Andrew: I have a very different roundtable question this week. It starts with an assumption. You are a rising senior playing college football in Washington State. You are a four-star rated outstanding receiver and in the national top 100 by all recruiting rankings. You have offers from all the schools you would like to attend. Which schools receive your official visits and why?
I’ll point out two things for the purposes of this thought exercise: 1) We don’t consider NIL transactions because we have no idea who is paying for what. These are just rumors and innuendo at this point. 2) You can make educated guesses on how you would get along with the coaches, but we have no real information on how the relationship with any particular coaching staff would develop.
Gabe: Oh, I like this one.
I think I would take an OV from Simon Fraser as the only NCAA school in Canada and commit on the spot. Sure, I should live in this brutalist concrete hellhole of a campus (UBC never would) but you know what a compromise your daughter is willing to make. Dominate D2 and get some of that sugary health.
Max: If I’m a rising senior, that means I’m probably 17 years old. Let’s say I really started getting into football around the age of 7-8. In 2012, the Seahawks went 11-5 in Russell Wilson’s rookie season. The following year, they won the Super Bowl. The Seahawks fandom has secured itself in the Pro ranks.
Now for college. In 2011, UW went 7-6 (5-4) albeit with a fun offense led by Price/Polk/K. Williams. In 2012, UW went 7-6 (5-4) with Sankey replacing Polk. In 2013, UW went 9-4 (5-4) in the new Husky Stadium. A few funny moments but nothing to completely capture my attention unless I grew up in a UW alumni home. We look south to Eugene and Oregon goes 12-2 with a Rose Bowl victory, 12-1 with a Fiesta Bowl victory and 11-2 with an Alamo Bowl victory during this streak. Then the following year, Mariota won the Heisman. Add the uniforms and innovation and it’s no surprise I was watching more games and rooting harder for Oregon in my formative years (and yes, I just threw up a little in my mouth).
Let’s look around us nationally now. You specified a wide receiver and there is no doubt that Ohio State has become the king of WR recruiting. Brian Hartline is the hottest assistant coach in the country. There have been a few recent local guys to go there for this position. I will definitely visit them. Right behind them is Alabama, which released the final 1st round picks and has unquestionably the greatest head coach of the modern era. I visit Bama. Then we have USC with their pedigree producing top WR draft picks as well as the success Lincoln Riley had in Oklahoma with his offense. Add everything LA has to offer a hot-blooded young teenager and I’m checking out USC, too.
Now comes the question. Am I doing the same routine some other local guys have been doing saying I don’t need to make an official visit to UW since I can drive there? In this circumstance and particularly at the receiver, since I think Jamarcus Shephard has the best record of any assistant currently on staff, I would say the last one goes to UW. However, if staying local is not a priority for me at all, then Notre Dame, Texas, Miami, and Georgia are all under consideration for that final spot. And I know you said ignore NIL but there’s always Texas A&M lurking…
Church: It’s a fun exercise because there’s quite a bit of hindsight involved. What I think now as a middle-aged man isn’t necessarily what I saw when I was in high school. I’d like to think my priorities wouldn’t have been so different, but who knows? I shudder at the thought of whether I would have been a die-hard Husky fan had I been born in the 2003-2005 period where the current rookies come from. Given the upward trend from Sark to Petersen occurring at a critical time in my youth, I’d like to think so, but you never know. That said, my priorities (not necessarily in order) would be:
development of me as a WR
comfort level with coaches
how well I fit into the team
· academic – which school will best prepare me for personal success once my football days are over?
With that in mind, I think my five official visits would be:
Ohio State: Their track record for producing WR talent is tough to beat and there’s probably a good reason why Brian Hartline is able to attract so much talent. The downsides would be if there was too much talent there and if I could get enough shots to really develop my game. And I don’t know how much I’d like Columbus (honestly, I don’t, I’ve never been there).
· USC: It’s hard not to be impressed with Lincoln Riley’s offenses and I would be confident that the Trojans will be a place where WR can (continue to) shine on the national stage. Although I don’t want to live in LA for the rest of my life, I think spending my college years there would have a lot of positives.
