KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Collin Klein was a 2-star, whatever that means. So was John Hubert.
And Ty Zimmerman.
And Cornelius Lucas.
And Jarrell Childs.
And Meshak Williams.
And Tysyn Hartman.
You get the point. Nary a stiff in the bunch.
So, as much as we love Brandon Huffman, even he has to admit: When it comes to National Signing Day and Kansas State football, you don’t take the rankings with a grain of salt.
You take ’em with the whole darned shaker.
“Oh God,” Huffman, national recruiting analyst with Scout.com, says with a chuckle. “Which guy on this list is going to be an All-American in three years, where people are going to look back and say, ‘How did he end up being a 2-star?’ Especially with Collin Klein, the way he just kind of completely spit in our face. You’re like, going, ‘Which guy is going to pull a Collin Klein on us in a few years?'”
Huffman is a good dude who knows his stuff — or at least as much as anybody can know his stuff without unfettered access to a crystal ball or a time machine.
We love college football recruiting, and recruiting rankings, but it’s a projection game, a conglomeration of educated guesses. At the absolute deadest point in the dead of winter — after the Super Bowl, before pitchers and catchers report — it stokes our fires for the summer and autumn to come.
So when the smoke cleared and the fax machines finally fell silent, here’s where Scout.com rated the Class of ’13 for K-State, the reigning Big 12 champs, a program with a 21 wins over the past years:
That’s right. No asterisk. No recount. No nothing. Rock bottom, baby.
The Wildcats checked in at No. 68 nationally — decent, not great, and well behind Iowa State (64th), Texas Tech (54th), and, yes, even 1-11 Kansas (55th).
“I think the really big hang-up is because (they) go so junior-college heavy,” Huffman notes, “that it maybe skews the rankings a little bit.”
In other words, don’t panic.
College football recruiting is most inexact of inexact sciences. Speed is speed, sure, but the sheer range of potential physical development in a young man between the ages of 17 and 23 — especially linemen — makes projecting the end result, for the most part, a complete crapshoot.
Which, when you get right down to it, explains Huffman’s love-hate relationship with K-State coach Bill Snyder. On one hand, Huffman admires what the 73-year-old built, transforming a coaching graveyard into his own purple Taj Mahal. On the other side of the coin, Snyder has also spent the better part of two decades making Huffman and his peers look positively clueless, at least as far as the Wildcats are concerned.
“As we’ve always maintained, it takes several years to accurately assess the quality of a recruiting class,” Snyder said in a statement Wednesday, “and the young men who represent it.”
Consider this: The two classes that made up the core of last fall’s Big 12 winners — 2008 and 2009 — finished eighth and 12th, respectively, in Scout.com’s recruiting rankings. Nationally, it was even worse: ’08 checked in at No. 45, while ’09 was a stupefying, that-has-to-be-a-misprint 112th.
“At the end of the day, (K-State) is why people are skeptical about the recruiting rankings,” Huffman says, chuckling again. “They continue to completely outplay their recruiting rankings on the field. But, again, that speaks more to Snyder’s ability to coach and to develop than it does to the rankings, if you ask me.”
It’s not that the Wildcats don’t have talent; it’s that Snyder’s prime directive is finding talent that fits — with his scheme, with his upperclassmen, with his chemistry, with the culture of K-State and with the culture of Manhattan itself. He looks for underdogs, the undersized and under-recruited, kids with chips on their respective shoulders, then delights in turning them loose on the rest of the unsuspecting football world.
“I think it’s just 101 percent coaching,” Huffman continues. “What (Snyder) has done since he’s come back has cemented his reputation as one of the best developers of talent in college football.”
When it comes to Snyder’s 2013 haul, get back to us in about four seasons or so. Last fall, PowerMizzou.com, a Missouri fan site, broke down Big 12 recruiting rankings from 2005-10, as compared to the actual league standings between 2006 and 2011.
The Wildcats’ classes checked in at an average of 8.3 out of 12, ahead of only Baylor (10.7) and Iowa State (11). The Wildcats’ average finish in the race? A solid 6.8 — a jump of +1.5, or nearly two whole places per year, trailing only Mizzou (+2.8) and Baylor (+1.9) over that same span.
“(Snyder is) definitely one of the best coaches ever,” offers Hartman, now a safety with the Kansas City Chiefs. “He constantly gets talented guys to go to K-State. He doesn’t care where (recruits) are ranked and doesn’t pay attention to Rivals and all those recruiting ranking boards. He gets talented guys and good guys, and gets them to play hard.”
Winning in February is nice. Winning in November is better.