Thursday Recruitin' Reheats Star Debate Comment Count

Ace August 3rd, 2017 at 2:08 PM

There's enough to cover from the BBQ that I'm splitting this edition of the roundup into two parts. Today I'll cover the five recent commits; tomorrow I'll go over the rest.

If you missed them, the five recent Hello posts: Luke Schoonmaker, Nolan Rumler, Stephen Herron, Cameron McGrone, Sammy Faustin.

Sammy Faustin and When Stars Really Matter

Let's start this roundup with the most recent of Michigan's slew of commits, three-star FL S/CB Sammy Faustin. It was quite clear from the comments that many around here didn't see much past this...

Scout Rivals ESPN 247 247 Comp
3*, #75 CB,
#876 Ovr
3* CB NR CB 3*, 86, #74 CB,
#730 Ovr
3*, #78 CB,
#870 Ovr

...before passing judgment on Faustin and questioning why the coaches would take such a low-rated player this long before signing day. One of the main arguments against Faustin is one we've made many times here: star rankings really do matter.

They do. There's a mountain of evidence to back up that assertion. Context is key, however. The recruiting rankings that matter are the final rankings, once the recruiting services have as much data as they can gather. Nobody is going back to look at rankings at the time of a player's commitment. 

Faustin hasn't even played his senior season. We already have a couple recent examples of who-dat defensive back commits taken by this staff developing into (or being recognized as) solid prospects by the time signing day rolled around. Josh Metellus was either a two-star or unranked on all four services when he committed in the 2016 class; three sites subsequently gave him the Michigan bump to three stars, while ESPN got fresh eyes on him and rated him a four-star prospect with an evaluation to match. Metellus saw the field as a true freshman, impressed, and should start this year. More recently, Benjamin St-Juste was a literal unknown when he committed—initial camp reports got his name wrong—then starred at The Opening and cracked the 247 top 100.

Faustin is skeptical of your armchair scouting.

"Trust the coaches" can be a lazy deflection. Between Jim Harbaugh and Don Brown, though, it's hard to question these guys when they identify a player they want early. At the very least, we should let the process play out a little further. Sometimes it only takes a day; read Scout's post-commitment writeup on Faustin and tell me where you think he should be ranked:

Faustin, who passes the eye test with prototypical size in the secondary, is a versatile defender who does a great job of reading and reacting from his cornerback position. Once dissecting the play, Faustin turns heads with the ability to burst out of his back pedal by pushing off his back foot, flashing impressive acceleration in the process. This is a kid who also shows decent technique for a cornerback of his stature.

Faustin is one who does not shy away from physicality either. Once finding his lane to the ball carrier, Faustin closes on the ball in a hurry while also playing under control. There are times when he loses track of his tackling technique, but for the most part, Faustin is a sound tackler in space who strikes with good pad level. He is not the most explosive kid and can work on his flexibility, but does not have much of a problem flipping his hips and readjusting. Faustin is a defender who provides that pop at the point of attack.

For a safety who'll cover the slot, that's a pretty ideal evaluation. It jives with the junior film, which doesn't look like that of the #78 corner in the country. The Wolverine's Brandon Brown caught up with Tom Lemming for a scouting report, and this one also sounds like it's meant for someone better than a middling three-star:

"Faustin is one of my 'Other Players to Watch' in Florida," Lemming said. "He's 6-2, 175 pounds and has legit 4.5 speed. He has good range, quick hands and loose hips and does a very good job of playing the ball. He needs to add weight and strength but is an exceptional athlete."

In related news, recent tight end commit Luke Schoonmaker got a 14-spot bump in Scout's tight end position rankings, added a three-star ranking from Rivals, and got evaluated by ESPN, which now has him as the #19 in-line TE in the country. There's plenty more in last week's roundup.

If you're going to star-gaze without watching the film, I recommend at least waiting until February.

[Hit THE JUMP for the rest of the roundup.]

Cameron McGrone: Future MIKE?

