Lazy Media, Herd Following Fans Creating Bubble Prospects

Like many college football fans out there,  I catch wind of a recruit through social channels occasionally.  When I do,  I am excited to dig deeper into the prospect to see what he’s working with,  gauge his skills and access his potential.  After all,  I run a whole recruiting business over here.  Not too long ago,  I decided to take a deep dive into a prospect that had been picking up steam for quite some time and was getting many an article written about him.  To my surprise but not to my shock,  there wasn’t much there and it’s a growing trend.

First off,  I am going to tell you in advance that I am not going to name the player and I am going to be very vague about things that could identify him.  I am not here to tear kids down and what I speak of in this article is not at all the fault of the player.  My readers can go about guessing who it is but I’ll never tell.  I have a couple of “sports reporting” related apps on my phone and I get bombarded with notifications.  I am not complaining but I will point out that with increasing quantity,  I am getting notifications related to what I call “simple foolery”.  That is a notification with a 10 second video of an athlete doing something crazy like working out or running or jumping.  It’s amazing when you see an athlete doing these things because like what else would an athlete be doing?  Please recognize the sarcasm in that.

I don’t know who we blame for this.  Was it Odell Beckham’s one hand catch that scarred media coverage on athletics forever?  Whatever the case may be,  the media frenzy to provide content to push out on their apps, blogs and social media accounts has detonated the senses of people who actually have knowledge of the sports for which they root.  As such,  “reporters” (term used loosely) have placed a premium on athletes that play the media game.  I guess this has always been the case.  Players in the past who were quotable or antic filled ala Jim McMahon, Brian Bosworth or Deion Sanders have seen themselves become celebrities.  However,  with the advent of 24 hour news cycles and social media,  this phenomenon is on steroids.

There was a time when these quotable,  antic filled athletes felt a duty to work hard to meet the hype.  There was a time when the reporters following the players made an effort to see if the players were indeed worthy of their top billing.   There was a time when the fans being exposed to the athletes demanded it.  Those times have evaporated like a stimulus check at a casino.  Today’s athlete feels no such pressure and why should they?  Lazy reporters no longer dig deep to access the quality of an athlete’s play.  The only metric is how many followers they have.  If he has followers then we’ll have followers when we talk about anything he does.  “Did you see him throw an accurate pass to a wide receiver in that workout!! Could he be the next Brady?” That’ll get us 25k likes at least.

Make enough social media or blog posts like that and combine it with enough push notifications to millions of fans’ phones and soon that player is all they know.  Is he actually good though?  What’s that have to do with anything,  people clicked the heart button.  I am not sure who’s leading who here.  Is it the fans’ frenzy over the ordinary that has propelled the media to cover it or is it the coverage of the media forcing the fans to consume it?  Whatever the case may be,  it is creating an athlete bubble.

More and more,  I am seeing mediocre players hyped into oblivion because they are 5 star with the camera.  Media outlets are so thirsty for content that they will fall in love with any athlete that gives it to them.  Our attention spans are so low now that we will accept all the 10 second bursts of content and convince ourselves that this gives us the total picture.  Fans will even accept one paragraph articles on a website or a one paragraph article spread over 10 pages for advertising purposes. With proper graphics,  soundtrack and camera angles,  eating a steak bowl at Chipotle can catapult a kid into the Top 100 for his recruiting class.  When the love flows in for moves like that,  it only stands to reason that the focus will shift from self improvement for the sport to leveling up on getting exposure.  If I can do very little and get seen a lot why waste my time pressing all that weight,  watching all that film and running all those sprints.  My camera guy and my untrained trainer trump my coaches.  After all,  coach doesn’t post me on his Twitter account everyday like SuperSportsFreakPigskin does.

The toothpaste is already out of the tube on this one so I don’t expect to see it stop.  I can scold the reporters but they don’t give a damn,  they are chasing a check and notoriety like the players are.  I can tell the fans to wake up but many of them have been pulled away from their other true life interests by the football media who courts their attention at every turn.  So I will make my plea to the athlete.  The trip up the ladder of fame is fun but when they are done hyping you,  if your performance can’t come close to expectations,  they will take even greater delight in sticking a nice little pin in your bubble and watching you pop.  Make sure there’s more inside your balloon than hot air.

