Alabama is poised to sign the nation’s best recruiting class on Wednesday. The mighty Crimson Tide will land five five-star players. “Swagcopter” flying Texas A&M will land three five-star players.
Poor ol’ destitute Texas, with its crummy facilities and wafer-thin tradition? None. Might as well disband the program. Save us all the trouble.
Recruiting rankings will dominate the headlines for the next 24 hours as an arbitrary star system determines who’s up, who’s down and who’s just plain out of luck on national signing day.
There’s no question Wednesday will be one of the most memorable days in a young athlete’s life, as it should be. But because of those rankings, many fans from all schools will be living and dying on hold-your-breath revelations.
Why else would some schools set up Web cameras to show fax machines spitting out signatures from 18-year-olds?
In reality, nobody knows whether any of these high school seniors and junior college transfers are any good, much less worthy of some five-, four-, three- or two-star ranking. And heaven help any one-stars.
“No list is beyond reproach,” said Bobby Burton, who created the star system in 1998 as co-founder of Rivals.com. Now the editor of 247Sports.com, Burton is widely credited with developing the recruiting website industry that we know today.
“The idea was there would be about 30 kids that would be considered five-stars, and that would equate to first-round draft picks,” Burton said. “The four-stars would equate to the numbers of players in the NFL. Then it would be three- and two-stars.”
And for a lowly one-star? Burton said no player ever received a one-star ranking. “Not purposely,” he said.
Today’s recruits are Internet savvy, and they see the same players on the recruiting trail. They know — or think they know — who can play and who can’t.
“I think people that do the star rankings haven’t played a down of football,” said Maea Teuhema, a high school junior from Keller who’s considered a five-star offensive lineman for 2015. “I just don’t believe in that stuff.”
Cedar Hill wide receiver DaMarkus Lodge, another 2015 recruit, wasn’t shy about letting anyone know what he thought of being labeled a four-star prospect.
“I’m not a 5 star. But I bet your 5 star DB’s can’t play with me for a whole 4 quarters! Totally dominate anyone you call a ‘5star’ RIVALS,” Lodge tweeted in January.
‘5-star’ car salesmen
High school coaches appear to be growing weary of the insatiable beast created by recruiting websites like Rivals, Scout and 247Sports. But they all agree the industry isn’t going away.
“It’s all stemmed from interest in Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays in the fall, and they can’t get enough of it,” Keller coach Carl Stralow said. “You have to feed that appetite they have for information that used to be very hard to obtain.”
Denton Guyer coach John Walsh said he can make a good highlight tape of his backup running back, and you’d think he was a Division I-caliber player.
“I’ve had guys in my program who were four-star guys, and I could not believe they were getting scholarships,” Walsh said. “All the five-star guys are selling cars right now. If you’re Nick Saban or Jimbo Fisher, you have to use it because it’s in the public eye. ‘Hey, we’ve got the No. 1 or No. 2 recruiting class!’ It’s a marketing tool.”
The Longhorns have had highly ranked players live up to their billing and some go the other way completely.
Plano West defensive end Jackson Jeffcoat — the No. 1-ranked player on the American-Statesman’s 2010 Fabulous 55 — was a five-star recruit and labeled the 12th-best prospect in the nation. Jeffcoat finished his Texas career last season as a consensus All-American.
Quarterback Garrett Gilbert of Lake Travis — the Fabulous 55’s No. 1 player in 2009 — was a five-star recruit, too. He ultimately quit Texas and transferred to SMU.
Johnny Manziel was an unheralded three-star recruit from Kerrville in 2011. Safe to say he worked out well for Texas A&M.
Oklahoma State receiver Justin Blackmon was listed as the 91st-best receiver prospect in 2008. He became a two-time Biletnikoff Award winner and an easy first-round draft pick.
“It’s all BS completely,” Walsh said.
The Super Bowl was a great example of how recruiting rankings get it right and wrong.
Rivals editors determined the Seattle Seahawks and Denver Broncos had only four former five-star players on their combined rosters. There were 20 players who were rated as four-stars when they were coming out of high school. The rest were three-stars or lower. Another 20 veterans entered college before Rivals started the star system.
Percy Harvin was the No. 1-rated player nationally in the 2006 recruiting class, according to Rivals. That was Harvin returning the second-half kickoff 87 yards for a touchdown in Super Bowl XLVIII.
And then there was Seahawks defensive end Michael Bennett.
“He was thought to be not worthy of a scholarship at Texas by most people,” Burton said. “But he went to Texas A&M, and now he starts for the Seahawks.”
Other annual recruiting rankings out there — even the Fab 55 — aren’t foolproof, either. In 2009, Texas signee Kenny Vacarro was rated the 55th-best high school recruit in Texas. If given a mulligan, Vacarro would probably have been listed No. 1 based on his college career, not Gilbert.
“It’s a cool thing, but you really can’t label a guy’s ability to play football,” said Denton Guyer quarterback Jerrod Heard — who, if you’re wondering, is a consensus four-star recruit considered the second-best dual-threat quarterback prospect in the nation, the 10th-best overall prospect in the state and the 72nd-best overall prospect in the country, according to 274Sports’ composite rankings of the industry’s leading services’ ratings.
Texas coach Charlie Strong addressed the issue at his introductory news conference last month.
Strong recalled how quarterback Teddy Bridgewater was a five-star recruit when he first committed to Miami. But when Bridgewater flipped to Louisville, the quarterback suddenly became a four-star recruit. In May, he’s expected to be one of the first players taken in the NFL draft.
