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Syracuse Football: Recruiting is a Numbers Game

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It's hard not to get excited - and then disappointed - about individual players, but if history shows us anything, recruiting is all about numbers and most of the top players will fail to meet expectations on an individual level

Rich Barnes-USA TODAY Sports

Every year I tell myself I'm not going to get wrapped up in football recruiting.

Now, don't let anyone tell you it doesn't matter. It most certainly does.

For every Boise State, who takes fringe players and turns them into stars ... for every Georgia Tech who finds players that fit a unique system and might be overlooked, there are Alabamas and Florida States and Ohio States and many others who constantly bring in the top talent, and are constantly atop the rankings at the end of the year.

Sure, there are some Miamis and Michigans and Virginias who do less with more - thanks mostly to inept coaching - but the most talented teams win more than they lose.

Which brings me to my point: we have to take more of a big picture look when it comes to recruiting.

Recruiting sites get a bad reputation for all the busts and the unknowns that become stars, but ultimately, the rankings are right over a large enough sample size. There tend to be more 5 stars in the NFL than 4 stars (by percentage) ... more 4 stars than 3 stars ... and so on. It's not an exact science, but the top recruits are more likely to be the best players.

And here we are again at Syracuse. We get a big name recruit, we get excited, we start planning how he'll wear 44 - or not - and we think about how he'll save the program. This time, the top recruit didn't even make it to campus (Hi Zach Allen!). But even if he had, the odds of him being a program savior were slim at best.

This isn't a knock on Washington, or suddenly changing my tune to "good riddance." That would be idiotic. Syracuse needs talent, and you probably need four or five guys like Washington to end up with one or two impact players three years from now. So losing one is most certainly not good. We are not better off without him.

But look at some of the top players from the last 10 recruiting classes for Syracuse (from Rivals):

2005 - Lavar Lobdell (4 stars)

2006 - Adam Rosner, Andrey Baskin (4 stars)

2007 - Jermaine Pierce (4 stars)

2008 - Averin Collier, Mikhail Marinovich, Marcus Sales, Romale Tucker (4 stars)

2009 - Dale Peterman, Phillip Thomas, Derek Hines, Rishard Anderson (3 stars)

2010 - Marquis Spruill (4 stars)

2011 - Dyshawn Davis, Richie Desir, Cameron Lynch, Brandon Reddish (3 stars)

2012 - Julian Whigham, Ashton Broyld, Zian Jones, Myles Hilliard (3 stars)

2013 - Luke Arciniega, Corey Cooper, Austin Wilson, Corey Winfield (3 stars)

2014 - KJ Williams (4 stars), Steve Ishmael (3 stars)

There are some real stars in there - Spruill, Davis, Lynch - some talented, but enigmatic guys - Thomas, Sales, Broyld - some busts - Lobdell, Collier, Cooper - and even some guys that never made it to campus - Williams, Hilliard.

The point is, to get the next top running back, SU probably has to bring in three or four top running backs, or it has to get really lucky.

We have to get less excited about individual players - and messaging them on social media and interacting with their parents on message boards, etc. It just sets everyone up for failure, whether it's when a 17-year-old kid changes his mind (how shocking!), or when they don't qualify academically, or when they transfer after a year when they get bypassed on the depth chart, or when they plain and simple don't pan out.

Of that very unscientific sampling of 27 "top" recruits (very subjective), about 15 became starting-level players. That's slightly more than half. From that group, maybe five or six were true impact players. The odds are absolutely against each individual player living up to those expectations.

Rather than recruiting fewer of those players - the success rate is even worse with the lower-rated players - we should just assume most of these guys will not be impact players. If we recruit enough guys with the ability to turn into impact players, we will see a handful of those players get there.

I'll admit I'm not very good at keeping my emotions in check. I get excited for the individual recruits when they commit, and bummed out when they fail. But I'm pledging to try to take a better approach going forward, trying not to get too high or two low on the individuals, and hoping SU is just stockpiling a talent pool that could produce a few great players. I think it will make me happier in the long run.

Because in the end, recruiting is a numbers game, not an individuals game.