Colorado Recruiting Class of 2017 – Hits and Misses

History will record that the Colorado Recruiting Class of 2017 had 28 members. The total is the highest for any Buff Class since 29 joined the team in 2012, with the five junior college transfers and the nine total early enrollees setting school records.

How will the Class of 2017 play out? Will this be the Class which builds upon CU’s 2016 ten-win season, sustaining excellence for the balance of the decade? Or will this Class go down in history as a disappointment, a missed opportunity to build on CU’s surprising turnaround last year?

Ask again in four or five years.

Until then, it’s all speculation … but speculation is part of the fun of the off-season. Every team is undefeated; every team has designs on a successful 2017 campaign.

How to judge the CU Recruiting Class of 2017?

By the Numbers

When the dust settled after a tumultuous Signing Day, the CU Recruiting Class was ranked No. 32 in the nation by Rivals … No. 30 at Scout … No. 36 at 247 Sports … and No. 25 according to ESPN.

Compared to the rest of the Pac-12, Colorado was seventh in the conference according to Rivals; sixth according to Scout.

Glass half-full, or half-empty?

Half-full … Compare the 2017 Class with previous Classes signed by Mike MacIntyre since he came to Colorado (you know, the ones with which Mike MacIntyre and Co. went 8-1 against in Pac-12 play in 2016):

2016: 66th overall (Rivals); 65th overall (Scout) … last in the Pac-12 according to both;

2015: 72nd overall (Rivals); 75th overall (Scout) … last in the Pac-12 according to both;

2014: 64th overall (Rivals); 72nd overall (Scout) … 10th in the Pac-12 (Rivals); last in the Pac-12 (Scout);

2013: 66th overall (Rivals); 69th overall (Scout) … last in the Pac-12 according to both.

How good was this Class, compared to previous years? Chase Howell at BSN Denver did the math in his, “The Colorado Buffaloes are back at the adult table“:

To put this 2017 class in perspective, for the 27 signees they had a combined 122 Power-5 offers, the previous three classes combined had 74 Power-5 offers.

Half-empty … The CU Recruiting Class was ranked in the Top 20 for much of the fall, but lost momentum over the last two months leading up to Signing Day. Lopsided losses to Washington in the Pac-12 championship game and to Oklahoma State in the Alamo Bowl were followed by the loss of three defensive coaches. Delays in finding replacement coaches cost the Buffs when it came to last minute recruiting battles.

Plus, the argument goes, the Class is not even as good as the Top 30 ranking would suggest. It is a larger than normal Class (27, compared to 16 last year and 17 the year before), so the higher ranking is artificially inflated. If you look at the average number of stars per recruit, CU’s Class is even worse. The Buffs are 10th in the Pac-12 according to Rivals (2.93 stars per player); 8th in the Pac-12 according to Scout (3.07 stars per player).

Colorado played in the Pac-12 title game in 2016. The Buffs were arguably the second-best team in the conference (or, at least the third, if you want to give USC its due), yet the coaches did not capitalize. A middle-of-the-road Class after a ten-win season is a lost opportunity … one which Buff fans will rue in future seasons.

My take? 

Squarely in the “half-full” camp.

Sure, it would have been nice to have a consensus Top 25 Class, but when your program has been mired in the 60’s and 70’s in national recruiting rankings for what seems like an eternity, coming in at No. 30 or No. 32 ain’t that bad.

Now, two or three years from now, if the Buffs are coming off of consecutive 5-7 seasons, and Mike MacIntyre is back on the coaching hot seat, then the naysayers of today can have their “I told you so” moment.

In the meantime, I will leave you with a link to an article posted this week by Jon Wilner of the San Jose Mercury News, one of the top Pac-12 reporters. In his article, “Pac-12 football 2017 National Signing Day anti-anxiety post“, Wilner starts with a qualifier:

” ... as always, let’s be clear: The point here is not that the star system and class rankings are meaningless. It’s that they don’t mean everything … that developments good or bad over the next 48 hours won’t seal a program’s fate three or four years from now.

This is a small dose of perspective during a chaotic stretch.”

Before going on to compare the recruiting success in recent years by two teams … UCLA and Colorado.

We’ll start the discussion with a certain team from Los Angeles that always seems to sign highly-ranked recruiting classes but can’t quite produce an on-field product to match.

Of course, I’m referring to UCLA.

Here’s how the Bruins’ 2008-16 recruiting classes have been ranked (by Rivals) within the Pac-12: 2, 2, 2, 7, 3, 1, 1, 2, 1. 

Pretty darn good, right? Can’t do much better, right?

But in that span the Bruins have zero conference titles, one division title and no season in which they were better than 6-3 in league play.

