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The ratings game
Player ratings are a great way to gauge a recruit’s talent level. They’re certainly a fabulous way to kick up discussion for fans about the talent of a player or an entire class.
Michigan’s last two classes have been rated in the Top 7 in the country by 247Sports, and four of the last five classes have been in the Top 20. That includes the 2013 class that earned a No. 4 national ranking. Those kinds of numbers are why there were such high expectations surrounding the Wolverines last season, and why analysts argued Michigan could successfully survive the loss of 11 NFL draftees from the 2016 team.
The bottom line is that Michigan has a lot of talent on its roster, and it has more on the way as things stand with commitments made for both 2018 and 2019. There is no disputing that fact.
I’ve always found ratings by sites such as 247Sports, Rivals and Scout to be interesting because they are subjective. It very much depends on who is doing the evaluations, and what that evaluator considers to be important criteria. There are certainly the tangible qualities such as height, weight and speed, but how much does a player’s rating depend on what they do in summer camps vs. what they show on game film?
I bring this up because one of the questions I’ve received often since taking over the Michigan recruiting beat for Land of 10 is: “How come Michigan doesn’t get more 5-star players?”
The fact is, there are only a handful of players rated as 5-star prospects each year. It’s small pickins among the thousands of players nationwide, and Michigan has gotten its share over the years.
Here’s a look at how Michigan’s recruiting classes have been ranked the last five years, plus how many players nationally were rated as 5-star recruits, and how many of them signed with the Wolverines.
Note: All ratings per the 247Sports composite.
|Year||Michigan rank||National 5-stars||Michigan 5-stars|
|2017||5||33||Donovan Peoples-Jones, Aubrey Solomon|
I covered the NFL for more than 15 years and there is some basic similarity between recruiting and how pro teams build their rosters. NFL teams are only going to be able to stockpile so many first- and second-round draft picks. The heart of their teams are going to come from players chosen on Day 3 of the draft or not chosen at all. Stories abound about undrafted free agents making it big in the league because someone gave them a chance, because a scouting department and coaching staff saw something in those players that told them this was the right fit for their organization.
It’s the same in college football. People may look at a prospect’s rating on 247Sports, Rivals or Scout and dismiss that player if he doesn’t have at least four stars next to his name. I’ve been guilty of that as well. As a reporter, these ratings are helpful guides, but they aren’t the end-all, be-all for a player, his potential and how he fits into a program.
The 2014 class is a good example. DE Chase Winovich was a 4-star linebacker recruit in high school. He was moved to tight end after arriving at Michigan before being switched to defensive end last season. He certainly is flourishing now, but when the season began he was the unknown factor on the defensive line. Linebacker Noah Furbush and cornerback Brandon Watson were 3-star recruits, but they have become integral parts of the nation’s top-rated defense. Quarterback Wilton Speight went from a 3-star recruit to a player who twice has won preseason camp battles to become the team’s starter.
Look at Michigan’s 2018 commit class and you won’t find any 5-star players on that list (yet) but it’s a class that currently ranks 14th nationally. Two of the 14 players committed are twin brothers Ge’mon and German Green of Desoto, Texas. They have three stars next to their names, but that’s deceiving. They are what defensive coordinator Don Brown looks for in defensive backs. They’re tall (both 6-foot-2) with potential to add weight. They have good length with their arms and they know how to play in man coverage. It’s what their high school program plays.
Beyond the rankings, that’s what is important.
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