Transfer Portal Means High School Prospects Have to Close the Holes

By: Chad Wilson
IG: @gridironstuds

Few things in college football have been talked about over the last 12-18 months than the transfer portal.  From the onset of it’s implementation into the college football recruiting landscape,  the portal has been hot.  However,  it has turned into a menace for high school football prospects across the country.

No class has been harder hit in recruiting than the class of 2021.  Between the extended dead period and extra year of eligibility granted to all college football players + the relaxed transfer rules along with the streamlining of the transfer portal,  the value of a high school football prospect is declining fast.  In the state of Florida,  one of the major hotbeds for recruiting talent,  the class of 2021 saw the smallest amount of prospects sign with Power 5 schools in five years.  The 127 players signed was 17 less than 2020 and some 53 less than the class of 2017.  The inability of college football coaches to see prospects in person for almost a year wreaked havoc on the high school class.  It has now become safer for the schools to venture into the transfer portal and find a player that’s a little more college ready even if there may be a problem here or there.

For the college coaches,  a problem they know about is better than a problem they can’t foresee coming.  That means that whatever problem a player in the transfer portal may have,  they already know that he’s been to college,  knows the routine and for the most part has adjusted to it.  When it comes to a high school prospects,  even one you have been able to see in person,  there’s no telling how he will adjust to the shock of football consuming his life.  The truth of the matter is that some high school players can’t handle the schedule when they get to the next level even when they are a 5 star.  There are just a little more assurances when you are pulling a guy in out of the transfer portal.

In the early part of the transfer portal invention,  the pickings were a little slim as players and coaches adjusted to how it worked.  However,  after the initial feeling out,  the portal has exploded.  Over 1500 players are in the portal with their bags packed shopping for a new home.  This simply means that colleges have more options now when it comes to filling out their rosters.  When certain positions become depleted they are more apt to try and fill it with an athlete that has some college football experience over one who has none.  That’s just life.

So what does all this mean for the high school prospect?  Quite simply,  you are going to have to be a better version of yourself than you previously thought.  Everything matters more now.  Grades matter more,  film matters more,  work ethic matters more, athleticism matters more.  What was a fringe player in the past,  is now a guy that schools just won’t consider because they have other options.  If less high school players are going to be signed than in the past then it means you are going to have to up your profile.  You can’t have questionable grades and sneak in the door.   You will find now that the knob won’t turn for you.  You can’t show signs of lacking work ethic when there’s a chance that the school you like is eyeballing a player in the transfer portal who has already been getting up for the 6 AM college lift.

The other thing that matters more now is getting exposure.  If there’s one thing that the pandemic has ramped up it’s the creative ability of people to be seen.  Because coaches could not show up on campus,  players across the country have had to find ways to deliver their talents to doorstep of recruiters.  Of course this means more of what you do as a prospect needs to be captured on film.  This means your Hudl highlights need to be properly made and managed.  You can’t take your highlight video for granted,  things are just too competitive now.  You also have to be more diligent in getting your filmed exploits exposure.  Making proper use of your social media accounts is a must.  Post your workout and 7on7 videos on your Instagram and Twitter accounts.  By all means,  every high school football prospect should have an account on the GridironStuds App.  The app allows you to post everything about your recruiting.  From videos, to images, offers, weight room numbers, speed numbers and more,  the app allows college football coaches to get a complete picture of you as a prospect.

As this young generation likes to say,  prices have just gone up.  Has your value gone with it?  If not,  you can find yourself missing out on the school you wanted to go to or the whole recruiting process entirely.  Take this blog post as a message or as a warning.  Either way,  moving slowly on what has been outlined in this article will make for some severely hurt feelings come signing day of your senior year.

Recruiting Class Rank vs. On Field Performance 2020

By: Chad Wilson – GridironStuds Blog
Twitter: @GridironStuds

Recruit, recruit, recruit.  That’s all you hear in the World of college football these days.  One would start thinking that nothing else matters in the sport anymore besides landing those 5 and 4 star recruits each cycle.  How true was that for the season 2020?  This article takes a look.

For the purposes of this study we are evaluating the 2020 seasons final Top 10 Ap results.  We all know that once again,  Alabama was crowned king.  To evaluate the 2020 season,  I went back and looked at the recruiting class rankings for 2017.  Why 2017?  Well, the majority of the starters and key contributors to a football team are athletes that are in their 4th year in the program.  As much as we love incoming freshmen,  popped up on the scene sophomores and ready to go to the league juniors,  the truth of the matter is that most football teams are anchored by their redshirt juniors and true seniors.

I did a similar study in 2008 (yes,  GridironStuds has been around for a minute) and the results were very interesting. In that previous study which took three seasons of performance,  two out of the three years,  the national champion came from a program that finished in the Top 3 in recruiting rank four years earlier.

