I’ve learned a lot in the last couple of months since I decided I wanted to help some of the high school football players I knew in their recruiting journey. While it wasn’t my first experience with recruiting it was my first time trying to get to know college coaches and getting them to trust me enough to take a look at the players I had on my list.
But I learned something else, something I already knew to some extent.
High school recruiting is a lot like the NFL Draft, more than a lot of people would admit. It’s not an exact science and even those Power 5 conference coaches will tell you that even though they landed the most four or five star athletes, it doesn’t mean that every one will turn into the next big thing.
Far from it.
In fact, there’s a website I like to refer to during every college football season just to see who’s on top of the stat sheets at a number of categories, especially with the quarterbacks, running backs, wide receivers and who ever is leading in the sack category.
What I’ve found is no secret to anyone who knows a lot about the game of football. More times than not I can tell you with certainty that more two and three star recruits will lead the nation in one category or another than four and five star recruits.
Top 20 names in this category for the 2015 season: 5 star (2), 4 star (3), 3 star (8), 2 star (4), 0 stars (3)
Top 20 names in this category for the 2015 season: 5 star (2), 4 star (6), 3 star (7), 2 star (3), 0 star (2)
Twenty-seven of the top 40 combined players in the above two categories were athletes with three stars or less next to their names.
So were those with less than three stars underrated or undervalued or did the evaluators not take the time to look into any of these players? Would they have gotten stronger offers from bigger teams had they been watched more or had more stars next to their name?
Or do the stars next to a player’s name really matter at all?
For me it’s never been about evaluating a player because that will never be an exact science and if you put 10 people in a room and play the film for them, all 10 will never agree on how good that player will be. There isn’t a team in the country who will hit on every player they recruit. There will be some players who don’t pan out, some who will leave the program, and some who will never materialize in the first place.
Are recruiters and evaluators depending more on the guys who put the stars on a website more than what their own eyes are telling them? We will never know the answer to that question because there are just too many players in high school football around the country for coaches to look at every single one.
There are going to be players who get missed and there are going to be players who don’t get the kind of attention they truly deserve. That’s just the landscape of recruiting and it will never change because it will never get the chance to change. There are simply too many variables and too many players in 50 states for every school to view every kid on every high school team.
The best two examples I can give you, one from my own experience, are defensive lineman Carl Nessib out of Penn State and quarterback Jesse Drummer out of Angelo State.
Nessib has earned his stripes with the Nittany Lions and leads the nation in sacks (15.5) and is 3rd in tackles for a loss (19.5). Oh, did I mention he’s a walk on. I say again. He’s. A. Walk. On.
As for Drummer, a quarterback from right here in our backyard (Justin Northwest HS), ended up at Angelo State after every Division-I school passed on him which came as a surprise to one member of the coaching staff at the University of Tennessee. I received a message asking the simple question, “why does he not have a single offer right now?”
I couldn’t answer him because even I couldn’t explain it. Except to say he’s just one of the players who get missed or one of the players who gets undervalued. Not only is there a recruiting article on Jesse on Texas Sports Insiders but there’s also a scouting report on another website that called him, ‘underrated.’
That was the truth.
When the college careers of Nessib and Drummer are over I wonder if there are many schools who wouldn’t have liked a do-over on both players because maybe they missed something. Or perhaps these two players are just part of a longer list of players who just never got their opportunity to prove they could play at a high level.
There are scouts who may tell me I was wrong and I’m okay with that. But those same scouts will also tell you they have missed on their fair share of players either overvaluing them or undervaluing them.
Recruiting isn’t an exact science and it never will be. That’s the hard part for every coach at every level of college football across the country. It’s an impossible, and most times thankless, job and one only a handful of us will ever be able to do with any sort of success.
Every year it’s one big guess after another and coaches live on hopes and prayers that each player they select for their program turns them into, or creates, a powerhouse that lasts for years. It’s the only thing that guarantees that a head coach will keep his job for the long run.
At the end of day the only thing that matters is the opinion of the coaches doing the recruiting, not the number of stars next to the player’s name.
But even though that may be one of the most overrated thing in this process, it’s something the rest of us will just have to live with because it’s not going away, or being re-evaluated, any time soon.
Let the guessing game continue.