August 2009 Archives

Picking the All-Americans

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There always is controversy when the subject turns to selecting players for all-area, all-state or All-America recognition or for all-star games. The U.S. Army All-American Bowl in San Antonio is no exception. But sometimes people criticize the process without understanding how it works.

I've been involved in the selection process since the game began. Sportslink, which owns the rights to the game, asked me to recommend players. Sportslink also asked Scout to be a partner in 2005 and 2006, then asked Rivals to recommend players. But Sportslink has the final say on who is invited to participate.

We want to invite the 96 best players in the country. There aren't a lot of politics involved in the process but seven or eight selections each year might be political. NBC televises the game. The network also televises Notre Dame games. Sportslink might favor a player or two, as in "friends of management." I favor some players that I rate higher than others. Rivals does the same. It's nothing personal, just business.

Myron on a Rolle

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Let's set the record straight: Contrary to any reports you may have read on the Internet, Myron Rolle was never asked about me during his testimony before the Knight Commission. It never happened.

After the session, a Rivals.com reporter asked Rolle about me, about any alleged role I had in his recruiting. Rolle said I ranked him lower--ESPN had ranked him as the No. 1 player in the nation--because he wouldn't announce his college decision (to Florida State) during the U.S. Army All-American Game and opted not to attend such academic schools as Notre Dame or Stanford.

I never called Rolle. He called me as a sophomore, junior and senior to talk about my ratings. He also talked about academic schools. So when he told me he was leaning to Florida State, I reminded him that he had talked about academic schools. Florida State isn't known as an academic school.

He got mad. All along, he had been telling me how Yale and Stanford and Michigan and Notre Dame wanted him so much. I wasn't pushing any school, just reminding him of how much he had been emphasizing the importance of academics and a good college education. Notre Dame wasn't even in his top five.

I said he was a first-round draft choice in the NFL and I ranked him in the top 30. But he thought he should be No. 1 in the nation. ESPN had rated him No. 1, the only recruiting service to do so, so he made his commitment on ESPN. My choice as the No. 1 player in the nation was Chris "Beanie" Wells, who went to Ohio State.

Prior to his senior year, I rated Rolle in the top five with Wells, Percy Harvin and Andre Smith. But I dropped him at the U.S. Army Combine in January after seeing Harvin and other top wide receivers twist him around like a pretzel. Coaches said he was a good hitter and was physical but he lacked cover skills. They thought he might be better suited to be a linebacker.

That's when Rolle started to get mad and stopped talking to me. Kids with big egos get upset when you lower their rating. When kids ask me, I tell them to go to a school that graduates kids with worthwhile degrees.

Of course, few kids listen to that message. They want great facilities, girls and the quickest way to the NFL. But I'll give Rolle a lot of credit. In the end, he chose academics and became a Rhodes Scholar, which made his decision to attend Florida State all the more strange. But Florida State, to its credit, said they would help him to earn a Rhodes Scholarship because he stood out so much, more than if he can gone to Harvard or Stanford.

The skinny on Lorenzo Booker

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Rivals.com rated running back Lorenzo Booker as the No. 1 player in the country as a senior. I didn't and that's why he was mad at me from the first snap of the season.

I rated quaterback Ben Olson as the No. 1 player and running back Maurice Clarett as No. 2. Booker was upset that I rated Clarett ahead of him.

As it turned out, I overrated him as the second best running back in the nation. I rated him as the No. 10 player nationally. He had an average career at Florida State. He was a very good high school player but small--and not Barry Sanders-type small. At Florida State, he was an underachiever.

So what happened?

Notre Dame, Lorenzo, Myron and Army

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Over the years, for reasons my critics have never been able to fully explain to my satisfaction, I have become embroiled in at least four so-called controversies that continue to surface whenever someone disagrees with any of my evaluations.

