Midwest Football Talent

Submitted by Red is Blue on September 20th, 2014 at 10:47 AM

I heard a statistic the other day that only 9 of the top 100 HS football players are from the B1G footprint (not sure what that meant w/ Rutgers, Maryland).  I recognize that this could be an anamoly, but converntional wisdom (whatever that means) seems to hold that this is a trend. The ramification for Michigan was that it is going to be increasingly important to import talent from other regions and that might make it increasingly difficult to compete.

 Part of the explanation was "demographic" shift.  But, I looked it up and the US Census reports that roughly 24% of those under 18 live in the "midwest".  So while, there is a shift in population, it is not like the midwest has been totally vacated.  In tennis, golf and baseball, the relatively nicer weather allows players to practice their sports more outside the midwest, but this would seem to be less of factor for football which is playable is worse weather and is relatively more dependent on weight room training than actual skill practice.  There is always the chance for confirmation bias, but it does seem like relatively more talent comes out of other regions, especially the south.  

So, that seems to leave cultural aspects to explain much of the gap.  Is it just the increased cultural interest in youth football in places like Florida and Texas that drives this?  


I Like Burgers

September 20th, 2014 at 10:58 AM ^

Football is more year round in the south and out west. You'll see a lot more 7 on 7 type things taking place in the offseason and the coaching and emphasis on football is greater too. So while the B1G footprint makes up 24% of the Midwest recruiting! the lack of emphasis on year round football and coaching sees them drop to 9% (give or take depending on the randomness of the year) when it comes to making up the top recruits.

And yes, this is going to be a problem for Michigan and the Big Ten in general. They are going to have to go in to the south and west and win a lot more head to head recruiting battles.

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September 20th, 2014 at 11:02 AM ^

Here's an article from the public radio show Marketplace on the subject (with one of the unintentionally dirtiest titles you'll ever see on a serious article):


 This one doesn't get into the numbers so much, but college recruiting (not for athletes, just for regular students) is becoming an issue at many schools in the midwest as the applicant pool declines.  It's going to get worse:

The other thing is, they play spring football in places like FL and TX, so it's year round.  And kids probably just spend more time outside playing overall, which is where you develop that athleticism.  Also, chasing rabbits.  

Red is Blue

September 20th, 2014 at 11:09 AM ^

Interesting read.  The second paragraph starts with "At a time when many bay area programs are struggling to field junior varsity teams, the Eagles are overflowing..." this makes it sound like the interest is spotty.  But where there is interest, there is a lot of interest.  Of course, the quoted statement is not necessarily true and may have been inserted to create contrast.


September 20th, 2014 at 11:20 AM ^

The interest is falling in playing and watching football in general all over the country.

NFL ratings are down.

Pop Warner enrollment down.

We all know about attendance issues.

These recent scandals with the NFL and FSU this week won't help.

Mommies hear and see all of this (along with the concussion talk, Sandusky in recent year) then mom strongly convinces dad not to enroll junior into Football.


September 20th, 2014 at 11:02 AM ^

I think football is king down south and people play less sports due to money so they'll pick one sport and focus on it.  My parents couldn't afford it but I had lots of friends growing up playing hockey and then baseball/golf in the spring and then soccer early fall.  Weren't particulalry great except for the random freak athlete.  Down south gootball is king -- no question.  


September 20th, 2014 at 11:03 AM ^

I think it's a little bit of everything. But at the same time, I think there's far less resources scouting the mid-west versus down south, so I bet there's a fair amount of midwest talent that goes unnoticed by scouting services as a result that would potentially be up in the top 100.


September 20th, 2014 at 11:27 AM ^

I wonder if the deficiency of midwest recruit rankings might be similar to the apparent deficiency in smaller states.  For instance, I suspect that recruiting agencies are not likely to visit states that require them to travel but are too small to justify the expense.  How many supposedly "big-time" recruits then come from "little" states.  So, I checked on RI recruits.  On 247 sports, there were zero players with any stars at all in the years I checked from 2014-6.  There were less than 2 players per year who were even listed at all as recruits.  I know that RI is truly a "little" state, which it is not likely to have many "big-time" recruits.  But I wondered if the scouts even bothered coming to RI.  If not, then there may be a "verification" bias--the recruits are seldom if ever evaluated.

On a less extreme scale, the same might apply in comparing midwest vs southern or calif players.  Are the services less likely to evaluate players in the midwest than in other areas?  For the midwest, do the recruiting services station evaluators or pay for their travel there less often?  If so, one might expect a lower proportion of highly rated midwest (vs southern or calif) HS recruits than NFL players.  Why?  Presumably, the NFL would have greater motivation and resources for finding hidden gems that other teams might overlook.  And that could lead them to a more systematic search of the midwest than done by much poorer and less motivated recuruiting services.  Also, if there is greater passion for FB in southern states than in the midwest, then there will be fewer revenue-generating clicks on recuiting websites if the recruiting services highlight midwest or eastern recruits. If the midwest guys are not even considering many southern schools, they why should rabid southern fans care about their ratings?

