The 2012 recruiting class is signed and sealed, and now we wait for it to be delivered, officially, over the summer. On Wednesday, letters of intent came rolling in, with 28 players signing agreements in one form or another -- some enrolled early, most signed on Wednesday. Signing Day was the culmination of about two months of work for Mike Leach and his staff, and a year of speculation and hovering by the fans.
So what's next? We've hit the climax of this story and we're now on the down-slope. Wednesday was an exciting day for the coaching staff and the fans -- a day to celebrate the new recruits, analyze their skillsets and project where they might fit it. But now it's time to face reality.
Over the next six months, you will forget these recruits. They'll be overshadowed by the beginning of spring camp, position battles and the various other tidbits of news that will, inevitably, trickle out between now and the time the new freshman arrive on campus. Within the next week or so, most of the recruits many fans spent hours, days, weeks or more agonizing over will fade away, in essence.
They'll pop back up, sure. Around the time fall camp begins again, the newest recruits will jump back into frame, if only momentarily. Everyone will wonder how the freshman are adjusting to life on campus and college football, and whether any will make an immediate impact. Aside from a small handful, most will not.
Leach was right in his press conference on Wednesday. When asked about freshman who could come in and play right away, he deflected the question without getting into specifics. Instead, he laid out his theory in broad terms
"The freshman, I've always found who adjusts the quickest is the guy the first to make impact. I've tried to do this for years. You look at the big, strong, fast guy or the guy that made the most plays and all this," Leach said. "And you say I think he can help us right away."
But, of course, he's learned lessons along the way.
"After years of being consistently wrong on that, what I've found on the thing is there's always a little bit of a transition going from one level to the next," Leach said, recalling his days at Texas Tech. "The guys that have the ability to adjust the quickest are the ones that have the impact. We wouldn't be recruiting them if we didn't have a lot of respect for what they've done and the abilities that they already have."
He even had an anecdote, recalling a highly-touted freshman receiver.
"I can think of a receiver for us. He was on, I believe, one of the All-American lists. Great player for two years," Leach said before turning to the player's first two years. "When we first got him, you'd throw him the ball and it'd hit him in the face. It always sort of puzzled me that it wasn't at least batted down before it got to his face."
For most of the incoming freshman, next season won't be glamorous. Some may contribute on special teams, a mostly anonymous and thankless, yet incredibly important, role. Some will make their way into the rotation, perhaps as depth, perhaps working into a starting role. But most will toil anonymously out of sight and out of mind.
Instead of jumping right into the mix and bursting onto the scene, the large majority of freshmen in this class will rise before the sun, walk like zombies to Bohler Gym and lift weights in an effort to bulk up. That speedy receiver will become Bryan Bennett in practice, simulating the Oregon quarterback's running ability. That athletic linebacker will simulate the bulky running back the Cougars will face the next week.
That's not to say this incoming class of players won't fulfill its potential. But you will forget about the players, at least for the moment. This past week, especially Wednesday, was their moment in the sun, their time to be the center of attention. But even though I was around the team, watching it practice regularly last season, I forgot who most of last year's incoming players were.
Just keep everything in perspective going forward. Everyone is enamored with potential right now, because these recruits are, to borrow from Spencer Hall, a blank slate -- perfect in their blankness. This will change quickly as they transition into the program and adjust to college football. Some will survive and thrive while others will toil away in relative anonymity throughout their careers. And it's almost impossible to predict and project the career paths of these 18-year-old kids -- there's simply too many variables involved.
Enjoy the new class for its potential and the hope that some of these players will grow in front of us and become stars. Enjoy the process: it's always fun to watch a player come in as a wide-eyed freshman and leave as a solid contributor who produced many fun memories for the fans along the way.
But just know that we have no control here, and all the analysis and projections will be rendered moot as soon as the real football gets underway. Recruiting is always a fun offseason distraction, but we'll be back to reality in no time, and that's not necessarily a bad thing.