SoCar Coach Says He Games Recruiting Rankings

Brad Lawing, the South Carolina defensive line coach and former UNC-CH recruiting coordinator, says that recruiting rankings and sites are a scam. 

“I can take a three-star and make him a four-star, and I can take a four-star and make him a three- or two-star with the contacts I have. That’s how ridiculous recruiting on the Internet is. I took [Gamecock safety] Chris Culliver from a three- to a five-star in three weeks. All you’ve got to do is talk to the right people,” Lawing said, in an article on  Culliver, you may remember, was heavily recruited by NC State’s previous staff. ranked the former Garner (NC) Trojan as a four-star in its archives.

You might remember back in February, when we took recruiting expert Jamie Newberg to task a bit, when I said

[The] experts never seem to get Tom O’Brien: he doesn’t recruit stars, he recruits players that will fit into his system.  Matt Ryan was a three-star QB and ranked #44 coming into college.  He didn’t graduate that way, and was one of the two best rookie QBs in the NFL last year.  Just for example.  Dan Koppen, a Pro Bowl center with the New England Patriots was not blessed by the Jamie Newbergs of the world, but he’s good enough to have started three years for Tom O’Brien and good enough after college to be rated as an all-star by his peers.   On the other side of the ball, Jeremy Trueblood was another lowly rated recruit that ended up as an All Big-East player by the time O’Brien was done teaching him and is now starting for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

In Raleigh, two-star Russel Wilson certainly seems to be working out under center.  Four-star Mike Paulus over at UNC?  Not so much.  Maybe there is something O’Brien’s ability to recognize good skills when he sees them after all.

Lawing’s comments — and be sure to take them for what they are worth — show that the ever-increasing hype surrounding recruiting is probably only so much hot air.  Sure, there are players that it’s pretty easy to project a solid college career for, but then again, there are other fellows that seem to slip under everyone’s radar, get only a little bit of attention and end up not only turning the college world on its ear, but do pretty well on Sundays as well.  Philip Rivers is a textbook example of that.

Football Recruiting

27 Responses to SoCar Coach Says He Games Recruiting Rankings

  1. StateFans 05/26/2009 at 9:50 AM #

    Excellent comments. The whole recruiting game is absurd. It is interesting/somewhat fun to pay attention to this stuff…but, the older I get the more discerning and skeptical I become.

    The public makes the same mistake with these recruiting gurus as they do with the media — the public mistakenly presumes these folks are impartial and unbiased.

    In the end, the general buckets of “stars” do seem to have some correlation to reality. But, there appears to be way too much variance in those buckets; and, obviously, some coaches have figured out how to judge talent that fits their system on their own.

    The real risk and downside of course is the use of these practices as recruiting tools. Regardless of what you think of the situation – the reality is that these rankings DO MATTER to high school players. So, if a coaching staff can help nudge players rankings up, it gives them just another small edge in the overall recruitment of the player.

    It doesn’t make much sense to the average person; but, what 17 year old wouldn’t want to see their name in lights and ranked as high as possible.

  2. StateFans 05/26/2009 at 9:52 AM #

    You can see some links to a related topic in this entry.

  3. Rufftown Wolf 05/26/2009 at 9:53 AM #

    yeah I agree, it seems like the real world, if you know the right people you can get in. Some people are going to fly under the radar. I also think that if you play with more talented people you are going to perform better. You can be a 5 star recruit and have a bad attitude or bad work ethic and never see the field. TOB seems to look for men with strong character. With Chuck it seemed like he got a lot of 4 and 5 stars but they didn’t improve any.

  4. Clarksa 05/26/2009 at 10:05 AM #

    Most of us fell for the hype in the football ratings game, and we should have all learned our lesson.

  5. anonymousselfquoter 05/26/2009 at 10:41 AM #

    Ranking football recruits will continue to be a sham until the sport follows every other sport and has that second AAU season that pits the best against each other. Look no further to the recent TOC to understand why b-ball recruiting is much further ahead.

    Kudos on the super extra long self quote.

