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The Truth About Star Rankings

Back in 1995 when I started THE VARSITY SPORTS JOURNAL, which morphed into SCVARSITY.COM with the rise of the world wide web (internet), there were no star rankings. There were guys like me and Earl “the Pearl Burgess” and Bob Bacot (of the old SCPrep Football) who were looking at kids, talking about kids and/or ranking them. When I was recruited to join the Rivals.com network shortly after its birth, there still weren’t any star rankings going on. But they did begin shortly after that.

Back in the day, on the national level, guys like Bobby Burton (now with 247 Sports) and Jeremy Crabtree (now with KMBC in Kansis City) were doing a lot of the rankings for that company. While I didn’t always agree with the placement of players, I did respect what those two did because they actually WATCHED the players and knew what they were looking at. We would work the Nike Combines and look at the kids and take up video tapes (YES, VHS tapes back then) and watch hours of film. I have a good friend of mine who runs the EdgyTim website for Rivals and he’s a good guy, too. He does it right with his rankings in the state if Illinois. But I can tell you those guys are few and far between.

You see, something has happened in this industry. The term analyst no longer is applicable to an individual. It is a “title” and in most cases a title ONLY. These so called analyst are regular football fans; most have never played at a high level; most have never coached at a high level; and the extent of most of these guys’ expertise was being beat writer for high school sports in some small town news rag. The point is, the words “analyst” and “expert” are loosely used in almost every case.

And the star ratings? They are, in most cases, laughable. It’s not rocket science. Most of the guys work for college fans sites and their direct source are staff membgers of that particular college. So, most of what they tell you comes directly from the mouth of some guy on staff at “John Doe University”. And don’t think for a moment that the star ratings are not more based on the offer list than they are actually evaluation. The more offers, the more starts. Period. Case in point. When Mason Rudolph (Oklahoma State QB and now Pittsburg Steeler draftee) came out of Northwestern High School, I had him ranked very high in the state of South Carolina. One of the “experts” with the Network I was with did his evaluation (laughing at that term) and had him as a three star. I debated him openly on the Oklahoma State message board asking for his “evaluation” and I gave mine, every criteria. I knew this kid. I worked with him in our training camps. His coach was a coach in my training camps. I knew he was a five star but this “expert” thought he was a three star for some reasons he explained with “cliche terms”. Hindsight? Four Year Starter at a Power Five School and NFL draftee. So much for the experts. Another case in point. Deebo Samuels (University of South Carolina). Coming out of Chapman High School was a three star player by these same “experts”. I knew THIS kid. Had been in my training camps. He was a definite four star in my mind. I told the guys on 107.5 The Game on signing day that year that Deebo Samuels was the best player the Gamecocks picked up in that signing class. Hindsight? Well, we see what an impactful player he’s been at South Carolina. Again, so much for the experts.

My point, to you prospects and parents: Don’t worry about the stars beside your name. Other than vanity, they are meaningless. Don’t think for a moment that Dabo Sweeney, Will Muschamp, or any other college coach gives a rat’s ass about how many stars you have beside your name. The bottom line is the answer to these questions: Can you get it done on the field? Can you get it done in the classroom? Can you be a productive member of the community? That’s it. THAT is the criteria you need to be focusing on. If you want to go to the camps and combines, go. I think they are good events, especially the free ones put on by the shoe box companies. Logging your vitals with accurate measurable devices is great for your profile. DO NOT pay for exposure. If you’re paying anwhere over 40 or 50 bucks for these combines and expecting it to help your recruiting, you’re wasting your money. If you’re paying it to have a good time, go for it. Most of those events are fun. But the most important exposure you will EVER get is working out in front of the coaches at the school you want to go to. So if you’re going to spend your money on camps, find out when those schools are doing camps, call them and tell them you want to come to ONE day of their camp to be evaluated. But GET IN FRONT OF THE COLLEGE COACHES.

And if you want evaluated, don’t pay for it. Send me a link to your film and I’ll do it for free. I’ll tell you what you need to work on and what I see. I’ve been doing this for a LONG time and have written a book on it that was a best seller. If you want to see what college coaches look at when they evaluate you, pick up a copy of my book. If you can’t afford it, email me and I’ll see if I can email you a PDF copy for free.

Last piece of advice. Never let an opponent outwork you. You control that. And remember, football will inevitably end. make sure you take care of your education because there is a lot of life on the other side of football.


About Jim Baxter

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