It's National Signing Day! If you're a football recruiting junkie, you marked this day on your calendar 364 days ago. If you don't know what I'm talking about, just know it's a big deal for USC.
Today's the day when colleges officially sign high school football players.
Every element of a high school player's skillset is dissected, critiqued and studied as they are ranked and filed as prospects at various colleges. The players are eventually given a star ranking from two to five, which serves to not only identify them, but also as a measurement to evaluate a school's incoming class.
Greg Biggins has been a national recruiting analyst for Scout.com for more than 20 years. He said that while rankings can sometimes be useful, a low one can misrepresent a player's true talent level.
"There isn't that much gap between a five-star rating and a three-star rating, but people act like when you give a kid a three-stars that you're saying the guy sucks and he can't play," Biggins said.
He said that a five-star player is one who is "an immediate difference-maker" with "[NFL] potential and a unique skill set," and that a three-star rating can mean a recruit "is going to develop into a good college player but just might take a little longer to get there."
Alexander Collins, a recruiting assistant for the USC football team, said he looks at the rankings just to gauge an opinion on a player.
"The guys that work at these websites have a pretty good idea of what talent is and they are easily able to recognize who the best players are," Collins said. "We trust our own opinions…but if someone says a guy is the best quarterback in the nation…it's worth my time to check out his highlight tape."
Today, there are innumerable national recruiting websites and player rankings; prospects with lower ratings can get lost in the chaos.
Biggins said that talent and rankings don't always translate to instant playmakers on the field and that success is also based on scheme fit and player development.
"You can take the greatest high school football player, and if he goes to a bad system and isn't developed properly, he's not going to play," Biggins said.
Bruce Rollinson is head coach of football powerhouse Santa Ana Mater Dei, where he helps players navigate the recruiting process. He said that college recruiting services are used by high school prospects to gain an upper hand on others, but that some of the services are "garbage."
"It's a money grab," Rollinson said. "They'll charge you $500 and then mysteriously you'll be listed as the No. 2 defensive lineman in the area, and you're not even a starter on your own team."
He also said that players and their parents should stop obsessing over rankings.
"Players start getting offers in their first year in high school," Rollinson said. "Parents panic when their kids aren't getting a bunch of scholarship offers."
Mater Dei player Tommy Brown is currently a four-star prospect and the eighth-ranked player at his position in the country. 247Sports.com lists him as a junior offensive tackle standout at 6 feet 7 inches tall and 315 pounds.
Brown said he lets his playing speak for him instead of getting wrapped up in the rankings.
"I look at some of the sites from time to time just to see what's been said about me, but it's not much of a distraction," Brown said. "I just work on my game and focus on the season."
According to Bleacher Report, 52 percent of all five-star recruits are drafted to the NFL. There is also a 75 percent retention rate of those five-star draftees.
"If you look at the draft this past year, 75 percent of the draft in the first round was four and five-star recruits out of high school," Biggins said. "Even though there are 18 times more three-star players than four-and-five stars combined."
Alex Rios, the director of recruiting for USC football, depicted a program that's even less reliant on rankings than Collins, the recruiting assistant, conveyed.
"We don't use those Rivals or 247Sports sites other than to see what other teams have offered them," Rios said. "We are going to scout every possible player…and if anyone offers one a scholarship, we make sure we are looking at them just like they are."
Reach Staff Reporter Terrance Davis here.