Top classes are not indicative of success

Though the Gophers welcome top recruits every year to their programs, having a top-ranked class may not always be a preview for success.

Each year, University of Minnesota teams bring in some of the top recruiting classes in the nation, and 2009 is no exception. While having a nationally ranked recruiting class may seem like a good indicator of a successful upcoming season, coaches donâÄôt always see it as a valuable predictor of performance. âÄúTeams do well not with freshmen recruits but with the backbone of the returning group,âÄù volleyball head coach Mike Hebert said. âÄúSome of our newcomers play, but they donâÄôt know our system yet or our value structure and how we conduct ourselves. They have a lot to learn to be part of our program.âÄù Hebert said the media hype surrounding incoming freshmen isnâÄôt always warranted, and it isnâÄôt always linked to how well they will perform in their upcoming matches. Junior Brook Dieter said having top recruiting classes is a better indicator of how well theyâÄôve been playing in the past, because winning teams often attract more players. âÄúI think having a No. 1 recruiting class really shows how well weâÄôve been doing over the years, and I think thatâÄôs a good estimate of how we will be doing next season,âÄù Dieter said. Minnesota volleyball brought in the top recruiting class in the nation for 2009 and have had four classes ranked in the top 10 since 2003 . Though theyâÄôve had steady success over the years, Hebert said he wouldnâÄôt attribute it to only the freshmen players. Last season, the Gophers finished with a 27-7 record, giving them the most wins in a season since 2004 . While 27-7 is one of the better records in the programâÄôs history, the recruiting class that year only made it to the 12th spot on the rankings . The wrestling team also gathered a No. 1 recruiting class for 2009 âÄî itâÄôs second in a row âÄî and head assistant coach Joe Russell sees this as a good indicator of potential success. âÄúItâÄôs exciting to have outside experts agree that youâÄôre getting the right people in your program,âÄù Russell said. âÄúBeing top ranked gives some validity to the excitement.âÄù However, the contributions of these high-profile incoming freshmen arenâÄôt usually seen until later in their Gopher careers. Wrestlers often compete better after a few seasons, and the benefits of having top recruits are not usually seen right away. âÄúYouâÄôre not really sure until a few years down the road, because itâÄôs not an exact science,âÄù Russell said. âÄúWe typically redshirt incoming true freshmen, so their impact isnâÄôt felt until later on in their careers.âÄù Junior wrestler Ben Berhow agreed and said that freshmen can contribute as practice partners but not as much in competition. âÄúFreshmen need a year to train to get their body mature and where it needs to be,âÄù Berhow said. âÄúAny kid coming in from high school usually isnâÄôt ready for Division I-level intensity, but obviously, when you recruit the most talented kids in the country, itâÄôs going to be good for the program.âÄù Though MinnesotaâÄôs wrestling squad pulled in the No. 1 recruiting class last year, the team still had to take the season as a rebuilding period, finishing fifth at the Big Ten Championships. However, Russell said the outside rankings give a little more confidence and edge to the program. âÄúAs a predictor of success, you would have more confidence that those classes will be able to significantly contribute down the line,âÄù Russell said. In sports where it is uncommon for freshmen to redshirt, the rewards of having a talented incoming class are more immediately realized. âÄúIf weâÄôre offering them scholarships, then we hope that theyâÄôre going to contribute immediately,âÄù menâÄôs swimming assistant coach Bill Tramel said. âÄúSome of the walk-on guys are developmental, so they might not be 100 percent their freshmen year.âÄù MenâÄôs swimming and diving earned the 10th-ranked recruiting class for 2009, according to Last season, with the 16th-ranked recruiting class, the Gophers finished third at the Big Ten Championships and 11th at the NCAA Championships. While Tramel said the rankings are rather subjective, he also said having an impressive recruiting class can be an important aspect of recruiting future athletes. âÄúIt is an honor to be mentioned as one of the top recruiting classes, and that also helps when I call recruits this year,âÄù Tramel said. âÄúIt creates a lot of buzz and is an attractive factor for potential athletes.âÄù