...Stanford has the 15th ranked recruiting class in the country, according to Scout.com. Now, whether or not you believe in recruiting rankings - and frankly, I don't put a whole helluva lot of stock into them- is not the question here. The question here is how a school with such strict academic standards can put together such a seemingly strong class of high school football recruits. Doesn't that - dare I say -defy the logic of the Todd McShays and Tom Luginbills of the world, who have told us time and time again that schools like Stanford, Notre Dame, and Duke cannot reach the top of the college football rankings because of their inability to scale back their strict academic admission criteria? Surely something must be amiss, and surely these schools must be compromising their admissions standards to an extreme in letting so many talented prep football players in, aren't they?
Don't be so quick to think so. If there's one thing to take out of these kinds of rankings (and in fact one thing to be learned from the Myron Rolle story) it's that being a stellar college football athlete and being a exceptional college student are not always mutually exclusive. Despite what TV pundits or regionalists may have to say, top schools like Stanford or Notre Dame don't have to completely compromise their admission standards to field good teams. Is it easy? Of course not; but the challengeis not so much finding young men capable of excelling both on the gridiron and in the classroom, but rather getting a decent enough number of those young men to buy into coming to the same school. It is, after all, a much more limited pool of recruits we're talking about, so the margin for error in recruiting becomes much smaller, as does the margin for error in developing that talent.
That, in my humble opinion, has been the problem with the last few classes of Notre Dame recruits, which contrary to the ramblings of Scout Inc. personality Tim Luginbill did not lack natural ability when recruited out of high school. Rather, attrition, lack of depth outside of the skill positions, and a failure to fully develop that talent has hindered what was the exception to a very long held belief that a top academic school like Notre Dame just can't win without "lowering the bar" from the academic side of things. Oh yea, and that 15th ranked Stanford recruiting class? Still very much in the contention for stud linebacker Manti Te'o and running back Tyler Gaffney. Hold onto your butts, because Jim Harbough is quietly building a program with staying power, and once more he appears to be doing it by defying the odds.