Five Stars Can Be Deceiving


Five Stars Can Be Deceiving

As I have so often stated, the star designation in high school football recruiting (Five-Home Plate BallsStars designating most talented) is over-rated and can be flawed. While most of the Five-Stars do go on to be high-achievers with wonderful work ethics that allows them to reach their full potential, some buy-in to the how great they are hype, go through the motions, and expect the same results as when dominating high school opponents.

Locally, LSU has had three such recruits recently. Russell Shepard came out of Texas as the No. 1 rated prep quarterback in the country. His talent set never allowed him to compete at a high level in the SEC (brief try at QB, then sporadic stints at running back and wide receiver). Shepard’s problem was he possessed speed, but little else. He lacked maneuverability and straight on running power. To his credit, Shepard stayed the course and played four years for the Tigers.

This year two other Five-Stars, Anthony (Freak) Johnson and Craig Loston, both juniors, declared themselves for the draft. Loston, was a productive performer for LSU but could have benefitted with a solid senior season under his belt. He signed as a free agent after going undrafted, possibly costing himself thousands of dollars by declaring early.

Johnson, only thing freakish about him was how he could not come off blocks or tackle anyone. He bulked up so much in his three years in Tigertown that he appeared to be restricted in his movements, hardly ever able to put pressure on a quarterback. With the hype that accompanied him to Baton Rouge, Johnson would have to be put high on the list of the most overrated busts in LSU football history. He also signed a free agent contract, but could have possibly worked on cutting down some of his bulk and improved his footwork. His pre-draft failed drug test took him off all draft boards but his overall performance–make that lack of performance—over the last two years really made him undraftable.

My question, and one that begs to be asked, is-who are the evaluators that encourage these youngsters (let us remember these guys are just 20/21 after their junior season) to leave early from school. Are they listening to legitimate football people that are giving them an honest evaluation of their talents or shaddy characters (no NOT referencing JJ’s favorite kicking lounge) telling them what they want to hear and giving them inaccurate, bad advice? Loston could have moved up the draft lists next year and Johnson could have worked, got himself in better shape, dedicated himself to getting better, and who knows—-a third or fourth rounder next year.

[tipsy content=”LSU led the SEC and college football with nine players drafted. Alabama was second with eight. Here’s a breakdown by SEC team: LSU: 9 – Alabama: 8 – Arkansas: 4 – Auburn: 4 – Florida: 4 – Missouri: 4 – Tennessee: 3 – Texas A&M: 3 – Vanderbilt: 3 – Georgia: 2 – South Carolina: 2 – Kentucky: 1 – Mississippi State: 1 – Ole Miss: 1″ group=”0″ use_oembed=”true” ]For the second consecutive year LSU had the highest number of players go in the draft.[/tipsy] This year NINE, even without Loston and Johnson. Maybe the two Five Stars got caught up in the excitement knowing so many of their former teammates have made theFootnball jump to the pro ranks in the past two seasons. After all, these two Five Stars have long been told how good they are.

Talent wins games and programs that lack talent are out looking for coaches that can get the more gifted athletes to campus. Case in point, Mac Brown at University of Texas lost his job after this season. The Longhorns had no players drafted this year. Believe me —- there is a connection. Solidifies another belief of mine. LSU wins because of talent. LSU does not win as many games as they should, and loses winnable games because Les Miles is not a very good coach! I like his quirkiness and know the student athletes at LSU love playing for him. However, I have to cringe when a game is tight and the game is going to be decided on his tactical decisions and clock management.

Back to Mac Brown. Another good recruiter (although it seems his talent hauls had fallen off sharply) and players coach. He, like Miles, has one National Championship to show in his coaching career. Vince Young, whose talents did not prove successful in the professional game, was mainly responsible for that trophy being added to UT trophy case. Believe it or not, and I always use it as a college trivia question with my fellow sports geeks, Brown is the only college football coach that can be classified as “successful” who had three, THREE 1-10 seasons in his career. One at Tulane, two at University of North Carolina. He kept himself alive with his politician ways, gift of gab, and penchant for sacrificing assistant coaches when a bad season came along. Texas finally grew weary of it all.

Bottom line, evaluating high school football talent is an inexact exercise. You can put a stop watch on an athlete, watch game tape, see them perform in person, but you can not measure what is beating in their chest. What drives them? What goals do they have? Are they late bloomers? Most Five Stars do work out, but like Johnson and Loston, they sometimes fall short a star or two. What is more satisfying is when a two or three star recruit blossoms and becomes a WINNER. Example, Blake Bortles, quarterback of University of Central Florida. [tipsy content=”The Jacksonville Jaguars aren’t putting pressure on Blake Bortles to win a starting job in training camp.The rookie quarterback was solid in his preseason debut Friday night, throwing for 117 yards and leading a second-half drive for a field goal in a 16-10 victory over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.”There was some good stuff, some bad stuff, things that I’ve got to overcome,” Bortles said.”It’s a process, it’s not going to happen overnight,” he added. “The chemistry felt really good with the second unit, we’ve been working really well together during camp. I thought the offensive line did a really good job of protecting up front.” – …Courtesy Fox Sports” group=”1″ use_oembed=”true” ]Bortles was not highly sought after as a Florida prep quarterback. In fact, Tulane recruited Bortles as a tight end[/tipsy] (now we know Bob Toledo was just coaching out his contract to get to retirement). What does Bortles do? He matures, his work ethic carries him forward and he becomes the first quarterback taken in the 2014 National Football League draft.

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