The best way to determine if a high school athlete is capable of playing for a major D1 school is to get him to come to your summer camp. You get to know the kid's real statistics … size, speed, strength, etc. … plus, you get to know a little about the kid's character, his work ethic, how he gets along with others, and how he reacts under pressure.
Then, there are the pick-up games where you find out about a kid's football instincts. I remember Otis talking about how Matt Jones and Chris Baker would dominate in the pick-up games at the Arkansas summer camps … well, we all know about Matt's ability now and I expect Chris will prove he's a Top 5 wide receiver regardless of what Max Whereismyfinger says.
HDN knows D1 talent … and the fact that he offered some lesser ballyhooed recruits like Zac Tubbs, Tyler Morgan, John Jackson, Wes Murphy and Desmond Sims after having them in his camp gives me great comfort that all of these guys will be significant contributors down the road.
Unfortunately, you can't get every high school athlete you want to recruit to come to your summer camp. Another option for evaluating potential major D1 prospects is to observe them in practice, playing in games or on film. Talking to their high school head coaches is important, too … as long as you understand they will be biased at times.
The colleges that recruit the best athletes every year know how to evaluate talent. The big guys will miss occasionally, but when a Florida State or a Nebraska offers a recruit, he's usually pretty good. That's one reason Arkansas finally jumped on the Jeb Huckeba bandwagon (yes, the Hogs were NOT the first to offer Jeb), and I'm glad they did.
From this, you may conclude that WHO is recruiting an athlete is usually another pretty good indicator of the kid's potential to play at college football's highest level. With that in mind, I looked at each of HDN's recruiting classes since he came to Arkansas to see who the Hog's chief competition was for each player.
Specifically, I looked to see how many recruits Arkansas signed where the prospect's final choice was between the Razorbacks and a member of one of the power conferences (SEC, Big 10, Big 12, ACC, Pac 10, Big East) as opposed to choosing the Hogs over Louisiana Tech, SMU or Arkansas State. See if you can spot the trend:
1998 Class: 55% chose Arkansas over a power conference team
1999 Class: 62% chose Arkansas over a power conference team
2000 Class: 68% chose Arkansas over a power conference team
2001 Class: 73% chose Arkansas over a power conference team
2002 Class: 91% chose Arkansas over a power conference team
Of course, this isn't an exact science … one could argue that choosing the Hogs over Kansas is not much different than choosing the Hogs over TCU or Memphis ... but the numbers certainly show an attractive trend by HDN and his band of recruiters.
For a complete breakdown of HDN's first five recruiting classes, be sure to pick up a copy of the next Hawgs Illustrated … it's the 2002 Recruiting Special … and it is SPECIAL !! To order HI, the print version, call 800-757-6277.
Commentary: MrBsWax on Recruiting
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