What are stars in recruiting worth anyway?

Buckeyeneer's picture
September 18, 2012 at 2:43 pm

Acknowledgment: This was written by IrishInOntario as a post on a free, public message board and I found it very informative. I had nothing to do with it. Enjoy! Link to original discussion http://collegefootball.rivals.com/showmsg.asp?fid=2150&tid=178038693&mid=178038693&sid=1144&style=2
Things to know about recruiting (I worked in the field)
- No kids drop in "star" ratings because they commit to a certain school,
although a lot of fan bases feel that way. The reason they drop is
because of three three factors...
1. Their initial rating was based on film and the recruiting "experts" were yet to see the kid play in
person. Sometimes highly touted kids, or underrated kids attend camps
and they've grown a lot, worked on their skill-set quite a bit and have
improved. Other kids go to these camps with a high rating, based on
film, and don't measure up to the other kids there, and because of it,
their ranking drops. Also, note that going to these camps sponsored by
these recruiting services and other big camps like Friday Night Lights,
Top Gun, The Opening, is important when it comes to "star" rating.
Remember, recruiting is a big money business for the likes of Rivals,
247, Scout, ESPN, etc... They want something to report on about these
kids. They want interviews and tidbits and blogable material. Why?
Because it's what increases membership to their sites. Therefore, kids
are rewarded for attending camps, and many kids "star" rating drops if
they chose not to participate in the camp circuit because this is about
money first, like everything else, and the kids that show up and show
off their skills, are rewarded.
2. Kids are often ranked geographically. What I mean by that is that a site like Rivals has to
please members from across the country, which means when they put out
the Rivals 100 or 250, they have an obligation to make sure that the
entire country is represented on those lists, in order to maximize their
membership and make as many fan bases possible, feel good about the
kids they are getting. What I'm getting at is that there are years in
which Florida, California and Texas recruits could comprise probably 60%
of the list if the rankings were done strictly based on talent. If you
consider how many talented kids are in those 3 states alone, you'd come
up with a big number. Throw in Ohio, Alabama, Georgia and Louisiana, and
there isn't much room left for the other states' talent to get much
publicity. Therefore, keep in mind that there are "3 star" kids from a
place like Texas, that very well might be a "4 star, top 100" player, if
he played in lets say Michigan, Indiana, or Kentucky, where they don't
produce as much top football talent. However, the same player doesn't
get a lot of hype in the state of Texas because there is a such a large
amount of talent and they can't have 50 Texas kids on the Rivals 250
list that is suppose to cover the entire country... Remember, again,
this is about making money.
3. Star ratings of players rise and fall not because of who they commit to, but because they commit in
general. This is especially true with top players who commit early,
because it kills the "drama" that recruiting sites create about a
recruit and "who leads", "who is in his top 5", "who will get an
official visit" etc, etc, etc... The home rivals site, for each of
college football's teams have to sell memberships. Right now, the
biggest reason people sign up and pay money, is to follow recruiting,
because it's a year round thing, and gets them their college football
fix when the season is through and the long wait until the next one
begins. Recruiting websites play to that interest from the fans! Therefore,
unless a player is just enormously gifted, the chance of him staying at
the top of the Rivals 100 (or 247, ESPN, SCOUT etc...) for the entire
recruiting cycle, is extremely low. The reason for this, of course, is
because its boring. Rivals wants subscribers to be interested in where
the the top 10, 20, 50, 100 and 250 players will be attending school
and they will move up as many uncommitted kids as they can throughout
the cycle, in order to create and maintain the drama that sells them
memberships. How much fun would it be for fans of recruiting if the
Rivals 100 didn't change often?
A perfect example of what I said above is at work with Notre Dame 2012 recruit Isaac Rochell (and he's just one example).
Isaac is from Georgia, where he plays very good competition. He's 6'5, 260lbs and
has the makings of a future NFL defensive end (much like Stephon Tuitt)
and he's the type of kid that would normally sore up the Rivals rankings
because of potential, production, and his offer list, which includes
teams like... Notre Dame, Alabama, Auburn, Florida State, Florida,
Clemson, Virginia Tech, Georgia, Michigan, South Carolina and USC. It's
hard to believe a kid having a more impressive offers list, to go with
an elite frame and top grades that could get him into any school in the
country to play football... However, Isaac debuted in the Rivals 100 at
#88 and word was that he'd quickly be on the rise. But 3 things happened
that changed that.
1. Isaac committed to Notre Dame early, thus eliminating the drama from his recruitment.
2. He chose to work out with his teammates this summer, rather than to travel the country on the camp circuit.
3. He broke his hand early his senior season, meaning he'll miss 3 games
and there won't be any senior film released on him for a while.
For those 3 reasons, Isaac fell out of the Rivals 100 in the latest update
(to #111), and in his place there is probably 10 kids that aren't as
good as he is, without the offer lists or the upside, but who did the
things necessary to have their star rating and their ranking move up...
Isaac might find his way back into the Rivals 100 if he is dominant when
he comes back from injury, but chances are, that they are comfortable