When I wrote up four-star IN LB Cameron McGrone's commitment on Monday, I saw him as a WILL in the Devin Bush mold. 247's Steve Lorenz posted in his VIP notes that Michigan's coaches see him in a slightly different spot:

The staff is recruiting McGrone as a MIKE; they are the only school who likes him there. He will give them a different dimension at the position as he's an outside backer athletically but plays a physical style Don Brown will love in the middle. Provided he is healthy, he is a player I personally view as a potential contributor in year one.

Given McGrone is further along as a run defender and blitzer than he is in coverage, that fit makes sense as long as he adds the requisite bulk and block-shedding ability. Lorenz also notes this is Michigan's second commit (following Christian Turner) for whom they overcame a big Notre Dame lead; Shayne Simon unfortunately represents the flip side of that.

Meanwhile, Scout's Allen Trieu updated his evaluation on McGrone with a positive mention about his coverage ability:

McGrone is an aggressive linebacker with excellent burst and explosion. He is a great blitzer because of his quickness off the snap, but also his timing. He will take on blocks aggressively as well and does a good job of delivering initial contact. As he adds more technique in terms of using his hands, he should be a guy who can blow up lead blockers because of his explosive power. You don't see him in coverage a ton on his high school film but he looked good in that department during the camps we have seen him at.

If the "blow up lead blockers" bit holds true, I'm sold on him as a MIKE.

As a bonus, fellow Indiana native Emil Ekiyor—who took a recent visit to Alabama, a dangerous contender—seemed quite pleased about McGrone's commitment. More on him tomorrow.

Stephen Herron Gets THE Coach Quote

Scout's Allen Trieu caught up with five-star 2019 KY DE Stephen Herron's coach after his commitment and got the quintessential high-character-guy quote:

"You can't ask for better kid," Vaughn said. "He's the complete package. He's really the definition of it, of being a complete package. He runs a non-profit where he gives back to under privileged youth. He goes on missions. He has a 4.2 GPA. If I had a daughter, he would be first in line for me to date my daughter. You can't go wrong with a kid like that on top of the athletic ability."

In Herron, Michigan is getting a highly recruited athlete with outstanding grades who still wants to do better.

"He can get a lot better because he is willing to put work in," Vaughn said. "He's not satisfied with his success. Sometimes when kids have early success, they may think they've arrived but Stephen is willing to work for his goals and aspirations."

In addition to being very good at football, he sounds exceedingly unlikely to wash out.

Lorenz's post-commitment VIP Notes, uh, note that Stanford held the lead heading into Herron's visit, but Jim Harbaugh gave him a lot of attention and Greg Mattison also played a big role in turning the tide. The 2019 DE class is shaping up to be really dang good:

I'm not going to think about the numbers in 2019 right now. This is more about getting an elite player at an important position and it could be the start of another excellent class up front. I still believe Michigan is the favorite for five-star DE Chris Hinton and are a major factor for four-stars George Karlaftis and Joseph Anderson among others as well.

Karlaftis looks like a very good bet to wind up in the class after last weekend. Herron-Hinton-Karlaftis would be a hell of a haul.

Nolan Rumler: Searching For Negatives

The common theme in four-star 2019 OG Nolan Rumler's post-commitment evaluations is scouts having a difficult time finding something to criticize. Rivals's Josh Helmholdt:

"We list Rumler as a guard, but he has played tackle in his high school career and brings versatility to the table," Helmholdt explained. "He earned an early four-star designation from us and has very few weaknesses for a young lineman."

Scout's Bill Greene:

WHAT ARE THE CONCERNS? There are basically zero concerns about Nolan Rumler, and if he stays healthy he is going to be a multi-year starter and future NFL player. To nitpick, he is not a long-armed, 6-foot-6, super athlete on the offensive line, which slots him as an inside player. There are no concerns with talent, grades, conduct or leadership, as this is a quality young man in every aspect.

That works.