A possible example of verification bias.  The Pats QB-in-waiting after Brady retires (Jimmy Garoppolo) came from a little-publicized FCS midwest school (eastern illinois).  Many now think he is the best QB drafted in his NFL class.  The Pats got him as a steal in the 2nd round.  But as a HS recruit, he was only a 2-star by Rivals and not even rated by Scout..


September 20th, 2014 at 11:33 AM ^

Our athletes are spread among basketball and football, which is one of the reasons why we're so good at basketball. In the South, for various cultural reasons, football is the sport you play.


September 20th, 2014 at 11:45 AM ^

It's simple:

High school football is more important down South than it is in he Midwest. Better coaches, better off season training, more 7 on 7 tournaments. It all adds up to more top level players. If a high school coach/player/parent is psychotic over football in the South, thats normal and acceptable. If a guy is like that in the upper Midwest, he looked at as a weirdo/nut/outcast.

It's about priorities. The South places a higher priority in life on high school football.


September 20th, 2014 at 11:58 AM ^

An article by Jamie Newberg looking at the last 3 drafts and where draft picks come from.



You can see the full lists in the article.  But of the top 15 in total draft picks, the new BIG footprint has 5 (Ohio, Pennsylvania, Illinois, New Jersey, Michigan).  These 5 states have produced 109 draft picks over the last 3 years.  For comparison, California has produced 86 draft picks over the same time frame, but no other Pac 12 state sits in the top 15.

However, the per capita top 15 features only 2 in the BIG footprint (D.C. and Ohio).

So how to interpret the data?  It seems like there are more elite players in the midwest than the scouting services think, but it probably makes more sense for them to scout the states with a higher percentage of elite players (better competition etc).


September 20th, 2014 at 12:17 PM ^

I think there are a lot of factors at play, and perhaps I'll take heat for some of them.

First of all, the weather is an issue. There are constant seven-on-seven practices and tournaments in the south. That's not the case in Michigan, Illinois, Wisconsin, etc. At least in some states (Georgia, Alabama, Florida, Texas, South Carolina I believe, etc.), spring football practices are allowed, so teams get 15-ish extra practices in the spring while Ohio/Michigan/Illinois players are sitting on their butts, just lifting weights, or playing baseball/running track.

Second, I get the feeling that southern schools are more liberal with the rules. With closer geographical locations, Player X from the middle of nowhere in Alabama knows that he can get/get away with certain things at Auburn, Alabama, Ole Miss, etc. because his friend or cousin goes there and has passed the word along.

Third, I think the economy in the south leads some people to "look for a way out." When a kid hits middle school and looks like a star football player, I think doors open up and I think that kid gets a little extra motivation/encouragement because that could be mommy and daddy's paycheck or at least a way to pay your way through college. I don't think that's such a motivating factor in the north except for in certain places (such as inner cities like Detroit, Chicago, etc.).


September 20th, 2014 at 1:34 PM ^

I agree with a lot of what Magnus is saying.


I will say this, that Michigan High School Football is starting to take football more serious. Brother Rice going down to Ohio and beating teams like Pickerington North is a big deal. They beat Clv. St. Iggy too last year I do believe. This is big time. You are starting to see Michigan produce more college players, and more "elite" recruits as well. Southfield last year had two All-American's on one team, this is huge imo for a public in Michigan.


The difference in Ohio and Michigan, is small town football is so much better in Ohio. Little towns across Ohio are very serious in Ohio, like shutdown everyone to the football game on Friday's serious. This just doesn't happen across Michigan yet. I played DIV football in Ohio (Ironton), we had about 900 kids in our school, and my sophomore year we had 7 division one players on that team (three went to majors---Jason Harmon to MSU, Reggie Arden to Ohio State, and Roman Frye to Clemson). Roman Frye would go onto play in the NFL for the Bucks for a season. 


I will say that Ohio is very serious about football, and nearly passed a bylaw allowing for spring football practice. I wouldn't lump Ohio and Pennsylvania in the same sentence as other midwest states.


The problem with these "elite" recruits in the midwest, is keeping them home. Think of all the Ohio, Illinois, Michigan, Pennsylvania guys who have recently gone to Bama (Trey Depriest, Robert Forster) Texas (Jordan Hicks), USC (Ty Issacs shortly), Florida (Alex Anzalone, Valdez Showers) Ole Miss (Lequan Treadwell), Oregon (Dior Mathis, Jake Fischer, Dwayne Stanford). The list could go on


September 20th, 2014 at 12:30 PM ^

Football is more important in the South. I can tell you from experience, playing football in Texas and Michigan. Michigan high school football lacks the intensity and seriousness of Texas.

I was 8 when I started playing in Texas. The first time I met my coach he came to my house and graded me on strength and conditioning drills and 40 time. It's a whole other animal down there.


September 20th, 2014 at 1:53 PM ^

Let's see if our percentage goes up. Remove those using PEDS as well and then reshuffle. Lastly check for those not accepting booster bennies. Red deer antler spray a major SEC sponsor of the top teams.