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Thursday, April 17, 2014

Bob Lutz: So which team will see stars?

BY BOB LUTZ
The Wichita Eagle

I don't want to sound overly concerned here, and I know football is a man's game, but I'm not sure today's Oklahoma-Kansas State game should be played.

I mean, this could be dangerous for the Wildcats.

I'm just going by recruiting lists here and I think maybe we should just take everyone to a game room or something today and forget the football.

Here's why:

Oklahoma, my Rivals.com research shows, has signed 63 four-star recruits since 2007 and another seven from the five-star category. You have to practically be Superman and The Green Lantern rolled into one to earn five-star respect.

In that same span, OU has brought in 49 three-star recruits and only five two-star recruits. In other words, if you're a two-star recruit, you probably should look for another team.

Like, for example, Kansas State.

Yes, the Wildcats are your two-star haven, having signed 49 players from that category since 2007 to go with 86 three-star recruits, nine four-star recruits and zero five-star recruits.

Zero.

K-State will have five-star linebacker Arthur Brown in the lineup today against the Sooners, but he doesn't count because he originally went to Miami.

Rivals.com doesn't indicate how many four- and five-star recruits flew over Manhattan on their way to recruiting trips elsewhere, but it's safe to say there were a few.

So you see my point? This game is a mismatch, at least on the scratched-up paper recruiters use to evaluate talent.

OK, you do have a point about Bill Snyder. About how he's overcome all this recruiting nonsense for more than 20 years and put two-star teams out there that have held their own against the four- and five-star boys.

But Oklahoma has signed 70 four- and five-star recruits since 2007. K-State has signed nine. Shouldn't the Sooners, then, trounce the Wildcats today in Manhattan?

Then again, recruiting is so fickle. And the people who evaluate high school and junior-college football players aren't infallible, are they?

Snyder may not recruit the fanciest players in the country, but once he gets guys to K-State, he's been known to turn more than one sow's ear into a silk purse.

It's part of his genius.

At OU, coach Bob Stoops simply needs to open the doors and turn on the lights to be flooded with potential top-level high school recruits.

Snyder and his staff have to hit the back roads. K-State loves to find a raw athlete with the will to improve and, ultimately, excel. There are dozens of stories about players who arrived at K-State with little to no fanfare and became all- conference players, sometimes even All-Americans.

That's not to downplay the job Stoops has done at Oklahoma. Even with talent falling into your lap, it's difficult to maintain excellence. And any coach, including Stoops, will tell you that recruiting lists and evaluations are a dangerous way to judge the quality of a football team.

K-State went into the 2011 season with few expectations other than to have a decent season. Maybe 7-5; on the outside 8-4.

OU went into this season the way it goes into every season, with visions of a national championship. The Sooners were ranked No. 1 in the preseason polls and held on to that ranking in the coaches poll until last week, when they were beaten at home by Texas Tech.

K-State was unranked to start the season, but has methodically worked its way to No. 10, one spot ahead of Oklahoma. The Wildcats also are No. 8 in the BCS rankings, one notch above the Sooners.

Yet today, according to the depth charts of the two teams, Oklahoma's starting lineup will include one five-star player, 14 four-star recruits and six from the three-star category. Two OU starters were unranked coming out of high school.

K-State, meanwhile, has Brown, a five-star recruit out of Wichita East, at middle linebacker. Otherwise, there's are two four-star players — defensive end Adam Davis and wide receiver Chris Harper, a former Wichita Northwest standout who transferred from Oregon — nine three-star recruits and eight who were labeled as two-star recruits out of high school. Three K-State starters were unranked by Rivals.com.

Do you know what the Sooners do with two-star recruits? They hand them a five-dollar bill and tell them to get lunch at McDonald's on their way out of town.

Snyder has never been hung up on the number of stars by a recruit's name. He likes players who devote themselves to getting better and do anything necessary for that to happen.

Two-star recruits, I'm guessing, are hungry to prove their detractors wrong. It's probably easier for the K-State coaching staff to get the attention of the two- and three-star recruits that make up the bulk of the Wildcats' roster than it is to tell a four- or five-star recruit how he should be doing things.

There's an entitlement, I would think, that comes with being that highly regarded as a football player coming out of high school.

So, OK, I guess today's game should be played after all. It looks as if K-State is capable of taking care of itself. The Wildcats' two- and three-star guys come with chips installed on their shoulders.

Check sports columnist Bob Lutz's blog at blogs.kansas.com/lutz. Reach him at 316-268-6597 or blutz@wichitaeagle.com.

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