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Thursday, February 08, 2007

McKnight is no guaranteed star

For those LSU fans disheartened that superstar in-state recruit Joe McKnight decided to take his considerable talents to Southern Cal, remember this: recruiting high school kids is one of the biggest crapshoots there is.

A decade ago in Texas, there was a 6-foot-5 kid who could run and throw unlike any kid before him. He was the precursor to Vince Young. In fact, after Nebraska won one of its titles in the mid-90s, then-coach Tom Osborne called him from the postgame celebration and invited him on up to Lincoln. I didn't see how he could fail.

Odell James, the nation's top-ranked multipurpose QB in 1996, decided to go to Baylor (I know, inexplicable, right?) Anyway, Odell could never pick up the offense, floundered at QB, battled injuries and finished his career as a safety. He now coaches middle-schoolers in Central Texas.

McKnight looks great against other high school kids, at least those he played against in the Louisiana 2A ranks. Moderately talented prepsters all do. There's probably thousands of kids who tore up the turf all over the country. And at every college around the country today, most coaches are lauding their talent haul and fans are excited about the day one of those kids runs for 150 yards against the big rival in 2009.

But it doesn't always happen. In fact, it rarely happens. Most kids never live up to those expectations. We're always reminded of this when we take a look back at recruiting classes, five years after the fact.

If you don't believe me, look at this quote about one of LSU's top recruits from 1996, the same year Odell James captivated college coaches and boosters around the country:

"He'll be playing on Sunday afternoons someday," an opposing coach said. "I mean, he is a great back and good things will happen for that kid."

I wonder what ever happened to that Cecil Collins kid?


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