Michigan Football Recruiting: Recruiting and Recruiting Rankings — Accuracy and Impact?

Posted at 6:45am — 1/22/2013

Michigan Football Recruiting: Recruiting and Recruiting Rankings — Accuracy and Impact?

First of all, as a college coach of nearly a decade, I hated recruiting, literally hated most everything about it. The only exception was talking to parents about academic preparation and what it takes to excel in academics. I did not mind questions on technique or playing position, those types of questions are common and should be addressed by a coach before any parent or student would inquire.

But when the student turned to statements or questions that were very me-centered and having nothing to do with development or success, my interest stopped.

In the last 15 years, football and basketball recruiting have become a national business. This should come as no surprise in this web-driven, instant news expectation society, where the right to exist is superseded by the right to know today’s news yesterday.

Jan 19, 2013; Tuscaloosa, AL, USA; Alabama Crimson Tide coach Nick Saban talks to the fans at the National Championship celebration outside Bryant Denny Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Marvin Gentry-USA TODAY Sports

This brings into account the valid discussion of just how much recruiting ratings mean. In the most simplistic term, the accuracy of recruiting services is somewhere between perfect and non-existent. There are simply too many variables for prediction. But programs such as Southern California, Alabama and others solve this by recruiting the highest star players possible. This narrows the margin of error that all programs encounter.

Most view recruiting rankings as a vehicle to predict the future success of an athlete and also, collectively, the future success of a team. Both of the previous expectations are perilous.

There are different expectations for players before the first textbook is cracked in a college class. Some players are in positions where great performance is expected immediately because of star-rankings or team need. A low three star player at a major university is not expected to succeed immediately simply because of star ranking and not performance once on the team. A player like Jake Ryan gets acclaim because his play has exceeded the vast expectations of the typical fan base, based on ratings. A player like Marvin Robinson, a high four-star recruit, that has not had such success, gets constant negative proclamation.

January 1,2013; Tampa, FL, USA; Michigan Wolverines linebacker Jake Ryan (47) reacts after he picked up a fumble against the South Carolina Gamecocks during the first half of the 2013 Outback Bowl at Raymond James Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

There are a ton of variables that interact with the athlete’s star ranking and success in college. Collectively, these variables may outweigh star ranking as a viable entity. Variables would include competition at the position, caliber of competition, coaching style and how this style melds with the athlete, the ability to manage the pressures and requirements of college life, and getting an actual chance to play in meaningful competition and not just practice.

The coach may not envision a player to play immediately, but instead provide depth for at least one or two years. Sometimes players do not get any meaningful time until a senior year.

Nov 24, 2012; Columbus, OH, USA; Michigan Wolverines safety Marvin Robinson (3) jumps on a muffed punt by Ohio State Buckeyes wide receiver Philly Brown (not pictured) in the second quarter at Ohio Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Andrew Weber-USA TODAY Sports

The position a player plays may also somewhat determine if star rankings become fact. Linemen get drafted every year that were two star recruits out of high school. Plenty of four stars struggle on the offensive line. Linebackers, quarterbacks, and wide receivers seem to fall more in line with rankings, but still not close to an ultra-high correlation between stars and performance.

Stars must not be discounted in recruiting. But the source of the stars and a consensus is of note. Some “services” are not nearly as accurate over the years as others, or the newcomers trying to wriggle into this lucrative field. There are clear differences between a player not rated and a five star defensive end that will some day be a top five NFL pick. But the truth is stars are given on size and physical maturity at the age of 17 or 18, and things change in four years. Some players have already peaked and some blossom into unexpected stars. One never knows; it is as simple as that. Player development is the one weapon a program has to minimize mistakes and maximize surprises.

In that vein, some coaches have a better vision of a player’s upside, use, and proper position than another coach. The coach’s vision and teaching technique may match the athlete perfectly, or it may not even be close. No coach can match every player’s needs; this is a simple fact that is one of the down sides of coaching.

January 1,2013; Tampa, FL, USA; Michigan Wolverines quarterback Devin Gardner (12) runs out of the pocket as South Carolina Gamecocks defensive end Devin Taylor (98) rushes during the second half of the 2013 Outback Bowl at Raymond James Stadium. South Carolina won 33-28. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

There is nothing in the author’s view that beats seeing a player in person. A recruiter should have the groundwork laid out beforehand, arrive early for warm-ups, observe interactions with teammates and coaches, value the opposing player’s competence, and watch one technique at a time. A coach must balance performance, upside, technique, and the intangibles that too many discount.

Recruiting is the heart blood of a program, as MaizeMan has mentioned continuously. It is difficult, time consuming, and of utmost importance. The first skill that coaches need in recruiting is talent evaluation. If the other team gets better athletes, then every other variable must fall in line for a team to compete with a rival. Some fine recruiters are simply handicapped by the name (and accompanying stigma) on the coach’s shirt. Simply put, if a coaching staff from Texas or Alabama is hard on a recruit, lesser schools usually back out and do not waste time or resources. Trade the names on the jackets of the coaches and the result is the same.

Recruiting is a grind and a tough life and anyone thinking it easy or fun have not undertaken the endeavor. All big programs judge assistants by recruiting prowess as much or more than teaching skill- unfortunate but a way of life.

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Written by GBMWolverine Staff — Doc4Blu

Go Blue — Wear Maize!

Topics: Alabama Crimson Tide, Big Ten Conference, Football, Go Blue, Michigan Wolverines, Recruiting, SouthEastern Conference

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