Year Two Recruiting Classes – A Comparison

When there is a regime change in college football, the new coaching staff is almost always given a pass when it comes to their first recruiting Class. There are just too many variables to hold the new coach accountable for his first Class – When was the new coach hired? Under what circumstances (was the previous coach successful, moving on to greener pastures, or was the previous coach run out of town after a series of losing campaigns)? Do the commitments to the old coach fit the system of the new coach? Is the new coach coming from another college program (and perhaps bringing recruits with him)?

Year Two for the new coach, conversely, begins to give fans a better picture of how well the new coaching staff can recruit. The new staff has had its system in place for a year, and had a full cycle of summer camps and official visits to recruit their style of player.

Just for fun … let’s look at Year Two of the Recruiting Classes for the last two CU head coaches, Dan Hawkins and Jon Embree, and see how those classes shaped up when looking at how they were perceived at the time, and how they fared once they got to Boulder. Looking at those two Classes might help CU fans when assessing the incoming Class of 2014, a/k/a Year Two of the Mike MacIntyre era.

While not necessarily comparing apples to apples – there are still many variables involved – it’s at least comparing red delicious apples to pink lady apples … which is better than comparing apples to oranges.

Dan Hawkins – Year Two – Recruiting Class of 2007

The circumstances … Dan Hawkins came to Boulder from Boise State, where he had a run of 50 victories in five seasons leading the Broncos. Hawkins took over the program from Gary Barnett, forced out due to a myriad of scandals, both real and imagined.

Glass half-full … Despite the issues surrounding his dismissal, Barnett had won the Big 12 North division four of the previous five seasons, and the Buffs were two-time reigning Big 12 North titles when Hawkins was hired.

Glass half-empty … Hint of scandal had hung over the program for several years, reducing the quality of the recruiting Classes. While the CU program may not have been “burned to the ground”, as Hawkins later described it, the talent level of the team had been reduced over the past few seasons. Recruiting for the Class of 2007 was also affected by the miserable 2-10 debut season the Buffs put together in 2006 under Hawkins, including a loss to Montana State in CU’s first-ever game against a 1-AA program.

The Recruiting Class of 2007:

National Rankings … 32nd (Rivals); 35th (Scout)

Big 12 Rankings … 5th (Rivals); 6th (Scout)

Headliners … Colorado had a five-star recruit in its 28 signees, offensive tackle Ryan Miller from Littleton, Colorado. The Buffs also had two four-star commits, running back P.T. Gates, a junior college transfer from Mission Viejo, California, and wide receiver Marques Simas from San Diego.

Other signees of note … Amongst the remainder of the Class, the highest-rated three-star prospects were offensive lineman Blake Behrens, defensive end Drew Hudgins, offensive lineman Sione Tau, defensive back Anthony Wright, and quarterback Matt Ballenger.

Analysis … Ryan Miller held up his end of the bargain, setting a career record for the most games started – 48 – of any Colorado player. Otherwise, the Class – which never posted a winning season – was a huge disappointment. None of the skill players recruited by Dan Hawkins in Year Two played a significant role for the Buffs (unless you want to count Brian Lockridge, the running back who finished his career at Colorado as a defensive back).  Almost all of the players who were recruited as part of the Class of 2007 who were around to be on the roster as fifth-year seniors were offensive and defensive linemen – Ethan Adkins, Behrens, Shawn Daniels, Conrad Obi, and Tau. Two other players will be familiar to many Buff fans: Tyler Ahles, recruited as a linebacker, who ended up as a fullback, and Matthew Bahr, brought in as an offensive lineman, finished his career in Boulder as a tight end.

Bottom line … In 2014, Buff fans can’t even imagine having a Class ranked in the top 35 in the nation. But, as the Class of 2007 demonstrated, Class rankings do not always portend results on the field.

Jon Embree – Year Two – Recruiting Class of 2012

The circumstances … After five consecutive losing seasons, Dan Hawkins was let go, with former Buff Jon Embree hired as the new head coach. Embree had not only played for the Buffs, but had been an assistant coach in Boulder. Embree brought with him another former Buff standout, Eric Bieniemy, as his offensive coordinator, while bringing back longtime assistant coach Greg Brown to be his defensive coordinator.

Glass half-full … Colorado had endured five straight losing seasons under Hawkins, but the 2010 team had finished 5-7, so there was optimism that with the return of Embree and Bieniemy there would be also be a return to the glory days of Colorado football, brought to the Buff Nation by coaches who understood in could be done in Boulder. In addition, it didn’t hurt that both Embree and Bieniemy were highly regard recruiters.

Glass half-empty … In his first season, Embree had to run his new team through a 13-game gauntlet, including a $1 million pay-for-play blasting by Ohio State. The result was a 3-10 season, with the Buffs far from competitive in their first season in the Pac-12.

The Recruiting Class of 2012:

National Rankings … 36th (Rivals); 29th (Scout)

Pac-12 Rankings … 8th (Rivals); 6th (Scout)

Headliners … Colorado had two four-star recruits in its 27 signees, both defensive backs: Kenneth Crawley from Washington D.C., and Yuri Wright from Ramsey, New Jersey.