We almost have to cut Alabama out of studies like this at this point.  My previous study took into account the 2006-2008 college football seasons.  At the time,  Nick Saban had not yet started his evil Crimson Tide empire.  Since then,  he has turned college football on it’s ear and has dominated like no other.   With that said,  let’s just get this out of the way.  Alabama had the #1 ranked recruiting class in 2017 and even the late Ray Charles standing next to Stevie Wonder can recognize that this class paid off handsomely for Saban.  By 247 Sports standards,  Saban’s 2017 haul was the third best recruiting class of all time.  On a side note,  247 Sports did not exist the last time that I did this study.  247 Sports,  like Alabama,  has helped to change college football.  For this study,  I used the rankings from 247 Sports.

Now that we got Alabama out of the way,  let’s take a look at how the rest the Top 10 and college football did with regards to recruiting and on field performance.  What was interesting to note was that out of the Top 10 teams in the final 2020 AP poll, half did not have a top 10 recruiting class in 2017.  What’s even wilder is that three of these teams did not have a class that ranked in the top 40.  If you believe that recruiting is the key to success then you have to be amazed by the coaching jobs by Luke Fickell at Cincinnati who was working with a 63rd ranked 2017 class,  Matt Campbell at Iowa St. who was kicking heads in with a 52 ranked class in Ames and Pat Fitzgerald who marched all the way to the Big 10 Championship game armed with the 50th ranked 2017 recruiting class.  To say they overachieved would be an overachievement of understatements.

Who underachieved though?  I know that’s what you hungry internet wolves are looking for.  Top ten 2017 recruiting classes that failed to make the Top 10 in the AP Poll were USC, Michigan, LSU, Auburn and FSU.  The Seminoles who had the 6th ranked class,  not only finished out of the Top 25 but ended the year with a losing record at 3-6 in Mike Norvell’s first season.  Call it poor coaching if you will but the truth of the matter is that Norvell was the 3rd coach to touch that 2017 FSU class.  The man who brought it in,  Jimbo Fisher,  enjoyed a banner year at Texas A&M.  Too much turnover will do in any program.  As for others who failed to cash in on their Top 10 classes,  Michigan extended Jim Harbaugh after his team went 2-4.  Auburn fired Gus Malzahn when he went 6-4 falling short of the lofty expectations from the “other” school in Alabama.  LSU was treated to a horrific season after having historic success in 2019 and USC made it to the Pac-12 championship game for the first time since the 2017 season.

One final note before I go.  Two teams made the Top 5 of the final top 25 AP poll without the benefit of a top ten 2017 class.  Clemson finished third in the final rankings but in 2017 they only managed to put together a 16th ranked class.  We can not overlook in any way the tremendous coaching job Dabo Swinney has been able to do.   When I last did this study in 2008,  Swinney ended the year as the interim coach for the Tigers.  The other team in the top 5 was the aforementioned Jimbo Fisher’s Texas A&M team who finished fourth with the tools of a 13th ranked 2017 class.  That Aggie 2017 class was pulled in by Kevin Sumlin who is now out of coaching after getting let go by Arizona.  It will be interesting to see what Fisher does at A&M when his own recruits are in play.

The table listed below,  lays it all for you.  To the left is the recruiting ranking from 2017 and to the right is the final top 10 from the 2020 AP poll.  Any number in parenthesis shows the rank of that team’s 2017 class.  UR stands for “Unranked”.

Recruiting Rank vs. On Field Performance for 2020 CFB Season

'17 RankTeam'20 AP PollTeam
1Alabama
1Alabama
2Ohio St.2Ohio St.
3Georgia3Clemson (16)
4USC (21)4Texas A&M (13)
5Michigan (UR)5Notre Dame
6FSU (UR)6Oklahoma
7LSU (UR)7Georgia
8Oklahoma8Cincy (63)
9Auburn (UR)9Iowa St. (52)
10Notre Dame10Northwestern (50)

Underrated Stud: Keith Rockwell – Glimer HS, TX

By: Chad Wilson – GridironStuds
Twitter: @gridironstuds

Not too long ago,  Timex watches had an ad campaign with the slogan “Timex watch…. It takes a licking and keeps on ticking.”  I don’t quite remember why your watching surviving a beating was a big selling point back then but the slogan reminds me of today’s Underrated Stud,  Keith Rockwell out of Gilmer High School in Gilmer, Texas.

Rockwell is a 2023 prospect that is well put together.  As my intro would suggest,  he’s not one to shy away from contact.  In fact,  if you are standing around on the football field when he comes through,  he’s going to invite you to some contact.  At 5’10” 200 lbs. as a sophomore,  Rockwell is built for the padded action.  Routinely on his highlight video you will see him run through defenders either with a pad, a helmet or the stiffest of stiff arms.  His well developed thighs make a low tackle less palatable for oncoming defenders who either slip off or bounce off when they arrive.  He lists a squat of 450 which is impressive for a sophomore with two more years left in a high school weight room.  If he stays at it,  he could walk out with his diploma and a 600 lb. squat.

