Hey, it's National Signing Day! That's right college football fan, your favorite team is about to be restocked with the best talent available. Well, unless you're a Tennessee fan, then you get whatever happens to slip through the claws of other SEC teams as it falls to #34. Anyway, what's going to happen with Terrelle Pryor? Will it be Michigan? Ohio State? Another school that says he's interested just to strike fear into the heart of its opponent? Does it really matter?
In all honesty, like Orson over at EDSBS has stated, you're basically tying the future performance of your team to how well an 18-year old matures and adapts to the system that your coaching staff runs. There is no accounting for injuries, arrests or firings. The rankings that these kids, because that's really what they are, have been given have come against teams that included some players as good as them(probably even some that were better), and a number of kids that aren't nearly talented as they are.
Sure, they might have played well in an all-star game, but that's just one game. The season is a collection of "one games", and the peformance of your #1 recruit, the one that's supposedly going to resurrect the program(*cough*Jimmy Clausen*cough*), could vary widely.
Let's take a look at the top 5 recruits as rated by Rivals.com over the past five years:
Jimmy Clausen(QB), Notre Dame: 10 games, 56.3% comp., 1254yds, 7TD's, 6INT's
Joe McKnight(RB), USC: 12 games, 5.7ypc, 540yds, 3TD's, 23rec., 203yds, 1TD
Eric Berry(DB), Tennessee: 14 games, 86 tot. tckls., 5INT's, 1TD
Ryan Mallet(QB), Michigan: 11 games, 43.3%comp., 892yds, 7TD's, 5INT's
Carlos Dunlap(DE), Florida: 12 games, 1 sack, 7 tot. tckls.
Obviously, this class can't be judged too much since they've only been on the field for a year. A lot of how they performed depended on what type of situation they stepped into. I.E. veteran quarterback, running back by committee, etc. However, you can see that all of them participated in quite a few games, and that some peformed well at their position, while others struggled.
Percy Harvin(WR), Florida
Andre Smith(OL), Alabama
Chris Wells(RB), Ohio State
Gerald McCoy(DT), Oklahoma
Sergio Kindle(LB), Texas
For the most part, this is another top five that has played well. Percy Harvin won the '06 SEC Freshman of the Year award, and was named the MVP of the '06 SEC Championship Game. He also helped Florida win the National Championship in '06. Andre Smith has been an outstanding performer on 'Bama's o-line, and has played in all 26 games. He recorded a team high 62 knockdowns as a freshman, and continues to improve. Chris Wells has played in two National Championship games in two years. He became the full-time starter in '07, and responded with 1,609yds(222 against Michigan) and 15TD's. Gerald McCoy redshirted in 2006, but performed well in '07 and won the Big 12 Defensive Freshman of the Year award. Sergio Kindle has seen action on special teams, and has had limited duty as a strongside linebacker. Prior to the '07 season he was arrested for driving while intoxicated, and missed the first three games due to suspension.
Derrick Williams(ATH), Penn State
Patrick Turner(WR), Southern Cal
Eugene Monroe(OL), Virginia
Melvin Alaeze(DE), Maryland
Rey Maualuga(LB), Southern Cal
An interesting top 5 class that has some solid performers, and one recruit that probably could have been as good as the rest. Derrick Williams played well at a variety of positions before his freshman season ended in '05 because of a broken arm. He was named to the freshman Big-10 All-Conference team. In '06-'07, he played wide receiver, but managed to put up only 440 yards and 1 TD. In '07-'08, Williams had 529 yards receiving and 3 TD's. Patrick Turner spent his first two seasons mostly as a fill-in, but got the chance to start in '07. He responded with 569 yards receiving and 3 TD's. Eugene Monroe has been a solid contributor on the offensive line for Virginia. He's played in every game up to this point, and was an honorable mention selection for the All-ACC team in '07. Rey Maualuga has been an outstanding linebacker for Southern Cal. This past season, he registered 79 total tackles and 6 sacks. He was an All-Pac-10 Second Team selection in '06, a First Team selection in '07 and was the defensive MVP of the 2008 Rose Bowl.
Sadly, this class also includes a recruit that was highly sought after, but off the field issues prevented him from excelling. The first sign of trouble for Melvin Alaeze came when he his scholarship was revoked by Maryland for drug related offenses. It looked like he was going to get another chance with Illinois, but then he was arrested for robbery and attempted murder. He was sentenced this past fall to eight years in prison because of those charges.
Adrian Peterson(RB), Oklahoma
Ted Ginn(DB), Ohio State
Early Doucet(WR), LSU
Rhett Bomar(QB), Oklahoma
Keith Rivers(LB), Southern Cal
A top 5 that has had some great individual performers, and a recruit that only lasted two seasons.
