Don’t Always Wish Upon A Scout’s Star

Every year since 1998, the BCS National Championship Game has been played on the first Monday in January. But it’s the first Wednesday in February, National Signing Day, that matters most to college football fans across the country.

The BCS National Championship is supposed to be a night for all college football fans to celebrate but at the end of the night, only one team’s fan base will be totally satisfied with how their season ended.

February 1st, is a day of hope and new beginning for all college football fans who eagerly anticipate which blue chip athletes will be coming to campus to make that national title dream a reality.

All of the madness and excitement surrounding the morning of February 1st, makes for a day unlike any other in college football. Coaching staffs around the country are glued to their fax machines, waiting and anticipating for prospects to return their letters-of-intent and commit to be a part of their future. Fans also wait eagerly watching for the dramatically staged announcements of some of the nation’s top prospects on national television.

But when the drama from the morning finally comes to an end, how do fans know exactly what they are getting with their heralded incoming class? That is the question Rachel Bachman poses in her article in the Wall Street Journal, “The Currency of Signing Day.”

Bachman discusses how the majority of fans assess their teams’ signing classes by the number of “stars” players receive from the major recruiting service websites such as: Scout, Rivals, and 24/7Sports.

“These stars, which have been broadly adopted, have become the coin of the realm in how programs are built and perceived,” Bachman wrote.

As someone who covers college recruiting, I can tell you that the first thing fans want to know about a prospect is their star rating. No matter which publication, all recruiting profile pieces revolve around the number of stars assigned to each athlete predicting the success or failure of each class long before they play a single down at their respective colleges.

But as Bachman argues in her article, the star rating system used by these recruiting services is incredibly subjective and not very predicting of how a prospect will perform in the future.

After compiling the prospect ratings from Rivals.com for the recruiting classes between 2004 and 2006, Bachman found that the vast majority of the players did not live up to the lofty expectations that came with their star ratings.

“More than half (54%) of the five-star players identified by Rivals over those three seasons weren’t taken in the NFL draft at all. About 81% of the four-star players and 91% of three-star players weren’t drafted.”

To add to this argument, Andy Staples, the college football-recruiting writer for SI.com reported that 16 of the top 32 NFL Draft prospects for 2011 were billed as three-star recruits or lower coming out of high school by either Rivals or Scout.com.

Danny Watkins, who was selected by the Philadelphia Eagles with the 23rd overall pick was rated as a zero-star prospect by both Rivals and Scout out of high school, and only a two-star prospect by Scout coming out of junior college.

So what does all this mean for Bulldog Nation as they try to judge the impact of their new signing class dubbed the “Ring Team”?

Not much. In reality we wont know the value of this year’s signing class for at least two years, when the majority of these players are expected to become integral contributors to the team. As Scott Kennedy, the director of scouting for Scout.com told Michelle Bachman, “There is no such thing as an expert [when it comes to scouting] — just varying degrees of wrong.”

We need to give these 18-year-old athletes time to develop and mature on and off the field before expecting them to live up to that “Ring Team” moniker.

Georgia’s 2012 signing class features four players who were rated as five-star prospects by Scout.com, and each of these players are expected to arrive in Athens this summer ready to contribute early and often for the Bulldogs.

Josh Harvey-Clemons

Jordan Jenkins

Keith Marshall

John Theus

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Let’s hope that in their cases, the scouting services are not wrong to a significant degree.

By: Daniel Rodriguez

 

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