Is the Portal Creating Mayhem in College Football?

By: Chad Wilson – Editor GridironStuds Blog
Twitter: @GridironStuds

College football is going through what I would call a reformation period.  I don’t think I can recall a time in my life in which so many changes have been made to the game in such a short space of time.  From rules to protect players (targeting) to the formation of a playoff system and the prospects of the athletes getting paid,  if you went into a coma in 2010 and woke up today,  you’d barely recognize the sport.  However,  few of these changes have garnered more attention over the last couple of years than the transfer portal.

Much of the early news about the portal was about what savvy college football coaches dipped into the portal to bling out their roster the best.  University of Miami coach Manny Diaz and Florida coach Dan Mullen were some notable coaches to hit the jackpot.  No doubt there have been some great transfer portal stories that the makers of the rule can hang their hat on.  Jalen Hurts’ move from Alabama to Oklahoma and into the Heisman Trophy race would be one of the tops on the list.  However,  as is the case with many rule changes,  there are winners and losers.  Of late,  it seems the losers are the bigger room in the transfer portal.

For every Jalen Hurts,  there seems to be 100 other bad decisions being made.  In reality,  Hurts was a graduate transfer from Alabama,  meaning he had completed his degree and made the move for his final season to the Sooners.  Even without the transfer portal,  Hurts would have been able to make the move that he made and likely prosper in the same way.  Often times,  transfer moves made later in a player’s career have a higher degree of success.  Typically,  the player making them has more maturity,  has spent more time in their initial program and as such has totally exhausted all avenues of reconciliation with that program before choosing to transfer.  Such is not the case now with an ever growing frequency.

The mindset for most recruits coming out of high school these days is to start and or play as soon as possible in college.  Recruits are on a three year plan as opposed to a four or five year plan.  Redshirting has been reduced to getting rejected by a potential prom date.  Not starting is a drink thrown in your face and playing sparingly as a freshman is like stepping on your Nikes in the club.  In the eyes of the 18 or 19 year old,  these are signs of disrespect by the offending program.  I get it,  college football players are looking at college basketball players becoming multi-millionaires at 19 and thinking,  why shouldn’t I hit my payday at 20 or 21?   The biggest problem with a lot of these changes is that what is publicized are the winners like Jalen Hurts but what is more prevalent are the losers.

The transfer portal has become a hotbed for athletes who quickly determine their chances at the school of their initial choice and look to jump back in the pool at the first sign of depth chart resistance.  We are living in a microwave society and as such when the results don’t come quick,  then something must be wrong with the institution in place.  It’s hard to get an actual number of athletes that are in the transfer portal but I am here to tell you that it’s over 1,500.

Not only has that huge number caused problems at the NCAA institutions,  it has also caused problems in the World of high school recruiting.  The NCAA decided that they would not make any adjustments to the rule that states a program can only sign a max of 25 recruits per cycle.  As a result,  there have been less scholarships available to high school football players.  When one program gets the benefit of two, three, four or even more athletes from the portal,  it means there are less spots available for a high school recruit.  Likewise,  a program that has lost a similar amount of players to the portal can not now make that up by signing additional prospects from the high school level.  This leaves a void in the recruiting process.

In addition to that,  more and more programs are seeking answers to their depth chart questions in the portal.  Teams have found it more advantageous to grab a young player from the portal who has had a taste of college football as opposed to taking a chance on a high school football player.  Texas State recently comprised their entire signing class with transfers. With that still,  many players remain stuck in the transfer portal looking for a new home.

Ultimately,  the transfer portal is serving the fickle mindset of youngsters.  They want instant results and success.  When it does not happen they move quickly to seek a better,  easier situation. What they end up finding is a worse situation typically at a lower level or as a walk on.  What has been happening also is transferring becomes contagious.  Once you make that first transfer,  leaving the next school becomes easy and transferring twice is starting to rise.

