Andrew: I have a very different sort of roundtable question this week. It starts with a hypothetical. You’re a rising senior playing college football in state of Washington. You’re an outstanding wide receiver- rated four stars and in the national top 100 by all the recruiting rankings. You have offers from every school you’d want to attend. Which schools are getting your official visits and why?
I’m stipulating two things for the purposes of this thought exercise- 1) We are not taking NIL deals into account because we have no idea who is paying what. It’s all rumor and innuendo at this point. 2) You can make educated guesses about how you would get along with the coaches, but we don’t have any actual information on how the relationship with a particular coaching staff would develop.
Gabey: Ooh I like this one.
I think I’d take an OV to Simon Fraser as the one NCAA school in Canada and commit on the spot. Of course I’d have to live in that brutalist concrete hellhole of a campus (UBC would never) but ya know what that’s a compromise ya girl’s willing to make. Dominate D2 and get some of that sweet sweet healthcare.
Max: If I’m a rising senior it means I’m probably 17. Let’s say I really started to get into football around age 7-8. In 2012 the Seahawks went 11-5 in Russell Wilson’s rookie season. The next year they won the Super Bowl. Seahawks fandom secured in the Pro ranks.
Now for college. In 2011 UW went 7-6 (5-4) although 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. Some fun times but nothing to completely capture my attention unless I grew up in a UW alumni household. We turn south to Eugene and Oregon goes 12-2 with a Rose Bowl win, 12-1 with a Fiesta Bowl win, and 11-2 with an Alamo Bowl win over that stretch. Then the next year Mariota wins the Heisman. Throw in the uniforms and the innovation and it’s not a surprise if I watched more games and rooted harder for Oregon in my formative years (and yes, I just threw up in my mouth a little).
Let’s look around nationally a bit now. You specified wide receiver and there’s no question that Ohio State has become the kings of WR recruiting. Brian Hartline is the hottest assistant coach in the country. There have been a few recent local guys to go to there at that position. I’m almost certainly giving them a visit. Right behind them has been Alabama who have pumped out recent 1st round picks and have indisputably the greatest head coach of the modern era. I’m taking a visit to Bama. Then we have USC with their pedigree producing top WR draft picks plus the success Lincoln Riley had at Oklahoma with his offense. Throw in everything else L.A has to offer for a young hot-blooded teenager and I’m checking out USC as well.
Now comes the question. Do I pull the same routine some of the other local guys have done saying that I don’t need to take an official visit to UW since I can drive there? In this circumstance and specifically at receiver since I think Jamarcus Shephard has the best track record of any of the assistants currently on staff I’ll say the last one goes to UW. However if staying local isn’t a priority for me at all then Notre Dame, Texas, Miami, and Georgia are all under consideration for that last spot. And I know you said ignore NIL but there’s always Texas A&M lurking...
Kirk: This is a fun exercise because there’s a fair amount of hindsight in play. How I think now as a middle-aged guy is not necessarily how I looked at things as a high school kid. I’d like to think my priorities wouldn’t have been all that much different, but who knows? I do shudder to think about whether I’d have been a die-hard Husky fan had I been born in the 2003-2005 timeframe that current recruits come from. Given the upward trend with Sark through Petersen happening at a critical time in my youth, I’d like to think so, but you never know. With that said, my priorities (not necessarily in order) would be:
· development of me as a WR
· comfort level with the coaches
· how well I fit in with the team
· academics - which school will best set me up for personal success after my football days are done?
With those in mind, I think my five official visits would be:
· Ohio State: Their track record of churning out WR talent is hard to beat and there’s probably a good reason Brian Hartline is able to attract so much talent. The downsides would be whether there’s too much talent there and if I could get enough snaps to really develop my game. And I don’t know how much I’d like Columbus (I honestly don’t know, I’ve never been there).