They are my alleged affiliation with Notre Dame, my long-ago relationships with high school football stars Lorenzo Booker and Myron Rolle and my role in the selections for the U.S. Army All-American Bowl.

All of these issues were thoroughly addressed in my 2007 book, "Football's Second Season: Scouting High School Game Breakers." But apparently some people didn't read it or they still prefer to believe their own version.

Out of Luc?

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It is the time of year when Internet fanatics who cheer for one school or another scan the top 100 lists of Tom Lemming, Randy Taylor, Rivals, Scout, ESPNU and anyone else who evaluates high school players from coast to coast and make comparisons.Who do they believe? Who rates their alma mater's recruits the highest?

It's all very subjective, not a perfect science. Every year, somebody rates a player in the top 10 while somebody else doesn't even rate him in the top 100.

So it's always fun to see who is right and who is wrong.

One to watch this year is Jeff Luc, a 6-1, 230-pound linebacker from Port St. Lucie, Fla.

How good is Prater?

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I've been evaluating high school football players for 30 years and some critics still don't think I know what I'm talking about. Every year, they compare my ratings to other recruiting services. If you do, I think you'll discover that at some point all the evaluators finally agree on who the top 100 to 200 players are.

But there are major disagreements from time to time. I wouldn't describe Kyle Prater as a "major disagreement" but I'm sure some folks wonder how I came to rate the Proviso West wide receiver as the No. 35 player in the nation while Rivals tapped him as the No. 4 player in the country.

In fact, while Rivals singles out Prater as the best wide receiver in the nation, I rate him no better than No. 3--behind Darius White of Fort Worth, Texas, and Jeremy Richardson of Springville, Alabama.

Stop the presses!

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The 30th annual edition of my magazine, Tom Lemming's Prep Football Report, nearly 300 pages of profiles, pictures and rankings of the top 1,500 players in the nation, is available. You can obtain a copy by writing to Tom Lemming, Box 59113, Schaumburg, Ill., 60159.

Over the years, I have traveled over 2 million miles to gather information on the top prospects. Each year, I travel 50,000 to 60,000 miles. From December to mid-June, I make 30 to 40 trips from coast to coast--I didn't go to Hawaii or Alaska this year--to personally see every player with Division I potential.

When I started in 1979, I was the only one in the business. Joe Terranova was the Godfather of football recruiting. He rated players but he didn't talk to the kids or watch film. He just talked to coaches.

Why the SEC dominates

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The news isn't good in the Big 10. A recent survey concluded that the once mighty Big 10 ranked only fifth among the nation's leading football-playing conferences, even behind the basketball-happy ACC. Remember when the Big 10 was No. 1?

Illinois' recruiting class for 2010 is rated No. 28 by Rivals, No. 29 by Scout, hardly in a class with the nation's elite programs. The Illini don't appear to be taking advantage of their Texas connection which new coach Mike Schultz was supposed to provide, as former coach Mike Locksley did in Maryland.

But it's too early to panic.

50 percent isn't so bad

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A reader from Los Angeles was curious about what he called my "accuracy scorecard." He wondered what my percentage was for predicting that high school football players would succeed in college. He correctly assumed that it must be within the parameters of acceptability or I wouldn't have been in business for 31 years.

In my opinion, if you hit 50 percent, then you are doing a good job. Remember, I'm dealing with 16- and 17-year-old kids when I rank them. The NFL is lucky to get 50 percent and it is dealing with a much smaller group. I'm dealing with 3 million kids who play high school football.

When should you promote your son?

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I recently received an interesting e-mail from a concerned parent who has been reading all about college scholarships being offered to young athletes and he is wondering when he should begin marketing his son. He is afraid if he waits too long that his son will be lost in the shuffle, that college recruiters won't have time to evaluate him.

This is what he had to say:

"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 possible being offered a scholarship in his freshman year of high school, which is still over a year away with him just starting eighth grade.

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This page is an archive of entries from August 2009 listed from newest to oldest.

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