Compared to Colorado …

Now, let’s continue the discussion with the team at the other end of the spectrum: Colorado.

The Buffaloes won the South last season with a roster of five recruiting classes that ranked, ahem, 8th, 12th, 10th, 12th and 12th in the conference.

The ’13 class warrants more than a passing mention. It was the first group signed by Mike MacIntyre, who was hired two months prior, and deemed not only the worst in the conference but also No. 66th nationally.

Yet it produced eight all-conference/honorable mention selection: Tedric Thompson Chidobe Awuzie, Kenneth Olugbode, Jimmie Gilbert, Bryce Bobo, Sefo Liufau, Devin Ross and Phillip Lindsay.

If Mike MacIntyre and Co. can produce a Pac-12 South champion with Classes ranked nationally in the 60’s and 70’s, imagine what they will be able to do with Classes which are “only” ranked in the Top 30.

Other thoughts …

Can we pass the hat and help raise Darrin Chiaverini’s salary? We already knew from last January that Chiaverini was a great recruiter. Coming in last January 1st, the former Texas Tech coach helped to bring some shine to an otherwise lackluster recruiting year. Wide receiver Juwann Winfree, running back Beau Bisharat, and linebacker Drew Lewis were all last minute additions to the Recruiting Class of 2016, and Chiaverini had a great deal to do with the upswing in recruiting enthusiasm.

This January, though, Chiaverini out-did himself. With the CU coaching staff down three members, the burden was even greater on CU’s prime recruiter.

Chiaverini came through in spades with this Class … and did so with his mother in the hospital. Shuttling back and forth between his mother in intensive care and in-home visits with recruits, Chiaverini did the Buff Nation proud (and this piece of good news. Chiaverini sent out this tweet on Thursday night: “Update on my mom. She is off the ventilator and the doctors are saying her pneumonia is gone! Continue to pray. Was able to talk to her!!” … Welcome news, indeed!).

The defections never really came. When defensive coordinator Jim Leavitt and cornerbacks coach Charles Clark left Colorado for Oregon, there was significant consternation in the Buff Nation. Not only was there now a void on the coaching staff, but there was real fear that Leavitt and Clark, given much of the credit for #TheRise in 2016, would take some of CU’s top recruits with them to Eugene.

Leavitt and Clark did give scholarship offers to a number of CU verbal commits. In the end, though, you know how many CU commits flipped to Oregon this year?

None. Nada. Zip. Zilch.

In fact, CU only suffered two de-commitments since their 10-2 regular season turned into a 10-4 final record:

Cornerback Morrell Osling, a three-star prospect who committed to CU last July, opted for UCLA when his “dream school” finally offered (Osling was unrated, with no other Power-Five offers, when CU offered him a scholarship last summer);

Offensive lineman Xavier Newman, a three-star prospect who committed to CU in October, but signed with Baylor in the end. Newman’s teammates from DeSoto, Texas, wide receivers K.D. Nixon and Laviska Shenault, kept their commitments to the Buffs. Considering that both Baylor and Texas brought in new coaches this year (and with them, new reasons for optimism in Austin and Baylor), the fact that CU signed seven players from Texas, tied for third-most in school history, is remarkable).

Were there other misses? Sure.  There are always players that you don’t get on Signing Day. Four-star tight end prospect Josh Falo has been a favorite of the message boards for a year, with hopes that Josh would want to play with his brother, CU linebacker N. J. Falo. Watching Josh play for USC will be tough over the next few years.

There were also a number of defensive linemen which would have been nice to sign, like Damion Daniels (signed with Nebraska), Nick Ford (Utah), and Terrance Lang (USC) (Edit – USC’s Recruiting Class was full, allowing Lang to flip to Colorado two days after Signing Day).

Still, it was impressive that Colorado did not suffer a single defection on Signing Day, with all of its known commitments signing with the Buffs. Colorado even picked up two flips of their own, getting late commitments from three-star tight end Jared Poplawski (an Arizona State commit) and three-star offensive lineman Casey Roddick (a Cal commit).

I’ll let Jon Wilner have the final word. In discussing CU’s 66th-ranked 2013 Recruiting Class, Wilner noted:

That’s right: A 21-player class that produced eight honors winners –that’s 38 percent of the signees — was ranked dead last in the conference.

Imprecise rankings?

Shrewd evaluating?

Effective coaching?

Good fortune?

How about all four.

The recruiting game is an imprecise science. History does tell us that top ten recruiting Classes tend to beget top ten national rankings. Sustained success in recruiting will, in all likelihood, result in sustained success in the win column.

