Recruits not always good as they appear to be

Published 12:00 am Friday, February 1, 2002

Sports Columnist

For those of you that keep up with college football recruiting, you won’t have to wait very long to find out who your favorite team gets.

National Signing Day is Wednesday, Feb. 6, and I’m sure there’s a lot of anxious coaches, players and fans out there.

Sign up for our daily email newsletter

Get the latest news sent to your inbox

Many fans have a tendency to put too much emphasis on a young high school recruit’s status. Things such as, ‘did he make Forrest Davis’s top 15 in the state,’ or ‘was he a Parade All-American?’ I’ve seen too many of these ‘all-world’ types that didn’t make it in big time college football to put too much emphasis on what the recruiting world is saying out there.

All you’ve got to do is look back on the college careers of Charles Henderson’s Cencade Pennington and Terrell Paul to see what I’m talking about.

I thought Pennington was the best running back in the state his senior year in high school. He had it all

– tremendous speed, acceleration and great strength. He was thought to be, by many, a can’t miss player when then-Auburn coach Terry Bowden came to his house and was the Tigers’ first signee under the new head coach. But Pennington was only a mediocre player, at best, while at Auburn.

On the other hand, take Terrell Paul. He was not heavily recruited like Pennington was. The only two teams that were interested in him were Troy State and Southern Miss. He signed with the Golden Eagles as a skinny 6-foot-4, 210 pounder, but the college weights turned him into a 6-foot-4, 240 pound defensive end that can run like a deer. Paul has started at USM since his sophomore year and is a bonafide All-Conference performer that has a bright future in the NFL after this, his senior season.

There’s a lot of intangibles that you’ve got to look at when recruiting a high school athlete that’s just turned 17 or 18 year’s old.

Getting adjusted to being away from home, where he’s been pampered most of his life, is a lot harder to do then you think. There’s a big difference between a college classroom and a high school classroom. How about mandatory study halls, for one, every night to go along with practice and team meetings?

Those coaches, who were so nice and accommodating when they were on the recruiting trail, are now not quite the same fellows when they’ve got you on the practice field. You now belong to them and will have to abide by their rules or you’re out the door. College football and academics is not easy and it requires a young man’s complete attention. If his mind is somewhere else, he’s going to have a hard time coping with it.

Coach Larry Blakeney and his staff have been extremely busy since December recruiting high school and junior college athletes.

A recent commitment from Rockledge, Fla., wide receiver Zsan Robinson, gives the Trojans 10 solid commitments already.

Robinson, a 6-foot-2, 185 pounder, was the 42nd best player on the Orlando Sentinel’s Top 100 players in Florida and was a first-team All-State pick by the Florida Sports Writers Association after leading Rockledge to the state 3A championship.

The Trojans are heavily courting running back Bret Thomas of Mapleton, Ga., offensive lineman Eric Finch of Pontotoc, Miss., wide receiver Toris Rutledge of Citra, Fla., and junior college quarterback Matt Ray of Oroville, Ca.

Ray could help shore up the quarterback position at Troy State. He’s a 6-foot-3, 205 pounder, that played at Butte Community College in Oroville, helping his team to the Nor-Cal Conference Championship for the the third straight year.

The other nine commitments are: Chris Dickerson (6-2, 218) LB, Johnson County High, Wrightsville, Ga.; Terrance "Boo" Smith (6-2, 230) LB, Garner, NC; James Gardner (6-4, 280) OL, Dothan High, Dothan; Larry Brackins (6-5, 195) WR, Dothan High, Dothan; Bragg Knott (6-3, 205) QB, Homewood; Kirbie Bodiford (6-4, 270), DL, Sidney Lanier, Montgomery; Marlo East (6-1, 190) RB, Sandersville, Ga.; Kenny Griffin (6-5, 275) DL, Eagle Landing, Ga.; Johnny Jackson (6-6, 263) DL, East Central Community College, Scooba, Miss.

The Trojans expect to sign at least 25 players on Wednesday.

Asked about how recruiting was going and Blakeney answered like he has many times:

"We think we’re going to be able to sign some good players, but we won’t know how good they are until we get them on the field."

My guess is that the Troy State coach will do what he’s been doing so well for the last 11 seasons and that’s put good players on the field for us to enjoy watching play football.