Friday Fodder: Poor recruiting by Wolf Pack
For the Tribune
Sports fodder for a Friday morning …
Brian Polian was hired to coach the Nevada Wolf Pack, we were told over and over again, because of his ability to recruit. This is the guy, after all, who supposedly induced Manti Teo to go to Notre Dame. Polian was going to revolutionize Wolf Pack recruiting. The days of crusty old Chris Ault on the recruiting trail were over. Polian and his shiny used car salesman approach — perfect hair, perfect smile, perfect sales pitch — were now the face of Pack football. Well, Ault has been gone for two recruiting classes and,well, nothing has changed. Polian brought 27 players to Nevada on Wednesday’s National Letter of Intent signing day and just five of them are 3-star athletes. The rest are two-star guys. In other words, the class was basically the same type as Ault recruited to Nevada since the mid-1970s.
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According to ESPN, the Wolf Pack offered scholarships to 18 four-star players (15 from the state of California) and, well, none of them chose the Wolf Pack. They also didn’t even get a 3-star guy (wide receiver Alex Van Dyke of Sacramento, who picked UCLA) whose father of the same name played for the Wolf Pack. But don’t blame Polian. At a school like Nevada, where the big prizes every year are to win the championship of a meaningless conference and go to a meaningless bowl game, all you are going to get are two and three-star guys. It doesn’t matter how perfect your hair looks or how many compliments you give the recruit’s mother. That’s why it is silly and shortsighted to hire a coach for the Wolf Pack whose greatest (only?) marketable skill by far is sweet-talking 18-year-olds.
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It was a very strange performance by Polian on Signing Day. He began his press conference by attacking a local columnist. He then continued by pointing out how some of his coaching friends at other schools spent recruiting season backstabbing him and the Wolf Pack program. He also poked fun at a comment he received on Twitter from a Wolf Pack fan that pointed out how he now needs to coach his players up. At one point he said he didn’t care if any of his new players were heavily recruited by other schools. And the next minute he would point out how the Pack beat out bigger schools for a guy. He also found it important to point out how a recruit and his mother and father sat across a table and lied right to his face. In short, it was a very defensive performance by a coach of a 4-8 team that didn’t play any defense a year ago.
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Polian will mature as a head coach the moment he realizes that the most important part of his job takes place in the meeting rooms and not the living rooms. When he becomes the guy in the garage that can fix the cars instead of just the guy out in the lot in a cheap suit who can sell the cars, that’s when the Wolf Pack will become meaningful again. It’s about turning those two and three-star guys into three and four-star guys. That’s what Ault, a guy who always spent more off-season time updating his playbook instead of updating his recruiting spiel, did for 28 seasons.
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Punxsutawney Peyton Manning poked his head out of his hole on Groundhog Day last Sunday and, well, he should have crawled right back underground. Once again Manning was exposed in a big game. The first snap of the Super Bowl went over his head and Manning spent the rest of the day shaking his head and wondering just what the heck was happening. Didn’t the Seattle Seahawks know he was the greatest quarterback in the history of the game? Never before in Super Bowl history did a team crawl up in the fetal position and beg for mercy right from the opening kickoff.
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How dominating was the performance by the Seahawks in the 43-8 victory? Well, this was the first Super Bowl decided by the pre-game coin toss. The Seahawks won the toss (by Joe Namath in a ridiculous fur coat) and elected to receive the second half kickoff. That decision directly led to nine points. The Broncos botched the first snap of the game, giving the Seahawks’ a room service safety. The Seahawks then took the second half kickoff and ran it back for a touchdown. Those nine points would have been enough to win the game 9-8.
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The coin toss was by far the most interesting and influential moment of this horrible Super Bowl. Namath first threw the coin up in the air before the Seahawks could call heads or tails. Referee Terry McAuley, who made like a Seahawks defender going after a Manning pass, intercepted the premature toss and gave the coin back to Namath for a do over. Manning is still waiting for his do over. Namath’s coat, by the way, has its own Twitter account and received 1,000 followers by the third quarter. There’s no truth to the rumor that all 1,000 followers thought Manning was the best quarterback in NFL history before the coin toss.
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