As evidence Rumler is a team guy, Lorenz reports that he held off on making his pledge public to build excitement for the BBQ:

On June 27th, Rumler called the Michigan coaching staff and informed them that he was verbally committing to the Wolverines, but wanted to wait until he returned for the BBQ to make it public and generate some excitement heading into the event. It's a subtle but well-hatched plan that may get some momentum going with some guys the staff is in good shape with.

He's also looking to do some recruiting of his own with Hinton as a top target.



August 3rd, 2017 at 2:24 PM ^

To know how Harbaugh & Co. is invading Georgia and competing legitimately for (and even pulling some) highly ranked recruits. Seems like they have some sort of pipeline but it seemingly came out of nowhere.

Pulling a 5* from Georgia isn't as hard as pulling one from Mississippi, but any 5* in SEC country to come up north is noteworthy. This staff seems poised to do just that at least once a year going forward.

Toasted Yosties

August 3rd, 2017 at 2:32 PM ^

Does Vegas take bets on commitments? I wish I'd put $5 down on Aubrey Solomon to Michigan, especially after that opinionated video popped up near the end of it. I'd probably be a millionaire now.

It has to help to some degree to come up for a visit from the deep south and see other guys from the region already on the team. It's hard to overcome familarity and proximity to home, but for those recruits looking for the total academic and athletic package, Michigan compares favorably to every school in the south. And it always feels good to steal a guy away from Alabama, Georgia, or really any other SEC school.


August 3rd, 2017 at 2:35 PM ^

Satellite Camps - those have to have some (if not a large) impact on these recruits. The staff must have gotten in some of these kids' ears about how much Michigan can offer before the SEC influence could take hold. We made fun of southern schools for years for offering kids young, but there must be some merit to the practice.

Toasted Yosties

August 3rd, 2017 at 2:53 PM ^

I believe Michigan is the youngest team in all of FBS, right? If not one of the youngest for sure. And we are loaded with young, unproven talent, but with a coaching staff unrivaled in development. I really think this the beginning of the "reloading" phase of Michigan football.

Count me in the camp that has total faith in the coaching staff taking currently less-than-elite ranked recruits now. I'd bet they'll all see a bump by signing day, and I'm assuming they will tolerate not seeing the field if they require development time, which might be necessity considering the elite talent brought in last year. 2019 is already looking to include a bevy of elite talent, with a number of local high-end prospects still uncommitted. We have the high-end starters, and we are readying the high-end depth necessary to compete on the highest level. If the wheels don't fall off this year and our 2019 class stays strong, I think Michigan will have better talent than almost everyone on their schedule for the foreseeable future.



August 3rd, 2017 at 2:38 PM ^

I see a lot of validity to stars, but I'm not convinced they have the whole story.  When I look at the last NFL draft, I see 50 players that teams gave an opportunity that didn't come from a P5 school.  I don't have access to the recruiting site databases, but I'm guessing most of these weren't four or five stars. 

I find Harbaugh's hire of Tom Gamble really interesting.  He's a guy who has spent most of his NFL career scouting and evaluating players.  I have to wonder if Harbaugh has seen all these guys come into the NFL from non-P5 teams and wonder if he can't identify and pick up some of these guys.  If M can improve player evaluations, that could make a major impact on what we see on the field.  Fewer  busts, more talent. 

Just a thought.


August 3rd, 2017 at 3:51 PM ^

In aggregate they are broadly accurate. This article by Matt Hinton is a must-read:…

In the conclusion, Hinton writes "Despite some obvious, anecdotal exceptions, on the whole recruiting rankings clearly are useful for creating a realistic baseline for expectations. But the narrower your focus, the less useful they will become."

most of the guys you see in the NFL draft weren't 4 or 5 stars because those players are a small minority: "two- and three-star recruits account for more than 86 percent of signees nationally" (…). But, from the same article:

Odds of Becoming an All-American, by Recruiting Ranking
5–Star: 1 in 4.
4–Star: 1 in 16.
3–Star: 1 in 56.
2–Star: 1 in 127.

