On this National Signing Day college football fans are obsessed over top 10 classes, late flips and decommits and the transfer portal. Things were a bit different years ago when it came to Signing Day.
Back then we didn't have all day coverage of who signed where. There were no press conferences televised by ESPN with the hat shell game. Heck, 25 years ago fans were still calling 900-toll lines to listen to a recording of who their favorite team was signing.
The few covering recruiting seemed like they had the recipe for the secret sauce on the Big Mac and getting their information was not an easy thing to do. There was no live scoreboard of ranking classes online. You couldn't compare your team's class to others in the conference. You waited for the next day grades the so-called experts posted. We later found out most of the people covering college football recruiting were getting paid to pump up a school's class or paid assistant coaches for information about where players were signing and in some cases what players were getting to sign.
Today's it's a different world with live rankings and NIL value and the money is flowing and college football recruiting has become big business.
In 2002, Tom Lemming was one of the recruiting experts and one of the few national people whose rankings mattered to the sport. That season Lemming had Ben Olson as the number one player in the country. Olson played high school football in California and chose BYU. The choice of BYU was surprising to many because Olson redshirted his freshman season and served a two-year Mormon mission. He then transferred(pre-portal) to UCLA and played behind Drew Olson, no relation. He started in 2006 but got hurt midway through the season and injuries plagued him 2007 and 2008 and he never lived up to the hype of the number one ranked player in the class of 2002.
That class had Maurice Clarett ranked second, FSU's Lorenzo Booker was third and Vince Young was fourth.
Florida landed what they thought was a game-changing quarterback in Tallahassee Lincoln's Gavin Dickey. He threw 15 total passes in three seasons.
Orlando's Ryan Moore, who starred at Dr. Phillips, was a big wide receiver signing with Miami. He caught 94 passes over five seasons but injuries limited his production.
Buster Davis was a big linebacker recruit for FSU and injuries limited his career to two seasons. It was enough to make him a third round pick of the Detroit Lions in the 2007 draft.
The interesting thing about Lemming's top 100 for 2002 is that it was not a great class as far as players who went on to the NFL. In fact, it is quite underwhelming when you look at the names and the lack of NFL success.
Here is Lemming's top 100 from 2002: https://www.espn.com/recruiting/s/2001/1220/1299103.html
There are other years where the top 100 is flooded with all-Americans and players who went on to have Hall of Fame careers in the NFL. But 2002 is a reminder that the system is not perfect. There will be 5-star recruits today who become busts and likely cost some collective a lot of money and there will be plenty of two and three star recruits that become very good college players and NFL players.
So enjoy today if you love recruiting and know your coach will spin today's class as one where they got everyone they wanted and likely spent far more to get it than they ever thought.
Final note: Back in 1906, the Intercollegiate Athletic Association, the original name for the NCAA, published its first manual. The recruiting rules included bylaws that said schools were not allowed to have “offerings of inducements to players to enter Colleges or Universities because of their athletic abilities."