The fine folks at the U.S. Army All-American Bowl recently shipped over a list of the 422 nominees for the annual all-star game. During the next few months, game organizers will whittle the list into the two teams that will play at San Antonio's Alamo Dome on Jan. 9. But it's more than just an honor to be nominated. These players are providing a valuable research opportunity.
When the list arrived in spreadsheet form, I knew it was time to crunch some numbers. The list allowed me to further test the hypothesis put forth in January's recruit mapping project -- that a college football program's location plays as much or more of a role in that program's success or failure than the coach, facilities or tradition.
This list differs from the January list, which compiled all the BCS-conference signees from 2004-08, because that list included signees from schools that wouldn't have a chance of landing the players on this list. For 10 years, the Army game has targeted the best players in the nation. Though some of these 422 nominees will wind up playing in ESPN's competing game -- and though the Palmer (Alaska) High Moose managed an unusually high three nominees -- most of the big names in the Class of 2010 are on the list.
The five-year data were telling, but this helps provide an even clearer picture of the advantage certain schools enjoy when compiling talent. The five-year data examined every BCS-conference signee. These nominees are some of the nation's very best. We know their geographic distribution isn't a quirk, because it's similar to the picture painted by five years' worth of signees. (Check out the
Meanwhile, Notre Dame recruits nationally, but the Fighting Irish might want to consider shopping for a little more local produce. Though only five nominees hail from Indiana, 25 live within 200 miles of South Bend and 47 live within 300 miles of those delicious C.J.'s Pub burgers the Domers love so much. Though higher academic standards than most and a cluster of nearby BCS-conference competitors make it tougher for the Fighting Irish to snag the 25 who live near South Bend than it is for, say, Texas to grab any of the 40 who live within 200 miles of Austin, Notre Dame has a talent base at its disposal.
Nebraska is another matter entirely. The program that fielded the baddest team in the universe just 14 years ago has to work exponentially harder than its peers to find players. We illustrated that pretty painfully in the January story, but coach
So should Pelini lead the Cornhuskers to 10 wins this season, he and his staff would deserve more credit than if, say, Shannon's Hurricanes rejoined the double-digit win club. Some teams just have it easier than others.
By the way, if today's map of ultra-premium recruits intrigued you, prepare to be rendered completely worthless for the rest of the day.
Don't be so hard on Tennessee coach
Remember, these coaches are hypercompetitive people who devote a huge chunk of their professional lives to recruiting high school stars. When they get a commitment, they probably want to shout it from the rooftops, but the NCAA forbids that. It was only a matter of time before someone's excitement got the better of his thumbs.
Coaches should take a lesson from Kentucky basketball coach