First of all, read this about 19-year-old Louisville defensive lineman Amobi Okoye, who's getting a lot of attention for being the youngest player in Senior Bowl history, just because it's interesting - began school in Nigeria at two, skipped an elementary grade and started high school in America at 12, recruited by John L. Smith at 15, started for Bobby Petrino at 16, first round draft pick at nineteen.
All Okoye pre-game introductions, tackles, sacks and fumble recoveries accompanied by his theme music.
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Next, continuing SMQ's seasonally-appropriate recruiting theme, read this geographical analysis of recruiting talent by Saurian Sagacity, which looks at the production of "top 100" incoming talent by state in 2005 and 2006 (that's 200 players in all). Here are Sagacity's results in per capita form, based on 2005 population:
|State||Top 100*||State||Top 100*|
* - Per capita
Not to go all Fisher DeBerry here, but the states at the top of that list - Mississippi, South Carolina, Louisiana and Georgia - have more in common than providing SEC competition:
|Total Black Population (per capita)|
|Rank||State||Per 100 People|
A couple years ago, Rivals looked at NFL production by state, and found the top three states for producing pros, per capita, were: Mississippi, South Carolina and Louisiana. Washington, D.C., which is 57 percent black, was better than any state at getting people into the NFL.
Saurian Sagacity probably wisely doesn't make the point, it being a pretty dicey one demanding immediate qualification, but one of its commenters does: football success corresponds very strongly with high levels of melanin (SMQ will limit that statement to football now). As noted when DeBerry was dragged over the coals for foolishly commenting on this obviousness after his distinctly pale team was run over by TCU in 2005, black players sure seem to "run very well" compared to white players, according to the hugely disproportionate number of black players (SMQ previously calculated about a 550 percent increase compared to American society at large) in the NFL, and at skill positions at the top colleges (John Walters, in the story linked above, counted no starting white cornerbacks on a ranked team, a handful of starting white receivers, and only one white running back among last year's top 30 rushers, Colorado State's Kyle Bell, who did not make a repeat appearance. The best white running back of 2006? Tim Tebow).
Extrememly necessary qualification, which may still not keep SMQ from being diagnosed with Jack Nicklaus Syndrome: to keep these conclusions as legitimately honest - i.e., "scientific," for lack of a better term - as they can be, any attempt to discern why this disparity exists is futile and at this point definitely not based on anything but sociological conjecture. Biological explanations, as noted in John Entine's 2000 book Taboo, are heavily suspect to suspicions of racism, for obvious and justifiable historical reasons, and sociological/cultural explanations aren't exactly empirical or conclusive.
This is why the notion of "SEC speed" has always struck SMQ foremost as a thinly-veiled racial argument, because black populations are still centered most heavily in former slave states. But that doesn't explain Florida's alleged "speed advantage" over Ohio State, either, the Buckeyes' very Ohio-based lineup being overwhelmingly urban its own self. The one white guy OSU did trot out in a "skill" position, Anthony Gonzalez, is supposedly a burner of at least the caliber of, say, Dallas Baker. On the lines, Ohio State's defensive ends were black, like Florida's blazing bookends, and four-fifths of Florida's offensive line white. And the worst teams in the SEC are manned mostly by black players, too, including virtually every pass rusher as well as running backs, receivers and corners, and the same is true of most of the ACC, Big East, Big Ten, Big XII, PAC Ten and a good portion of the mid-major conferences. The racial disparity on the conference level is ubiquitous regardless of geography; the only difference is a matter of degree, and it's a minor difference. So a race-based position on "Southern speed" is not going take you very far, especially if the mythical championship game is part of the discussion.
But if Southern players are supposed to be on the whole superior to their Northern and Western counterparts, in recruiting, winning head-to-head or representating in the NFL, and especially if they're supposed to be faster, at what other explanation could "SEC speed" proponents and Saurian Sagacity be shooting when arguing along these lines:
And, it is in these regions the talent stays.
Why? Climate? Why is it from these regions the talent comes? Sociology? What sociological factors, specifically? Are recruiting gurus or NFL draft assessments possibly biased towards the South, or along racial lines? SMQ would like to know what lies at the root of this claim that the South, in general - and, by proxy, the SEC - is "faster" or, here, "more talented" in general than the rest of the country.