What I also like about a back this size and with this power is that he also has a soft pair of hands.  He’s not just a slug that pounds into the line of scrimmage over and over.  He can leak out of the backfield,  snag a pass and rumble through the secondary.  With football becoming more and more of a passing game,  a back like this being able to work his way into the aerial attack makes him that much more valuable.  I am certainly eager to see how he progresses over the next two seasons for Gilmer.

Recruiting Law: The Withdrawal Can’t Exceed the Deposit

Chad Wilson – GridironStuds Blog
Twitter: @gridironstuds

One of the biggest problems I run into trying to help young athletes in the recruiting process is the detachment from reality that exists for prospects.  The problem is small on my end but for the recruit it is enormous.  Many high school football players want to withdraw $1,000,000 from an account that they only deposited $100 in.

Too often I run into prospects and at times,  parents,  who would like to get offers from big time Division I schools when they have put in NAIA effort.  I’m even hesitant to say NAIA because that’s a slight on them because those football players must work hard too.  I can not tell you how many times,  I have been asked to see what I can do for a high school player only to look and find out that they don’t have a highlight video that isn’t done yet.  Furthermore,  they have not dedicated themselves to the weight room or their academics.  I’m literally left to think “what the hell do they think this is out here?”  I truly believe that some high school football players think that because they start for their high school football team they are entitled to a scholarship from some college somewhere.

Before I go in-depth,  let me see if I can sneak some simple math across to those would be,  wanna be college football players:

  • Number of high school football players every year (estimated): 1,000,000
  • Number of FBS, FCS & Division 2 schools combined: 426
  • Number of players on scholarships at FBS, FCS & D2 schools (estimated):  25,000

Now you could be in Algebra I for the 4th straight year and still figure out that these numbers mean that a lot of guys will get left out in the cold when it comes to getting a scholarship.  (note:  I left out Division III schools because they don’t award scholarships though they can give aid).

Now many of you have slept outside of a Best Buy trying to get a Ps5 or refreshed a webpage 20,000 times trying to get a new pair of Jordan’s.  Because of this,  I know you get the concept of competition.  Everybody wants that Ps5 or pair of Jordan’s so you are willing to do something drastic to “cop one of those”.  You simply can not forget that concept when it comes time to securing a college football scholarship. When you are 150 lbs. talking about getting an offer from Michigan,  I want you to think walking into Game Stop four days after the new play station comes out and expecting to just pick one up.  You might be able to but I doubt it.

Don’t think that because you went to practice every day and stayed awake in meetings that this means you should have a seat at the table come December or February your senior year.  That will work if you are a genetic freak and it’s similar to working at GameStop so you have an inside track to getting that new game console.  You will have to stay after practice and get in some extra work on your skills.  You will have to watch hours and hours of extra film to up your football IQ.

Some “prospects” that I come across think they can skip weight room sessions,  go on vacations during the summer workouts and by pass the recruiting camps in the offseason.  That’s fine if you have been dunking a basketball since the 7th grade or haven’t been able to fit in the back seat of the family car since you entered puberty.  This would be similar to actually having the last name Jordan and your father’s name is Michael if you wanted to get the latest pair of shoes the company named after him has put out.

If you are a senior and you know you didn’t do the extra running and weight lifting;  if you know you didn’t go to the camps and work on your athleticism in the offseason;  if you remember how your forgot to watch film quite often and didn’t care much for learning the game while you were playing it,  have the same expectations you’d have if you walked into the store after everyone else wanting something that everybody has to have.  If you have recently found that spirit of dedication to the sport,  realize that you will take a winding path to where you want to go.  You are either going to walk on,  go to a junior college or some kind of prep school.  If you are an underclassman reading this then chances are I’m not really talking to you.  Just taking the time to read this and get this far in the article without moving on means that you get what I am saying.  Now,  get started doing something about it because as we speak,  about 100,000 guys like you already have.

Underrated Stud: Tendaji Alexander – ’22 WR / DB – Clawson HS, MI

Chad Wilson – GridironStuds
Twitter: @GridironStuds

We all love playmakers and boy do we have one here with 2022 DB / WR Tendaji Alexander.  The Clawson High School junior can bust out a highlight on you any minute.  While some high school football players will have to search far and wide through their game footage to get a clip,  Alexander has to decide what to leave out.

