There are two factors to winning football at the collegiate level: recruiting and coaching. This could be considered a chicken or the egg argument as to which is more important. I submit that when it comes to Southeastern Conference football, recruiting is THE thing. Coaching is very important, but without talent, no coach is going to last in the SEC. If you can find a coach who can coach, actually run a program well, (and also recruit) you will have a winner. Nick Saban wouldn't be doing so well if he didn't have a staff who recruits well. His staff does recruit well and they are also good coaches. The same goes for Les Miles, Steve Spurrier, Mark Richt and others. We are hoping that Mark Stoops can join this League of Extraordinary Gentlemen.
Since no games have been played yet, all we have to go on is how these coaches recruit. We know that Stoops (UK) and Jones (UT) are kickin' it, but how about the others? All of these coaches have a 2013 signed class under their belts and they also have almost six months of 2014 recruiting which can only be judged by verbal commitments. Improvements have to be based on the 2012 class and where each coach has taken recruiting since. Here's the list based on the Rivals Rankings as of this moment in time:
1. Mark Stoops, Kentucky - 95% improvement from 2012. Kentucky has Improves from 62nd in 2012 to 3rd in 2014
2. Butch Jones, Tennessee Volunteers - 88% improved from 17th in 2012 to 2nd
3. P.J. Fleck, Western Michigan Broncos -71% improved from 107th in 2012 to 31st
4. Steve Addazio, Boston College Eagles - 70% BC improved from 63rd in 2012 to 19th
5. Dave Doeren, N.C. State Wolfpack - 47% improved from 53rd in 2012 to 28th
7. Matt Ruhle, Temple Owls - 30% improved from 76th to 53rd
8. Kliff Kingsbury, Texas Tech Red Raiders - 15% improved from 26th to 22nd
9. Skip Holz, Louisiana Tech Bulldogs - 15% improved from 96th to 82nd
10. Ron Caragher, San Jose St. Spartans - 10% improved from 99th to 89th
11. Sean Kugler, UTEP Miners - 5% improved from 99th to 94th
12. Willie Taggert - South Florida Bulls - 4% improved 49th to 47th
The rest of the first year coaches have either not fared so well in recruiting or would get an Incomplete because Rivals hasn't ranked them yet for 2014. Here's who fall in the not so well category. Gus Malzahn hasn't really done all that bad taking the Auburn Tigers from 10th to 17th. The rest just are not getting it done.
Darrell Hazell, Purdue Boilermakers; Mark Helfrich, Oregon Ducks; Sonny Dykes, California Golden Bears; Mike McInyre, Colorado Buffaloes; Tommy Tuberville, Cincinnati Bearcats; Brett Bielema, Arkansas Razorbacks; Todd Monken, Southern Miss. Golden Eagles; Bryan Harsin, Arkansas St. Red Wolves; Brian Polian, Nevada Wolf Pack; Scott Schafer, Syracuse Orange.
Those who rate as incomplete are Paul Haynes, Kent St. Golden Flashes; Bobby Petrino, Western Kentucky Hilltoppers; Ron Turner, Fla. International Golden Panthers; Doug Martin, New Mexico St. Aggies; Paul Petrino, Idaho Vandals; Ron Carey, Northern Illinois Huskies; and Matt Wells, Utah State Aggies.
The thing to remember is that it is a long way to Signing Day (235 days) and Kentucky's commitments are verbal as are all others. The final measure for recruiting is enrollment. Signed players may not qualify and might be off to the JUCO ranks. While Kentucky is ranked 3rd in the nation, the Wildcats are also only ranked 3rd in the SEC. Insane, yet awesome.
Even with the caveats, Kentucky fans have every right to be euphoric at this point in time, even the most jaded should show some signs of becoming a little on the giddy side.