Mailbag: Recruiting philosophies, USC hype, Cal assistant hires

Chris Petersen puts a premium on recruiting players who fit into his ideals, and that makes many elite recruits not a fit for Washington. Samuel Stringer/Icon Sportswire

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To the questions!

Tom writes: I'm curious if you have thoughts on Washington coach Chris Petersen's "OKG" [Our Kind of Guys] recruiting model. Petersen once claimed that nowadays "I think so many kids don't love football. They love recruiting. They love being recruited." He has a system to try to make sure players don't decommit after pledging their future to Washington. Petersen doesn't consider a player "committed" if he takes additional visits to other schools. Petersen sees it as a commitment when a player announces his recruiting period is over, and will recruit for their position if they take further visits. He also will not recruit a player committed to another school unless the coach at that school knows the player is still fielding offers. On its face, this seems ethical and could even breed a sense of commitment. However, it also could be seen as overly arduous to put that kind of pressure on an increasingly young (see new NCAA signing period) group of players. Is Petersen a game-changer or locked into too strict a rule for big-time recruits who are more likely to take all their visits?

Ted Miller: Well, considering the recent decommitment of Marlon Tuipulotu, a touted defensive lineman from Central High School in Independence, Oregon, who flipped for USC, the best-laid plans don't always turn out as expected.

That said, I do believe Petersen puts a premium on recruiting guys who fit into his ideals, and those ideals often clash with the world view of many of today's super-elite recruits. While some programs focus on star ratings -- they won't admit it, but it's true -- Petersen is a true emphasizer of "fit." That's not just me flattering him. I think the low-key Petersen struggles with certain sorts of personalities -- players who often are successful at other programs and end up in the NFL -- and his past struggles with them created a recruiting philosophy that works for him and his program culture.

For example, cornerback Marcus Peters.

Some coaches are just better a dealing with brash players. Pete Carroll and Jimbo Fisher come to mind.

As for the whole "commitment" thing, I'm a believer in one recruiting rule: The recruit owes coaches recruiting him nothing. Zero. Nada. This is a business, and the young man needs to seek the best situation for himself, even if that means hurting some feelings along the way.

In fact, I'd advise recruits to work the angles all the way through. If a recruit who is uncertain of his prospects gets an offer from an appealing "C" school, he should commit in order to get his hooks into the process. He then should actively and aggressively look for a "B" offer and keep climbing the chain as best he can, dropping everything if his dream "A" school suddenly comes calling on signing day.

If the coach of "C" school complains, said recruit should merely give him a placating verbal shuffle. The coach will be familiar with it because he probably does it a couple times a week. Coaches jump from job to job with their self-interests at heart. Nothing wrong with that. That's the free market. But players get locked into all sorts of NCAA rules once they sign with a school. That means their time to squeeze everything they can out of the process is during recruiting.

Are many recruits suffering from delusions of grandeur? Absolutely. There's a reason coaches smirk about "derecruiting" a player once he arrives on campus, which functions as a sometimes painful re-education campaign on how valuable high school star rating is inside a Power 5 locker room.

A player will have the most power in his relationship with the coach during recruiting. That means the player needs to prioritize what he wants to do with his life, not what the coach's plans are for him as part of an 85-man team.

Alex in Tacoma, Washington, writes: Here we go again. USC is gonna kill everyone and win the national title. When will you guys learn? As you said, it's all hype. But you've also been drinking that [Kool-Aid]. So enlighten us. What's different about USC that means it won't again crumble after getting highly ranked?

Ted Miller: Well, Alex, as a previously self-identified Washington fan, perhaps you too can understand that sometimes widely mocked preseason hype turns out to be fairly accurate.

What's different? Start with the article you noted: QB Sam Darnold. Let me put it this way regarding Darnold: If you held a college football draft, I'm not sure he wouldn't be the first QB off the board -- and, yes, that includes Heisman Trophy winner Lamar Jackson.

He'd be my first pick, period.

As for the rest of the Trojans, what's coming back next year -- including projections for some returning injured players -- is not just intriguing. It looks superior to a lineup that won 10 games in 2016. The defense, in particular, should be better.

Moreover, the early schedule is far more manageable while still offering up marquee foes -- Stanford and Texas -- for the Trojans to establish their 2017 bona fides.

Is USC a sure thing? No. But, at this point, the only sure thing in college football is Alabama.

Scott in St Helena, California, writes: With Cal's hire of Justin Wilcox, and his hires of Beau Baldwin, Marques Tuiasosopo, and Steve Greatwood, how are you liking the new and improved Bears coaching staff?

Ted Miller: This question was written before Wilcox hired former Fresno State coach Tim DeRuyter to be his defensive coordinator, another strong acquisition for the Golden Bears.

Wilcox is a first-time head coach, so that means the most pressing initial uncertainty about him is hiring a staff, which he's never done before. While he's not done yet -- officially -- the hires you mention should be grounds for optimism for Cal fans.

It seems worthy of note that two of his hires, Baldwin and DeRuyter, have head coaching experience, though not in the Power 5. That should help Wilcox, who is not the most outgoing sort, negotiate some of the glad-handing and administrative duties he will have to endure.

The next eyebrow-raiser will be what he does on Feb. 1.