This is just something that's been brewing in my mind for a while now, but is it possible that the reason a lot of Michigan's recruits have received awfully low rankings is because they committed so early? My reasoning behind this is that a large part of the motivation behind the scouting services, especially ESPN, is building hype and interest as signing day approaches. If players are already committed long before signing day, there is obviously less drama and less to hype. Obviously for this to be true it would have to happen to every team's recruits, and I'm not familiar with whether or not this is happening to other team's recruits or not. Thus, that's why it's just a theory. I realize it's rather tin-foil hat-ish, but it's just something that has stuck in my mind for some reason.
Theory on lower than expected recruit rankings
Historically, our average ranking has been pretty consistent. While you're right the goal of Rivals/Scout/ESPN is to build hype, if they only focused on hype they'd lose a lot of credibility. So while they tend to make the #1 prospect at the end of the recruiting period someone like TP or Bryce Brown, it's probably to extend the hype around the #1 player making his choice, and breathless titles to get people to subscribe.
On the whole though, I trust in the coaches while still using the stars as a guide. More important than stars though is other offers the player holds. If USC, Florida, Alabama and LSU are after the same player you are, chances are he is good. Sometimes you find diamonds in the rough in the midwest and northeast, like Isaiah Bell, but it's likely a 3star from Florida or Texas is a pretty accurate assessment. However, as we know Rivals still needs regional balance, a 3 star from Florida or Texas may still have solid offer sheets. Relative to other Florida or Texas players, he's probably a bit worse though.
TL;DR - offer sheets are more important than star rankings.
lol if we worried about stars at the end of junior years i think we'd all be in trouble. but to answer your question it's not about commiting early. Texas has something like 21 commits with 15 in the ESPN 150 watch list so it's not just about commiting early. i think it's more about perception at this time, let's wait til the senior year happens then we'll see. for example Mr. Ezeh was recruited out of high school as a full back or running back, not the monster linebacker he has turned out to be.
I wasn't talking about "star at the end of junior years" only. It was something I observed with the final rankings last year. It seemed like, for the most part, all of the kids who had committed very early on saw their rankings fall in the final rankings. There were some exceptions, but not many.
Right now is not when being an early commit hurts their rankings. That drop is probably move pronounced after the summer when players who have not committed go to camps and such and get seen more. If they perform well, they shoot up in rankings and those who don't go slide down.
Are recruits who go to other schools early being downgraded, too? Are players from other areas of the country who commit early being downgraded? The process is so subjective and political that I tend to trust the coaches a lot more than the "experts."
One thing that happens is that some early commits, if they are real firm, don't do much "auditioning" by attending all the summer camps. Those camps go a long way towards a player's ranking, as you see many revisions after them. Otherwise I'm with SchockFX. But lastly, I think there is a difference in the level we recruit at historically, as Shock says, meaning that yes, Texas, Florida, SC and Bama are landing an overall higher caliber of recruit than we are. That is true now and that has been true in most of the past years as well, although the names ahead of us changed a bit--FSU, Miami and others used to out-recruit us, now those I listed do.
This explanation and the one provided by Farnn make sense. It points out an unreliability with the ranking services methods. Obviously though, with limited resources, they have to allocate those resources somehow and it makes the most sense to allocate them to kids that haven't committed yet.
I couldn't concentrate long enough to comment on your post after this.
"I realize it's rather tin-foil hat-ish"
What I meant is that it sounds "rather tin-foil hat-ish" if it's viewed as some sort of conspiracy for the purposes of hype. That wasn't necessarily the point that I was trying to make, but rather I just used the hype angle as an example. Basically I was just wondering if the early commitments could have something to do with it, which is something that from those who have posted in this thread seems to be the case. I could have worded that better I suppose...
This is actually a hypothesis.
Thanks Mr. Wizard.