In the mid-1980’s, when Bill McCartney started winning at Colorado, the recruiting Classes started to improve in the eyes of the national rankings. The turnaround season in 1985, coupled with the epic 20-10 win over Nebraska in 1986, helped to bring in recruiting Classes which played for the national championship at the end of the 1989 and 1990 seasons.

Will the Recruiting Class of 2017 help to bring about similar success at the end of this decade?

Time will tell …

 

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19 Replies to “Class of 2017 – Hits and Misses”

  1. I have been watching ESPN’s pre Super Bowl coverage this week, and one theme keeps being repeated: the Patriots and Falcons always find “their kind of guy”to fit into their system. They are not always a “star”. They simply do their assigned role very well.

    I think Mac knows what he needs for the team, and he gets “his kind of guys”. Think of Awuzie and Thompson from a few years ago.

    Forget the rankings. My sense is that the 2017 class will lead to successful future seasons for the Buffs.

  2. Now I am just gonna say this.

    Mac said many times:

    “We have an experienced older team with Seniors and Juniors that is why we have been successful”

    After the two loses at the end of the season:

    MacIntyre likened his squad’s two late losses as part of the process of a young team still learning to compete on the national stage.

    Just can’t quite connect the dots here.

    Buff Up

    1. Really VK? Let me break that down for you.

      The “older team” of juniors and seniors were still “young” when it comes to the experience of achieving, and sustaining success.

      So yeah, they were older, bigger, stronger, faster, more experienced, etc. That’s why they won 10 games.

      But, they were still young when it comes to the “big games against marquee opponents” aspect.

      Geez.

      I think you’ll see them continue maturing, on all fronts, this year, and solidifying their new foundation of success. But, as some will tell you, maintaining success can be more difficult than achieving it.

      I’m betting Mac and Co will do just fine on the former, like they have on the latter.

      Go Buffs!

      1. Well that was a connect the dots strawman for sure

        Cake and eat it too

        Waiting for your strawman on the SI article. Should be a good one

        Buff Up

        S

        1. Strawman? Or considered response?

          My take is that that is a tough situation. Unless you or I were there, we have no idea of the discussions between Mac, Rick, Phil and Joe. We know they were had, and can use our own experience and perspective to guess at how they went. But, it’s nothing more than guessing.

          Could things have been handled a bit better with communicating to Joe’s girlfriend? If the SI piece is an accurate portrayal, then probably.

          Do I think Mac offered him a promotion, or further consideration for the DC job? No. I think he was probably the best guy to call plays at that time, given how the situation was unfolding. And, Mac basically saying that, is exactly that.

          Ultimately, I think it’s a sad situation for everyone, that again hopefully, everyone can learn from. And Joe can get some help.

          Is that too pragmatic an approach for you, buddy? Should heads roll?

          Go Buffs.

          1. VK. The timeline is one thing. The broader point is that you have no idea what was said behind the scenes, between Mac, Joe, Rick and Phil, as that timeline and the public events unfolded.

            None.

            Go Buffs.

  3. Half full for the WarBuff. Here’s what baffles me about the star rankings. Look at the schools chasing these two commits, one 3* for CU (slimmed down significantly) and one 4* for Utah. Stars mean nothing, it’s the other schools’ opinions that help validate a potential player.

    T.J. Green – Running Back – Utah Commit
    Boise State
    Hawaii
    Idaho
    Oregon State
    South Dakota State
    Utah State

    Tyler Lytle – Quarterback – CU Commit
    Arizona State
    Baylor
    Boston College
    California
    Colorado State
    Fresno State
    Hawaii
    Illinois
    Indiana
    Miami (FL)
    Missouri
    Oregon State
    Pittsburgh
    Purdue
    San Diego State
    Temple
    Texas-San Antonio
    UNLV
    Vanderbilt
    Washington State
    Wisconsin
    Wyoming

  4. Half full! Patience, patience, patience. Recruiting will get better each year. I’d much rather move slowly and have the program be built on a solid foundation of quality players (Mac is great at evaluating this).

    I do remain astonished each year, however, at how many recruits would rather compete against 10 players in front of them (and probably ride the bench much of their college career) rather than come to CU where they can be a “big fish” in a smaller pond, Terrance Lang from USC being a prime example of this.

    PLEASE use the Tight End more next year! The spread never works as well against quality teams.

  5. Never have been a believer in the star system. I dont think those scouting services have the staff or the time to watch film of very many 3 stars. they pick the low hanging fruit leaving a heck of a lot untouched. The stat that stands out to me are those 122 power five offers. Which, ironically may be a problem with the scouting services too in that they pay a lot more attention to the offers from the perennial big dog top ten schools than any one else. Hard to believe Sparaco is a 3 star after what he accomplished his senior year at the highest level of high school ball.

