As we close the book on a 2015 college football season which ended in spectacular fashion last night, UConn fans may be finding themselves feeling a brand new kind of feeling.
Legitimate excitement for the football team?
That's right, after a 6-6 season Bob Diaco has successfully pulled UConn Football out from the deep, dark depths it had occupied, with many key players returning and promise for an 8-9 win season across a fun home and non-conference schedule in 2016.
So what do you do during the offseason now that you care about college football?
For starters, there's National Signing Day- the occasion where college football programs officially welcome their incoming high school classes for the upcoming fall. The day is filled with fanfare, excitement, and optimism, in a very similar manner as the NFL Draft, for fans of the pro game.
Unlike the NFL Draft, there is a whole different set of factors in recruiting which determine whether or not you succeed. But very much like the NFL, it really, really helps to do well.
We have it on pretty good authority that Diaco and his staff are doing quite well on the recruiting trail. With 14 verbal commitments so far, many of which are 3-star prospects, the future is looking bright. We get to hear Bob discuss these players publicly for the first time on National Signing Day: Wednesday, February 3rd.
But Aman, do these ratings even matter? Look at [Player X], he was a 2-star prospect and became a 1st round pick!
Yes, ratings absolutely matter. The main reason so many 2 and 3-star prospects are in the NFL is because the vast majority of football players fall into that bucket. There are way more of them playing in high school and college, so there will be more in the league.
Right now 23 players have a 5-star rating on Rivals, the number of 4-star prospects hovers around 300, and there are thousands of recruits outside of that range all working to become professional football players. It stands to reason then, statistically, that a 2 or 3-star recruit can become a top-10 pick, Pro Bowler, etc. in very much the same way that an undrafted player can lead the league in rushing.
Players get overlooked, and we pay a lot of attention to the anomalies because they're such great stories, but a much higher proportion of 5 and 4-star players make it in the NFL. Furthermore, if you look at the best, most consistent winning programs in college football, you will generally see the best recruiters by the rankings in the years preceding it.
Other people much smarter than me have done very thorough work concluding that recruiting ratings do, in fact, matter. I would encourage you to check it out.
Ok, but that's at the very top. In the arena which UConn plays in, it matters less right?
I would be willing to concede this, especially given that players in UConn's geographic footprint don't exactly get the full attention of the scouting services. That isn't a complaint, it's just a reality.
That said, let me toss out a few names of 3-star prospects, according to 247 Sports and/or Rivals, in the past few UConn recruiting classes: Tyraiq Beals, Hergy Mayala, Arkeel Newsome, Jamar Summers, Ron Johnson, Vontae Diggs, Alec Bloom, Junior Joseph and Noel Thomas. There are some definite misses among three stars going back--players like Corey Jasudowich who never played a down for UConn--just as there are major contributors and future NFL Draft picks among players rated two stars or lower, but that list right there includes some of the most talented players on UConn's roster.
So give football recruiting a chance! We'll have lots of coverage on it here and also on UConn Report, where there is a ton of material you can check out right now.
How Much is Your Program Worth?
The Wall Street Journal calculated values for every college football program in the FBS earlier this week, with the results turning out nicely for UConn. Ryan Brewer, an assistant professor of finance at Purdue, calculates the total that a college football team would be worth if it could be bought and sold in the open market like a professional franchise.
Husky Football finished 61st in the country, coming in just ahead of Boston College, Pittsburgh, West Virginia, Louisville, Boise State, Rutgers, and Vanderbilt. Mmmm, that is tasty. UConn also finished well ahead of Duke, Wake Forest, Cincinnati and Houston. In the American, only Central and South Florida are ranked ahead of UConn, coming in at 58th and 59th, respectively.
So UConn is an awesome candidate for a power conference, right? Well, we already knew that but it's definitely nice to see on (a news)paper('s website).
Reports on conference championship game deregulation vote (aka will the Big 12 have to expand?)
SB Nation's Matt Brown reported yesterday that, contrary to rumblings from earlier, the Big 12 is likely going to be allowed to hold a conference championship game without having the required 12 members to do so. He added, perhaps most damningly for anyone hoping for expansion, that "multiple sources have told SB Nation that forcing a conference to expand is not a goal of any pending legislation."
This would obviously be a big blow to UConn's immediate hopes for a "power five" invite, as many thought it had a chance to get picked up. But it also may be a blessing in disguise.
If the Big 12 did expand, and UConn was not one of the schools selected, it would leave Husky athletics in a weakened American conference. That would be the worst-case scenario. No expansion, no worst-case scenario. So that's good!
Warde Manuel, who will be voting on behalf of the American Athletic Conference, will have a very difficult decision to make. He'll want to know where UConn stands relative to expansion before placing his vote, as expansion is almost definitely a bad thing for the conference, and maybe UConn in the scenario outlined above, but it could also be the life raft UConn's athletic department needs.
Tulsa game watch in New Haven
The UConn Alumni Association has been doing a better job of holding game watches in an effort to improve its presence and alumni engagement regionally. Yours truly is part of helping that effort in the New Haven area, where there will be a gathering for the next UConn Men's Basketball game at Tulsa on Thursday at Anna Liffey's.
The bar, which comes highly recommended, is going to have great food and drink specials, plus you get a chance to meet the manager of The UConn Blog! What more could you ask for? Tip-off will be at 7 p.m., see you there.