Flyover Country: Star Searching in the PAC-12 North
It’s that time of year again. The coaches of the PAC-12 North, the only division in the conference that matters until further notice, have scoured the nation looking to woo the highest rated prospects they can possibly sign. The fan bases of each program generally break into two factions every February–positive and negative. It’s either “We’ll be fine no matter what!” versus “This program is a flaming wreck unless we get more stars onboard!”
Of course, this debate is much more subdued amongst Ducks fans. Most realize that the upside to being called a “system offense” or a “gimmick” is that there is in fact a proven offensive system in place since 2007 that has worked to lethal effect with a variety of personnel featuring wildly different skill sets and experience.
Then there are fans I have taken to calling Turduckens. Yes, we have some fans on the internet who are the human equivalent of boneless Ducks, stuffed with a boneless chicken, with the exterior of a boneless turkey. They happen to lack guts too. You may have seen them getting water kneed a fortnight ago when Tampa Bay came a-courting. You certainly wouldn’t want these “guys” having your back in a tough situation. I make only one demand of a Ducks fan—don’t be a Turducken about your own program. It’s a pretty easy standard to meet.
Without further adieu, let’s compare each PAC-12 North’s 2012 team recruiting vibes with their spiritual star on Hollywood’s Walk of Fame.
See that symbol below the name? Donald earned his place with a career in movies. It took the University of Oregon to make him something more–a multimedia sensation simply known nationwide as “The Duck.”
That coast to coast presence is making for good returns in recruiting as the Ducks close in on a star studded class that draws from a pool of geographically spread high school football players. Will we land everyone we want? No, but then again, we’ve been coaching up who we get better than just about everyone in the nation.
A nice story developing out of Palo Alto this off season is one of how Stanford really isn’t like everyone else playing major college football. All hoi polloi institutions make more offers relative to their spots available to ensure they can fill their classes. Non-brainiac schools will tell a marginal football commit that his offer may be pulled or they may be asked to grayshirt if a higher rated commit comes along in a reasonable time-frame. Not Stanford. If you are only a two star commit, but you have a 4.0 GPA and a 26 on the ACT (85th percentile), they let their admissions department do their dirty work for them and deny you admission to their hallowed halls while admitting your more athletically inclined classmates with lesser academic credentials.
It’s not just anywhere that an actual scholar-athlete can get treated like a junior college commit with too many PE credits on his transcript. However, what can one say in criticism of the Cardinal? They are the only ones who might know who or what their Hollywood star refers to without googling it.
You were breaking into the modern scene in the 70s with your feel good story. You started becoming a sensation in the 80s but there was something disturbing about you, and it wasn’t just your preference for purple. In the early 90s you were on top of the world—until legal troubles involving minors derailed you. Your last hit was in 2001, when anyone sane thought you were a criminal despite your denials and cries of “CONSPIRACY!”
Now? You’re dead, walked over by anyone with a pulse, but remembered by delusional fans. The unkindest cut of all? This year’s crop of the perennially overrated King County All Stars thinks you and your legacy are uncool despite the extreme attempts of your fans and free spending athletics director to force your much filmed corpse to remain relevant. At least Never Neverland is undergoing a facelift.
Your fans call you a West Coast power–without a hint of irony. You’re irrepressible. Unsinkable. Yet suddenly you’re so calamitous that some rats have left the ship after the Captain hit the iceberg some time ago? That’s right, no one is coming forward to buy out the Captain’s ridiculous contract so you while away the time by rearranging the deck chairs and talking about disintegrating #gangs.
But hey, look at the ship’s shiny new gym, fresh paint, and recently polished bright work. Ignore the drift. And the listing. And the deathly kiss of icy water lapping through your Huaraches. . . .Maybe you’ll get lucky and freeze to death before having to watch Zach Maynard attempt quarterbacking again.
Just as in James Cameron’s epic, everyone already knows the ship sinks. What every red blooded male in America really wants to know in the meanwhile is who’s posing as your irresistible Kate Winslet now that Mr. X-Box has taken his Lake Washington boat ride away from your disaster?
5. Washington State
Who are the Cougs? What is their identity? Does anyone even care? Well they went out and bought themselves a higher profile, with
Errol Flynn Mike Leach.
Now they too are full out swashbucklers, splendidly dressed in crimson and gray. Not that there’s anything wrong with that. Will it matter for their recruiting list? It could, if you see them signing 13 recruits who are wide receivers.
6. Oregon State* (*University)
Let’s get something straight–the beavises don’t care about star ratings for their recruits–until they go ga-ga over getting just one five star recruit this silly season, one who will supposedly change the course of beavis offensive line futility forever.
As an added bonus, for the second year in a row the beavis coaches have had an extra month to hone some pitch about the virtues of animal husbandry, trying to look good in orange, how great it is to play before non-sell out crowds, to rarely be on TV, or how to spin away a loss to Sacramento State. The blank star, for movie achievement no less, really fits at Buster Douglas College as they spent yet another year flopping on and off screen.
Will the silly season of signing really save anyone’s 2012 football season today? It’s exceedingly unlikely. That said, never forget that all of these ranking stars are handed out to boys who have never played a down of Pac-12 football. Some will disappoint and some you don’t expect to contribute much will be a revelation. Whatever happens when the latest signees can be justly evaluated, if you are a Ducks fan, don’t be a Turducken down the road. Everyone we signed this year will come to Eugene in good faith—even those who do not pan out. It’s never their fault that recruiting is inexact.