How do you evaluate a prospect?

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There are many recruiting services and hundreds of college recruiters and everybody has their own method of evaluating and rating football prospects. But you can take one thing to the bank. You can't rate a kid based on the number of scholarship offers he has received. Or, in my view, you shouldn't.

For example, Fremd offensive lineman Christian Lombard had 32 offers as of Jan. 1, far more than anyone else in Illinois. Then he chose to commit to Notre Dame. He didn't opt to continue his recruiting, as some do, and visit more schools. So he didn't receive any more offers. If he had remained uncommitted, he would have more than 60 offers by now.

But he didn't so he doesn't. Instead, he was dropped off the chart by some recruiting services while uncommitted players received more attention. It's all about the political games that are played on the Internet. The recruiting websites get mad when kids commit to someone other than themselves or they choose not to play footsy with them.

To determine how good a kid is, you can't go by offers. When he makes a commitment, he is almost forgotten. Normally he will slide down a recruiting list. Last year, for example, quarterback Matt Barkley, the consensus choice as the nation's No. 1 player, slipped on some websites after he committed early to USC. It didn't matter that he had an outstanding season, more than enough to confirm his No. 1 ranking.

Watch how the Internet websites operation. If a kid is a one or two-star player after his senior year, he will be elevated to three or four-star status is he commits to Notre Dame or Florida or USC. Even after he has completed his senior year. He didn't do anything to earn the move. He just made a commitment.

In my view, kids should be judged on production and projection and talent, not offers. I've made a lot of mistakes in 30 years of evaluating high school players but I have learned the key to making a good decision is production on the field, not performance at combines or one-day camps or interviews to the media. How good does he look on the football field, in game situations? That's what really matters.

Even the NFL makes mistakes by drafting workout warriors who excel at combines even though they didn't play that well in college.

Always take production at a high level over everything else. But keep an eye on the caliber of competition because some kids will dominate in a weak conference.

That's why going in person to see kids and the players who compete against them is the most sensible and rational way of evaluating talent and making fewer mistakes. You can't just talk to kids on the telephone and make evaluations, as many recruiting analysts and recruiting services do, paying the players for their input.

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4 Comments

Tom,

I read a while back that you thought Rushell Rush, from Hopewell HS in PA, is the best prospect you have seen in the class of 2012. How do you deside deside to make such a statement with a young prospect? I assuume you're using historic knowledge with other running backs you've seen at the same age. That said who does Rushell remind you of in this stage of his development?

Thanks for the information

Brent

I got a kid for you, he isnt on the radar right now, but he is worth seeing. Tim Pennino of St. Patrick, going up against Proviso East 1st game of the year. Tim didn't get a chance to put up numbers last year because the Shamrocks didn't throw, but he will get opportunities this year, and he can play with anybody.

You validate much of what I am thinking about the whole Rivals evaluation process. Thank you for keeping me sane as my assigned "2 Star" son heads into his senior year. It's reassuring that you identified him as a "top college prospect" last August when you saw him play against Moeller. Let's hope that colleges evaluate him based upon his proven play and athletic ability and not by some star rating.

Tom,
I read about scholarships being offered to players who will graduate in 2012 and was wondering if I should start marketing my son now, although he is in the class of 2013. It sounds crazy to think of my son possibly being offered a scholarship in his freshman year of high school, which is still a over a year away with him just now starting the 8th grade, but I am afraid that I might wait too long to get him in front of the right people. Whoever the right people are. My son, Trevor Matczak, plays baseball, basketball and football. He is 6'3" at age 13, he has excellent speed and very good hands. He played wide receiver last season but with his height and strong arm he is being groomed as the starting QB. He had a excellent year last year at wideout. It is hard to predict which position he will end up at. I can see him at either. He is still growing and projected to top out at 6'7". Trevor was our top pitcher and catcher this season. His fastball has been clocked at 82 up to this point. He is currently looking at going to Oswego High next year but Joliet Catholic is a possibility as well. I really respect your opinion and any advice you could offer me would be the best information I could get on this matter.

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This page contains a single entry by Second Season published on June 6, 2009 9:40 AM.

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