THE EXTRA SEASON

Del Olaleye: If you are locked into college football recruiting, you are among friends

Alabama won the national title, but winning again may happen because of events in the next week. Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images

Plenty of people think the College Football season ended when Alabama’s Tua Tagovailoa hit Devonta Smith for the game winning touchdown in the national title game. Those people would be wrong and maybe you should disassociate yourself from them. Smith, the WR who caught the pass, wasn’t on Alabama’s roster at this time last year. He didn’t even decide he wanted to play for the Crimson Tide until Feb. 1, 2017. Smith is one of many elite high school prospects who wait until National Signing Day to make a decision on where to play college football. In some cases the journey to a decision is a three-year process. Late January to early February is closing time in college football. We’re gonna talk a little ‘crootin.

In Alabama’s comeback win against Georgia two different freshmen caught touchdown passes. The aforementioned Tagovailoa was a freshman as well. Tagovailoa played the entire second half after replacing an ineffective Jalen Hurts. Standing next to the freshman signal-caller for most of the second half was top-ranked running back and true freshman Najee Harris. Harris wasn’t featured in the first half but finished the game as Alabama’s leading rusher. The first of Tagovailoa touchdowns went to another highly touted freshman, Henry Ruggs III. Four freshmen all contributed to Alabama’s comeback. Ruggs, just as in the case of Smith, waited till the very end to decide to play for Alabama. Game-changing talent everywhere. All just out of high school.

Securing that talent is the lifeblood of any program and the pursuit of that top end talent turned perhaps the biggest curmudgeon in college football into someone we don’t recognize. It is the only viable explanation for why Nick Saban of all people is doing the cupid shuffle in some kid’s living room. Thankfully the recruit decided to film the whole thing and now Saban has gone viral. I’m not sure Saban knows what “going viral” is but he just did it. If I was that kid I’d commit to Tennessee. I fear what Saban will do him as retribution once the wining and dining is over. Saban isn’t alone in his apparent out of character actions. Adults of all backgrounds will tweet directly at kids who are considering playing for their favorite school. If a high-profile kid tweets something as simple as “Where the FSU fans at” you can expect over 300 RTs and 3,000 likes in response.

Showing twitter love is really the public face of a fanbase and their obsession. Message boards are where the real underbelly of following recruiting exists. Every major school has more than one board. The basic models can be found at Rivals and 247sports. You’ll find the real diehards at fan-run sites. Posters on those board will spend the entire month of January tracking what obscure city an assistant is traveling to. If they want to be updated about which players have made the decision to take an official visit to their school there is an app for that. Analyzing the words an 18-year old kid texts to a reporter about his college plans is absolutely a thing as well. Understand this, if you haven’t rationalized away a recruit picking your rival over your favorite team then you’re not a true college football fan.

Posters on message boards during the stretch run of recruiting season can be placed into easily recognizable categories.

  1. Optimist: Believes their coaches are recruiting monsters. Any kid who shows their team any type of attention can be snagged. They are usually disappointed on National Signing Day because there is no way any coaching staff can live up to their expectations

  2. Pessimist: They believe every recruit is playing the coaches for fools. They post things like: “Player X is just using the official visit as a free vacation. We’re wasting our time.”  Pessimists position themselves as realists. The Pessimist thinks their job is to keep the the Optimist’s expectations in check.

  3. Above the Fray: This poster will tell the board that NSD (National Signing Day) doesn’t matter a bit if the coaches don’t “coach’em up.” They will also point out that it is a little weird that grown men are so focused on the whims of 18 year old kids.

  4. Insider: This poster somehow, someway has inside information. They may have a “source” on the coaching staff. They might be a family member of a recruit. Sometimes a local high school coach decides to interject. They know a guy who knows a guy.

  5. Troll: A troll takes a run at everyone. Sometimes the troll pretends to be the Insider. This poster plays on the admittedly irrational emotion of other posters who really want a recruit to play for their favorite school. They are the worst.

If you happen to fall into four of the five categories you’re more than ok. You’re amongst friends and we understand. If you fall into the fifth and final category you’re not ok and everyone hates you. Once again, you’re the worst.

We’re a week away from the official end of this college football season( NSD is Wed. Feb. 7th) and less than two months away from the start of the 2018 season. Syracuse starts spring practice March 3rd and thank the college football gods for that.

No one wants to pay attention to baseball in March.

