LSJ columnist Graham Couch, Freep beat writer Chris Solari and 247sports writer Stephen Brooks break down MSU’s 2019 class.
Graham Couch and Chris Solari, Lansing State Journal
I hate National Signing Day. The endless hype and hysteria.
I’m happy for the players, but I hate how recruiting services put stars on teenagers, not to mention how schools either “win” or “lose”, “climb” or “fall”, based on an accumulated ranking.
Let’s call it what it is: glorified guessing.
The truth is, when high school kids fax in their letters of intent Wednesday morning, the first day of the early signing period, we have no idea how many of them will pan out.
To be accurate and fair, you can only judge a class over time.
As we inch closer to the big day of hype and hope, let’s try to find a little perspective by looking back at the craziest signing day that college football has seen — Michigan’s Signing of the Stars in 2016.
The kind of perspective you can only get from professional wrestler Ric Flair.
“Officially today, the Nature Boy is a limousine-ridin’, jet-flyin’ … lovin’-old-blue-and-Michigan son of a gun,” Flair screamed before 3,500 of Jim Harbaugh’s closest friends. “Wooooo!”
Whoops. This might not be the perspective you were expecting, but it did sum up that day. It was unique and entertaining and wild as heck, as the Wolverines turned signing day into a spectacle, raising money for the ChadTough Foundation. The charity function, in itself, made it all worthwhile. But it was still a wild event, outside the box, with a stage, music and celebrity appearances.
“Jim Harbaugh and the Michigan Wolverines are putting together a class, that sources tell me, will be talked about for a long time,” ESPN’s Adam Schefter said. “We all remember the Fab Five. But this class might very well, one day, be dubbed the Fab 25. It could turn out to be that unique, that memorable, that special.”
Three years later, several of the players in this class have already left the school.
But in retrospect, it was a special class, the backbone of a 10-2 season. When Michigan played at Ohio State, 13 members of the 2016 recruiting class either started or played significant roles in the game.
But maybe not some of the guys you would have thought. And that part is the most revealing and you should keep in mind as we think about Wednesday’s start of the early signing period.
When Michigan introduced Harbaugh’s first full recruiting class, Kareem Walker was a 5-star recruit and, at one-time, the top-ranked running back in the country. It was a tremendous “get” for Harbaugh. People gushed about him and his potential, until he left Michigan, spent the 2018 season at Fort Scott Community College in Kansas and recently committed to Mississippi State.
I point this out to shed perspective on what could happen Wednesday.
At Michigan’s Signing of the Stars — between the speeches, the videos, and appearances by Tom Brady and Derek Jeter — several players were introduced, including a linebacker named Devin Bush Jr.
At that time, Bush was not considered one of the best players in Michigan’s class. He was the 44th ranked player in Florida and ranked No. 312 in the country, which did not exactly scream: “This kid is going to be an absolute stud.”
“I feel like it’s home already,” Bush told the crowd.
Just like Rashan Gary.
Gary, you might recall, was the No. 1 player in 2016. He wasn’t part of the “Signing of the Stars” because he committed during the show. Harbaugh wasn’t allowed to talk about him, because he had yet to send in his letter.
Still, Harbaugh hinted about him. “Backstage, they told me we got some really good news,” Harbaugh said, walking across a platform.
Many in the crowd had been following Gary’s announcement. They cheered, and Harbaugh gave a thumbs up, smiling.
And now, Gary is heading to the NFL.
Yes, some of these recruiting predictions turn out to be right.
But every school has highly ranked players who flame out, and instead find a standout seemingly out of nowhere and coach them up.
While Michigan was putting on a glitzy show in Ann Arbor, it was a low-key event in East Lansing. Michigan State recruited some linebacker named Joe Bachie, a 3-star who wasn’t even ranked nationally.
He was recently named All Big Ten.
Here is my official prediction about the early signing period at Michigan and MSU: Some of these kids will end up transferring. Some will sit on the bench. Some will be coached up and turn into solid college players. Some will surprise. And some will become true stars destined for the NFL.
Who will it be?
Not even the coaches know for sure.
Contact Jeff Seidel: firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter@seideljeff. To read his recent columns, go to freep.com/sports/jeff-seidel.
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