Let’s turn the clock back one year and look at the Big Ten recruiting rankings for from 247Sports. Whose fortunes rose? Whose fell? Eight of the 14 teams rose in the ranking by 247Sports from 2015 to 2016. The team that made the biggest jump
Now that National Signing Day has passed, we basically are finished with the 2015 football class and turn our attention to players in the classes of 2016-18 because it is time for them to begin competing in
… the Underwear Olympics.
The Underwear Olympics? Those are high school football combines, and before you shell out your hard-earned money for these things, you should know the people putting them on are perpetrating a fraud on parents and players.
These combines are the latest rage, made popular by people trying to figure out a way to make more money off these kids in what should be much-needed downtime for them.
Kids arrive at these combines where no one is wearing pads; it’s just shorts and T-shirts. They are timed in the 40-yard dash and the shuttle run. They are tested on their vertical leap, standing long jump and other things.
They run around the field catching and throwing passes, and this is all part of the process of being rated by recruiting services such as Rivals.com and Scout.com.
If you think college coaches pay attention to anything that happens at these combines or where the recruits are rated, you are delusional.
The self-proclaimed recruiting gurus are the ones assigning stars, which has kids all over the country going out of their minds, obsessing over whether they will be a five-star recruit or a four star or a three star or — heaven forbid — a two star or lower.
One of my questions: What did these recruiting gurus major in while in college to qualify them to rate kids? Astronomy?
If these recruiting gurus are so good at their jobs, why wasn’t there a five-star recruit starting in the Super Bowl? Why were there only seven four-star recruit Super Bowl starters? According to 247Sports, 20 starters were two-star players or lower.
Since these recruiting gurus claim their ratings are based on college potential and often mention likely NFL careers in their evaluations, how do they mess up so bad so often?
If we have learned anything over the years it is that recruiting is an inexact science. That is proved every year when someone like Jimmy Clausen is a five-star recruit and J.J. Watt is a two-star recruit, or when two-star recruit Eric Fisher of Central Michigan and Rochester Hills Stoney Creek is the No. 1 pick in the NFL draft or when Scout.com didn’t list Kirk Cousins among the top-100 quarterbacks in his senior class.
Next on the agenda for high school kids after the combines is seven-on-seven All-Star teams, which are a bigger joke than the combines.
A year ago after their junior seasons, Brian Lewerke of Phoenix, who eventually signed with Michigan State, was rated a four-star recruit, and Birmingham Brother Rice’s Alex Malzone, who has enrolled at Michigan, was a three-star recruit. But when the ratings were adjusted before this season, Lewerke was dropped to a three-star recruit and Malzone was elevated to a four-star recruit.
The explanation given by a Rivals.com recruiting guru was their ratings were changed after seeing them in combines and seven-on-seven.
How could someone say that with a straight face?
In other words, after seeing Lewerke play a season full of actual football games, they thought he was a four-star recruit, but after seeing him in the Underwear Olympics and in seven-on-sevens where no one is rushing the quarterback, no receiver is being hit off the line of scrimmage and no scrambling is required, he lost a star.
But there is an alarming aspect to the seven-on-seven All-Star teams. They often take the kids all over the country to the point that they miss seven-on-seven opportunities with their high school teams.
The poster child for seven-on-seven All-Star teams should be Warren De La Salle grad Shane Morris, who admitted he wore himself out traveling with his All-Star team and contracted mononucleosis, missing three complete De La Salle games and having a disappointing senior season.
But even after completing only 62 of 119 passes for 766 yards with five touchdowns and five interceptions, the recruiting gurus elevated Morris to a five-star recruit.
The most important thing parents and kids must understand is college coaches pay no attention to any of this garbage.
If you think college coaches check how many stars a kid has next to his name before they recruit him, you are mistaken.
On signing day, U-M coach Jim Harbaugh said he judges a quarterback solely on what he sees in 11-on-11 football.
So does every other coach with a lick of sense.
Even in the off season, Jim Harbaugh is a lightning rod.
He has everyone talking, talking about his top-five recruiting class, talking about his unorthodox methods — from sleeping over at recruits’ homes to attending classes with them to sending one a homemade cake to climbing a tree to impress another — and talking, according to some critics, about his bailing on early commitments because better players became available.
“He’s one of the preeminent personalities in college football,” Scout.com recruiting analyst Brian Dohn said in a phone interview.
Approaching his first full recruiting cycle, Harbaugh has Michigan close to the top of most lists, with highly rated prospects expected to put pen to paper on Wednesday, National Signing Day, from one coast to the other.