Not much needs to be said about Adrian Peterson. He finished with a total of 4,045 rushing yards at Oklahoma(in just three years that weren't even full ones due to injury), and broke the NCAA freshman rushing record in 2004. He was the #7 pick in the '07 NFL Draft. Ted Ginn, Jr. saw limited time as a freshman, but moved into a starting role as a sophomore in '05. He finished the season with 803 yards and 5TD's. As a junior, had 781 yards receiving and 9TD's. He was selected #9 in the '07 NFL Draft. Early Doucet is another receiver that saw limited action as a freshman, but played a much bigger part of the offense as he moved along. In his sophomore season in '05, Doucet finished with 389 yards receiving and 5TD's. Doucet's junior season saw him finish with 772 yards and 8TD's. And as a senior in '07, he tallied 525 yards and 5TD's, eventhough he missed four games. Keith Rivers is another of the '04 class that contributed all four years. He played sparingly as a freshman, but racked up 35, 49 and 43 solo tackles throughout his next three seasons. He was Southern Cal's leading tackler as a junior, and lead them in solo tackles this past season.
Rhett Bomar was much hyped prospect that was supposed to team with Adrian Peterson, and form a dynamic duo. He redshirted his freshman year in 2004, and struggled at times during the 2005 season. Though, he did manage to finish the year with 2,018 passing yards, a completion percentage of 54.2%, 10TD's and 10INT's. He was also the MVP of that year's Holiday Bowl. Unfortunately, during the summer of '06 it was discovered that he was paid for work that he did not complete, and he was subsequently dismissed from the Oklahoma football team. Bomar did not play football in 2006, though he did play in 2007 for Sam Houston State. He passed for 2,209 yards, 10TD's and 6INT's with a completion percentage of 59.1% last season for the Bearkats.
Ernie Sims(LB), FSU
Reggie Bush(RB), Southern Cal
Whitney Lewis(ATH), Southern Cal
Andre Caldwell(WR), Florida
Kyle Wright(QB), Miami
Another interesting class that has some outstanding athletes, and some that never lived up to the expectations that were placed upon them.
Ernie Sims started contributing as a freshman, and never looked back. In three years, he racked up 200 total tackles, and 7 sacks. He was chosen #9 in the 2006 NFL Draft. Obviously, Reggie Bush was an oustanding performer for Southern Cal. As a freshman he racked up 1,331 all-purpose yards, and 7 total TD's. As a sophomore in 2004, he built on a solid first season by amassing 2,330 all-purpose yards and 16 total TD's. In 2005, he really excelled and finished the season with 1,740 rushing yards(just part of his 2,890 all-purpose yards) and 16 rushing TD's. He won the Walter Camp Award, Doak Walker Award and the Heisman Trophy. Andre Caldwell was a solid performer for Florida during his tenure. As a freshman, he tallied 174 yards receiving, and lead the team in kick returns. In his sophomore season, he saw increased playing time, and responded with 689 receiving yards and 4TD's. He received a medical redshirt because of a broken leg in 2005, and sat out most of the season. However, he returned in '06, and finished with 577 yards receiving and 6TD's. As a senior in 2007, he finished with 761 yards receiving and 7TD's.
Whitney Lewis and Kyle Wright on the other hand, never really lived up to the hype surrounding their recruitment. Lewis didn't see much playing time as a freshman in 2003 because of a crowded backfield at Southern Cal. He was forced to redshirt during the 2004 season because he was academically ineligible. He returned in 2005, but was a backup receiver. Fed up with his lack of playing time, Lewis transferred to Northern Iowa State. In 2006, he compiled 360 rushing yards and 3TD's in seven games. In 2007, he managed 218 yards receiving and 1TD. Wright redshirted in 2003, his freshman season, and was a backup in 2004. In 2005, he took over the starter's role, and finished with 2,403 passing yards, 18TD's and 10INT's. Though, he struggled against the stronger opponents that he faced. In 2006, Wright struggled again before having his season ended by a thumb injury. Before being injured, he put up 1,655 passing yards, 8TD's and 7INT's. In 2007, Wright split time with Kirby Freeman, and amassed 1,747 passing yards, 12TD's and 14INT's. Though, he was never able to become the next leader of "Quarterback U".
So, to answer the question about Terrelle Pryor, yes, it does matter where he goes. Does his commitment guarantee a national title? Of course not. However, as a top 5 ranked recruit he does have a good shot at making a significant impact. Though, the difficulty of the quarterback position makes it a bit harder to achieve a high level of success than some of the other ones. In that respect, I would advise the fanbase of whatever school Pryor signs with to be cautiously optimistic, and hope that he doesn't receive improper benefits, get charged with a crime, get injured or struggle beyond what they're prepared to tolerate.