For years, there’s been this notion of a “must get recruit.” You know the kid: a 5-star player at a position of need usually from a local area to a specific school who would help the team be better on the field immediately. Rivals Recruiting Analyst Rob Cassidy recently published this piece, debating 5 of Florida’s “must get” recruits for various teams:
A look at five must-get Florida prospects for five different programs in the state and beyond. https://t.co/hnrMNiiwNj— Rob Cassidy (@Cassidy_Rob) July 12, 2018
This is also a frequent trope of fans when they’re discussing recruiting. I could find examples for Miami since, yanno, I’m a Miami blogger, but the same, or similar, examples exist in every fanbase every year.
And, for years, I’ve been steadfast in my belief that there is no such thing.
It's a loss, sure. But, there's no such thing as a "must have" recruit, and we can still have a great WR class without Smith in it.— StateOfTheU.com (@TheStateOfTheU) April 30, 2016
"Must get" is such an overrated notion what with the immense talent pool from which #Canes recruit— Cam Underwood (@UnderwoodSports) April 27, 2016
Just saying, no single player is a "must get". #Canes can and will survive with or without any particular individual— Cam Underwood (@UnderwoodSports) April 27, 2016
To be fair, at one time I was a “must get” prophet. But, I’ve seen the error of my ways.
The problem with the notion of a player, ANY PLAYER, being “must get” is that there will always be other players. There will be another 6’5” WR. There will be another QB. There will be another DT. There will be another everything. Even in the same recruiting class, there are other players who teams can get if they don’t get preferred target No. 1 to sign with their team. No, they might not all be generational talents from the local area, but other players exist in every class, and they will in subsequent classes as well.
For a specific example, let’s look back to Miami’s 2017 recruiting class. People said that 5-star WR Jerry Jeudy was a “must get.” Miami didn’t get him. Instead, they got 4-star speedster Jeff Thomas, who wound up starting as a freshman and is in line for a huge role on the offense this year and into the future. Was it a loss to not get Jeudy? Yes. Was Miami able to find another player of great skill to replace him? Yes.
Sure, there are local vs out of state considerations between Jeudy and Thomas — it’s always preferable to lock down great local players like Jeudy so that schools (Miami specifically here) can maintain strong recruiting pipelines at the programs nearest their campus — but the fact remains that Miami was able to find a replacement for the player that elected to go elsewhere.
One could say that if he would have come to Miami, Jeudy’s performance would have eclipsed what Thomas did — for the record, Jeudy had 14 catches for 264 yards and 2 TDs in 8 games for Alabama while Thomas had 17 catches for 374 yards and 2 TDs along with returning kicks in 13 games for Miami. But no one can say for sure, and as you can see, the numbers are very comparable. Thomas actually had a higher yards per catch average.
But that’s just my opinion. What do other recruiting analysts think? Well, I asked some, and here’s what they had to say.
Bud Elliott, SB Nation National Recruiting Analyst
I don’t believe in “must get” recruits as a strategy. I don’t see much good in it. Inevitably, there are occasions where a staff is potentially on the hot seat, and if it doesn’t land some local megastar recruit, it could do real damage to the staff’s job security, thus becoming “must get,” but I don’t really believe in the concept of must get. Also, if you label a kid “must get,” that could lead to not having realistic backup plans.
Michael Felder, College Sports Now CFB Host and recruiting analyst
Ahhh. Yeah, I think there can definitely be “must gets” for schools
A combination of fit, proximity and pipeline make some players a “top priority” that coaches can’t afford to lose
Andrew Ivins, 247sports Recruiting Writer covering the Miami Hurricanes for InsideTheU.com
I don’t really believe in must get recruits because I guess every situation is unique. You could say Khris Bogle is a must-get for Miami given that he’s an elite pass rusher from South Florida, but if he doesn’t come, I’m not sure why Miami is supposed to do within the rules. They have done everything they can.