Some prospects find themselves sliding down the college football pole either by ending up at a less desirable destination or unable to find another destination at all.  This is leading to guys quitting football and school all together.  The fact still remains that only 1% are going to make it to the professional level.  When a young athlete is given the opportunity to obtain a higher education worth $250k and even more when you consider future earnings,  it’s a shame when that goes to waste.

Now more than ever,  it is important that prospects make the right choice the first time (coming out of high school) and remember the reasons they made that choice when things don’t go exactly as planned.  Sure,  the prospects are being recruited by people and it gets difficult not to get attached to that.  However,  you have to muster the discipline to recognize that you need to be sold on the institution over everything.  The people come and go but the universities stay where they are.  Take stock of the history of the school as it relates to academics and athletics,  specifically football.  Ask yourself how sure you are that you can  still get what you want from the program if everyone there now suddenly left tomorrow.  Keep in mind the institution that you bought into when some of your personal relationships with the people take a turn to the left. Do all that you can to repair or manage the situation so that you can get what you need from the program.  After carefully exhausting all avenues and taking a solid amount of time doing so,  the answer may still be to leave.  If that’s the case then you can be the next one to cram on the transfer portal bus traveling to parts unknown.

Ranking the Top Five 2023 Pro Style Passers

By: Chad Wilson – GridironStuds Blog
Twitter: @GridironStuds

247 Sports recently cranked out their 247 top prospects for the Class of 2023 and while there’s always a ton of things to analyze,  I thought I take a quick look at the Top Five signal callers in their pro style passer category.  In this article,  I am going to give you my Top 5 of their Top 5.  Sounds like something from a comedy skit I know but I don’t entirely agree with their order so I thought I’d give you mine based on what I see.  Enjoy the order,  the notes and the discussion.

(5) Nicholaus Iamaleava  – 247 Rank 4th

Iamaleava is probably the fastest rising and improving on this list.  The growth from freshman to sophomore year in his game is quite noticeable.  He’s still thin but he’s added some pretty good size on and has room for much more.  I love how he has progressed into being a reader of defenses.  This will help him at the next level.  At one point he was just a one read kind of quarterback and that was most likely by design.  With athleticism being more and more valued at the QB position these days,  he presents as athletic enough.  He’s not a burner which you would hardly expect from a 6’5″ QB still growing into this body but he does well enough to shift in the pocket and gain yardage when nothing is there.  He also shows some charisma which is an underrated aspect to quarterbacking.

(4) Dante Moore – 247 Rank 3rd

The biggest thing I like about Moore is that he’s not afraid to make the tough throws.  Whereas most high school quarterbacks prefer to throw once they see their target open,  Moore is willing to throw into traffic and anticipate throws.  This is interesting because a majority of what you see him do on film are throws to the first read.  So what I am gathering here is he really trusts the play,  the coach and the receivers. He’s also good at throwing on the run which is a more valued asset these days even for “pro style” passers.  He gets good points for accuracy too.

(3) Arch Manning – 247 Rank 1st 

Oh sure this is going to look like I am hating but what I realize here is that there is some extra juice on this prospect because of the well recognized last name.  By no means does that mean that I don’t think he’s good.  He’s definitely a polished prospect but at this moment,  I don’t think he presents the physical tools of some of the other top prospects in this class.  What Manning does do better than the others is process the X’s and O’s.  He reads defenses as you would expect he would and he executes the physical intangible things of the position. He does not show a live arm in comparison to others nor is particularly mobile.  I don’t love his throwing on the run or the competition he is playing against.  Seeing him compete eventually in something like The Opening or in a game against an out of state powerhouse would be telling.  I want to see how he operates when the windows and margin for error is small.  Where Arch decides to go to school will mean everything.  The system must fit him.

