It has been a year since I wrote Preliminary thoughts on 2012 recruiting. Looking back I think I was bang on with my assessment and predictions. I am equally optimistic about the 2013 class. Though Guelph is in a significantly different position in 2013 than in 2012.
What is different in 2013?
With the amount of talent the Gryphons brought in in the past two years our needs are not nearly so great. [Guelph’s recruiting class was ranked #2 in the OUA in 2011 and tied for #1 in 2012.] As a result I expect Guelph’s 2013 class to be their smallest in quite some time. I look for a class in the range of 24-28 recruits.
To a certain extent in prior years recruits had to put some faith into what they were hearing from Guelph recruiters. Thankfully, we have coaches and recruiters who are highly credible and recruits who bought into their vision for the program. In 2012 we saw the faith of recruits rewarded. The planned facility improvements – a Fieldturf Revolution playing surface, the largest video scoreboard in the OUA, an indoor turf practice field – were completed and the team had an outstanding season [9-2 overall] reaching the Yates Cup.
So for 2013 Guelph doesn’t have to sell something that recruits cannot yet see or touch. The Gryphons now have the best all-round football facilities in the OUA and a coaching staff and talented roster that has proven it can compete with the conference’s elite. Two play-off games on national television and the announcement of the Tiger-Cats relocation amplified the message. But these things change several other recruiting factors.
- Guelph has received more interest from prospects. From what I’ve been told they were calling, emailing, sending film and filling out recruit profiles at record rates.
- That interest is coming from right across Canada. Guelph recruiters are once again travelling coast-to-coast.
- With the talent recruited in the past two cycles Guelph’s needs are not as great this year as in recent years. That will allow the coaches to be more selective. They can focus on the truly elite prospects. For example, OL Coach MacDonald can pass on several good prospects and hold out for only the very best because of the young talent he already has. A signing class of only 3 or 4 outstanding OLs is fine. Last year it would have been disastrous.
- A deeper, more talented roster means there will not be as much opportunity for immediate playing time. That lure is an important consideration for some prospects but can usually be found with weaker programs. Programs that win consistently like the Laval Rouge et Or convince elite players to commit even when knowing they may sit for a year or two.
- The upside of our 2012 success is that recruits will have more certainty that they will be competing for the Yates Cup each and every year.
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In this recruiting cycle the re-birth of the Carleton Ravens has thrown a wildcard into the game. Carleton is a team that can offer more immediate playing time than any team in OUA history. That has already shown itself as the Ravens have received commitments from two dozen players. But, as I said, the downside of immediate playing time is it is usually found with a weaker program. And so far Carleton has only signed two players that I believe Guelph had any serious interest in. [I’ve heard the same thing from a couple of McMaster sources.] Some of that may be explained by regional recruiting practices.
Top prospects, in general, are looking for the opportunity to win because they know they will be able to earn playing time. As much as Carleton coaches may talk about winning immediately, everyone, including most prospects, knows that is a longshot. Once again most of the elite players will head to the top programs. Carleton may end up with a very good recruiting class but I doubt you will see more than a few blue chippers among their 60 or 70 recruits.
Guelph’s recruiting success the past two seasons is truly impressive when you consider that the Gryphons landed top-tier talent on the recruiting trail before they broke through into the top tier on the football field. That is why Guelph’s recruiting success sent shock waves through the OUA. A “mediocre” team coming off 4-4 & 2-6 seasons wasn’t supposed to be able to do that. I will write more about this soon rather than get too far off the topic of 2013 recruiting.
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Thus far in the 2013 recruiting cycle, we have seen more early signings and announcements of recruits by OUA schools than in the past. And while Guelph has been the pacesetter in this regard in recent years, on their way to very successful classes, other teams are scurrying to follow suit. That doesn’t concern me in the least. As I said, 2013 is different for the Gryphons. Guelph coaches have been a step ahead of most of their OUA brethren when it comes making an impact with their announcements. I have no reason to believe that won’t be the case this year as well.