I’ve never claimed to know more about football than the guys that get paid to scout the talent, but I’d challenge anyone to question my ability to do simple math. The way colleges evaluate and critique high school football talent has really started to perplex me.
And I have a good feeling from conversations I’ve had over the past couple weeks that I’m not alone on this one.
Production and statistics for some of the top high school football players, and a glaring lack of college offers for these prep superstars, leaves me scratching my head.
But before I possibly get on a soapbox, I want to make it clear that I’m happy for any kid that gets a football scholarship to a college program. If not already, you’ll realize later in life that the chance at a free college education for playing the game you love is a win-win situation.
North Hall’s Daniel Blitch, for example, will receive a pretty exclusive education free of charge at Wake Forest University as a tradeoff for playing in the trenches as an offensive lineman for the Demon Deacons.
And former Gainesville High wide receiver Tai-ler Jones is already walking the hallowed halls of Notre Dame on athletic scholarship, plus he gets the chance to play football for a tradition-rich Fighting Irish program.
What a deal for these kids! I hope they take full advantage of the opportunities at their fingertips for the next four or five years.
That’s why it kind of bothers me that some of the other top high school football players didn’t have the same kinds of opportunities, in spite of equally great on-the-field production.
I can think of no better example than North Hall’s Nathan Jones. He was an absolutely dominant high school safety for the Trojans the past two seasons, had an area-high nine interceptions his senior season, earned Region 7-AAA Defensive Player of the Year honors, but was almost left out in the cold as far as college scholarship offers go.
Now I know that being a college football recruiter has to be a terribly difficult assignment. They have to break down tape and get to know hundreds of kids each and every year. They have to make the decision if giving that player a grant in aid for sports will help their school win, and in turn, help them keep their job.
Still, I think too much of this talent assessment gets broken down to how fast players can run a 40-yard dash, times in some sort of silly cone drill, reps on the bench press, or throwing accuracy. Last time I checked, combine superstars don’t always translate into great football players.
I think it would do the sport good to look at what players get done on the field in high school, and worry less about how they project at the next level. If that was the case, kids like Nathan Jones wouldn’t be sitting on the sidelines on National Signing Day. And players like Thomas Sprague, the Class AAA Defensive Player of the Year, wouldn’t have to make last-minute trips to earn a Division-I offer.
Of course, it’s too easy now just to evaluate talent on a scouting combine basic. It’s a one-stop shop for all the college coaches to see players that might can cut it at the next level. But it does take something away from the personal nature of the sport and recruiting talent on a one-on-one basis.