Other signees of note … Amongst the remainder of the Class, the highest-rated three-star prospects were quarterback Shane Dillon, defensive end Kisima Jagne, defensive tackle Tyler Henington, tight end Vincent Hobbs, offensive lineman Jeromy Irwin, and three running backs – Clay Norgard, Davien Payne, and Christian Powell.

Analysis … The verdict remains out on the Class of 2012, as they are just now moving into the status of upper-classmen. Crawley and Wright were both thrust into the starting lineup early in their careers, and hope remains that they will prove to be all-conference caliber defensive backs before their careers are through. Kisima Jagne, of course, never made it to Boulder, failing to make the grades as a high school senior, then spurning the Buffs at the last minute the following December, opting for Arizona State (where he washed out). Tyler Henington and Christian Powell have shown positive results, while Clay Norgard (moved to linebacker) and Jeromy Irwin (injured last season) still have potential.

Bottom line … Again, it’s hard to imagine CU with so highly rated a Class (both the 2007 and 2012 classes were over-sized, helping the final rankings), but the Class of 2012 has yet to realize its full potential – turning CU back into a winner.

Mike MacIntyre – Year Two – Recruiting Class of 2014

The circumstances … Mike MacIntyre came to Colorado with the Buffs already riding a school-record streak of seven consecutive losing seasons. MacIntyre moved to Boulder from San Jose State, where he had turned around the Spartans, going from a one win team to a ten win team in just three seasons.

Glass half-full … Mike MacIntyre brought with him hope, a plan … and a few good recruits. Addison Gillam was a San Jose State commit that became a freshman All-American for Colorado, while another MacIntyre recruit, Michael Adkins, showed great promise at running back. The Buffs moved from a one-win team in 2012 to a four-win team in 2013, sparking hope for the future.

Glass half-empty … While not as awful as the nadir of 2012, the losing did continue in 2013, with Colorado being blown out in a number of Pac-12 conference games. The talent level discrepancy on the field remained painfully obvious to all but the most ardent CU fan.

The Recruiting Class of 2014:

National Rankings (as of 2/2) … 64th (Rivals); 68th (Scout)

Pac-12 Rankings (as of 2/2) … 11th (Rivals); 11th (Scout)

Headliners … Colorado has one four-star commit amongst its 20 current pledges, wide receiver Shay Fields from Bellflower, California.

Other commits of note … Amongst the remainder of the Class, the highest-rated three-star prospects are quarterback Cade Apsay, linebacker Rick Gamboa, defensive back Donovan Lee, tight end Dylan Keeney, linebacker Grant Watanabe and defensive linemen Eddy Lopez and Michael Mathewes.

Analysis … With these players not even on campus yet, there is no way to know if this is the Class which will spark a turnaround of fortune for the Buffs on the field. On paper, there is less to be excited about from the Class of 2014 then there was from either the Class of 2007 or the Class of 2012. Both of those Classes were in the top 40 nationally, while the CU Class of 2014 will be hard-pressed to break into the top 60.

That being said, there are a number of potential “diamonds in the rough” out of this Class. Mike MacIntyre and Co. have already demonstrated an ability to spot overlooked talent, and, while it is never fun to have a recruit switch their commitment to another school (e.g., Jomon Dotson, and perhaps Elijah Rodriguez), there is some comfort in knowing that other schools have taken a second look at these players after they have committed to Mike MacIntyre … and that those schools have liked what they have seen. Imagine what MacIntyre and Co. can do when they are allowed into the homes of even higher rated recruits down the line …

Bottom line … Recruiting is an inexact science. There are just too many variables surrounding predicting what 17- and 18-year olds will grow into over the next four to five years. Still, there is ultimately an undeniable correlation between stock-piling five-star talent and ultimate success on the field of play. Success in the fall is simply not possible without success on the first Wednesday of February each winter.

Here’s hoping that Mike MacIntyre will have better luck with Year Two recruiting Class than did his predecessors …

11 Replies to “Year Two Recruiting Classes”

  1. Stuart,

    I agree with EP that these rankings are useless. For one, THIS class has not even signed on yet; Two, Scout and Rivals are sort of a joke… if a kid is offered by USC or ‘Bama, he is automatically at 4* or 5* player or a 3* on the cusp.

    Of the 14 mentioned under Hawkins, only Ryan Miller turned out to be the real deal, and Miller would have been that way no matter where he played.

    Of the 10 listed under Embree, only Powell, Crawley and Wright have played signifcantly. As 4* defensive backs, Wright and Crawley have certainly not stood head and shoulders above their counterparts.

    The star ratings of recruits is such a tiny part of the whole package. Getting good quality young men who are ready for college and ready to work is much bigger. Developing players once they are in the program is the BIGGEST part of the equation.

    What Colorado has not done on a consistent basis for 6-8 years before Mac got here is the sytematic development of players’ strength, speed, and skill. For CU to return to relevance in the FBS world, that has to be the primary concern of this coaching staff. Take it as the sincerest form of flattery that other schools are now taking hard looks at the guys that Mac and staff are recruiting.

