Somewhere, sometime, someone first uttered the phrase, “It’s not the X’s and O’s, it’s the Jimmys and Joes.”
Sports writers have suffered ever since.
We’ve heard it over and over and over again. And if it’s indeed the case, well, Saturday’s WVU-Alabama game is going to end in a draw — because neither team has a single Jimmy or Joe. (The closest WVU has is Karl Joseph. Alabama does, however, have a Geno Smith, a defensive back.)
Of course, we know the spirit of the quote. A team needs fine players to win. At least one writer, Christopher Walsh of 247Sports, tried to compare those of Alabama and WVU.
“Alabama,” wrote Walsh, “has as many 5-star players in reserve as West Virginia has 4-star players on its roster.”
It was recruit-speak. He outlined that the Crimson Tide has 14 5-star players on its roster, 50 4-star players and 21 3-star kids. The Mountaineers, he claimed, have no 5-star players and seven 4-star players.
Thus, your 27-point spread. Thus, the belief the Tide will wash away WVU.
Mountaineer running backs coach JaJuan Seider knows what he’s up against. Recruiting is his specialty. He worked with Marshall coach Doc Holliday at WVU and in Huntington. He helped land MU star Rakeem Cato. A Belle Glade, Fla., native, he coached at schools in the Sunshine State like Glades Central, Palm Beach Lakes and Lake Worth.
Alabama was always in the picture.
“Pretty much every time out,” Seider said Tuesday. “Everybody is going to south Florida. Now [Alabama has offensive line coach Mario] Cristobal. They have [wide receiver coach] Billy Napier. They are all out there and I’d see them, especially when I was coaching in high school. [Outside linebackers coach] Lance Thompson, all those guys.”
Obviously, all those guys have had success in this, the Nick Saban era.
“The thing they have,” Seider said, “is everything is unlimited. Everything they have is nice. Kids are attracted to nice things.”
That, and national championships. Seider and the rest of WVU’s staff take other roads.
“What we sell are relationships,” said the coach. “We sell playing time. But we rely on relationships. A lot of coaches in southern Florida trust me. Plus, we’re a big name in Florida. Doc had been in south Florida for years [first recruiting for WVU].”
Seider said it’s important to get “the right kid” out of the area who can sell others on Morgantown. That philosophy is on full display this recruiting cycle. WVU has four — count ’em four — current commitments from Miramar, Fla. Two — wide receiver Jovon Duante and defensive back Kendrell McFadden — are 4-star prospects. The other two — running back Alex Anderson and receiver Kahlil Lewis — are 3-star kids.
Alabama, though, seems to be the gold standard. If the Tide offers, a prospect’s rating jumps. Seider, however, doesn’t pay much attention to any of that.
“I’m competitive,” Seider said. “It means nothing to me. I’m relentless and I establish trust. Florida folks can read right through you if you’re a fake.”
In sum, Seider ain’t skeered.
“I went against Alabama at Marshall and got [defensive back] A.J. Leggett,” Seider said.
Recently, Seider went against the Tide for WVU and landed receiver Jacob McCrary, who had to step back after failing to qualify. McCrary enrolled at Northwest Mississippi Community College.
“You have to sell what you’re good at,” Seider said. “Right now kids are attracted to [WVU head coach] Dana Holgorsen’s offense. You’d have to be crazy not to be attracted if you’re a skill player.”
He recalled how Rich Rodriguez’s WVU teams used to play a lot of Thursday night TV games.
“You can have them watch and show them guys making plays,” Seider said. “You can show them south Florida kids that have been here making plays.
“A lot of times kids get caught up in logos. If a coach walks in with an Alabama logo on their jackets with all those national championships, kids jump. I respect kids that don’t. The challenge, that’s what I thrive on.”
He has another dead ahead this Saturday.
Reach Mitch Vingle at 304-348-4827, firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him at twitter.com/MitchVingle.