Not that long ago the recruiting cycle for an upcoming senior class began
with the Spring Evaluation Period of the prospect's junior season through his
senior season of football. In a lot of ways, the recruiting season has already
moved past that class by then and coaches are already working sophomores and
freshmen during the Spring Evaluation Period.
Before the information age, coaches used to take their time with their evaluations, get all of the information they could before giving out scholarship offers. Typically the big name teams would offer players from out of state first so as not to tip off rival colleges who the best players were in their home state, because the home state schools should know who the best players are.
|The Ultimate 300 (Full List)|
The internet changed all that. Teams can know longer afford to wait to offer
a prized in state prospect, because everyone from Miami to Washington knows who
the top players are. The mantra in recruiting now is offer first, evaluate
later. As offers flood into a player, he's less and less likely to choose one,
but if a team hasn't offered him while others have, that team will be on the
outside looking in when he's ready to make a decision. Should the college decide
that they don't really want to recruit him after they've sent him an offer, they
can just blow him off. It's been happening in relationships since the dawn of
time. Recruiting is no different.
As the recruiting cycle has accelerated exponentially the last few years, so have the resources devoted to Scouting. Scout has the largest, most experienced scouting crew in the industry, and it was one of the industry's pioneers who first pitched the idea of the Ultimate 300. Jamie Newberg launched BorderWars in the early 90s as a Southern based recruiting site that helped revolutionize the business.
"Times have changed in terms of recruiting," said Newberg. "Gone are the days when we used to cover just one class (senior class). Now, it's three classes and whatever freshmen pop up. So in essence, because of the acceleration of the entire recruiting process, we are now tracking and evaluating three and a half classes (freshmen get the half class). Since we are doing just that, I came up with the idea for the state of Florida (last month) where we would merge the sophomore, junior and senior classes and to come up with a top 100 prospects. Again, we are evaluating all of these kids. Yeah, it's a little outside of the box, but why not?"
Of course there is going to be more information and a year or two of development difference in the list and Newberg understands that.
"I understand the fundamental differences between the prospects in the
class of 2014, 2015 and 2016. Still, a prospect is a prospect. It's different
and kind of cool to simulate where the merged prospects would fall if you have
the mindset that they are all in the same class, group or a top 100. I know in
any year a Sony
Michel or Joseph
Yearby would be at or near the top regardless of their class or age. The
same can be said for 2015 five-star cornerback Kevin
Toliver. These kids are special in their own way but how do they stack up
against one another being that many are not in the same class? I think it gives
us some good perspective and fans a great barometer to compare and contrast
recruits that are in different classes."
Football is a physical game. It's not a skill game like baseball or a combination of physical and skill like basketball. It is the game that requires the most athleticism and the least skill. Bigger, faster, stronger usually wins on the gridiron, so as National Recruiting Analyst Allen Trieu points out, sometimes its exceedingly difficult to blend the classes together.
"I think there is always such a clear divide between the class years that this is really something I had never even thought about before," said Trieu. "On some level, I think the junior class still has a lot to prove and has a lot of opportunity still to prove it, but it also let me know which kids I really felt had done enough to be considered right there with the best seniors in the country."
As always recruiting rankings are about projections. They're about where a kid will be in three or four years, or in the case of the younger players even six or seven years down the line. Chad Simmons is one of Scout's National Recruiting Managers, and he is based in the most fertile recruiting territory in the country, the South. The South Region produces roughly 900 D1 signees per year, twice as many as any other region. Looking at three classes at once is similar to evaluating the entire country when one considers there are 2,500 players per year who sign D1 scholarships. It's a daunting task, but one that Simmons does better than anyone in the South.
"You are seeing more and more underclassmen receive offers from colleges," said Simmons. "With that, we have to change our approach and evaluate prospects on all levels of high school football. We used to be out focusing mainly on the senior class and trying to identify some juniors to concentrate on the following year, but now we are evaluating freshmen, sophomores, juniors, and seniors each cycle. Ranking multiple classes together really makes you see things a little clearer because you can compare the best against the best in each class and really see who the true elite prospects are."
"You have to look at sophomores a little differently than seniors knowing they still have at least two full years of high school left, but stacking the best of the best up against each other really shows better clarity. It is very fluid and a lot will change, but this is the way recruiting is going."
Recruiting is about tomorrow. The hope that tomorrow brings for a better future for your team. There are few more passionate people in the world than college football fans, and what better way to help compare apples to apples than to create a list of players across classes?
"The Ultimate 300 provides an interesting way to look at the prospects that each school is recruiting and compare and debate the skills of those prospective signees regardless of class," said Texas based National Manager Greg Powers. "I have a feeling that Auburn and Alabama fans are going to be very interested to know who Scout.com projects higher. Racean Thomas or DeSherrius Flowers? An interesting debate on the national level no matter what side you fall on."
New Jersey based National Manager Brian Dohn had a particularly intriguing set of circumstances as his top player in the Class of 2014 and the Class of 2015 also happen to be the No. 1 defensive tackles in their respective classes, and his top '16 player is also a defensive tackle.
"It was an intriguing list to compile because of trying to project where kids will be in three years, and sometimes five years. I look at a kid like 2016 defensive tackle Rashan Gary, who should be a top five player in his class. How does he compare to defensive end Da'Shawn Hand in the 2014 class, or defensive tackles Andrew Brown ('14) and Tim Settle in the 2015 class? It is more about projections than ever when making a list like this, and while challenging, it is also a great deal of fun.
California based National Analyst Greg Biggins is another 15+ year veteran of the industry, and he likes the ability to put different classes into perspective by stacking them up against one another.
"The thing that jumped out to me was how strong the 2015 West Coast class is. We've been saying it for a while but when you compare it side by side with the 2014 class and see more players in the Ultimate 100 and 300 from the 2015 athletes, it definitely jumps out. With two full years of development to go, the group could end up one of the best the West Coast has produced in a long time."
Washington based National Editor Brandon Huffman agrees.
"We've been saying for months that the 2015 class out West was as strong a class as we've seen in years," said Huffman. "I think this list reflects that, with 13 players from the West's 2015 class in the top 100 and only 10 from the 2014 class. From the quarterbacks to the defensive lineman, two premium positions, the 2015 class is so much stronger than 2014 in the West."
The seniors will definitely have an advantage over their younger counterparts this year, but wouldn't it be interesting to know how a player in a different class would rank if he was a senior right now?
Well, that's the Ultimate 300 from Scout.com.