National Signing Day 2015: Looking back at the latest recruiting hauls in a special edition #DearAndy.

By Andy Staples
February 05, 2015

National Signing Day is over, and spring practice is on the horizon. No, really. Duke starts Friday. So, at this critical juncture -- and because we didn’t want it to get buried on Signing Day -- it’s time for a special Thursday edition of #DearAndy.

Here are the questions answered in the video …

• What do you think of Illinois coach Tim Beckman’s request that the local media be more positive in order to help the Illini?

• Should there be penalties for coaches who pull the grayshirt bait-and-switch just before National Signing Day?

• What does Al Golden have to do to keep his job at Miami?

• What was my favorite moment from National Signing Day?

Read on for more questions and answers …

From @Jon_Star: Michigan's recruiting classes have had fewer than 20 players in each of the last two years. Just disappointing or yiiiikes?

It’s almost as if the Wolverines had a coach on the hot seat in 2014 and a new coach with a little more than a month to fill a class in ’15. Oh, wait. That’s exactly what happened. Neither situation is ideal for recruiting purposes. Now add in the fact that Brady Hoke’s staff brought in a combined 52 players in the ’12 and ’13 classes. The Big Ten has the strictest rules against oversigning; schools may never go more than three over the 85-scholarship limit -- even if they expect to lose more than three to attrition. Michigan’s ’14 and ’15 classes were never going to be huge.

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Jim Harbaugh left Wednesday with a few scholarships open, and that’s understandable. He could use them on transfers like former Houston quarterback John O’Korn, who tweeted on Thursday that he was headed to Ann Arbor. Harbaugh can also pocket a few of those scholarships for early enrollees in the class of 2016. He is already recruiting those players, and is going to have a better chance at getting the ones he wants once he has time to build relationships. The first recruiting class is always a scramble, and Harbaugh faced a steep climb with the members of the ’15 class. Since Hoke was a fired coach walking for much of last season, many of the top recruits who normally might’ve considered Michigan wrote off the program because they didn’t know who would replace Hoke. By the time Harbaugh got hired in late December, most players’ decisions were made.

Given Harbaugh’s history of winning, it shouldn’t be difficult to get 2016 prospects interested. It makes sense that he wouldn’t use every available scholarship now.

From @JeffFarmer32: Did you check out that FiveThirtyEight article on teams making the most of their recruits? If so, what'd you think of the results?

I did read Stephen Pettigrew’s analysis of how successful teams are relative to their recruiting rankings, and I thought it was excellent. The 2005-14 chart (the second one) is something athletic directors should consult as they decide whether to keep their current coach or as they search for a new one.

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Recruiting rankings, while not always accurate regarding individual players, are reliable predictors of team success. Anecdotal and empirical evidence seem to agree on this point. So why would Pettigrew’s chart be helpful for a hiring or (possibly) firing AD? That AD can adjust for the relevant years and see which coaches make the most of their players. The AD would need context, of course. Alabama isn’t too far right of the “expected performance” line, but since the Crimson Tide routinely haul in the nation’s top-ranked class, moving right of the Y-axis at all is an achievement.

A coach whose teams routinely outperform their recruiting rankings would be a safer bet at a name-brand school that can routinely reel in top recruiting classes. Also, such a coach would be perfect for a school that must fight dragons within its own division. This is why Arkansas athletic director Jeff Long is so happy with his decision to hire Bret Bielema, who deserves the most credit for Wisconsin’s place atop that second chart and who took over a dumpster fire in Fayetteville and now has the Razorbacks on the rise in the SEC West. Arkansas is never going to recruit like Alabama, Auburn and LSU, so the Razorbacks need a coach who can make recruits overachieve.

Conversely, a name-brand program that brings in top-10 classes and doesn’t get commensurate results should consider a change. That’s what Michigan did, and it’s part of the reason the Wolverines had such a small recruiting class this year.

From @ChristophersZen: With no QB recruited this year, does Will Grier seem to have a shot at QB for the Gators in 2015?

Grier, the redshirt freshman from Davidson, N.C., should get plenty of reps this spring as Jim McElwain tries to figure out who should lead his offense. Fellow class of 2014 signee Treon Harris finished last year as Florida’s starter, but that doesn’t guarantee him the job. Grier pledged to then-offensive coordinator Brent Pease in December '12, but that was two schemes ago. McElwain has proven effective at building his offense around the parts he has, but after striking out trying to flip Bradenton (Fla.) IMG Academy quarterback Deondre Francois away from Florida State, he might still want to add another arm to the mix. He’d have to do that on the graduate transfer market, which could contain two very intriguing names. However, since neither Ohio State’s Braxton Miller (shoulder rehab) nor Notre Dame’s Everett Golson (can’t graduate until this spring) are available in the spring, any school that wants either would have to wait until the summer.

From @AuburnElvis: I’ve heard something about digitally signed documents replacing faxed NLIs. Is that just emailed PDF forms?

You heard correctly. Schools are allowed to take scanned copies of the National Letter of Intent. They are just as valid as faxed copies. But many football programs still prefer the fax. Perhaps, like Jimmy Fallon, they remain nostalgic for the 1990s.

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