The business of evaluating and rating the talent and skills of high school football players is an inexact science. In most circles, you are a genius if you rank someone as the No. 1 prospect in the area, state or country and a bum if you don't. Which brings us to the subject of Garrett Goebel, Montini's 6-4, 270-pound lineman.
Goebel is my choice as the No. 4 player in the Chicago area this season--behind St. Rita's Darius Fleming, Mount Carmel's Steve Filer and Marian Central's Sean Cwynar. Goebel is committed to Ohio State while Fleming, Filer and Cwynar opted for Notre Dame.
So critics leap to the conclusion that I have a pro-Notre Dame bias. Not true. Look at the film. National scouts from Rivals came to Chicago to see Fleming personally and came away convinced that he, not Filer, was the No. 1 player in the area. In the case of these four players, I would argue that it doesn't matter who is 1-2-3-4. Do you prefer apples or oranges or pineapples or peaches?
How can you get upset over being ranked No. 4? No one ever is satisfied. That's why I try to avoid getting into debates with parents and high school coaches, who are the least objective of all. You never can win that argument. Over 30 years, however, I think I have been right more times than not.
I recall when Rivals rated Martin O'Donnell of Downers Grove South among the top offensive linemen in the country. He was a good player, I felt, but not a great one. But when he committed to Illinois and I didn't rate him among my top 100, Illini Nation said I was anti-Illinois. O'Donnell has been a solid contributor at Illinois but hardly an impact player or NFL prospect.
Most evaluators believe Goebel will play offense in college. He is good on defense but better on offense. His competition level isn't as high as Fleming's or Filer's. Cwynar is in the same conference as Goebel but I believe he is better because he is quicker.
I've seen film on all of them. And film gives you an opportunity to evaluate players with much more scrutiny than at camps or combines or games. Cwynar showed more explosiveness on defense. Both Cwynar and Goebel can play on either side of the ball but Cwynar is better on defense.
Why do I rank Fleming ahead of Filer? In my view, both rank among the top 50 in the nation, higher than other evaluators who usually lean to players from the West, South and East. Fleming had a more productive junior year. Filer had a better game when their teams met earlier this season. They are different kind of players. Filer is more lateral, Fleming has more burst. But have NFL potential.