  6. Excellent write up Stuart… mind stimulating points made! One thing that has stuck with me since the 90s… the “hunger” and motivation of incoming players. When Neuheisel took over, the program was stacked. Although it did seem that his recruiting success didn’t take long to diminish, we still had loaded teams and a high profile program. One thing that always gnawed at me, however, was the feeling I had that a lot of the incoming players seemed (to me) to feel that they had “made it” simply by being able to wear the Buffalo uniform. There seemed to be disappointments with player development, team “grit”, and eventual repercussions in win-loss record. Since Barnett’s time, coaching, recruiting, player effort, etc seemed to be maddeningly lax…. with a few notable exceptions and due respect to those individual players. One thing Mac II has done, IMO, is to somehow get the best effort and results from his players, overall. There may be something to the recruiting staff’s “evaluation” skills, or it may be good overall character recognition, certainly motivation from the staff and older players… but, to me, a lot has changed and for the better. This is college sports… these are very young men. One of my biggest joys as a long term Buff fan is feeling that the players actually CARE about winning again, and the staff too. There were too many years, unfortunately, where I just didn’t see that. Go Buffs! And Go 2107 Recruits!

    1. He is shown as being off the team. In the media notes for Signing Day, the only comment is, “Since the end of the season, there has been some additional attrition: OT Sam Kronshage and C Colin Sutton have opted to end their collegiate careers and graduate this May”. …

      1. Wondering if Kronshage got a little nudge from the staff. There was some controversy about a racial slur in his tweets early on so I looked at some of his tweet history. I never came across the racial tweet but it appeared to me he was trying too hard to be the “wild man” or something like that stereotype gunslinging Texan with his words. I could see that annoying a personality like MM’s

  7. Half full, IMO. Best class in years. Great WRs, big linemen, a highly touted QB, and multiple JUCOs who can contribute quickly. I don’t expect a 10 win season this year but if the Buffs can get to a decent bowl, win games against quality Pac 12 opponents, the momentum will continue into the future. I feel that this class is another step in the right direction along with new facilities, fund raising, fan attendance. The class will help provide stability and mitigate the chances of last season being an one hit wonder. Are there things that could be picked on, sure. But look at the players we signed, the offers they had, and where the program is now versus 12 months ago. Go Buffs!!!

  8. Wow. VK and I agree. It does happen, from time to time.

    This is a great group of recruits, and they’ll continue bringing CU Football back to relevance in the national conversation. Along w/ the guys who already helped turn the corner.

    All we’ve seen in Mac’s tenure is the guys he brings in push, or beat out, the guys ahead of them. Finally, they’ve not had to start all the fresh young faces (starting last year, really) so quality depth and experience continue developing.

    Plus, with this class, they’ve gotten some “dudes” on both offensive and defensive lines. Some may push for playing time this year even.

    I keep saying I think the defense won’t slip as much as some people expect, and the offense should be better, more efficient, and productive so they can outscore opponents if the defense isn’t quite as stout as they were in 2016.

    I love the idea of a dedicated outside linebacker/rush specialist coach. No idea who they’ll get, but again, Mac’s proven pretty good at filling areas of need, both in player personnel, and coaching personnel. I expect nothing less w/ that position coach, as well.

    And, how ’bout ShaDon Brown going down to help keep Chris Miller (I think is the guy’s name; apparent stud DB)? Love it.

    Can anyone tell me when September is? Spring ball should be fun to follow, too.

    Go Buffs!

  9. Absolutely half full. Need to keep it going and continue to improve every year. The shark’s got to keep swimming…

    I don’t buy that business about the rankings being inflated by large numbers. The classes are rated higher for larger numbers because that is a real advantage. Schools that bring in 25 or more guys every year are able to try out more guys. The guys that don’t work out are graduated early to open up spots for the next cycle. It’s the opposite of red shirting and the top teams do it.

  10. I believe this class will have a major impact. Starting next year.

    First in the oline. There are two that can start immediately. Maybe 3. There are no junior oline guys on this team. and 3 seniors. Meaning there will be no senior ol guys on the team next year. The young uns will have to get work early. Also this may be the best Oline class in many many years. All 7 of em.

    Second, On the Dline there will be 3 that play a lot. The 3 JC guys. Maybe one more

    Third. At least two of the Wide receivers will get time. Maybe 3. But the position is stacked at the sr and jr position

    Fourth Linebackers. There are no sophomore linebackers in this class. A couple will have to step up.

    Fifth, No senior corners in this class and only 1 junior The JC guys will see the field

    All in all these boys will be contributing. Cause they have too.

    Buff Up.

    Note: Quarterbacks. No sr, no jr, 1 soph 1 rsf, 1 frosh

    Note 2: 87 scholarships. 2 players have to move on. Wonder who.

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