Ratings Crucial To Prep Recruits
TAMPA - In 2006, Michael Langston and his FlaVarsity.com colleagues ranked a high school quarterback as the No. 1 player in the state of Florida and the complaints flooded in. Though used to catching heat from coaches and players and their families for their star ratings and player rankings, Langston's crew caught a considerable amount of grief for listing this quarterback at No. 1. Turns out, they were dead on in that assessment. "That quarterback was Tim Tebow and he turned out to be pretty good in college," Langston said.When Wednesday's National Signing Day wraps up, colleges across the country will be touting their recruiting classes as the best. Many will boast how many five-star and four-star recruits they landed and the merits of those star ratings and player rankings will be scrutinized. The FlaVarsity staff assesses players during a two-year span (junior and senior year). In Florida alone, a crew of 15 scouts spends time at practices and games. They do more than view game film of the players - they watch them in person. And the stars and rankings are based on more than just skill and talent. They are also based on how they think the player will project at the collegiate level. Size and speed can immediately boost a player's rank, but it's not the only criteria scouts look for. "With most coaches, size is always a good thing," Langston said. "Measureables are always important. Speed is important, but if a kid is a playmaker and can make plays, that is going to stand out, too." Players get a lot of recognition at the various combines held in the offseason. Before Plant wideout Orson Charles helped lead the Panthers to the 4A state championship in December, he opened some eyes at some preseason combines. But those workouts aren't for everyone and can actually hurt a player's college chances. "We had a free safety from our 2004 state championship that went to one of the combines even though I told him I didn't think it would be a good idea," Armwood coach Sean Callahan recalled. "He ran a 4.7 in the 40-yard dash and then didn't even get offers from Division I-AA schools. Guys like Matt Patchan and Ryne Giddins are made for combines but others aren't and it can hurt their chances." Armwood is set to have nine or 10 players put ink to paper on National Signing Day. This decade alone, the Hawks have fielded several players with high star ratings, including five-star players Patchan and Torrey Davis. "Is there an exact science for rating these kids? I'd say no," Callahan said. "But are they close? Yes." Four area players made the Rivals.com final Top 100 for the Class of 2009. Plant quarterback Aaron Murray led the area at No. 46. Giddins was No. 61, followed by Charles at 62 and Alonso defensive tackle Demonte McAllister at 70. Murray is already enrolled at the University of Georgia and is expected to compete for the starting quarterback spot. Giddins verbally committed to USF and McAllister committed to FSU. Charles just wrapped up a visit to Tennessee, his fourth official visit. Having already been to FSU, Florida and Georgia, he will travel to USC this weekend and then make his announcement. These players were going to garner a lot of Division I attention based on their performance on the field, but Langston believes the star ratings and high rankings help even the best of players. "We know the college coaches look at it," Langston said. "They pay attention. There might be a kid they haven't seen yet and then they'll check them out because they were rated so high." Some coaches worry that these rankings and the criteria involved could be leaving out deserving players and that too much emphasis is placed on speed and size. "I never knew a 40 time that made a tackle on the field or that scored a touchdown or completed a pass," Gaither coach Mark Kantor said. "There's more to it than that in what is going to make a great college player. It's grades and it's character too." Former Gaither running back Jarvis Giles, who is currently enrolled at South Carolina, received a lot of Division I attention and offers. Giles caught college coaches' eyes with his speed and impressive statistics, but when it came down to whether he was a good fit in a college program or not, off-the-field performance was just as important. "When Florida coach Urban Meyer came through to talk to us about Jarvis, the first thing he asked was does he have good character," Kantor said. "Coaches can tell if a kid plays hard on the field, but they also want to know what kind of person he is and if he has good character. "That doesn't show up in a rating."
Reporter Katherine Smith can be reached at (813) 259-7860.