· Alabama: If any program has a better recent track record with WR than Ohio State, it’s Alabama. There’s no doubt that Nick Saban is the GOAT, and if I’m going to set myself up for NFL success, he’s probably as good as they come. On the other hand, I don’t know if a degree from Alabama does much for me after football, and I wonder if I would fit in well in Tuscaloosa.
· Stanford: The value of this degree is enormous, but perhaps even more important is just to be in this environment around this level of exceptional students. I’m also a big, big Bay Area fan and have family there, so that’s a big plus. The Cardinal, on the other hand, has fallen back into mediocrity in recent years and I’m not sure Stanford is the place for a WR to maximize his talent potential.
· Washington: There’s no way I’m not visiting. I’m a Husky through and through, and the combination of being home and UW providing a top-notch education is hard to beat. Add to that that DeBoer’s offense looks like one that should be compatible with WR and Shephard’s record is impressive. I would be open to the other four schools to change my mind – and I guess I may “click” more with different staff and team – but there is a 99% chance I will use the other tours to generate buzz committing to Washington instead (“Yeah, those other big programs wanted me but I chose Washington anyway”).
Andrew: I think about this question from time to time about my own decision in college and how much differently I would think about things now than when I was 16 or 17. For full disclosure, I grew up in the Midwest and didn’t attend UW as an undergraduate; I went to a private school on the east coast with no competitive football program. Learning what I made of this experience and ultimately going to UW for graduate school, I would focus more on choosing a desirable location and local culture and less on the brand prestige. If I were a football player, I would want to play in a competitive school with a strong coaching staff and a chance to compete for conference titles – a smooth path to CFP would not be a necessity. With that in mind, my top five would look like this:
UW. In this drill, the Dawgs are the home teams, so I already know how much I love Seattle and Western Washington. I’m excited about the direction and energy of the program with Kalen DeBoer at the helm, and the passing game looks particularly exciting. UW fits the academic profile I would like – lots of great programs and opportunities to get a more general education before specializing later. On the field, the team looks set to compete for any conference it enters in the next four years and I can become an NFL draft pick with the right training and exposure.
USC. Kirk and Max have been successful and USC has only become more attractive due to their conference change since we started this dialogue. LA might be the most desirable place to go to college given the weather, culture, and opportunity. It is an excellent academic institution that will open many doors in and out of sport. The roster probably isn’t a national contender today, but I’m confident it will hit that level while I’m in school.
Texas. Say what you will about Sark’s on-field resume as a head coach, but he appears to be gearing up to successfully reach new heights on the recruiting track. The Longhorns also have as many football team resources as any program in the country. Again, academics are exceptional even without the prestige of private liberal arts schools. Although I’m not a huge fan of the state of Texas in general, Austin is a big culture island within the giant state. Live music, barbecue, tacos… Maybe I should switch to TE or OL with the food I eat.
UCLA. There is a gap between 3 and 4 on my list. The passage from Lincoln Riley to Chip Kelly is significant. Perhaps even greater is the competitive descent from the Trojans to the Bruins. On the other hand, UCLA has fielded some great offenses over the past few years, so my skills should have the opportunity to flourish. UCLA is one of the top public universities in the country, and the Westwood/Brentwood area is a big advantage over the USC neighborhood. It wouldn’t start at the top of my list, but if the recruiting process went well, I’d have no problem landing here.
Stanford. The fifth choice was the most difficult. Maybe I picked four Pac-12 schools, maybe I picked none. Who knows. Stanford has been more or less a doormat for the past few years. It looks like the roster is good enough to get back to a higher level of competitiveness, but I should see it on the ground for them to jump near the top. They’re on the list because the Bay Area is great, it’s one of the best schools in the country, and David Shaw has enough of a track record that a return to discord is very plausible.
Nearly missed: Calsee Stanford, but with even less recent success. Miami – some of the same draws as UT, but I like the city less and it’s even further. North Carolina – cool market, fun program, would make top 5 if closer. Michigan – for personal reasons, the only really good school in the Big 10 that I don’t hate, and Ann Arbor is cool. Colorado – great campus, but not good enough.
Notably absent: aOSU- Columbus sucks and I hate school. SEC- Texas would technically end up in the SEC, but given the markets and cultures of most of the conference, it’s not for me. Oregon-lol, no.