Oh, hey there. How've you been? It's been a while. How's the wife and kids? How's the job (or job search)? Me, it's been a pretty busy couple of weeks. The first was quite stressful, involving 5 finals in a 51-hour stretch between Tuesday morning and Thursday morning, and from there I've been seeing family and doing Christmas shopping and generally keeping myself busy. But now Christmas has come and gone, and we're back to business as usual. We've got some great Bowl-game preview coverage coming up for you as we lead up to the Bowl game next Monday. But for now, there's been something nagging at me that I want to talk about for a minute...
On January 7th, Notre Dame takes on Alabama in Miami for the National Championship. (If you think you know where this is going already, you'd be surprised. Keep reading.) This morning in my hotel, I went downstairs for breakfast and found a USA Today on the table, and so naturally I immediately flipped to the sports section. On it, there was an ad for an article about Notre Dame's defensive line, and how it's been dominant but has its work cut out for them in this game. The main attraction was Notre Dame's star defensive end, who's racked up 12 sacks so far this season and has generally been creating havoc for every offensive line he's gone up against thus far. He's been a force that most have had trouble stopping. His name? Stephon Tuitt.
Oh, that name sounds familiar, Tech fans? Here's why: When Tuitt was being recruited, he committed first to Notre Dame, before flipping to Georgia Tech. Jackets fans were elated to have a guy who looked as dominant as he did. But what happened a day later? He flipped back to Notre Dame, because although he wanted to go to Tech, his mother wanted him to play in South Bend.
Now, this is a slightly different situation from what I'm about to talk about, but it ties in because it's just another player that could have been a program-changer at Tech, only to have been swept away to another school.
In Paul Johnson's time at Tech, our staff has been great at identifying talent on their own, regardless of what other recruiting services might say. Guys like Travin Henry were completely unknown until about a week before Signing Day, and once the services were able to see some film, they rated him as a 3-star recruit. This year, we've got Travis Custis and JuMichael Ramos. Here's a couple of kids who weren't really opening any major eyes before their senior year, yet Tech coaches saw a ton of potential and recruited them, scoring their commitment. Now, other schools around the area have seen their senior seasons and have missed out on a few of their own recruits, and are making attempts to "poach" these guys from us. It bothers me that Tech is essentially being punished for such talent evaluation, and victimized by schools who have gone all-in on prospects that they ran a high risk of missing out on.
I have to wonder how different our program would be if we were allowed to sign these prospects at a moment's notice, to where they would not have the opportunity to even listen to other schools. Guys like Dalvin Tomlinson last year, who did not even have the opportunity to commit to Alabama until days before National Signing Day, would have been on the Flats were he ready to commit in December. Tech fans have a habit of giving Coach Johnson and his staff a bunch of grief over not being able to lock down these guys that commit early on, when the system is really designed to work against us. To be honest, our coaching staff has done a magnificent job of recruiting, but have fallen victim to schools that relentlessly recruit against us, swooping in at the last minute, talking crap about our school and program, and essentially working as thieves, taking what we've earned.
Basically, Tech fans, when we look at our team, and wonder why we don't have more talent than we do, we need not only consider the work of our staff in bringing in such talent, but also the system that they have to operate within, that's designed to be taken advantage of and which works against us year-in and year-out. Tech may never return to the prominence it's seen in the past without a change in this system, and I don't know that we have a whole lot of reason to think it'll change any time soon.
Am I blaming the system too much here, readers? Are the coaches more to blame? Are we really victims of the system as much as I'm making us out to be? I want to hear your feedback.