· USC: It’s hard not to be impressed with the offenses that Lincoln Riley has fielded and I would feel confident that the Trojans will be a place where WR can (continue to) shine on a national stage. While I don’t want to live in L.A. 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 questioning that Nick Saban is the GOAT, and if I want to prepare myself for NFL success, he’s probably as good as it gets. On the downside I don’t know that an Alabama degree does a whole lot for me after football, and I question how well I’d fit in down in Tuscaloosa.
· Stanford: The value of that degree is enormous, but maybe even more important is just being in that environment around that level of standout students. I’m also a big, big fan of the Bay Area and have relatives there, so that’s a big plus. On the downside, the Cardinal have slumped back to mediocrity in recent years and I’m not sure that 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 it being home and the UW providing a high-level education is hard to beat. Add in that DeBoer’s offense sure looks like one that should be WR-friendly and the track record of Shephard is impressive. I’d be open to the other four schools to change my mind - and I suppose it’s possible that I’d just “click” more with a different staff and team - but there’s a 99% chance I use the other visits to hype up committing to Washington instead (“Yeah, these other big-time programs wanted me but I still chose Washington”).
Andrew: I think about this question from time to time regarding my own college decision and how differently I would think about things now than I did when I was 16 or 17. For full disclosure, I grew up in the Midwest and did not attend UW for undergrad; I went to a private school on the east coast without a competitive football program. Learning what I did from that experience and ultimately going to UW for grad school, I would put more emphasis on picking a desirable location and local culture and less emphasis on the prestige of the name brand. If I were a football player, I would want to play at a competitive school with a solid coaching staff and a chance to compete for conference titles- a smooth path to the CFP wouldn’t be a necessity. With that in mind, my top five would look something like this:
· UW. In this exercise, the Dawgs are the hometown 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 especially exciting. UW fits the academic profile I would want- lots of outstanding programs and opportunities to get a more general education before specializing later. On the field, the team seems poised to compete for whatever conference it will be in over the next four years and I can develop into an NFL draft pick with the right coaching and exposure.
· USC. Kirk and Max nailed it and USC has only become more attractive due to its conference change since we started this dialogue. LA might be the most desirable place to go to college given the combination of weather, culture, and opportunities. It’s an excellent academic institution that will open many doors in and out of sports. The roster probably isn’t a national contender today, but I have faith that it will get to that level during my time at the school.
· Texas. Say what you will about Sark’s on-field resume as a head coach, but he seems to be setting himself up to reach new heights with success on the recruiting trail. The Longhorns also have as many resources for the football team as any program in the country. Again, the academics are outstanding even without the private, liberal arts school prestige. While I’m not a big fan of the state of Texas in general, Austin is an island of great culture in the giant state. The live music, the BBQ, the tacos… I might have to switch to TE or OL with the food I’d be eating.
· UCLA. There’s a gap between 3 and 4 on my list. The step down from Lincoln Riley to Chip Kelly is meaningful. The competitive descent from the Trojans to the Bruins is maybe even bigger. On the other hand, UCLA has fielded some excellent offenses in the last few years, so my skillset should have an opportunity to thrive. UCLA is among the best public universities in the country, and the Westwood/Brentwood area is a big advantage over USC’s neighborhood. It wouldn’t start on the top of my list, but if the recruiting process went well, I would have no problem landing here.
· Stanford. The fifth choice was the most difficult. Maybe I picked four Pac-12 schools, maybe I picked zero. Who knows. Stanford has been more or a less a doormat in recent years. It seems like the roster is good enough to get back to a higher level of competitiveness, but I would have to see it on the field for them to vault near the top. They get 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 getting back to contention is very plausible.
Just missed: Cal- see Stanford, but with even less recent success. Miami- some of the same draws as UT, but I enjoy the city less and it’s even further away. North Carolina- cool market, fun program, would make the top 5 if it was closer. Michigan- for personal reasons, the only really good Big 10 school I don’t hate, and Ann Arbor is cool. Colorado- awesome campus, just not good enough.
Notably absent: aOSU- Columbus sucks and I hate the school. SEC- Texas would technically be in the SEC eventually, but given the markets and cultures for most of the conference, it’s not a fit for me. Oregon- lol, no.