Signing day has come and gone, and here is something to think about.
Scout, one of the most popular online rating services, has raised West Virginia University’s crop of football recruits to No. 25 in the nation and No. 1 in the Big East.
Before we get too giddy over this so-called recruiting coup, let us also point that ESPN, a group that has a rather large following of its own, has ranked the same Mountaineer class fifth in the Big East.
First, fifth? Which is it?
How can these two highly respected services see things so differently, especially after the fact?
Can we take them seriously as they rate prospects?
That’s hard to say. In fact, WVU head coach Dana Holgorsen made note of the services’ ability to rate players when he addressed the MAC Signing Day Reception for big-time donors at the WVU Alumni Center on Wednesday night.
He noted that he had coached a couple of receivers during his career — a guy named Justin Blackmon, who has won the last two Biletnikoff Awards as the nation’s top receiver and sees no reason to continue his education in college and is leaving early for the NFL, and a fellow who is playing in Sunday’s Super Bowl named Wes Welker who may be the best receiver in the NFL.
Welker received one offer out of high school, from Holgorsen at Texas Tech.
As for Blackmon, would you believe he was the 91st ranked wide receiver coming out of high school in 2008. The Birmingham (Ala.) News’ Jon Solomon points out, “He wasn’t even considered the best Blackmon at wide receiver, playing second fiddle to 79th-ranked Chance Blackmon, who has one catch in four years at Colorado and Houston.”
Think back to say Patrick White and Steve Slaton, when they came to West Virginia. Neither of them was a 4-star recruit, White being looked at as a defensive back and Slaton offered a scholarship by Maryland, then having the offer withdrawn, which allowed him to come to WVU.
And as for Owen Schmitt, well, he wound up at Wisconsin-River Falls.
The point is, as Holgorsen would point out on National Signing Day, something has become so big that it now carries capital letters, “Recruiting isn’t a precise science.”
So how much attention do coaches pay to the services that pin stars on players quite arbitrarily. Assigning them a value may dictate whether they get a college scholarship and where they get a scholarship, perhaps ruining a players’ career?
“Not as much as you do,” Holgorsen said during his press conference, probably to the only person in the entire room who pays absolutely zero attention to such ratings — me.
Surprisingly, though, Holgorsen did not simply dismiss them, saying that he’d prefer to find his own prospects and go only by what he saw.
“It is a good starting point and a good reference,” he said.
And when asked if he cared where his class was ranked, he again surprised by indicating it did carry a certain amount of meaning to him.
“Obviously, we are like everybody elsewhere,” he said. “We want people to say good things about us and what our body of work is, but the truth of the matter is we are not going to know how these guys fare here until a couple of years away.
“There will be a handful of them coming in who will make a difference next year. There will be a handful who will take a few years, two or three years, before they are able to contribute, and then there will be a couple that we sign who are never going to be as big of a contributor as we want them to be. That is the nature of what you sign and how these kids develop.”
See the problem with rating them and with signing them is that you are, in a way, buying the seed a year or two before the corn is ready for harvest.
“They are still 17, 18 or 19 years old to the point where we don’t know how they are going to develop totally. We try to do our best and meet our needs, but it is about getting them in here and paying them a whole bunch of attention,” Holgorsen said.
By “a whole bunch of attention” he is talking about coaching them up, getting them in the weight room, feeding them nutritional food and hoping that they become what was visualized in recruiting.
“You get his body type and the position that he plays and what you see on film and what you think that they are going to develop into,” Holgorsen said. “You don’t know if they are going to get bigger and change positions or develop their skills or how much they are going to develop their skills. It is a bit of a guessing game. We are all aware of that.”
So keep that in mind the next time you’re out arguing about whether or not Pitt or West Virginia had the best recruiting class of wondering why a school took a 3-star player over a 4-star player.
The truth is, no one really knows.
Email Bob Hertzel at email@example.com. Follow on Twitter @bhertzel.