  6. BJD95 05/26/2009 at 10:42 AM #

    The pool of players is just too damned big to be able to evaluate fully and accurately. Having a system and a track record really matter.

  7. Noah 05/26/2009 at 11:20 AM #

    It’s a rating system from two to five. Anyone who ever took a math class ought to be able to spot the flaws in that one.

    Also, the notion that someone like Jamie Newberg or Miller Safrit can tell you the difference between the 45th best linebacker and the 46th best linebacker is so absurd that Rosencrantz and Guildenstern wouldn’t buy it (now I have to go beat myself up and take my own lunch money for today’s geekiest reference).

  8. Noah 05/26/2009 at 11:22 AM #

    “Ranking football recruits will continue to be a sham until the sport follows every other sport and has that second AAU season that pits the best against each other.”

    That’s like saying that you can’t possibly understand true love until you’ve been to visit a crack-whore at least three times.

  9. choppack1 05/26/2009 at 11:55 AM #

    I think the real problem here is intentionally down-grading or up-grading talent.

    The reality is that in basketball, it’s very easy to seperate the wheat from the chafe. There are only 10 guys on the court at one time – and anyone over 6-4 sticks out like a sore thumb. However, I think that there’s plenty of evidence that recruiting those guys under 6-4 is a little more difficult.

    I’d also tell you that I think it’s easier to “make” a great football player than it is to “make” a great basketball player. In football, physical maturity plays a bigger role than it does in basketball – so you can take the guy who may not be a “blue-chipper” and mold him into a solid pro prospect.

  10. whitefang 05/26/2009 at 12:52 PM #

    At the risk of offending the basketball fans out there, football is a much more intricate and complicated game than basketball is. Besides the fact that many hs football teams carry 50 or more players, many of the coaches are pretty poor in my opinion. Since football is the ultimate team game too players are often playing “out of position” in hs, and many players in hs are playing in “ancient” systems. They may be position coached by a math teacher who not only never played the position at a high level, but may have never played at all. The college game is much different from the hs game, etc, etc.
    An established coach like a TOB (or a Brad Lawing for that matter) has to be able to do a lot of “projecting” of where this or that guy will fit in a completely different system. I trust the TOB’s of the world much more than the recruiting ratings.

  11. Noah 05/26/2009 at 1:29 PM #

    Football is also tough because so little of what goes on is one-on-one. A great running back behind a crappy OL won’t stand out. You have to be an exceptional judge of talent to see what’s really going on.

    I’m always enormously skeptical of WR rankings simply because there’s nothing you can see at the high school level that is an accurate predictor of future success. The balls they are catching are thrown at half-speed. They are always faster than the people guarding them. The routes they run are always either fly routes or those little bubble-screens. They never go over the middle, they never block, they never take big hits. The QBs can’t throw deep outs, so they don’t run them.

    There are a couple of thousand single-wing/veer QBs in Florida who all look like they’d be good slot receivers. I have extreme doubts that the people at Rivals and the people at Scout can tell me which guy belongs at Southern Cal and which one belongs at Southern.

  12. howlie 05/26/2009 at 2:56 PM #

    He’s a slimy toad turd, but I’m grateful for him talking about his slimy, turdiness and the scam that it is.

    Although I’m not a WWF watcher–people who now know it is a sham and an orchestrated setup still watch it, because they love it.

    In a similar way, I know the recruiting sites results are ‘dubious,’ at best, but I’m STILL going to read them. IT’s a least, a ‘starting point’ to get to know potential recruits and to look forward to their play for us.

  13. packalum44 05/26/2009 at 2:57 PM #

    Wonder how much the Scout/Rivals folks make? If they make more than scouts for NFL/NCAA teams than they have high credibility. The invisible hand would guide the most gifted scouts toward those jobs. I highly doubt this.

    What I don’t doubt is TOB & Company’s ability to identify talent as they have a proven track record.