(2) Malachi Nelson – 247 Rank 2nd

Nelson is the only prospect that I think is where he is supposed to be ranking wise.  I could make a case for him being first.  There is a completeness to his game.  He has a live arm.  He has good size.  He’s mobile in the pocket and can hurt you when he leaves the pocket to run.  He can make the tight throws because he’s accurate along with powerful pushing the ball downfield.  What gives me pause on him is the amount of first read throws.  This could be by design or it could be a a thing that you hope he can progress from at the next level.  Whether or not a prospect can do that is always a mystery.  If he can then the sky is the limit.

(1) Dylan Lonergan – 247 Rank 5th

Call me crazy or just wanting to shake things up but I like this kid.  Like Nelson,  I see a completeness to his game.  First,  he has a great arm.  With that he also understands that not every throw needs to be at 100 mph.  He shows on film the ability to make different kinds of throws.  He knows when to fire it up and when to take something off.  He has good ball placement on his throws.  He is also decisive in the pocket and has good pocket awareness.  He shows an ability to make quick decisions.  Lonegran is also physically strong.  He will toss off sack attempts or run over a defender for first down yardage.  What also gave him the nod over Nelson was him showing the ability to read defenses,  manipulate defenders and make throws to a second or even third read.

There’s much time left until these recruits put ink to paper.  Much will be learned about them over two more football seasons and summer offseasons.  Some will progress more than others but on this day,  this is how I see these prospects.  Manning’s pedigree probably makes him a safer bet than the others but I am not one to totally rely on that.  There are some physically gifted specimen here that might totally take off when they get coaching at the next level.

Gators CB2 Spot Seems to Be Unsettled

By: Chad Wilson – GridironStuds Blog
Twitter: @gridironstuds

We all know that the Florida Gators 2020 football season had a Jekyll and Hyde feel to it.  On one side there was an offense that was record break and high achieving.  On the other side,  there was a defense that had the looks of a stock portfolio that was losing money during a bull market.  Much of the attention on the underperformance fell on the secondary which will now have to replace three members in 2021.

Of focus in this post is the cornerback spot across from all conference member Kaiir Elam.  As departed cornerback Marco Wilson took much heat during the season for the lackluster secondary performance,  the noise from Gator twitter and some media members was increased playing time for Jaydon Hill.  This came despite Hill playing significant crunch time minutes while rotating in the line up for both Wilson and Elam.  As the season developed and Wilson became the lightning rod,  calls were made for Hill to outright replace Wilson as a starter.  Such is the Twitter mob and the bloggers that are fueled by them.

As Wilson has departed and the open role seeming ready to be filled by Hill,  the offseason has clouded that notion.  For all their cries for Hill to supplant Wilson in the line up,  his move into that role with Wilson now moved on the NFL has seemed to have had sand kicked on it.  I,  for one,  am surprised by this.  How do we go from “put Hill in!” to being excited about every cornerback that entered the transfer portal this offseason?  How did we go from “he deserves more playing time” to “Jason Marshall is going to be an impact player along side Kaiir Elam in 2021”?  Hello,  Jaydon Hill is still on the roster.  Is he injured? I missed that story if he was.

Fans, media and some times coaches like to run through talent like coordinators run through dry erase markers.  They resemble unsatisfied gold diggers at the mall with their billionaire boyfriend’s platinum American Express card.  In other words,  they love new “stuff” and that’s not the word I wanted to use.  I don’t know what the thought process is for the coaching staff.  I am not privy to those conversations nor do I want to be.  However,  so far as the media and fanbase goes,  it seems they are on their train again.

I don’t know if Jason Marshall is ready to play or start.  Perhaps he is.  I don’t know if new transfer Jadarrius Perkins from Missouri is that guy for the spot on the other side of the field.   However,  I do know this,  Gator fans,  Gator media,  the offseason is getting long and we still have a lot of time left.  Jaydon Hill was the apple of  people’s eye in 2020.  Don’t let his insides turn brown now.  He shouldn’t have to feel cast aside and forgotten for no reason.  Whatever you saw in him a year ago is still there and most likely improved.  He took all those reps for something.  Let’s give that guy a chance to see what it all was for.  If the coaches decide it’s not good enough then write your stories.

