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Stars are not the whole story in recruiting

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Player and class rankings don’t always deliver on what they sell us.

NCAA Football: Iowa State at Texas Tech Michael C. Johnson-USA TODAY Sports

There is not much to update with recruiting this week, so I wanted to take this time to talk about rankings.

Player and class rankings don’t always deliver on what they sell us. Year after year, fans bemoan the loss or celebrate the commitment of a four or five-star recruit. The myth is that a four or five-star player is a can’t-miss prospect destined to make an immediate impact on your program and be a building block for years to come. In the real world, whether, a player coming out of high school that’s a three, four, or five-star athlete doesn’t set them up for any type of production.

The ranking system is a guessing game and even where a particular player is ranked can vary depending on which source or website you are using. On top of that, a lot of the rankings have more to do with a players ability to market themselves than their actual performance. If you want to understand this, simply ask a high school athlete which AAU tournaments or basketball camps he attended that summer and you will be able to easily guess if he will have several stars by his name or just a few. Exposure is the name of the recruiting game.

Just take the Texas Tech football 2015 class as an example of how uncertain recruiting is. In the 2015 class, you were able to land four players with a four-star rating. Of those four players, two have transferred with limited production (Fehoko and Dauphine) and have not produced for their new schools at this point. Neither of these players ever lived up to the hype that surrounded them. Another player retired because of repeated injuries and the final player is having a hard time cracking the starting line-up of an offensive line that has struggled for the better part of two years.

Does this mean we should completely ignore the rankings system and only recruit two and three-star guys? Of course not. I will never turn down a Jack Anderson or TJ Vasher coming to play at the Jones. But we also should not lose our minds when a four-star quarterback decides to de-commit just a few days before Christmas (Yes I am talking about Jarrett Stidham).

Rankings will never be able to tell you how coachable, driven, or what type of leadership skills an athlete has. In addition, there is not a college athlete that arrives on campus who has maximized his potential. This means it is up to the coaching staff to sharpen their skills and up to the athlete to maximize their talent. For this reason, I would suggest that landing a five-star recruit is like buying a lottery ticket when the jackpot is $300 million. Just getting the ticket does not mean it is going to work out but if it does it could be life-changing. This also means that getting a class full of three-star players is not the end of the world and does not mean your team is destined to be a bottom feeder in the Big 12 Conference.

The next time you want to judge a recruiting class solely on how high the players are ranked, I would just ask you to take a glance at the recruiting class from four years ago and remind yourself how many stars were beside the names of current and recent playmakers: Pat Mahomes (3 stars), Justin Stockton (3 stars), Dakota Allen (3 stars), Cameron Batson (3 stars), and Jah’Shawn Johnson (3 stars).