With our expected departures (don’t have a list, but it includes several starters) can we expect this team to take a step forward? Our recruiting hasn’t been great the past 2 cycles (counting the current) and that may change between now and signing day, but I just don’t see anything saying we should expect a large uptick in capability.
Don't know about next year. Some guys have the option of returning or retiring. Heupel has to play the portal well... and we have to hope he's better at finding players than 247 and Rivals. It would be comforting to have some higher rated players but in reality it matters more what they're able to do on the field with a couple of years of development.
Most of the guys they're recruiting right now aren't going to be year one help.
So what does that leave?
One, it matters how many of the guys with an extra Covid year take it. That includes guys who aren't playing a lot. Guys who are on the scout team. Guys who are 3, 4, or 5 down the depth chart. Those guys are important too.
Two, and probably most important, Heupel has to get some great players who fit out of the portal. Some guys in the portal aren't any good... that's a fact. You have to avoid them. But some guys in the portal for various reasons just need a new start. Turnage wasn't getting a ton of time at Bama but looks like he's becoming a good player for UT... maybe even a draft worthy player in a couple of years. Hooker is the most obvious example. There were people here early on openly saying he couldn't be any good since he'd lost his job at Va Tech.
UT needs to lose the right guys to the portal then bring in 10 or so guys who contribute in '22.
Three, development. Some of the guys with physical talent who aren't ready to play now MUST be ready by next fall. Specifically along the OL... a guy like Beckworth... Willis... You can't just throw them onto the field if they aren't ready. But their development is critical to next year and beyond.
Four, he needs some JUCO homeruns.
Five, he has to be a recruiter who can find underrated 3* players. This isn't unique to Heupel. Several of us have been saying it since Fulmer was fired. Every year the recruiting services miss as many guys worthy of 4/5* as they find. Maybe a lot more. Finding the guys who have talent that can be developed and who fit the culture and system needs... is more important than recruiting rankings. It is fine if the rankings affirm what you are doing... but it isn't as important as finding and developing good players.
Dabo did this well as Clemson rose. Now they have a whole team of guys that the recruiting sites loved... and are struggling.
I think holding our ground should be the expectation, recruit better, and start improving year 3 or 4 at the latest.
Sounds nice. Sounds kind. Almost sounds reasonable. However it isn't realistic. There is no "holding ground". You are either climbing or sinking. No one else is sitting still and you can't either.
But the most important thing that sentiments like this fail to account for is that recruiting won't get better unless you prove yourself on the field. If recruits see you as a mediocre program then they'll go to the successful programs OR programs with "shiny new coaches" who can use a "vision" to attract them. Guys who win 6-8 games per year and especially in the SEC... aren't going to get the elite players needed to "start improving".
We haven't seen the end result this year yet. What they've done on the field should help. But whatever momentum they have has to be continued next year AND has to be converted into buzz with recruits and the portal.