Coach's Corner

Recruiting rankings and ratings are fun. Period. Not much else to them really, so have a good time with them but keep them in perspective. To effectively evaluate a college football recruiting class you really have to wait, sometimes up to five full years.

Obviously, that is unacceptable for the fanatical football fans that follow the whole recruiting process. Unfortunately, in our instant gratification society, we need to know the future now. Consequently, this whole cottage industry has sprung up in order to fuel every football fan's futuristic needs.

The process, of which we at are certainly part of, has evolved into a ranking system that encompasses all sorts of variables. So many so, that any rankings, ratings, comparisons, analysis, or other such evaluative scales are almost ludicrous much less credible.

Some of these "recruiting sites" have never seen a lick of film on a kid, yet they feel qualified to espouse their "expert opinions". It's really funny, mostly because of how serious they take themselves. At least our guy Chris Fetters here DOES look at film, DOES travel to games and combines up and down the west coast, and DOES have help from people that know how to look at film properly. He has credibility in my eyes, which is why people listen to him.

Sorry for the digression. I just had to tell you how funny it all seems from a coach's perspective sometimes.

From the coach's perspective, I can tell you that my ego was always bruised because our classes at Washington were never rated among the best. Quite frankly, I don't think we ever had a class that was better than the ones that USC or UCLA got. It was just understood that they were always better because they are in California where there is obviously more talent.

Without researching or going on line, and strictly off the top of my head, I can pretty much predict that all of the following will be amongst the best recruiting classes in the country; USC, Texas, The Ohio State, Notre Dame, Michigan, Oklahoma, LSU, Alabama, Florida, Florida State, Miami, and maybe UCLA and Nebraska. You can write that every year. It doesn't make any difference who they really sign, those schools automatically get ranked.

Go ahead and count the stars after each kid's name. Then ask yourself, who really determines the number of stars a kid receives? Is there a "star" committee that anoints or designates the number of stars each player receives? Who is the keeper of the stars? What are the comparable criteria? How can you compare a kid who plays at the Division 5A level in Texas against a kid who plays Division 1A in Oregon?

It's virtually impossible. As a coach, you just have to trust your ability to evaluate and your instincts when you meet the kid.

Of the recruiting "raters", who has ever coached and really knows what the sport and recruiting is all about? Do they have a scale or logical evaluation system that effectively defines all the criteria that goes into predicting a five star player?

That's asking a lot.

Are there any measurements used that can effectively evaluate a kid's heart, work ethic, toughness, or leadership? How many times to you see references to being team captain, inspirational award winner, or type of family a kid comes from? These are all crucial when looking for kids to build your program around.

To rate a group of kids from one school against a group from another without ever playing the game itself seems sort of odd, yet that is exactly what rankings and ratings do.

Remember, it is for entertainment value. And it is highly entertaining. Perhaps the most entertaining is watching under-medicated web site moderators go off the deep end, but that is digressing again. Sorry.

Back to rating recruiting classes - Do you know for sure that all the kids from each school are actually going to show up in the fall? What happens if a kid flunks a class, or ends up missing his test score? Do you subtract his stars and recreate the comparative lists? It's never been done. What if the kid is the best player a school signs and needs to go to a JC? It definitely would impact your class rating I would think.

High school players have never played at the collegiate level, so it's difficult to know who will pan out and who will bust. What if a kid has had a major surgery since his high school season ended? Does that alter the scale?

Let's just take a look at statistical comparisons. Height, weight, speed, jumping ability, strength, and flexibility. I will tell you right now that 90% of all kids fib in this area. They all say they are taller than they really are. They will not admit to a bare foot measurement. Of the reported weights, do you know what the percentage of body fat is? So many kids and their coaches want to be faster than they really are? How many 4.5 sprinters are there? I can tell you from experience that cheating on forty times is real easy. All you have to do is have the coach say he can run a 4.5 and it becomes fact.

If a kid is measured at a camp or combine during the summer, who is to say he has not gotten stronger or weaker during the season? When measuring a jump reach, do you allow for one step on no steps? Have you ever seen a category for "body type"? Have you ever seen a high school version of a football aptitude test? Being all conference, all league, all state, all locker room, and all everything certainly varies from league to league and state to state. Yet, those are factors in determining a players worth and then the subsequent worth of his signing class.

It's hard to factor those into a rating or ranking though that would translate into anything meaningful on the internet.

And where do you put transfers from another four-year school? Oh, that's right, they don't count for your class. But, didn't they already count when he signed at the other school. Do they immediately change his numbers and assign his "stars" to the new school he is transferring into? I saw that with Jerome Pathon and Dane Looker. Neither was ever considered in any class yet both are still playing in the NFL.

Speaking of transfers, how to you effectively compare and include the JC transfers in with the high school kids? You can't because they are two separate levels of competition.

I promise you that many recruiting "gurus" (the lazy ones, at least) practice garbage in-garbage out. They pass on each other's garbage without questioning or checking its validity. I know because I once put out a factitious recruit with made up numbers and it ran its course on the Internet. I used it as a diversion. He appeared on lists and guys went nuts trying to find his school and coach.

I am not making these points because the Washington Huskies are going to rank near the bottom of the Pac-10 for this recruiting class. I am merely pointing out what an inexact science this whole process is. I think that recruiting comparisons are just for fun. They are all about hype, predictions, and guessing. Nobody knows for sure how a kid will rise to the next level. As long as you keep this in mind, hopefully it will keep things in perspective.

Each program has its own system of recruiting evaluation. A coach can be a good recruiter but not be a good evaluator. We have seen the results of that here at Washington. You have to stick to your own system. Make your own lists. Go after the kids you like and not pay any attention to what others think.

I think the WSU Cougars of 2001, 2002, and 2003 exemplify how irrelevant recruiting comparisons and ranking can be. Here is a school that never got ranked high for its classes. They build classes around academic risks so that who they sign and who they get may be very different things. You can't rate those classes because they aren't a finished product. But those finished projects for WSU produced some great seasons. They won 10 games a year without ever being ranked in even the upper half of the conference for recruiting. That is their style, and it's hard to argue with success like that.

Tyrone Willingham never got much notice for his recruiting at Stanford. Yet, Stanford produced more NFL players than anyone in the conference over the same time period.

To be fair, I have to say that there is a certain amount of validity in these rankings and ratings. Obviously there is a great demand for them and alums at all schools want to believe that their school got a good crop. It's just that you still have to MAKE them good players at the next level and you never know how good most will be until they actually get there and step up compete at the collegiate level.

When you get right down to it, it's not important what others think of your class. It's what you do with that class when you get it that matters most.