earn every single snap you get.


Spring football is like non-alcoholic beer.  It looks like what you want, but only intensifies your desire for the real thing--Earle