High school football recruiting is one of the biggest mysteries in sports. If you are the majority of sports fans, you probably don’t know much about it. A couple of Google searches and a trip into message boards such as the Rivals.com forums and the individual school forums serve as a portal into the dark, seedy world of college recruiting, where hoards of middle-aged men ogle over the highest-rated recruits in the country.
The college football recruiting cycle seems relatively simple. High school players begin to be evaluated by college coaches around their sophomore year, sometimes earlier. Throughout high school, players are invited to camps sponsored by companies such as Nike and Adidas.
Here, they can showcase their talents for college coaches as well as recruiting services. Recruiting services (such as Rivals and 247Sports) rank the top players in the country using a star system. Only a few elite players receive a five-star rating.
Players typically begin receiving and accepting their scholarship offers during their junior year of high school, but many players choose to wait.
Whether a player ‘commits’ or not, is never the end of the battle. Until a player signs his letter of intent, which happens in early February of his senior year, anything can happen.
Head coaches and assistant coaches get in players’ ears as much as is allowed by the NCAA (and then some), trying to sway them one way or another. Then there are the fan bases.
Fans, usually men 25 and older, spend years of their lives following individual recruits’ every move until signing day.
Now, with the widespread popularity of Twitter, players’ every movement is tracked. Earlier this year, highly-ranked Penn State quarterback commit Christian Hackenberg tweeted, “Pops just told me we are going to Canes. #seeya.”
The Twittersphere went into complete meltdown mode, thinking that Hackenberg was going to commit to the Miami University Hurricanes. Hackenberg was instead referring to Raisin’ Cane’s, a fast-food restaurant.
The tweeting oftentimes gets nasty. Last season, when Rivals four star running back Brian Kimbrow chose Vanderbilt University over in-state favorite University of Tennessee (Knoxville), Tennessee fans took to Twitter to call the high school senior a “n—-r,” among other things.
All of the nastiness aside, the craziness leading up to signing day makes for one of the most exciting sporting events of the year.
This year is no different, as many top rated recruits are either uncommitted or wavering. Let’s take a look at some of the top-ranked players and where they might end up.
1. Robert Nkemdiche
A 6’5″ 260-pound defensive end, he is the number-one ranked player in the country, according to Rivals.com. A strong, quick player, he finished his high school career with 43 sacks.
He has a top three of Alabama, Clemson and Ole Miss. The consensus among experts is that he will end up at Ole Miss to play with his older brother. Ole Miss.
2. Carl Lawson
Another talented defensive end out of Georgia, Lawson is currently committed to Auburn. Auburn’s recent hiring of former University of Georgia (UGA) Defensive Line Coach Rodney Gardner definitely will not help Auburn’s case. Gardner famously fought with Lawson’s father after Gardner did not offer Lawson while he was at UGA.
This, on top of the fact that Tennessee was the only team he listened to before Auburn’s coaching change, leads me to believe that Tennessee will come out on top here. Lawson is visiting the Vols this weekend (along with best friend, and current Vol commit Ryan Jenkins); the visit will go a long way towards deciding his future. Tennessee.
3. Reuben Foster
One of the top linebackers in the country, Foster hails from Auburn, Ala. A former Auburn commit, he left after the recent coaching changes. Foster is still considering Auburn along with several other schools.
He famously got an Auburn tattoo, before decommitting, but my gut says he stays at Auburn to be with his young daughter. Alabama is a school to watch out for here, as is the University of Washington. Auburn.
â€” By Nathaniel Ludewig