Evanson Column: 'Tis the season to be jolly - if you like recruiting
And to you I wish the very best of what the season has to offer: good food, get-togethers with family and friends, traditional music, and the gift of giving, which is what the holidays are truly about.
But while I just now begin to soak in the pleasantries of winter holidays such as Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, Boxing Day, the Chinese New Year and all of the others I indiscriminately failed to mention, I'd be remiss not to mention this year's addition to "the most wonderful time of the year" — college football's early signing day.
That's right: Wednesday, Dec. 19, marks the first of three potential days for next year's crop of freshmen college football players to sign on the dotted line. This hasn't always been the case; until last year, coaches and fans of programs everywhere were forced to wait on pins and needles until the first week of February to see what potential game-changing athlete lay beneath their proverbial tree, often being both pleasantly and not-so-much surprised by an 18-year-old whom one either loves or now hates dependent upon his signing day declaration.
But this year, the second since the early signing day was introduced in 2017, colleges, their fanatics and the athletes with the most to gain are more comfortable with the new norm, and as a result, it's Christmas come early for big-time schools, big-money coaches and the losers like me who follow the process throughout the year.
Yep, I'm not afraid to admit it: I love recruiting. Not the act itself, because there's likely nothing more grotesque in sports than the lengths colleges will go to in an effort to woo a budding teenage superstar — but how it directly correlates to success or failure in the game of college football.
There's an old coach's saying that speaks to the relationship between personnel and success on the field: "It's not the X's and O's, it's the Jimmys and Joes."
Meaning, you can be the second coming of Vince Lombardi, but without at least a minimum level of talent, you ain't winning.
I studied this a handful of years ago, and with the exception of a few rare occasions, your college football national champion comes from the recruiting top 10. The last 10 national champions — not including last year's Crimson Tide — followed by their average recruiting finish in their previous four years, were as follows: Alabama (1), Clemson (12.5), Alabama (1), Ohio State (4), Florida State (6.25), Alabama (2.25), Alabama (2.5), Auburn (14.75), Alabama (7.75), and Florida (5).
In other words, with the exception of two outliers, if you're not habitually recruiting amongst the nation's top seven, your dreams of hoisting a national championship trophy are nearly zero.
Which is why Oregon fans were so hyped about landing the nation's No. 1 overall recruit, Kayvon Thibodeaux, last Saturday. Players like that can turn a tide, not just directly with their play on the field, but also indirectly by generating buzz that draws more bees to the hive.
If you know what I mean.
Oregon is currently ranked No. 5 in most 2018-19 recruiting rankings, and if that were to hold, it would surpass the Ducks' greatest recruiting class ever. They'll have a pretty good idea of that finish by the end of the day on Friday, Dec. 21, when this year's early signing day commences. What does that mean? Maybe nothing; after all, one class a dynasty does not make. But if a top five this year leads to a top five next year, and they manage a top five or something close to it a year beyond that, they could have something in Eugene. That may or may not be music to your ears, but it is to University of Oregon faithful, and that makes for very happy holidays for the Ducks.