    After a year working with strength and perfornce guru Dave Forman, Colorado players should be significantly stronger across the board than they have been in years. That should make the battles in the trenches much more exciting and leave the Buffs much better prepared to face a Pac-12 schedule.


    1. Quick question. I am not trying to be mean or nasty in any way. If in fact we sign Shay Fields tomorrow that doesn’t excite you?

      1. Buffnaustin,

        Every new recruiting class represents renewal to the Colorado Buff football program. As such, of course it is exciting. However, I think that WAY too many expectations are heaped on the shoulders of young men that are 17-18 years old. Being away from home for the first time in their lives, coupled with college level classes on top of their football responsibilities is a lot for ANY young man to deal with.

        As far is stength is concerned, the studs of the high school football world have a year or two of FBS level training to be comparable to the upper classmen. This isn’t being negative, it is just the simple facts of life in the physiology of growing young men.

        I think MacIntyre has a keen eye for talent that has been missing at CU since Barnett was coach. More importantly, he seems to make sure that his recruits have the emotional and intellectual wherewithal to make it at a school like CU. This is not the SEC, where 4.3 speed in the 40 takes precedence over academics.

        I like what I see from Shay Austin, just I liked what I saw last year. If he has the skills and work ethic to become a key offensive threat in his freshman year, that would be awesome for the team and also for him. But do I expect him to be the “savior’ of CU football? No. The quality of a college basketball team can be altered significantly by a dominating player, not so on the gridiron.

        As a wideout, Fields will be dependent upon the QB to get him the ball. Sefo (most likely) will have to be protected by his line, and so on….
        I expect the Buffs to be physically stronger across the board this year than they have been in years. And that will be even more pronounced for the 2015 season. If Fields is able to have a freshman all-american type of season, the work of the offensive line will be primarily responsible.

        We know that Sefo can stand up to a beating and still be remarkably accurate. If CU protects him better, our passing game will become much more dangerous. It certainly helps to have a guy who is a threat to take it to the house whenever he touches the ball.

        Fact of the matter is that just about every skill position player in the FBS was a threat to score on any given play when they were in high school. It’s the reason they earned scholarships to play at FBS level schools. Being able to replicate that at the collegiate level is much harder. Fortunately for CU, Paul Richardson was able to do that. Only time will tell if Fields has that same special talent.

        Star ratings of high school kids by amateurs is no guarantee of how a kid will pan out. Remember Darrell Scott? The sure fire, 5-star, can’t miss, tailback? He was the guy who could not beat out the 2-star Rodney Stewart, so he left. Same goes for Marcus Houston, who had injury problems and an inability to get along with his position coach Eric Bieniemy. Like Scott, he left.

        It doesn’t really matter, though, because it’s the nature of the beast. Tomorrow is NLI day and it represent another new chapter for CU football. It’s very exciting, but I am even more excited to see the entire “body of work” for these young men over the next 3-5 years.

        I hope that addresses your question sufficiently. GO BUFFS!


        1. That is a great view from another CU fan. I think explaining ones views qithout calling the other person a idiot is an admirable attribute.
          Kudos to you.
          I think our coaching staff has done a great job with what they had to work with. There was far less confusion on the sidelines last year. My question still remains will they be able to take the same caliber of player and be an upper echelon team in the PAC 12? I certainly hope so.
          I also think that when and if he/they get the Buffs turned around that he/they will start tagreting the 4 and 5 star players and having even greater success on the field.
          You mentioned 2 five star players and while I do agree they were duds. But I think that given the chance to pick out of a pool of 10 instead of 1 or 2 increases the odds that your talent level will go up.
          Some times my fandom gets in the way of “doing the right thing”. I want my cake and I want to eat it too. I do want to see the quality young men but I also want to see the talent level go up so we can win games and beat on our chests a little bit.
          Shoulder to Shoulder my friend

          GO BUFFS

  2. Actually it would be nice to have signing classes with predominately 3 and 4 star recruits than the 2 and 3 stars we have been getting. I know people keep saying that you just can’t tell with 17 and 18 year old kids. And while I am inclined to agree to certain extent I sure would lie to see how the Coaching staff could relate and teach a higher quality athlete. Heck I’m so greedy I would take some 5 star commits.

  3. Stuart
    Your poll question #2 today is the reason I wont participate. It gives way too much credence to these rankings by the scouting services. Below the top 10 or so, where all the 5 stars commit, these rankings are worthless until you see how the class operates on the field. Mac2 made a living at SJS finding kids who could play and so far he has brought a couple of gems here

    1. I’m not sure which Miller you are referring to, but Ryan Miller is mentioned prominently as the only five-star recruit out of the three classes.

      1. Gotcha. I was just going off of the Rivals and Scout rankings. Isaac Miller didn’t make the top five in CU’s 2014 class commits – at least according to the services.

  4. What is the “speed” assessment for the class of 2014? One of the problems of CU football for the last number of years has been a lack of speed to keep up with the big boys in the PAC 12. Could you address this issue here on the website or on your appearance on 93.7/1510 on Wednesday?

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