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The Astros need to beat up on the lowly Rangers. Composite image by Jack Brame.

Collectively so far this season the Astros would not make for very good garbage men. Meaning they haven't been so good at taking out the trash. Swept in a series at Detroit when the Tigers were terrible, swept at Minute Maid Park by the sorry Orioles, swept in an early season series at the Rangers. Presently the Rangers are an atrocity. A nine game losing streak has them 35-62, buried deeply in last place in the American League West, 23 games behind the Astros. So the Astros need to whip up on them in this weekend's three game set, before the Astros head west for a three city road trip with stops in Seattle, San Francisco, and Los Angeles.

15. The number of home runs Jose Altuve has hit over his last 37 games. Multiply by four and that's a 60 homers in 148 games pace. Over those 37 games, Altuve is batting just .242. But slugging .577.

.029. Carlos Correa's batting average dating back 10 games played. One hit in his last 34 at bats. 14 strikeouts and just one walk over the stretch. That is what you call a funk. Certainly not a way to curry 300 million dollar contract offers.

The Rangers have just two 100 loss seasons in their history, their first two seasons after becoming the Rangers upon moving from Washington D.C. In 1972 the Ted Williams managed squad went 62-100, Ted quit, and the next year the Rangers finished 57-105. If the Astros sweep them this weekend, the Rangers will be on pace to lose 105 games.

It will be a decade ago this October that the Rangers came as close to winning a World Series as any team has ever come without winning the Series. In 2011 the Rangers carried a three games to two lead into game six at St. Louis. The Rangers led game six 7-5 with two on, two out, and two strikes in the bottom of the ninth. The Cardinals' David Freese drilled a ball toward the base of the right field wall. Rangers' right fielder Nelson Cruz didn't make an error but didn't play the ball well, going back awkwardly and reaching out at the last second as if afraid of the wall. It went for a two run triple to tie the game. Two innings later Freese hit a game winning homer to force game seven.

The inning before that the Rangers again came within one strike of winning it all. A Josh Hamilton two run homer had the Rangers up 9-7 going to the bottom of the 10th. The Cards got within 9-8. With the tying run on second and two out, Rangers' Manager Ron Washington opted to intentionally walk Albert Pujols. Albert was still a tremendous player in 2011 (his last with the Redbirds), but he was not better than Lance Berkman that season, definitely not against right-handed pitching. Walking Pujols brought up Berkman to face right-hander Scott Feldman (a matchup of former Astro and future Astro). Berkman lined a two-two pitch to center field tying the game 9-9, ahead of Freese's 11th inning walk-off homer. One of the most incredible games in World Series history.

NCAA

Quite the story hitting that Texas and Oklahoma may be plotting to bolt the Big 12 for the Southeastern Conference. That neither UT, OU, nor the SEC denied it has smoke billowing. The Sooners have won the last six Big 12 football championships. The Longhorns last won in 2009. Oklahoma St., Kansas St., Baylor, TCU, all have more recently won at least a share of the conference title. An SEC UT could be looking at being in a division with Oklahoma, Alabama, LSU, and Texas A&M. UT marketing folks should be exploring a huge sponsorship deal with 7-Eleven. You know, Big Gulp. But as usual, follow the money.

The week ahead…

Wednesday: The Texans open training camp! Wait. Delete the exclamation point. Whither Deshaun Watson?

Thursday: The NBA Draft. Unless the Rockets pull off a thunderbolt of a trade to move up to number one and select Cade Cunningham, the winds of opinion are blowing in the direction of the Rockets taking wing Jalen Green second overall pick. That would be fine. Green is generally considered the most potential-laden explosive scorer on the board. The Rockets can use just about everything, a premium wing scorer would be excellent.

Friday: The MLB trade deadline. Does James Click bolster the Astros' shaky bullpen. The Astros have also been linked to Marlins' center fielder Starling Marte. Growing from his wretched start Myles Straw has been plenty acceptable. Free agent-to-be Marte would be a notable upgrade.

Buzzer Beaters:

1. First big beat the deadline win goes to the Rays. 41-year-old designated hitter Nelson Cruz still mashes. Simple frame of reference: he's been notably better than Yordan Alvarez this year.

2. The delayed by a year 2020 Summer Olympics are underway. Any interest at all?

3. Baseball's greatest Cruzes: Bronze-Jose Jr. Silver-Nelson Gold-Jose Sr.

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