  14. Alpha Wolf 05/26/2009 at 2:59 PM #

    I wonder what Don Callahan over at Inside Carolina would have to say about Lawing’s comments in an unguarded moment. Long-time Scout readers know all about Callahan and his ability to add stars to UNC’s prospects.

  15. packalum44 05/26/2009 at 3:29 PM #

    ^ Good point Alpha….I’ve noticed TOB’s recruits get recruited by other big schools after he’s offered them…interesting huh.

    By default some of these recruits rise in the rankings as a result…not from undue manipulation (I presume)…See Asa Watson and Jarvis Byrd from this past year’s class as examples.

  16. Lunatic Fringe 05/26/2009 at 3:42 PM #

    A perfect example of the variance is a comparison on NC State’s 2002 & 2003 recruiting classes:

    2002: Scout Ranking #38
    Brian Clark (1*) – Active NFL Player
    John McCargo (1*) – Active NFL Player
    Oliver Hoyte (1*) – No Longer Active in NFL (3 Year Tenure)
    Manny Lawson (1*) – Active NFL Player
    Leroy Harris (1*) – Active NFL Player

    2003: Scout Ranking #9
    Stephen Tulloch (2*) – Active NFL Player
    Mario Williams (4*) – Active NFL Player
    Tank Tyler (3*) – Active NFL Player

    I do find it a bit interesting that Brad Lawing is the one discussing this topic, because if you read his profile along with other articles back when he came to UNC and later SC they always stressed recruiting as one of his major strengths.

    According to these articles, Lawing has always been instrumental in assembling top-20 recruiting classes at both Carolina’s, but no one ever mentions those teams have significantly underachieved according to the amount of “talent” at those schools.

    You add up the records of both schools, UNC and SC, during his tenure and you will find that all of those top-20 classes have netted a sub-.500 record.

  17. whitefang 05/26/2009 at 3:54 PM #

    Curious as to why Lawing is refered to as, “He’s a slimy toad turd, but I’m grateful for him talking about his slimy, turdiness and the scam that it is.”
    I knew him years ago, and ran into him a few years back and we caught up a little with all the guys we played with and against when we were kids. I have no problem with him being portrayed as such, but is it because he was once at UNC or because he revealed how easy it is to manipulate a bogus system anyway?

  18. StateFans 05/26/2009 at 4:31 PM #

    This is a fantastic conversation. Lots of great stuff here.

  19. Noah 05/26/2009 at 5:00 PM #

    Lawing has had some run-ins with the NCAA.

  20. McPete 05/26/2009 at 6:25 PM #

    he said he can take a four star guy and make him a two star with the contacts he has. don’t know if he ever did that, but that would be kinda slimy. that could even potentially limit the guy’s opportunities. i opposite may be a little unethical, but are there even ethics in recruiting? i’m sure mr. lawing has done much worse.

  21. john of sparta 05/26/2009 at 6:43 PM #

    just another “bubble” economy.
    football ratings have validity
    like Moody’s or the rest.
    bottom line: meh.

  22. choppack1 05/26/2009 at 8:09 PM #

    whitefang – what Noah says, he’s had a couple of run-ins w/ the NCAA investigators. Wasn’t he involved in the Alabama scandal?

  23. highstickoutoftown 05/26/2009 at 8:42 PM #

    Howlie, you’re letting the UNC performance drag down South Carolina’s. When did they finish under .500? Now, have they underperformed, absolutely, but not below .500. Not that I’m protecting Lawing, but don’t mix the two.

  24. whitefang 05/27/2009 at 7:02 AM #

    Thanks for the info. I am not in anyway defending Lawing and any NCAA violations are one thing. However I saw the article more as telling how screwed up the recruit ranking systems are than an admission of some sort of slime crime. Maybe I am looking at it the wrong way, but I guess i figured since Brad’s no genius, if he is doing this to improve the ranking of his class, then probably it is common practice among recruiters.

  25. Alpha Wolf 05/27/2009 at 8:08 AM #

    Whitefang, I think you are right…I do think some coaches build up their teams stature by mucking with the star rankings. It would never happen, well you know where.

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