Don't Believe the Hype

By D.J. Byrnes on February 4, 2014 at 1:08 pm
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.

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