leaving him on the outside looking in. Now, if he were to de-commit from
Notre Dame and start some recruiting drama, you'd likely see him get
bumped back up to where he belongs (he's certainly one of the 100 best
players out there according to many, many people).
Now, certainly not every kid's ranking will be hurt because he commits, as long as he
attends camps and gives recruiting websites reasons to talk about him
and evaluate him. My point, however, is not to fall in love with
recruiting rankings and "starts" because they aren't always
representative of talent. In a lot of cases, they have more to do with
politics as it relates to geographical representation, visibility in the media and overall drama created.
Personally, I use the rankings and the star system as a database to find talent. I
will look at all the kids ranked, then I'll find the kids within those
rankings (and from outside of them) that fit the measurables and playing
characteristics that the Notre Dame staff is looking for. For example,
Notre Dame likes tall (5"11 or taller) corners to play its style of
defense. Therefore, I'll highlight the corners that I know Brian Kelly is
going to go hard after, according to their measurables. Then I look at
the kid's film and evaluate it as best I can, while trying to find as
much out about his competition (that's important in how a kid looks on
film) as best I can. Finally, when I've made my determination on whether
I think ND should offer, or whether I like that ND has already offered,
I then look at what other coaches have offered. Even that is a process,
because what teams' offers impress me, depends on what position the
player in question plays, and how that relates to the systems that Notre
Dame runs...
For example... Notre Dame runs a 3-4 defense, much
like Alabama and is looking for the same types of over-sized, but
athletic defensive ends. Therefore a kid like Isaac Rochell, who I
talked about earlier, who is 6'5, 260lbs and could be a 300lbs type guy
down the road, yet runs like a 4.8, is what Notre Dame and Alabama are
looking for. A lot of 4-3 teams would be recruiting Rochell to play
defensive tackle, not defensive end. Therefore, If I look at a kid's
offer list and he doesn't have offers at the position ND is recruiting
him for, by other top teams who also run a 3-4 defense and want him at
DE, for example, then it somewhat concerns me. When I saw that a kid
like Rochell had a Georgia offer (the top in state team), a plethora of
other big time offers (regardless of defensive system), and most
importantly an offer from Alabama (a 3-4 Juggernaut), it made me
comfortable in knowing that Notre Dame likely got a really good one
(something that I had assumed the first time I saw his film, knowing his
competition and how much he dominated as a junior). 
Another example.... Sometimes a kid doesn't have a "whose who" offer list in
terms of the big name schools and maybe he's only rated as a 3 star kid,
but there are other things to look for. Does he have an offer from all
of the in-state schools? Sometimes as much as teams recruit nationally,
they don't have a positional need, or they only need one kid at a
position and they already have, or feel confident that they can, land a
kid with similar talent, in their own state, so they don't offer. But if
Notre Dame is recruiting a 3 star kid from Florida, and he has offers
from 2 of Miami, Florida State or Florida, and he fits the skill-set and
profile Notre Dame is looking for, I'm comfortable with him being
offered. Just because his offer list look this...
Florida State, Miami, Clemson, Wake Forest, North Carolina, South Florida, UCF, Wake Forest, South Carolina etc, etc..
rather than this...
Alabama, Florida, Florida State, Miami, Georgia, USC, Ohio State, Michigan, Notre Dame etc, etc...
It doesn't mean that he isn't a really good, underrated player. It just
sometimes means that some of those top schools have other kids in their
own state they feel they can get, they have someone ranked higher on
their board, or sometimes they just feel that he's going to stay at
home, in state, and that there isn't much of a point in recruiting him.
The issue of "fit" cannot be understated. Notre Dame runs a spread
offense and wants a mobile quarterback to be their starter. Just because
a kid like Everett Golson didn't have an Alabama or a USC offer, that doesn't
scare me at all... Why? Because they want drop back passers and aren't
interested in a 6 foot dual-threat quarterback, who has 4 years of high
school experience running a pure-passing spread offense and who finished
high school with the sixth most passing yards in high school history,
while leading his team to two state championships in a pretty
competitive state (South Carolina). This was Golson's offer list...
South Carolina (top in state school, spread offense)
Clemson (top in state school, spread offense)
Florida (spread offense)
Ohio State (spread offense)
Michigan (spread-hybrid)
North Carolina (shotgun-hybrid)
Georgia (shotgun-hybrid)
Stanford (academic fit at Notre Dame)
Sometimes you have to understand what your coaching staff is looking for...
Finally, if ND's staff is recruiting offensive lineman, for example, the
"non-elite" tend to have less national offers than regional offers
because of the abundance of them across the country. Notre Dame often
gets quite a few of its lineman out of the Midwest, which means, I like
them to have offers from the likes of Michigan, Ohio State and Penn
State, but I also look for toughness in their ability to run block, so
some "lesser" offers can also be helpful in my decision on whether or
not I like a kid... Mid West teams like Nebraska, Wisconsin, Iowa and
Michigan State are known as power-running teams, who get and produce
big, tough, nasty, offensive lineman. Therefore, I'm often excited about
a kid from the Mid West, if his offer list looks like this...
Notre Dame, Michigan, Michigan State, Purdue, Wisconsin, Illinois, Iowa, Iowa State etc...

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