The hype of National Signing Day ignores the reality. For the more than 2,500 players who signed letters of intent with Football Bowl Subdivision football programs Wednesday, the path to senior day - let alone stardom, or the NFL Draft - is littered with pitfalls.
Take the 28 guys who signed with Boise State.
Based on the success rate of the 62 recruits who signed with Chris Petersen's program from 2006 to 2008 (all but one has completed his time with the Broncos), those talented, intriguing prospects are more likely to leave the program without completing their eligibility (24.2 percent) than to play as true freshmen (17.7 percent) or become first-team all-conference players (16.1).
And success is often delayed.
Of the 52 recruits in the past three signing classes, only eight have become regular starters (six, on the other hand, already have left) and the two all-conference performers were junior college transfers.
So while everyone's favorite questions on signing day are who's going to play as a true freshman and who's going to become a star, the better question might be who's going to survive long enough to thrive.
And those numbers - a quarter of recruits didn't enroll, quit, transferred, sustained career-ending injuries or were dismissed for academic or disciplinary reasons - come from a program that has enjoyed coaching stability and an astounding 84-8 record in Petersen's seven seasons.
Imagine the turnover at places amid turmoil.
"I am excited about these kids because I really like them and they've got such a big chance," Petersen said of this year's class, "but you're exactly right - who knows? I mean, can they come here and handle this environment? And most of them can, but as we know a handful of them cannot - and that's hard and that's sad and all those things, but that's the reality of not only this program but of college football.
"And so, yeah, now come prove it. That's what this program is about and that's who we are. I can't wait to get them here, but do we really know? No, we don't. Athletically, yeah, we do know - I guarantee they're good enough. But there's so much more that comes with it."
Petersen and his staff try during the recruiting process to prepare players for what they will face - the rigors of training, the competition, the academics, the freedom, the environment. For example, he usually resists the urge to tell recruits who visit on a cold weekend that it isn't usually like that here (he made an exception for this year's brutal January).
The number of recruits who truly understand what they're getting into, Petersen said: "Zero."
"It can be shocking," he said. "We try to do a good job of really preparing them. We don't recruit like this is the greatest thing and it's fun and games and you're going to love every day. It starts when we get them in the bridge program (summer school before fall camp). It's hard out of the gate.
"And to be disciplined and do this day after day, it takes a special person."
I met with all nine assistant coaches to discuss the Broncos' recruiting class. Here are some of the insights behind the players the Broncos signed (for a player-by-player breakdown, visit the Bronco Beat blog at blogs.idahostatesman.com):
Nickel Mat Boesen (6-foot-4, 220 pounds) represents a shift in the Broncos' thinking about the position. He'll be the only scholarship nickel who is taller than 5-11. "What (Boesen) gives us on the outside is a long guy, which we don't have," linebackers coach Bob Gregory said. "He's a longer guy with longer arms. He can rush the passer better. He can get his hands on the tight end. He really gives us a different type of dimension out there that we might not have right now."
Linebacker Joe Martarano (6-3, 235) of Fruitland High will begin at weak-side linebacker, but Gregory says he has the potential to play middle linebacker, nickel or the end/linebacker hybrid spot. Martarano committed in June 2011, two years before he could arrive on campus. "Just being so gifted athletically, he was just so far ahead of so many other kids," Gregory said. "We had him here in camp for two years. He's very natural inside. That's one of the reasons we want him to play inside linebacker."
Safety Thomas Sperbeck is the son of Sacramento State football coach Marshall Sperbeck. Boise State offensive line coach Chris Strausser coached with Sperbeck for three years and has known Thomas since he was little. The elder Sperbeck told his friend the Broncos needed to take a better look at Thomas as the recruiting process neared its end. "We did," Strausser said, "and it paid off."
The Broncos only planned to take one wide receiver in this class. They added Kendal Keys of Helix High in San Diego after the father of cornerback Jamar Taylor recommended him. Taylor also played at Helix. Keys fits the Matt Miller mold, offensive coordinator Robert Prince said, because he's a big, physical target. "You throw the ball up, you feel confident he's going to come down with it," Prince said.
Junior college transfer Derrick Thomas, a junior, is the oldest tailback on the team. The top returner is redshirt sophomore Jay Ajayi. "(Thomas) is going to push the whole group with all the young guys I have," running backs coach Keith Bhonapha said.
Recruiting can be a treacherous business. Consider:
Tight ends coach Scott Huff hit a black bear with his car on the highway driving from Phoenix to Pinetop, Ariz., during spring recruiting. The bear died. "I felt terrible," Huff said.
Avalos, who grew up in Southern California, witnessed his first high-speed police chase while recruiting in Texas. "I was actually driving through Pearland, where (defensive end) Sam Ukwuachu is from," he said. "I'm talking to Sammy U. on the phone, catching up with him. I look in the rear-view mirror and there's a white car with a bunch of cop cars coming up fast on me and so I'm trying to get out of the way. I move over to the side of the freeway. Next thing I know there are 15 police cars chasing this car down the highway."
Huff went goose hunting with Martarano and Fruitland teammate and fellow signee Alec Dhaenens as the pair's "home visit." They got skunked in temperatures that hit minus-10 degrees. "We sat there until 12:30 (p.m.) and nothing had flown all day - but we had a great time," Huff said. "Totally your unconventional home visit."
With the 2013 class signed, the coaches will intensify preparations for spring ball. The first practice is March 11 and the Spring Game is April 13.
"Oh my stars, we've got so much work to do - and we've been doing a lot of work," Petersen said. "In between (recruiting), we've been doing football things and we've been talking to people. We've got a few things to fix and improve. That's what we like to do. It fires us all up."
The offensive staff is in the process of completing the "top to bottom" review that Petersen promised after the bowl game. He said they needed to get rid of the "dead weight" in the playbook.
Prince, though, said that review isn't much different from any other offseason.
"If you ask Coach Pete every year, that's what he basically says," said Prince, who enters his second year as the coordinator. "It's not like a revelation. We're always going to evaluate what we do, see what we do well, see what we need to work on and see if we can fix it. If we can't fix it, we throw it out."
One thing Prince liked last year: the abundance of no-huddle series the Broncos used in the MAACO Bowl Las Vegas victory over Washington.
Boise State signed two high school players from Texas this year, down from six last year.
The program lost its two primary Texas recruiters after the 2011 season - Jeff Choate (Houston) and Brent Pease (Dallas). Marcel Yates, who also left, contributed to Texas recruiting.
The Broncos didn't emphasize the state as much for the 2013 class, Petersen said, but did send Avalos to Houston and linebackers coach Bob Gregory (who had recruited the Northwest) to Dallas.
"The good thing is we have a great reputation in Texas," Gregory said. "We have several kids on our roster from Texas, so that helps, but still, I'm a new guy walking in there. You have to get a feel for yourself of the area, of the coaches, of the better schools to go to, all that. That takes a little while to get used to."
Another factor, Avalos said, was that the Broncos took junior college transfers in spots where they were recruiting Texas kids.
For 2014, the Broncos are adding a third coach into the Texas mix. Tight ends coach Scott Huff, who has been successful in Arizona, will work the San Antonio area.
"We are way further ahead going into the next class, so that's exciting," Avalos said.
Chadd Cripe is in his 12th year covering Boise State football for the Idaho Statesman. Contact him at email@example.com or 377-6398. His Twitter account is @IDS_BroncoBeat.