Rankings matter for Buckeyes, but they don't change plans

Jeremy Birminghamabout 2 years
Aritcle written by:Jeremy BirminghamJeremy Birmingham



Have a question about Ohio State recruiting? This is the place for you, five days a week. Submit your questions on Twitter or on the Lettermen Row forums. Check in daily to see what’s on the mind of Buckeyes fans all over the country. Today, we’re going to talk recruiting ranking and why they are worth paying attention to but shouldn’t be considered football gospel.

Ohio State Recruiting Question of the Day

I’m forgoing the first part of this question because it was discussed on Monday. Instead I will turn my attention to the second and try to understand the always entertaining, always objective matter of recruiting rankings.

Earlier this week, the folks at 247Sports.com updated their recruiting rankings, changes that came just about a day after ESPN refreshed their own. Rivals.com has not yet followed suit, but they’re expected to do that soon, and that means the 247Sports.com composite rankings — which are the preferred rankings for Lettermen Row for use in our stories —  will be completely updated in the near future.

And every single year those updates bring with them a new wave of controversy and frustration from fanbases who believe the kids committed to their favorite programs are getting screwed by analysts who’ve not actually watched them play or have built-in bias against this team or that team.

You know what? Some of that is probably true. There are only so many hours in the day, and the guys doing the national rankings can’t see everyone, which is why the national networks like 247 and Rivals are generally a better place to get rankings — especially when stacked up against a network that has a vested interest in the success of a specific conference.

I don’t say that to impugn those people or their evaluations. But because of limited ability to see players from coast-to-coast, sometimes opinions are formed based on relationships with coaches, opinions, random unsubstantiated rumors or silly 7-on-7 camps only.

ohio state-gee scott football-gee scott receiver-gee scott recruit-gee scott ohio state-gee scott seattle

Gee Scott dropped to the No. 33 WR in the country according to ESPN.com but moved up to No. 4 per 247Sports.com. (Birm/Lettermen Row)

Camps matter. Size, speed, arm strength, accuracy, agility — all that stuff? It matters. Nothing matters more than the evaluations of the college coaches who are putting their jobs at risk by signing the players they sign, though.

So when you see Darrion Henry, who missed a good portion of his junior season and underwhelmed during the subsequent spring camp season tumble in the rankings the way he did — all the way the down to No. 571 and the No. 53-ranked defensive tackle by 247Sports.com — don’t panic. He’s been recruited, evaluated, trained and wanted by Larry Johnson for years. That’s what matters. Henry is still ranked as the No. 169 overall player by ESPN, for what it’s worth.

When you see Jack Miller drop because of injuries or other random reasons that have nothing to do with his ability to throw a football, understand that he’s been the guy Ryan Day wanted as his quarterback for the last two years. That’s not changing.

It’s easy to evaluate a young football player based on one camp, and if that’s the metric for valuing them, it’s OK to say it is. Not everyone who watches a young athlete sees the same things. And though I’ll never say recruiting rankings don’t matter — because they do, especially when used as a metric for future success — it’s important to be clear that not every player is developing at the same rate. A lot of kids aren’t going to get better in college and beyond.

That’s why coaching matters the way it does. The difference between Player A, ranked No. 300, and Player B, ranked No. 500, is negligible when they’re in high school: The difference comes when they get to college and get coached up and into a world-class weight and development program.

Mark Pantoni, Ohio State’s director of player personnel, told Lettermen Row last week that the Buckeyes will use star rankings as a starting point for recruiting, but that when it comes down to Player vs. Player, the only thing that matters is the evaluations done by the guys who will be tasked with developing them.

At Ohio State, at Clemson, at Alabama, etc., what matters the most is what the guys in those football facilities believe. Not what any recruiting website does.

The best way to stay on top of all that recruiting #stuff? Subscribe to Lettermen Row’s Recruiting with Birm newsletter.