Alexander stands 5’11” and 165 lbs.  His biggest asset are his ball skills.  On offense he’ll make the difficult catch in traffic,  win a 50 / 50 ball or redirect himself on an errant throw to haul it in.  On film,  he does not look to be a blazer but he is very crafty after the catch.  This quite often leads to big gains after short catches that terrorizes the defense.  He’s strong vs. press defenders when he gets them and at the point of attack on thrown balls,  he shines.  This past season,  he amassed over 700 yards of offense with many of them being highlight type plays.  He certainly looks like a guy who should’ve handled the ball more.

Defensively he is also a problem.  His sophomore campaign saw him nab 9 interceptions.  This no doubt put a big beware sign on his helmet for opposing quarterbacks.  Despite that,  he still finds ways to get in on the action whether its a big hit,  a forced fumble or jumping on a loose football.  His outstanding ball skills are definitely a big asset to him on the defensive side as he goes up to grab balls away from intended receivers.  He also seems to be johnny on the spot too on errant throws by quarterbacks.  Remember how I said he’s nifty after the catch,  this applies to defense too when he hauls in the interceptions.  All around he’s a solid player with the playmaking gene that will only get better this offseason and make himself a prized recruiting option for many schools.

4 Moves Sophomores Need to Make Now | College Football Recruiting

By: Chad Wilson
Twitter: @GridironStuds

Congratulations,  you just completed your sophomore season of high school football and perhaps for the first time you are thinking about playing college football.  The road to an offer and commitment can be a winding one so mapping it out is must.  With that in mind here are some moves you will need to make heading into the offseason.

(1) Make a Solid Highlight Video

This piece of advice obviously means more if you actually started playing varsity and had a chance to acquire some serious playing time.  If you played strictly JV and perhaps some varsity then still make a highlight video but this will be more for getting used to the process. If you did play a serious role as a sophomore on the varsity team then make sure you make a winning highlight video.  As a sophomore,  it is ultra critical to do this right.  Chances are you didn’t make a ton of plays but you can make yourself look better by packing the front end of your highlight video with the best of you before moving to the more routine plays of your season.  Keep the video brief.  Two to four minutes will be enough to tease scouts with your potential for the next two seasons to come.  I have videos on my YouTube channel discussing how to make an effective highlight video.

(2) Build a List of College Coaches

A list of a minimum of 20-30 coaches’ email addresses and Twitter handles is a must.  If you can get to 50 or more then all the better.  Realize that you will have to continue to update this list as college coaches change jobs frequently.  However,  start making that list if you haven’t already.  Your list should not be entirely the Top 20 programs in the country or all Power 5 schools.  Be realistic about who you are and your talent level.  Your goal is to secure a scholarship by the time you graduate.  If you are putting together a list of 30 coaches then you should do the following.  10 should be dream schools.  10 should be schools you think you have a pretty good shot at earning attention from and 10 should be schools you know for sure would recruit you.  Who is in each part of those lists can and will change in the time to come. Whatever the case may be,  start making the list because you are going to need to start reaching out to them.

(3) Get Focused on Strength and Conditioning 

The biggest gains in the area of size and strength usually come from sophomore to junior year.  By then,  puberty is kicking into high gear and so too should your dedication to the weight room.  When it comes to building size and strength,  consistency is the key.  Try your best not to miss workouts.  Set goals for yourself on each lift and work your butt off to get there.  Find a way to eat as often as possible to support all of this activity and I can assure you that you will start looking the part.  College football recruiting is a beauty contest.  A lot of what happens there has to do with looks.  Looking the part will get you looks before actually doing the part will.  Sad but true so while you are striving to be a top notched playmaker,  make sure you are looking like one in and out of your pads.

(4) Start Attending College Football Camps

Notice I didn’t say “recruiting” camps.  You should have already done some of that after your freshman season.  Attending recruiting camps will continue to be a part of your offseason as a sophomore but if you feel you put together a solid sophomore season and have significantly developed yourself athletically during the offseason,  then it’s time to get in front of college football coaches.  If you are lucky enough to be in an area where they have Spring football,  then coaches will come to your campus.  Hopefully they notice you during practice and in your spring game.  However,  even if they didn’t,   you can give them a second look during the summer by attending their camps.  In choosing which college camps to go to,  think the same way you built your list.  If you are going to 5 camps,  choose 1 or 2 that are dream schools and 3 or 4 who have actually contacted you already or that you feel pretty good that they will take an interest in you.  Again,  the trick is to secure a scholarship by graduation not dreaming all the way to National Signing Day.   Attend the camps,  learn how to compete and interact with coaches.  This will serve you well after your junior year when college camp attendance is huge.

Those are the moves to make along with some other minor ones.  Start making your plans now that your season has ended.  The sooner you can develop the plan and start attacking it,  the better your chance at executing.  Remember,  college football recruiting is very competitive and I can guarantee you that many others that you are going up against have already begun on their plans to earn their scholarship.