At this point it seems that it there are too many blogs, too many opinions and far too much speculation.  Go hit your lakes, oceans and mountain trips.  Take a break from all of the speculation and let these players go through the process free of your fantasy football dreams laid out on digital currency.

No Surprise at the Top of the Latest 247 Class of ’23 State Rankings

By: Chad Wilson – GridironStuds Blog
Twitter: @gridironstuds

We have long known where the hotbeds are when it comes to college football recruiting in this country.  Though we wish to argue over it because our geographical pride demands that we do,  there is no denying where the hottest bed is and the latest 247 sports Class of 2023 rankings bears that out.

When Alabama rolled up to their national championship title game vs. Ohio St. with an entire secondary comprised of starters from the Sunshine State,  we should have all bowed down to the king hotbed.  I’m not here to piss off the other 49 states but spades must be called spades in the interest of avoiding delusion.  In their latest class of 2023 Top 247,  247 sports has loaded 49 players from the state of Florida.  If you are being honest with yourself,  there should be no surprise there.  However,  there were some interesting things to take from the latest rankings and we can look at them here.

Leading the Way Through the Palm Trees

Though a Florida prospect does not hold the top spot overall,  the state does have four in the top 20 with three of them being the #1 rated recruit at their positions.  Starting with IMG Academy’s offensive tackle Francis Mauigoa.  The two way trench player has been all over the country during his high school career but currently calls the Bradenton, FL academy his home.  Newly acquired American Heritage wide receiver Brandon Innis is the #1 ranked wide receiver in the country and falls at #7 on the Top 247.  The former University School product seems like he’s been on the scene for half a decade but is one of the five Top 10 recruits that are committed.  Like two others,  Innis is committed to Oklahoma.  IMG’s weak side defensive end Malik Bryant comes in at #12 on the list and is ranked second at his position.  The 6’2″ speedy edge rusher is originally from Orlando and has all the usual suspects on his recruiting heels.  Finally,  Lehigh’s running back Richard Young is also the top player at his position and is ranked #19 on 247 sports latest rankings list.  Since earning Max Prep Freshman All American honors,  Young has shown no signs of slowing down literally.  The dual sport track athlete is building himself into a monster.

Peaches on the Rise

I have continued to tell people about the rising giant that is the state of Georgia.  Over the last half decade,  the Peach State has been cranking out top talent that is getting more and more heavily pursued by the kings of college football.  The eye opener here should be that a state significantly smaller than California has nine more (30 to 21) top 247 recruits.  Georgia is also holding the top spot with strong side defensive end Lebbeus Overton from Milton HS.  The 6’3″ 265 lb. manchild is one of three Top 10 recruits committed to the Oklahoma Sooners.  Though he is the only state of Georgia recruit in the Top 20,  the state is well represented throughout the rest of the rankings.

California Drought

Speaking of California,  you know they say it never rains.  Well the drought is starting to spread to the college football recruiting area too.  I wouldn’t say that it is reaching brush fire potential but when you are second in population but fourth in number of top recruits,  there is a smokey trend taking place.  There was a time when you wouldn’t dream of Alabama (18 top recruits) nipping at the heels of California in terms of pumping out talent.  The reasons for this could be better expounded on in other blog posts but for now,  the decline of Pac-12 football is either the result or the anthesis for the decline in talent.  I will let you,  the reader,  decide.  For now,  let me just mention that California does come in with the #4 overall rated recruit and #1 pro passer with Los Alamitos high’s Malachi Nelson.  He and his partner in crime, Maki Lemon are the only two Cali prospects to be ranked in the top 20.  Malachi to Maki is going to be a common theme this up coming football season.  Stop me if you’ve heard this before but Oklahoma has a commitment from Nelson and is in pursuit of Lemon as well.