In the 2017 draft, 39.1% of players drafted were 4 or 5 stars, even though they're only 13.8% of the population. (…)


August 3rd, 2017 at 5:50 PM ^

It's not that people don't realize that starz matter. People realize that its nice to have highly rated players, and they do have a better chance of being stud players if they are a 5-star versus a 3-star.

Its just that the starz arent the only thing that matter. Nor are they 100% predictive. It's the fact that many people treat the star-rating as the end all be all when they are exceptions both ways. 

It also shouldn't be that hard for people to realize that. It lies somewhere in the middle, and it's also probably not worth yelling at clouds in August when that data is going to change. 


August 3rd, 2017 at 6:19 PM ^

I think the most important point Ace makes is that predicitive validity on stars is not at the time of commitment but rather at the end of the cycle when fully evaluated.

People freak out when a 3 star is signed but it seems, like the most recent TE signing, that perhaps the services have not as fully evaluated the player as the staff.

SMart WolveFan

August 3rd, 2017 at 7:01 PM ^ make any opinion fit them!


How about we look at it this way:

32 5* = 8 AAs

300 4* = 19 AAs

700 3*s =12 AAs

That's 4 more opportunities to find an AA in the three star group.

Every year the recruiting sites are spot on about only 8 5* s becoming All-Americans and they're wrong about 24 of them. And they are completely wrong about 12 3* s.

With those numbers in mind the best coaching staffs will avoid sinking assets into the 5 * s that don't pan out and be agressive in finding the 3* s that the ranking services have completely judged incorrectly (satellite camps *cough)

We have to wait to judge how successful Harbaugh and his staff are at it (even though Higdon, Evans and St Juste are a pretty good start, IMO), but I'm sure glad they're trying to evaluate on a level greater than a subscription to 247.


August 3rd, 2017 at 7:33 PM ^

Nobody here is saying that stars matter more than Harbaugh's considered opinion. People are saying that stars matter *in aggregate* but the more your analytical focus narrows, the less predictive they are. So for any single player, it doesn't matter, that is right. Everyone agrees. Mike Hart is proof of it. But overall (again, OVERALL, not for any single player) the recruiting services do a decent job and they are broadly predictive of recruiting success.


SMart WolveFan

August 4th, 2017 at 12:45 AM ^

I'm not sure I can award them that much credit.

Let's be honest 25% correct on your best guesses is not great.

I think what you can say about the recruiting services is this:

They do an excellent job of judging how a high school player's physical attributes and athleticism will translate to the NFL. 

The biggest problem they have is there are way too many players to evaluate and not enough qualified eyes to scout them, at best it's woefully incomplete. I wish the NCAA would be compelled to subsidize camps and recruiting services so they could at least get a look at a lot more kids than they currently do, especially when those fuckers stop Coach from doing it himself.

On top of that, with all the other parameters that aren't really easy to track with the "star" system: work ethic, discipline, attitude, maturity, etc., Its not that they do a bad job it's just too tough to adequately do with their resources and skills.

In the end there seems to be too much emphasis on a low percentage indicator of actual success. If we are speaking in general about recruiting success, Harbaugh has had a couple top 10 classes and pulled in three 5* s. That's more than enough to compare with recent playoff teams.



August 3rd, 2017 at 2:43 PM ^

The #1 crootin ranking is nice to talk about and point to, but really the ONLY #1 I can't to see next to Michigan is after the CFP!

Just asking, because I don't know - when was the last time M had the #1 rated class?

I don't remember it ever, to be honest? '98 with Henson & Terrell maybe? What'd they win? Brady won that Orange Bowl MVP, but we were in the Orange, not NC, not Rose...


August 3rd, 2017 at 2:59 PM ^

Well, recruiting experts have created a nice business for themselves. Yet, what exactly is their expertise when it comes to player evaluations?

