It was a nice evening Bobby Ross was having in Alexander Coliseum recently, watching the Georgia Tech basketball team, basking in the glow of his football team's national championship season. Coach Ross would be brought back to earth, however, and quickly. Alumni, football-crazed alumni, saw Ross and wanted to know: "Hey, Bobby, how come you didn't sign John Doe" from so-and-so's all-American list? "How'd we let that one get away, Bob?" "Hey Coach, we've only got two of the top 50 recruits but Penn State's got six and they didn't even win the national title."

The radio sports talk shows, particularly throughout the South, are teeming with recruiting talk. So Ross had a lot of company after last week's national signing date for high school football players. A "recruiting analyst" from suburban Chicago named Tom Lemming professes to know who the best high school football players are in America and which colleges they're going to. In USA Today last Thursday, Lemming proclaimed Michigan, Florida State and Penn State were the recruiting winners. Of Michigan's 21 signees, 18 were "of all-America caliber."

Lemming isn't the only recruiting analyst. They're everywhere, armed with newsletters, computer printouts, top-100 lists, inside information. "One of them rates kids as blue-blue chippers, blue-chippers, blue-plus, blue-minus, and so on," Ross said. "I've heard kids calling the talk shows. They've gotten ticked off because so-and-so didn't have them on their list of top 50 or something. It's way, way out of control. There's pressure on the coaches. Now we're having two seasons, the regular season and recruiting season. With all these surveys, and there are a ton of them, there's a big-time evaluation of your recruiting. Then, there's the pressure on the kid, which is incredible."

Clearly the kid is hurt more than anybody by this unnecessary and excessive emphasis on evaluating recruiting classes seven months before class begins. In basketball, as often as not, you can accurately forecast who will be a good college player, and who might reach the NBA. (Even though it was incredible to hear Dick Vitale say the other day that based on recruiting, he was picking Duke over UCLA as his preseason No. 1 for 1992.)

High school football? Forget it. Just go back a few years and check the Parade all-American lists.

The top-rated quarterback in 1979 was Scott Grooms from Miami. Somebody named Steve Smith from Grand Blanc, Mich., was second. Of the 11 quarterbacks honored that year by Parade, only two -- Blair Kiel and Steve Bono -- are drawing NFL paychecks.

You need not have seen a football game to know that Herschel Walker was the best running back in years. But after him? Linnie Patrick, Dwight Collins, Lloyd Archer, Kerwin Bell (not the Florida QB), Kevin Nelson, Tyrone Anthony, who played at North Carolina. The only wide receiver of note? Wilber Marshall. There are some years, such as 1983, when Parade's Haskell Cohen nailed it. That season, Craig Heyward, Gaston Green, Lars Tate, Thurman Thomas, Cleveland Gary and Eric Ball were among the 11 running backs. But in other years, such as 1980, there wasn't a single player easily recalled.

On the other hand, Ross could tick off the names of several players who were on nobody's all-American list -- some were virtually unrecruited -- who made it to the NFL. Former Terrapins tight end "Ferrell Edmunds was recruited by James Madison and N.C. State, but he's playing for the Dolphins," Ross said. "Shawn Scott was a walk-on, but lasted a couple of years with the Cowboys. Kevin Walker wasn't a blue-blue chipper or anything and he's had a nice career with the Bengals. O'Brien Alston was recruited by us {Maryland} and Missouri {before going on to the Colts}. J.B. Brown was recruited, but he wasn't a super blue-chipper and he's started for the Dolphins for a couple of years, right? Oh, there's one other name I'll throw at you. Stump Mitchell, who played for us when I was at The Citadel. I don't think anybody recruited him and he played with the Cardinals for nine years."

Does this mean Parade and USA Today and The Washington Post for that matter shouldn't pick all-American teams? Of course not. But the kids selected should enjoy such honors for the moment, as recognition for work/performance already turned in, and not take them for projections of stardom.

With a few exceptions, nobody knows the future of these players. Many of them get injured. Many simply aren't capable of getting any better. A former Maryland assistant basketball coach, Dave Pritchett, once said, "All of them are 40 percent overrated."

Of the anxious alums, Ross wondered: "Is there never any letup? Who's to say that kid is going to be any good as a football player.

"You talk {to players} about transitions in life, about adjustments being away from home, about increase in intensity as it pertains to football -- they aren't listening. We're the culprits too as coaches. We tell them this and that to lure them, to sell them. It's less and less fun, I'll tell you that."

It's fun for the kids, until they begin school. "If a super-blue-blue-chipper gets redshirted his freshman year," Ross said, "he's got to explain why to his peers. Or if he doesn't get off to a flying start, there's all this pressure on the young man to explain what's wrong, when in reality nothing at all is wrong."

Ross has been invited to be a guest at the National Quarterback Awards Dinner. The winner of the 1990 National High School Quarterback of the Year is Eric Zeler of Marietta High (Ga.). He's a Parade all-American first-teamer. In four years, we hope we remember his name.