Putting Up Those Goose Eggs

There are some parts of the country that just have a hard time producing top talent.  It can be weather,  history, population, importance or weather.  Whatever the case may be,  I often tell kids from these areas that if they really want to find out where they stand,  get to the hotbeds to go camp during the offseason.  If nothing else,  you will see what it is you have to work on or perhaps,  pull yourself out of delusion.  Prospects from these following states need to either book flights or pack up the minivan in search of camps to warm weather states this summer:  Maine, Vermont, New Hampshire, New York, Rhode Island, Delaware, West Virginia, Wisconsin, Nebraska, South Dakota, North Dakota, Montana, New Mexico, Idaho and Alaska.   All of the mentioned states have zero prospects in the Top 247.  If you think you are a baller and you hail from these states,  grab a straw hat and some sun tan lotion.   It’s time to book it to a heated site for some competition.

Loan Wolf

Typically,  I would have to include the state of Minnesota in a paragraph like the last one.  The state possess all the traits of the ones mentioned which makes it difficult for them to compete with others in terms of producing top high school football talent.  However,  one young man keeps the land of timberwolves out of the bagel box when it comes to Top 247 recruits.  Robbinsdale Cooper High School’s Jaxon Howard’s mailbox is probably violating USPS codes daily.  The 6’4″ 245 tight end is the #65 ranked prospect in the country and can boast 51 offers from schools from coast to coast.  With the tight end position gaining more and more favor of late,  Howard,  with his size and athleticism is taking advantage.  My guess is that he will continue to rise up these rankings as he continues to look like a beast among mortals in competition this Fall.

This is the Worst Thing You Can Be As A Recruit

When it comes to recruiting high school football players to college football programs,  there are a host of reasons why a particular recruit may not get the final nod from a coaching staff to the school of their dreams.  It can range from being too short to too slow to not having the required grades to make it in.  However,  there is one element over all others that will sink a recruit in the college football recruiting game.

Virtually all of the reasons that most of us hear as to why a player won’t get an offer can be overcome.  If a player is too short he can develop elite speed.  If a player is too slow,  he can acquire outstanding instincts.  If his grades are too low he can study and get them higher.  When we are talking about words like develop, study and acquire they all involve work.  Every recruit is going to have holes in their game and areas that need improvement.  For a prospect to reach his potential,  work is needed or he will undoubtedly fail to reach his potential and be a disappointment.  So with that in mind,  above all else,  the worst thing a recruit can be is lazy.

What I encounter quite a bit in a recruiting hotbed like South Florida are a lot of physically talented athletes.  For those who show their talent at a very young age,  remaining motivated to improve can be a challenge.  For some,  the moment they put on the pads,  they were dominant or at least one of the best players on their team.  It is great when you have been blessed with God given speed, size and talent.  However,  these things will only take you so far.  As you progress through the game,  you will encounter more and more physically talented athletes and less guys that you can dominate on talent alone.

What separates the goods from the greats and the good from the average is work ethic.  A lazy player is of low value.  First reason why he is of low value is because he doesn’t tend to improve.  The second reason is that laziness can be contagious.  The last thing a football coach wants is something in his locker room that will infect his football team.  Having gone through a global pandemic like Covid-19,  I think we can all identify with removing an infected member out of a group.  The same way that individuals who caught “the virus” had to be removed and quarantined,  is the same way that a coach will not want a lazy player’s work ethic infecting the rest of the squad.

Don’t get me wrong,  if a prospect is supremely gifted physically,  a school may take a chance on them in hopes that their lazy nature will turn around.  However, if it comes down to you and another prospect for a spot in the recruiting class,  I can guarantee you that they will take the guy that is not lazy.  College football is hard work.  Between workouts, meetings, practices, classes and tutor sessions,  a lazy player is just not going to make it.  If you are lucky enough to get on the roster of the school you want,  you can bet that if you are lazy,  you will get buried on that depth chart and dig a tunnel to the transfer portal.

With all this in mind,  if you have any lazy vibes,  get rid of them ASAP.  Start making a schedule.  Schedule out your time and stick to it.  Get used to getting up early even on the weekends.  Get used to doing things you may not want or like to do because that is a part of growing up and becoming successful.  Your talent will only take you so far and you don’t want to find yourself surprised when the talent runs out and along with the attention from college football coaches.