Do recruiting rankings always matter? Not in the case of the 2016 Notre Dame class.
The second, and formerly only, National Signing Day is here for college football. It’s the second of two dates when high school recruits sign, and can no longer back out of commitments, to schools. Notre Dame should have a quiet day.
For coaches it is important to get the right style of players, and players at the right positions, to fill gaps on their rosters. For the media, it’s something to talk about once football is over.
One thing the media loves to do is assign rankings to these high schoolers. Based on the rankings of these high schoolers — and where they sign — we get recruiting class rankings. Having a highly ranked class excites fans and leads to high expectations. Predictably, a low ranked class is cause for concern.
Preseason rankings come from a mix of returning talent, last season’s results, reputation and recruiting ranking. These preseason rankings often form the basis of a team’s strength of schedule, which affects a team’s ranking later in the year. Of course, a team’s ranking can keep it outside of College Football Playoff contention.
Here’s a huge issue with that. It’s really hard to judge how talented high schoolers are going to be at the next level. Furthermore, judging how they develop as individual talents is impossible.
Notre Dame is proof enough of this.
Take a look at the Irish’s 2016 recruiting class. Do any players jump out? Maybe starting quarterback Ian Book or All-American Julian Love? They’re both three-star players according to ESPN. To this day, they’ve completely outplayed those rankings.
How did Ian Book end up a three-star talent, when he should probably have been a four-star?
First off, that is splitting hairs. However, recruiting rankings split hairs and decide which schedules are best on those split hairs. It matters.
The truth is he needed a couple years to develop and he’s a bit shorter than most quarterbacks are expected to be. If Book was two inches taller, he would have been a four-star talent, no doubt. It’s not like most four-star quarterbacks don’t need time to develop. Instead, someone at ESPN looked at a 17 year old Ian Book and decided he was less than another 17 year old.
No one is able to truly measure how good someone is at that age. Maybe that’s why ESPN has power house quarterbacks like Brandon Peters, Feleipe’ Franks, Jack Allison, Logan Byrd, and Patrick O’Brien listed as better recruits than Ian Book.
I’m not saying that those are bad players, by the way, just that Book is better — but wasn’t thought to be in high school.
Julian Love was ranked behind Ian Book in Notre Dame’s 2016 class, again, according to ESPN. Love is also listed as an athlete and not as a cornerback. This is just further proof we don’t know much about these high schoolers. It wasn’t even a known fact that Love would be a cornerback. The top ranked athlete that year was the famous Tyler Byrd. He went to Tennessee, where he’s caught 19 passes in three seasons.
Clearly, there are inconsistencies in recruiting rankings. Rankings don’t consider coachability, toughness, desire, or the things that make a great player. They consider size and how athletic a high schooler looks against players who won’t be playing Division 1 football.
I’m not saying we be excited about good recruiting classes. I’m saying that we should be realistic about them. Lower rated players will surprise you. Higher rated players will disappoint you. Notre Dame is proof of this. Notre Dame is also proof you don’t need a top 10 recruiting class every season to finish a season ranked in the top 10.
By the way, Liam Eichenberg was Notre Dame’s top ranked player in the 2016 recruiting class. He’s the starting left tackle. Sometimes, the rankings get them right. Again, just don’t live or die by them. The Irish proved it in 2016.