It wasn’t the first time recruits have seen their rating changed based on which team was recruiting them or where they committed.
“There’s some of what I would call offer bias,” Burton said.
The thinking was if a coach like Saban offered a scholarship, then that player must be worthy of a high ranking. That actually wasn’t the biggest problem, Burton said.
“When early recruiting came about, people rushed to rank them earlier and earlier,” Burton said, “and they weren’t willing to re-rank them when they figured out they weren’t as good.”
Still, no coach has ever faced the media on national signing day and expressed disappointment. Every coach offers the same refrain: This is the best class we’ve ever signed.
Expect to hear the same thing Wednesday afternoon across the country, even though the coaches themselves won’t really know how good or bad the group may be.
“As far as recruiting … we like whatever stars we’ve got,” Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops said last season. “When we recruit a guy or decide to offer him, it isn’t because of how many stars. We like how he fits.”
That’s exactly the point Strong made at his introductory news conference.
“Let’s not get caught up in the five-stars. Let’s not get caught up in the four-stars,” Strong said. “Let’s get caught up in the football players.”
SIGNING DAY COVERAGE
Want the latest news on national signing day?
- Follow our coverage throughout the day on our Bevo Beat and Dotted Line blogs at statesman.com.
- Columnists Kirk Bohls and Cedric Golden hold their weekly live chat at 11 a.m. at statesman.com/bevobeat.
- On Thursday, we’ll have comprehensive coverage of Texas’ and the rest of the Big 12’s classes in print, along with coverage of Texas A&M and Texas State. Also, get comprehensive national coverage with a digital-only special section available at statesman.com/signingextra.
TEXAS’ EXPECTED CLASS
Quarterbacks (1): Jerrod Heard, Denton Guyer (4-star)
Running backs (2): Donald Catalon, Aldine Eisenhower (4); D’Onta Foreman, Texas City (3)
Wide receivers (5): Armanti Foreman, Texas City (4); Lorenzo Joe, Abilene Cooper (4); Roderick Bernard, Houston Sharpstown (3); Dorian Leonard, Longview (3); Garrett Gray, Marble Falls (3)
Tight ends (1): Blake Whiteley, Arizona Western College (3)
Offensive tackles (1): Elijah Rodriguez, Houston Cypress Creek (3)
Offensive guards (1): Alex Anderson, New Orleans (La.) Walker (3)
Centers (1): Terrell Cuney, Jasper (3)
Defensive ends (2): Derick Roberson, San Antonio Brennan (4); Jake McMillon, Abilene (3)
Inside linebackers (1): Andrew Beck, Tampa (Fla.) Plant (3)
Outside linebackers (2): Edwin Freeman, Arlington Bowie (4); Cameron Hampton, Dallas Carter (3)
Cornerbacks (1): Jermaine Roberts, New Orleans (La.) St. Augustine (3)
Safeties (2): John Bonney, Houston Lamar (4); Jason Hall, South Grand Prairie (3)
Athletes (1): Kevin Shorter, Newton (3)
HOW THE STARS ALIGN
Based on star rankings from 247Sports’ composite of the recruiting industry’s leading services’ ratings, Alabama will sign the nation’s best recruiting class. If you believe star ratings are legitimate, that is.
2. Ohio State;22;1;15;6
4. Texas A&M;21;3;11;7
5. Florida State;27;1;14;11
8. Notre Dame;22;0;15;7
25. Oklahoma State;28;0;5;22
38. Texas Tech;27;0;0;25
CHASING THE FIVE-STARS
There are 33 consensus five-star recruits this year, according to 247Sports’ composite. Who’s getting them?
Alabama: 5 (OT, DE, 2 CBs, ATH)
LSU: 3 (RB, OLB, S)
Texas A&M: 3 (DE, WR, QB)
Auburn: 2 (RB, ILB)
Georgia: 2 (2 RBs)
Vanderbilt: 2 (S, DT)
Baylor: 1 (WR)
Florida: 1 (CB)
Florida State: 1 (RB)
Miami: 1 (DE)
Michigan: 1 (ATH)
Ohio State: 1 (ILB)
Oklahoma: 1 (RB)
Note: Eight five-star recruits have yet to announce their college decision. Four five-stars are from the state of Texas — Arlington Martin defensive end Myles Garrett (Texas A&M), Beaumont Ozen cornerback Tony Brown (Alabama), Coppell defensive end Solomon Thomas (undecided) and Mount Pleasant receiver KD Cannon (Baylor).
The Longhorns won’t sign a five-star recruit this year but will have six on the roster this fall. A look at the five-stars signed over the past five years:
2013;Darius James;OG;Redshirted last fall.
2012;Johnathan Gray;RB;Led UT in rushing in 2012.
;Malcom Brown;DT;Started last year, as a soph.
2011;Malcolm Brown;RB;Led UT in rushing in 2013.
;Steve Edmond;ILB;Starter, but 2013 injury issues.
2010;Jackson Jeffcoat;DE;All-American, NFL-bound.
;Jordan Hicks;OLB;Starter, but injury-plagued.
;Mike Davis;WR;One of UT’s top WRs past two years.
;Reggie Wilson;DE;Career backup at defensive end.
;Darius White;WR;Ended up transferring to Missouri.
2009;Mason Walters;OG;Started 51 games at RG.
;Garrett Gilbert;QB;Transferred to SMU in 2011.