I guess kids aren’t must gets until schools back themselves until a hole with no other targets available. Dennis Briggs would be an example last cycle
J.T. Wilcox, HS, College, and NFL football reporter for the Miami Sports Tribune
Ultimately I’d say there’s no such thing. ... In terms of “school x” MUST GET “player a”, it’s still relative. Did Miami HAVE to get Ed Reed from Louisiana? I’m sure there were players in Florida - South Florida specifically - in that particular recruiting cycle that some people felt Miami “had to get” more than they “had to get” Ed Reed. Should Miami have early contact, open lines of communication and at least be in the psyche of any “major” recruit in South Florida? Yes, they better be. I’d define a “must get recruit” as a player that has - in one form or another - made it known that they’d like to come to Miami or that they want to be recruited by Miami. If he’s a Power-5 caliber player that WANTS to play for Miami, Miami MUST get him or MUST try to get him. Other than that, and even sometimes within it example, the term “must get recruit” is too broad.
Barrett Sallee, CBS sports CFB writer and radio host
There is no such thing as a can’t miss prospect. We are talking about how to project high school players in a grown-up sport. There’s no way to know how they will physically, mentally and emotionally mature over the course of their college careers. There are educated guesses, but no way to know for sure.
Tyler Donohue, Recruiting Analyst previously for LandOf10 and Bleacher/Report
It’s no secret college football programs prioritize particular prospects each recruiting cycle. Those who lead the list typically fill key roster needs, live within manageable proximity to campus, and are simply exceptional athletes. The phrases “can’t miss” or “must get” won’t be uttered by college coaches but they’re often tossed around in this industry. Perspective is always important during the course of a recruiting cycle and, while it makes sense to shower certain targets with consistent interest, it’s imperative not to alienate other players you’ve offered at the position. The last thing a staff can afford is to reach National Signing Day, miss on the “can’t miss” guy and be out of the mix for a player who very may well have signed if he felt consistently wanted. Rosters aren’t made or broken by one recruit, so collective Signing Day success is more important than a few headliners on the board who tend to warrant the bulk of attention from media and fans.
David Furones, South Florida Sun-Sentinel Preps and recruiting writer
I guess there can be can’t miss recruits in the event where a team is short on that position, it’s a hometown kid that would be expected to favor that school and there is a significant dropoff between that player and the next player the school may realistically get at that position.
Sanjay Kirpalani, Recruiting analyst previously for DieHards and Bleacher/Report
I believe that the term is somewhat cosmetic because there are very few players who qualify as “can’t miss” in terms of reaching their ceilings. But, getting a top target that the staff identifies as someone crucial to the overall health of the class can be critical too in helping other players jump into the class. I think it’s more important for that reason.
So Felder, Furones and Kirpalani think there are “must get” recruits (to some extent), while Ivins, Sallee, Elliott, Wilcox, and Donohue agree with me that there is no such thing.
So, in my unscientific poll, that’s 6-3 with “no such thing as a must get recruit” winning. Interesting.
With highly coveted recruits, if you don’t get them to sign with your team, there’s a vacuum of talent, a void in the class that needs to be filled. If, as I listed above with Miami’s WR recruiting in 2017, the void is filled with a player of similar, if not the same, level of talent, then everything is fine.
The real problems for teams come if
- a team reaches and takes a commitment from a player who doesn’t have the skills to play at the school in question, or
- if no player is found to replace the top-tier recruit who elected to go elsewhere.
And, weird as it may seem, it can be better for a team to NOT get a recruit to replace the top tier recruit who went elsewhere rather than reach for a player who shouldn’t be on their roster at all just for the sake of “getting somebody” at that position.
There are rarely absolutes in recruiting, so there can be times when taking a “filler player” may be a good idea. But, if a team is forced to play that “filler player” in a starring role down the line, then it could struggle.
To me, finding a talented player for a specific scholarship slot is the key. Yes, everybody wants the most talented players, or the players with a strong connection to a given school to come their favorite school. But, if they don’t, there are always other options, either in the current recruiting class or a future class, to get the kind of player the team wants/needs for them to be successful.
That’s my take. What’s yours? Are there “must get” recruits? Is “must get” recruit just a thing that people say with not reasoning? Have something else to add to the conversation? Hop in the comments and let me know.