Five-Star Mutinies

By D.J. Byrnes on February 26, 2014 at 3:00 pm

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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