It happens multiple times a year. Maybe it’s midway through the college football season, when an early Heisman favorite emerges who no one was really talking about before. Maybe it’s during the Super Bowl, when sportswriters churn up all sorts of fun facts about the two teams featured in the big game. Or maybe it’s just after National Signing Day, when embarrassingly-optimistic fellow Notre Dame fans try to talk me into being excited about the latest slew of 3-star Irish signees.
Without fail, people will try to convince you that the “stars” that college football recruits are rated with do not matter. They’ll trot out the Khalil Macks and Will Fullers of the world as prime examples, when in reality these guys should be praised even more than they are, because making the jump from unknown recruit to 1st round pick is extraordinary.
It’s been proven, time and again, that a player’s chances of going pro increase substantially when they’re a 5-star, all-world, blue-chip recruit as opposed to a “potential diamond in the rough” 3-star. And the 2017 NFL Draft has given us another year of data — this time record-breaking data — to show us that.
TEN former 5-star recruits, as rated by 247Sports Composite rankings, were selected in just the first round of the NFL Draft last Thursday. That’s nearly 1/3 of the first round picks. The article goes on to list the past ten years or so of 1st-rounders who are 5-stars, and my goodness it’s like a who’s who of college football powerhouses cranking these guys out. These players are coming from perennial College Football Playoff contenders like Alabama, Florida State, LSU, Clemson, Stanford, USC, Michigan, etc.
Still think Notre Dame can win big like those programs without bringing in top-flight recruits? Still think stars don’t matter?
Look, like a lot of coaches, Brian Kelly has overseen some lower-rated guys transforming into stars. No one is denying that. But that happens at all of these other programs too.
So, what’s the big difference, between, say, national champion Clemson and 4-8 Notre Dame? Excluding coaching ability, that difference is probably the presence of 5-stars like the Tigers’ Christian Wilkins, Deon Cain, Mitch Hyatt, Dexter Lawrence, etc.
Otherwise, Clemson’s talent is equal to or worse than Notre Dame’s. However, their elite talent on both sides of the ball is the difference-maker, and Notre Dame will not even compete for a championship without at least a few guys like that playing at the same time. Anyone who thinks otherwise is fooling themselves.
Speaking of Things You Might Argue With...
Everyone got all uppity and holier-than-thou when players like Christian McCaffrey and Leonard Fournette skipped their meaningless college bowl games to ensure good health for their burgeoning NFL careers. Everyone said it reflected poorly on them, and was completely wrong of them to “forsake” their “brothers” and “quit” on their teams.
That was always complete bullshit, but it became clear that those guys made the right personal decisions when the Jacksonville Jaguars and Carolina Panthers made Fournette and McCaffrey the 4th and 8th overall picks in the draft, respectively.
Pete Thamel wrote about this potential “issue” for college football, and what coaches think of the growing trend of protecting your own personal health to ensure you don’t lose tons of money from a freak injury in a pointless bowl game (e.g. Jaylon Smith, Jake Butt, etc.).
My only thought: these kids owe their college teams absolutely nothing except what they’ve already given them, and they have as much right as any other college kid to leave school responsibilities behind to pursue their dream career.
In the same vein, Gary Parrish wrote a great piece about early declarations in college basketball that articulates my feelings on these kinds of things: essentially, stop getting bent out of shape about college kids making huge life decisions. Their lives and careers and happiness are much more important than your fandom of a sports team, especially when their decision to leave your sports team is: a. not necessarily permanent (like the bunches of NBA draft entrants who will pull out and return to school), and b. almost certain to lead them to an excessively lucrative career playing a game they love.
Time to Get Off Your Soapbox, Pat. Show Me Some Fun Stories, You Idiot
Did someone say, “Show me Jim Harbaugh singing opera and reciting lines from Gladiator while awkwardly sticking his face into a Gladiator cardboard cutout”????
Jim Harbaugh singing Ave Maria. pic.twitter.com/do8r8mhqfg— Kyle Rowland (@KyleRowland) April 28, 2017
Harbaugh reciting Gladiator (assist from Sarah) pic.twitter.com/JUyGHWH5v5— angelique (@chengelis) April 28, 2017
I know he’s batshit insane and he coaches the worst (read: most unlikable, minus obvious exceptions like Penn State, Baylor, etc.) Goddamn football program in the country. But damnit, I legitimately love Jim Harbaugh and would be SO GODDAMN PSYCHED if he were ND’s coach.
Daelin Hayes, Spring Practice All-American
In other non-“Pat gets preachy” news, Bleacher Report put out a list of the 2017 All-Spring Practice team, and it features Notre Dame’s own Daelin Hayes.
I’ve gotta assume, though, that his inclusion means he will have fans excited now, only to not make much of an impact in the fall.
PLEASE PROVE ME WRONG, DAELIN!
VJ Beachem Makes Official NBA Combine List
VJ Beachem, who was an alternate invite along with a few other big-time college names, has officially made the NBA Combine list.
Sources: VJ Beachem, Nigel Hayes, Peter Jok, Derrick Walton and Chris Boucher are alternate invites who made official NBA Combine list.— Shams Charania (@ShamsCharania) May 3, 2017
Beachem’s streaky nature and lack of consistent defensive effort certainly do not bode well for his NBA prospects, but anyone who’s watched him over the past two seasons cannot deny that when he’s on, he’s an absolute offensive force who can score from anywhere. If he can replicate that effort on a much more consistent basis, I could see Beachem finding a spot on an NBA roster as an offensive punch off of the bench.
Mike Brey is Making Some Moves, My Friends
Finally, in Notre Dame basketball news, Mike Brey appears to working hard on the recruiting trail. One of the Irish’s most-wanted targets in the 2018 class, Gonzaga Prep (D.C.) guard Prentiss Hubb, is down to just four schools (Notre Dame, Maryland, Virginia, and Villanova — he eliminated Kansas and Syracuse) and plans on making his decision in the next few weeks.
Hubb just took a visit to ND this past weekend after an AAU event in Indianapolis, and would be a fantastic addition to a young backcourt that already will have TJ Gibbs and DJ Harvey messin’ around back there.
In more recruiting news, UConn forward Juwan Durham, who has announced his intentions to transfer, will be visiting South Bend this Friday, per Jeff Goodman of ESPN:
UConn transfer Juwan Durham expected to visit Notre Dame this weekend, source told ESPN.— Jeff Goodman (@GoodmanESPN) May 2, 2017
The Irish have been hotly pursuing the 6’11” freshman forward, who was a 4-star recruit ranked 52nd overall in his class by ESPN.com. Even though he would have to sit out for a year due to transfer rules, this would be a HUGE get for Brey, as the Irish are already very thin down low and will lose BONZIE COLSON after this coming season, leaving a huge void in the paint. Three years of a 6’11” former top-100 recruit couldn’t hurt.