Recruiting pitches only work for so long. Only so many players can be told that they are the missing pieces that will take a program to the next level. After a while, the program actually needs to reach that next level.
Here are some schools with head coaches who have two full seasons and recruiting classes under their belts, whose on-field results have not measured up to recruiting. With another lackluster season, each could see a dip in talent.
Note that I said a "dip," not a huge drop-off. Most of the programs on this list have far too much tradition, recruiting base, or conference affiliation to take a deadly tumble.
Another note, on teams not included: I am sure some are wondering why teams like Florida and Virginia are not included. Coaches at those schools are ranked at the top of the CoachesHotSeat.com rankings, and if either has another underachieving season, it is likely that it would get to start the hype cycle over again with a new coach.
Michigan's recruiting under Brady Hoke has been awesome. 62 percent of the recruits in Hoke's three complete classes have been rated four- or five-stars. Only six teams in the entire country have been better. The other teams in the Big Ten combined to bring in only 11 percent blue chips in that time.
On the field, however, plenty of teams have been better than the Wolverines. Michigan is an embarrassing 26-13 under Hoke, and after an extremely lucky 11 wins in 2011, the win total dropped to eight, then seven. In fact, Michigan is just 7-8 in its last 15 games. And the record in the Big Ten is a paltry 15-9.
Not all of the losses are Hoke's fault. Eventually, though, recruits and their parents tire of excuses. Michigan's recruiting depends on it being able to pull kids nationally, as the state is not that loaded. And every inexplicable loss puts a little more doubt in the minds of high schoolers and another arrow in Urban Meyer's quiver.
Can Michigan get back to dominating everyone in the Big Ten not named Ohio State, if it's not winning? Probably not. Already, it seems that fewer elite recruits from across the country are mentioning the Wolverines.
Michigan has out-recruited every team on its schedule, save Ohio State and Notre Dame, by a huge margin. And it has a weak non-conference schedule in 2014. If it slips up again and turns in another season without double-digit wins, I would expect a drop-off in recruiting.
Miami has gone 7-5 and 9-4 over the last two years, and has weathered the storm of NCAA sanction threats. That sounds good, but there is an argument that Miami should have done better, given its recruiting.
Al Golden's three complete classes have produced 34 percent blue chips, which is very impressive when compared against the rest of the ACC, which has produced just 15 percent over that same period. But Golden is just 22-15 at Miami, and 13-11 in conference. Will the Canes' on-field play finally catch up to recruiting?
Miami has outrecruited every team on its schedule except Florida State, and most by healthy margins. Given that and the hype surrounding the program, Miami will be expected by most to get to 10 wins for the first time under Golden, and to play in the ACC title game by winning a weak Coastal.
If the Hurricanes do not, it will likely mean they've lost three or more games against the likes of Florida State, Louisville, Nebraska, Virginia Tech, Georgia Tech, UNC, and Duke. And if that happens, Miami might start to see more elite talent flee its fertile backyard.
3. Ole Miss
Hugh Freeze made waves when he signed an incredible 2013 class, and he followed it up with a good group in 2014. The Rebels are one of just 22 teams to bring in at least 25 percent blue chips in the last four classes, and they've been on fire in the last two, bringing in 32 percent in the last two classes. Hugh Freeze and his staff are selling recruits on coming in and being just as good as Alabama, Auburn, or LSU.
Yet Ole Miss has gone 3-5 in conference in both of Freeze's seasons in Oxford. At some point, hope must be turned into wins to maintain recruiting. And so far Freeze is just 15-11 as a head coach.
2014 needs to be the breakthrough year. The Rebels are lucky enough to draw Vanderbilt and Tennessee out of the East, neither of which is expected to make a bowl game. If Ole Miss can take care of its business against the teams it has outrecruited and knock off one of Alabama, Texas A&M, Auburn, or LSU, it can get to 9-3 with a shot at a bowl game to play for 10 wins. That's some tangible progress to sell to recruits. That quiets some rivals in the SEC.
But if the Rebels stumble and win only seven or eight games yet again, we may look back on the 2013 and 2014 classes as nothing more than that short period of time when Ole Miss pulled some mega recruits. The window for any staff to gain traction in the SEC is so short-lived.
Nebraska has recruited blue chips at a 26 percent clip in its three full classes as a Big Ten member, substantially better than the 15 percent produced by the other league members in that period. But entering Year 7 of his tenure at Nebraska, Bo Pelini has no conference titles and has lost four games in all six seasons.
The program feels stale, and it has already seen a downturn in recruiting (2011-12 classes included 46 percent blue-chips, the 2013-14 classes just 18 percent). A 17-8 record in Big Ten play just isn't what fans expect from the Cornhuskers.
And given that the talent in Nebraska and the surrounding states is awful, the Cornhuskers have to go national to get their elite players. And that gets tougher each year without excellence, as the history and tradition feels older and older. Consider that no current high school junior remembers seeing Tommie Frazier or Eric Crouch play, and the need for a big season with some style points becomes apparent.
Nebraska has a very favorable schedule in 2014, but it cannot afford to drop road games at Fresno State, Northwestern, or Iowa. And it will likely be favored when it hosts Miami. It needs to cash in and win 10 or more games, or risk having the 2013-14 level of recruiting become the new norm.