May 06, 2009
Much was made of Miami's near-shutout in last month's draft, spared only by linebacker Spencer Adkins' selection in the sixth round, most of it centered around the end of the 'Canes incredible 14-year streak of producing at least one first-rounder. It hadn't occurred to me, though, until I read Bobby Bowden's ever-optimistic take on Florida State's immediate future this morning that the Seminoles also sent but a single player to the pros, first-rounder Everette Brown, which seems practically impossible: What kind of world are we living in when Abilene Christian produces as many draft picks as the most consistently talent-drenched programs of the last two decades combined?
Of course, believe one year's worth of data at your peril -- Florida, as near a gold standard for talent factories as exists these days, "only" produced three draft picks this year, one of whom (Cornelius Ingram) didn't play a down for last year's championship team; you can remind the two dozen Gators whose names are called over the next two years of their humble origins. It was down year for the Sunshine State altogether: No Florida natives were picked in the first round for the first time in decades. But recruiters aren't about to stop regarding at as one of the rare hotbeds with enough raw talent to stock an entire conference, if necessary.
If there's a dead wrong way to describe the recent declines at FSU and Miami though, "one-year anomaly" is it. In fact, there may not be a handier visual shorthand for the last decade between the 'Canes and 'Noles than this:
Each school has produced nine picks over the last three drafts combined, which for both used to be a pretty good number for just one class. And contrary to the Gainesville News' opinion today that "top-notch talent has been harder for FSU to attract," the dearth is really curious when you look at the recruiting classes that have formed the bulk of those teams, which came in as bright and shiny as ever:
Altogether, that's 90 guys (53 for Florida State, 37 for Miami) from five top-10-ranked classes who once projected in the vicinity of "likely draft pick." Twenty-three still have eligibility. Of the remaining 67, six have gone on to the next level:
• Lawrence Timmons (FSU, 2004; Drafted 2007)
• Calais Campbell (Miami, 2004; Drafted 2008)
• Kenny Phillips (Miami, 2005; Drafted 2008)
• Geno Hayes (FSU, 2005; Drafted 2008)
• Spencer Adkins (Miami, 2005; Drafted 2009)
• Everette Brown (FSU, 2005; Drafted 2009)
One out of 10 is not a good rate for four and five-star players. And the five-stars, in particular, have been a motley lot -- check this notorious list of headliners from 2004-06 classes: Lance Leggett, Tyler McMeans, Willie Williams, Xavier Lee, Callahan Bright, Fred Rouse, Antone Smith, Reggie Youngblood, Brandon Warren. Only Kenny Phillips and Myron Rolle lived up to the five-star hype, and only Phillips is on the next level. Again, one out of 11 is not a good rate.
I would say this only goes to confirm FSU and Miami as the two most underachieving teams in the country relative to talent, but we can get more specific: These are the two most underachieving offensive teams in the country. All of the draft picks from the classes of 2004-06 are defensive players; most of the busts have been on offense -- and last year, incredibly, the most reliable weapons on either team were probably the kickers. If you don't count fifth-rounder Adrian MacPherson in 2005 (and you shouldn't, because he barely played for FSU and was drafted out of the Arena League) the last quarterback drafted from either school was Ken Dorsey, in the seventh round in 2003. Before him, it was Chris Weinke in 2001. That's how long it's been since either school has had a fully functioning offense -- as I've noted before, both teams combined have placed a grand total of three offensive skill players on the All-ACC team since Miami joined the league in 2004, and none of them would have made the cut in a less, uh, defensively oriented conference. The Leggetts, Carrs, James', Bookers and Smiths have been largely wasted in the meantime.
It's probably significant to note here that, unlike the recent past, neither team has a sure shooting star coming down the pipe to lift the lilting O out of the doldrums. UM's solid but unspectacular Graig Cooper has a chance to pound out 1,000 yards; if he gets enough carries, he'll go down as the most consistent offensive weapon at either school since about 2002. (That's the last time either school produced a 1,000-yard rusher -- Willis McGahee -- or 1,000-yard receiver -- Anquan Boldin.) But unlike Lorenzo Booker, Antone Smith, Javarris James, Ryan Moore, et al, no one stands out as "the next great one." Which, as long as both sides are still loaded on defense, might ultimately be exactly what Jimbo Fisher and Mark Whipple need for their respective offensive rehabs, given the record of the would-be stars. If there's life left in either outfit, it's shaping up as a comeback-by-committee, not by blue-chip heroes.