Hundreds of DVDs align two large bookshelves in the corner of Robert Tucker’s office. Each tape contains highlights of top high school prospects from across the country.
Tucker, the Colorado Buffaloes director of football operations, pulls up his swivel chair and starts typing at his computer.
“We have 20 spots available,” said Tucker, referring to scholarships open for high school prospects.
With National Signing Day, which is the first day high school athletes can sign a binding letter to play college sports, approaching on Feb. 3, CU’s prospective recruiting class has left the so-called experts unimpressed. Popular recruiting Web site Rivals.com ranks the Buffs’s 2010 recruiting class 54th among colleges.
Tucker, who handles on-campus recruiting, couldn’t care less.
“People are going to rank our class by stars, but it should be rated by productivity,” Tucker said.
One reason the ranking is so low is due to the de-commitments of two of the top in-state recruits. After months of verbally committing to the Buffs, running back Mister Jones of Littleton (Colo.) High School and quarterback Danny Spond of Columbine (Colo.) High decided to play college ball elsewhere.
Due to NCAA rules, Tucker can’t discuss specifics on current high school players, but he acknowledged why a player might change his mind.
“There’s so many things going at these kids,” Tucker said. “They get a lot of pressure from family and coaches, and the longer the process goes on, I think it becomes hard for a guy to stay true to his commitment.”
Spond and Jones publicly pledged their services to CU in April and June, respectively. But by December, both players told CU coaches they would not be coming to Boulder.
These are only two of the seemingly countless teenage recruits that renege on a college decision each year. Tucker said he feels there is more awareness of this now because of the constant flow of information over the Internet.
“It’s more evident today because of recruiting sites,” Tucker said. “You’ve got these big signing day parties where the kids announce their choice. I think it’s very media driven.”
Certain media create the rankings, which supposedly tell who the premier high school football players are. Tucker, however, said he doesn’t want to hear it. His job basically requires him to shut himself off from the recruiting experts.
“We’re not going to rely on anyone else to evaluate talent,” Tucker said. “We’re going to rely on high school coaches and our network.”
One coach that CU’s staff keeps in close contact with is Fairview High head coach Tom McCartney, the son of legendary Buffs coach Bill McCartney.
Fairview is located in Boulder and one might think the school automatically hands over its best players to CU. However, this pipeline has its share of leaks.
The only Fairview senior with a CU offer this season, two-way star Kenny Bell, verbally committed to rival Nebraska on Jan. 5.
McCartney, who’s been in his position for 17 years, said he finds no problem with his player’s decision.
“At Fairview, we try to teach our young men that your yes is your yes and your no is your no,” McCartney said.
According to McCartney, the “C” word gets thrown around too often to garner any meaning.
“If you commit to a school, they are telling other recruits that that spot’s taken,” McCartney said. “If you de-commit, then you’re not a man of your word.”
With these recent departures from the recruiting train, CU currently has two in-state prospects still aboard. It hasn’t always been this way. Of the sparse football talent in a largely barren state, CU is used to handpicking the best players from Colorado.
In the last three years, the Buffs have landed 14 recruits from the state, some of whom were highly regarded.
“Over the past few years, Ryan Miller and Curtis Cunningham did go to CU,” McCartney said. “Nick Kasa and Jon Major did go to CU.
“For some reason this year just hasn’t gone their way. Sometimes its coincidence and sometimes it’s the win-loss record.”
Last season’s 3-9 record may have derailed CU’s recruiting efforts. But if a team is only as good as the players it gets, then the Buffs need engineers and construction workers to re-establish the once-great program.
“Right now, you have to build it,” McCartney said. “When my dad first got to CU, he was getting in-state recruits, selling them on the fact that he needed them to help build it.”
Kyle Slavin of Chatfield (Colo.) High is one of the two in-state players who have offered a hand in getting CU back on track.
Much like McCartney, Slavin is of Buffalo kin.
“My whole family went to CU,” the 6-foot, 5-inch tight end said. “I’ve been crazed about CU since I can remember.”
Although Slavin, 18, wasn’t alive when Colorado won the school’s only national championship in 1990, he said he always knew he wanted to be a part of the black and gold tradition. Slavin responded quickly and surely about his commitment to CU.
“The real answer is my whole life,” Slavin said. “But I guess for about [seven] months now in actuality.”
Slavin, who committed in late June, said his decision is final and said he wished players such as Jones and Spond the best of luck.
Tucker made it clear that a player like Slavin is what CU looks for.
“We want good kids that are going to be first-class type of guys,” Tucker said. “Kids that want to win championships.”
Contact CU Independent Staff Writer Michael Krumholtz at Michael.email@example.com.