I started following recruiting back in 2007, as a high school senior trying to learn the football team I'd be rooting for during the next four years. It quickly turned into an obsession of mine, as I not only followed the recruiting of Syracuse Orange football, but other schools in the conference and eventually other schools in the country. The advent of Twitter and Hudl made it even easier to access these prospects, and you began to get an idea of what your team would have before they even stepped on campus.
There was one thing, however, that never made sense to me, and that was the star rankings. How could three (now four) different sites all rank one kid differently? How could you take a team, not knowing their needs and how players fit into their system, and rank them from one to 120? It's an extremely flawed science.
When I saw the original tweet on Monday from our friends over at Scout, I knew that this story would get more traction than it deserved.
"A Historic Ratings Boost" it was called. But what was lost in this boost is that the top ranked players in the SU class fell down the board. No one noticed this, of course, because Scout 'upgraded' so many of our guys.
Troy Henderson dropped 18 spots. Dontae Strickland dropped 12 spots. Cody Conway dropped a whopping 27 spots. In a summer where all these kids are probably just being kids and going to the odd camp here and there, players are re-evaluated and told they are worse before their senior season even started.
Generally, on the recruiting sites, listing a kid as a two-star prospect means he hasn't been evaluated. So all Scout did was finally evaluate the kids it didn't deem worthy of evaluation the first time around.
College staffs don't use these pay sites, except to see what a kid's saying about their program and the other programs he visits. They each have their own evaluation system. Syracuse's is very thorough, and there's a reason why our staff is one of the best in the country at finding players before they blow up. Chris Clark, a TE from Connecticut, and Davante Davis, a DB from Florida, were unknowns back when SU offered, and both now have their choice of any school in the country.
Fact of the matter is you should trust this staff.
There are 3 basic problems with recruiting sites:
1. They exist solely to please a large subscriber base. There's a reason why Rutgers had great recruiting classes for the greater part of the last decade. They had a huge subscriber base on the pay sites as they "started to get good" and therefore, a lot of their prospects were given that little extra bump on their ratings. They had numerous kids in last year's class with one offer and they were rated on the high end of the 3-star scale.
2. These sites make a ton of revenue on their camps. If you want a high ranking on any of these sites, you better go to one of their camps so they can evaluate you in-person. There's a reason you get such a discrepancy between sites. If a kid doesn't go to Rivals' specific camps, they aren't going to be evaluated until they absolutely have to (i.e. the player commits to a high D1 program) or just get forgotten altogether (if it's not a high D1 program).
3. The number of kids that play football is absurd. The craziest part of the ranking system is that you're attempting to rank a talent pool of thousands of kids, that play football at varying levels across the US, in different types of systems, and they are being evaluated by numerous people that all have different ways to rank prospects. It's never going to yield proper results.
I will say this, the fact that this happened has raised optimism for the program, and I'm happy to see that. It's important to get the casual fans excited about the program. So be excited if you really want to be, I don't blame you. But how did a kid jump thirty spots or fall thirty spots in a time of the year when they aren't playing football?
If you really want to see what we're getting in some of our recruits, check out their tape over on Hudl. It's so enjoyable being able to see a kids' strengths and see how he'll fit into our program.
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