Want a big dose of positivity? Signing day press conferences never disappoint

Want a big dose of positivity? Signing day press conferences never disappoint

The next time a coach stands up on signing day and says their recruiting class is anything less than spectacular will be the first time.

Jenni Carlson

By Jenni Carlson

| Dec 20, 2023, 3:25pm CST

Jenni Carlson

By Jenni Carlson

Dec 20, 2023, 3:25pm CST

Drama on signing day has largely disappeared. Used to be, lots of recruits waited until signing day to announce their destination. Pick a hat. Surprise the crowd. Now, that kind of thing rarely happens.

Everything pretty much goes to script.

Including coaches’ press conferences.

Listen to head coaches on any signing day, and you’re bound to hear many of the same things. How much they like the class. How good they feel about the talent. How fast or strong or talented every signee is.

Optimism is a state of being.

So it was Wednesday on Early Signing Day.

“A day to celebrate new beginnings,” OU coach Brent Venables said to open his press conference. “Really excited about this group of players that we’re bringing in.”

OSU coach Mike Gundy said of his recruiting class, “We really like it. It’s balanced. It’s a good number for the direction that we’ll go.”

Just once, I’d like to hear a coach start his press conference with a sigh, a shake of the head and, “Well, we tried really hard this year. We recruited a bunch of elite players, but most of them went to other schools. So, some of these guys are actually our second or third choices.”

I mean, that would be accurate at a vast majority of programs. Most schools do recruit a bunch of elite players, and they might get a handful of those guys. But most of them? They scatter around the country. And that leaves pretty much every program opting for lesser players. They can still be good players; they just aren’t the five stars.

But then, you’ll never hear a coach talking about who they didn’t get.

Not at OU. Not at OSU. Not anywhere. 

OU and OSU are consistently top-25 programs, so the reality is, they do get a lot of recruits who they like. They do sign good classes. But the same sort of things that you hear in Norman and Stillwater are heard everywhere, whether the program is good or bad, winning or losing.

You think Turner Gill or Charlie Weis, David Beaty or Les Miles were talking about how lacking their recruits were during the days at Kansas? No way. But those four coaches oversaw teams that won a total of 21 games over 11 seasons. Safe to say, their recruits were lacking.

But signing day isn’t the time to talk about such things.

During his press conference, Venables said the word “great” 41 times.

“Great physical size at receiver.”

“Great length and just a great frame.”

“Great natural size and power.”

“Great instincts.”

“Great agility.”

“A great, great player.”

Isn’t that great?

Other words with high-usage rates by Venables: excited, 15 times, and love, 10 times.

“I love the speed that we have in this class,” Venables said, “and I love the physicality of this class, both sides of the ball.”

What coach has ever hated the speed and the physicality of his signees?

Yeah, we like him, but he’s a step slow.

Or …

That guy is pretty soft. We’ll have to toughen him up.

Now, I’m not trying to bag on Venables — every coach does this sort of thing — but I will give him credit for injecting some reality into the proceedings. He acknowledged the fact that the recruits who signed Wednesday are mostly 17 and 18 years old.

“All these guys are … just babies trying to figure out life,” Venables said. “They don’t have all the answers. There’s a development piece that’s going to be very real. There’s going to be some immediate challenges for each and every one of these young guys.”

Translation: the transition to college football is going to smack some of these players up side the head. 

Gundy, frankly, took this notion a step further.

“You can’t predict which ones are going to do anything,” he said. “I mean, for so many years, we tried to do that as coaches and predict guys that we thought would play within two years, guys that would be starters and play for three years. It’s really hard to tell.

“We know a lot about these young men, but we won’t know till they get here.”

Translation: some of these guys will never see the field.

Earlier in the week, I wrote about OU’s uptick in recruiting in-state players, so as I was researching, I had reason to go back and look at the classes the Sooners signed over the past several years. Many of the players were very familiar, but I was surprised by how many high-level recruits were unfamiliar.

Take the class of 2021. These are players who are just finishing their third seasons, and they included some of OU’s best players. Billy Bowman. Danny Stutsman. Jalil Farooq. Ethan Downs.

But Clayton Smith? Cody Jackson? Cullen Montgomery?

All three of those guys were four-star recruits in that class, and I had to go searching to figure out where they even are now. Smith is a reserve at Arizona State, Jackson a two-time transfer who is now at Tarleton State and Montgomery a reserve at Memphis.

And that’s the way it is with pretty much every signing class at every program. Sometimes, players who have a lot of stars won’t pan out while players who don’t have a bunch will become stars.

You just never know.

But for the most part, that isn’t the message on signing day. Everyone’s big and strong and talented and amazing. You’d think teams have just signed the second coming of the Tom Brady Patriots or the Monsters of the Midway Chicago Bears defense.

Listen, I’m not trying to poop on the party. I’ll be the first to say that I’m extremely happy for every player who signed a letter of intent on Wednesday. I’m a big fan of young people getting to live out their dreams and their family and friends getting to celebrate the moment.

The reality of the day is awesome.

The rhetoric?

Not so great (great, great, great, great, great).

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Jenni Carlson is a columnist with the Sellout Crowd network. Follow her on Twitter at @JenniCarlson_OK. Email [email protected].

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