Frankly, I'll rely more on a coaching staff's evaluation before any of these guys. Still, coaches aren't perfect. Bo once said something to the effect that 1/3 of the guys will be stars or major contributors, 1/3 contributors, and 1/3 won't pan out.

The recruiting services give a bump up in stars often to kids who get recruited by top schools, so that's hardly an independent and knowledgeable source/evaluation.

AA Forever

August 3rd, 2017 at 3:02 PM ^

The real issue is not whether 3 stars sometimes succeed, or whether our coaches can make a good player out of a lightly regarded recruit. Sure, sometimes they do. The real question is whether a 3 star guy that no other major program thinks is good enough to offer is the BEST player we can get to fill that scholarship, and if so, why? Is a guy like Faustin likely to be better than the guys that Ohio State is signing for the same position? We've seen just last year how a few plays can make the difference between a good season and a great one. The difference between having a great player instead of a good one at one position on the field.

Highlight films are of low value. You can cherry pick a few minutes of good looking plays from the high school career of an awful lot of guys, many of whom are not going to make the next step successfully. Judging someone by their highlight film is like judging a movie by its trailer.

It's silly to pooh-pooh the significance of recruiting rankings and to sneer at the idea that scouting services can judge players as well as our coaches, while at the same time crowing about having a top 5 recruiting class, or strutting because we landed a 5 star recruit, while State was left with a 2 star.


August 3rd, 2017 at 3:52 PM ^

It depends on the current state of your program... If your team just went 3-9 and you get a 2/3*, its safe to assume you're settling for the best you can get.

If your team is recruiting and performing as a top 10 team in the country, and decides to take a 2/3* 6 months before signing day, its safe to assume they think he's underrated.

AA Forever

August 3rd, 2017 at 4:18 PM ^

But that has nothing to do with whether he actually is. Are all of the higher rated guys at that position that they have a shot at overrated, not to mention all of the higher rated guys that other top programs are landing?

It's a simple fact that the immediate excitement about a recruit committing on this board is very directly related to their ranking by the recruiting services. It's only when that's pretty meh that all of the apologetics come out.


August 3rd, 2017 at 6:21 PM ^

It has everything to do with whether he actually is. I don't doubt for one second that Harbaugh and Brown are better at talent evaluation than recruiting sites. Especially when some of those sites place such an emphasis on the recruits going to their camps and won't rate them highly if they don't. Clearly, the coaches feel Faustin is worth taking. That they took him while in on higher rated guys says something about their evaluation of him.


August 3rd, 2017 at 4:00 PM ^

Not a single thing you said addresses any argument Ace made nor did Ace deny the statistical significance of stars and success. The question is whether statistical anomalies (x player outperforms y ranking at time of commitment) are entirely random and as Ace points out, there is a case to be made that it's not random in select cases.

To me there is a major difference between filling up a class in winter with a bunch low rated three stars and picking a couple guys among blue chip recruits.


August 3rd, 2017 at 4:04 PM ^

Let's look a little closer at your question about whether a 3-star with Faustin's offers is the best the coaches can do for that scholarship spot. I will use the assumption that they have decided they need to fill that spot, so banking is not an option. 

Faustin has a 0.8466 composite rating, putting him 78th for CBs, but since they are viewing him as a safety, that rating makes him the 69th safety. Of the 68 safeties ahead of him, only 24 remain uncommitted. Let's say that on their safety recruiting board, they don't have him at 69th in the nation, but half that so let's say 35th (maybe he is actually at 10th on their board, we don't know). There are only 8 uncommitted safety recruits ahead of that position. Maybe they have kicked the tires of those 8 uncommited prospects and they aren't interested. 

My point is, the answer to the question of whether this is the best player they can get might well be yes. Without knowing where a player is on their rankings board, and without the knowledge of interest level from all the players ahead of him on their board, you can't judge it. 

To me, what "trust the coaches" really means is that I believe they have done their due diligence on this tradeoff. It doesn't mean that we are blindly believing an assertion that, yes, this current 3-star is in fact the second coming of Woodson (they aren't making that assertion).