Of late, the 52-year-old Harbaugh has been criticized for the amount of players — five — who have decommitted in the last week. There is only one day a prospect can sign. Verbal commitments are non-binding, for players and coaches. Kids will often continue to take visits, despite committing to a school. One of the players who decommitted, three-star defensive tackle Rashad Weaver of Florida, said in a statement on Twitter on Monday, the staff stopped reaching out to him and he was told by Harbaugh there was a 50/50 chance he would have a scholarship for him on signing day.
Around that time, Michigan State coach Mark Dantonio and recruiting coordinator Curtis Blackwell both tweeted: “The righteous shall prevail,” though Dantonio quickly deleted it.
Harbaugh talked to Michigan reporters this week, saying “it’s a meritocracy,” meaning early commits have to continue to perform on the field and in the classroom to validate their scholarship.
“I don’t hide from that at all and I won’t,” Harbaugh said. “That’s what we demand.”
Dohn and Mike Farrell, Rivals.com’s national recruiting analyst, said the system needs to be fixed by creating an early signing period, as exists in college basketball. After all, this has been going on for years, at a number of different schools.
“Pete Carroll ran kids off. Nick Saban and Jimbo Fisher [did too],” Farrell said. “Every great coach has had to back off a commitment — whether for academic reasons, character reasons, injury reasons, they weren’t developing properly. I’ve seen 50 percent of classes wind up elsewhere. It’s all coming at the end of the cycle, which is leading to criticism. It’s the timing.
“But everybody pays attention to recruiting the last three weeks [before signing day]. Coaches can’t comment on a kid, so you’re only going to hear one side of the story.”
Harbaugh’s recruiting style also has come into question. He went to class with California four-star defensive tackle Boss Tagaloa, and slept over at Arizona four-star defensive end Connor Murphy’s home. Neither player has committed to Michigan, however, or is expected to sign with the Wolverines. Harbaugh also spent the night with Quinn Nordin, the top-ranked kicker in the country, and slept in the guest room. They talked until 2 a.m., and had pancakes the next morning with the entire family. Harbaugh wanted to go sledding in the Nordin’s backyard, but they didn’t have time before getting to school.
“He’s willing to do anything to get a recruit on board,” said Nordin, who has decommitted from Penn State and has Michigan in his final five. “He wants to win and that’s what it’s about.
“It got to show me who he was a person and what his core values are.”
Some feel uncomfortable with the practice of middle-aged football coach staying over a recruit’s home. One college coach, speaking on a condition of anonymity, said he never would do it, and doesn’t expect any others to follow.
Farrell said he thinks “it’s ridiculous,” and said he believes the NCAA will put a stop to it. If that doesn’t happen, however, Dohn expects other coaches to mimic Harbaugh, whether it is staying over a player’s home or joining them in class.
“To me, he’s setting the bar for people,” Dohn said. “He’s creative. These are kids who are impressionable. Kids are thinking, ‘This is how much this guy wants me to play at his school.’ Everybody looks at it as going to class or sleeping over. It’s building a relationship. He’s doing it in a way people haven’t done it before.”
Harbaugh’s staff has done its best work in New Jersey, already securing four of the state’s top-eight prospects — highlighted by early enrollee Kareem Walker of DePaul Catholic, the sixth-ranked running back in the country, according to Rivals.com, who was once committed to Ohio State — and could wind up with the nation’s No. 1 overall prospect, defensive tackle Rashan Gary of Paramus Catholic.
There are a variety of reasons for his success in the Garden State, from the presence of former Paramus Catholic coach Chris Partridge, Michigan’s linebackers coach, to rising junior defensive back Jabrill Peppers, a two-time state champion who grew up with Walker and attended the same high school as Gary.
“They’re like bulldogs,” DePaul Catholic associate head coach Brian Murray said. “They want a guy, they’re coming after him. If you’re working 20 hours a week, they’re working 24.”
The biggest takeaway, to those who have come across Harbaugh, is how personable he is. He has been to the highest level of football — playing in an AFC Championship game and coaching in a Super Bowl — and yet, he is able to connect with kids, coaches and their parents. The day after getting the job, Harbaugh placed a phone call to Brad Hawkins Sr., whose son Brad Jr. of Camden High School is one of New Jersey’s top wide receivers and will sign with Michigan on Wednesday.
“We were on the phone for exactly 27 minutes. For 22 minutes, he talked to me about life and school, didn’t mention football at all,” Hawkins Sr. said. “Everything about the conversations with him was just different [from other coaches].”
Lost among his quirky recruiting practices and whether or not he has run kids off for more talented ones is what he already has accomplished at Michigan in a little bit over a year. On the field, he turned the program from a laughingstock the season before his arrival into one of the best teams in the Big Ten, and now he may be adding the No. 1 recruiting class in the country.
So far, he has been worth every bit of the seven-year contract that pays him roughly $5 million annually — even when games aren’t being played.