Justin Renck: Football recruiting ratings…do they matter?

When it comes to football recruiting, some people get so caught up in where their team’s class is ranked or how many stars their players have. I did some research from our Gator Bowl and Orange Bowl years and looked up where some of our best players were ranked coming out of high school. I mainly looked at Scout’s and Rivals’ websites, which rank players from 1 to 5 stars. Here is what I found…

*2002– Two of our main players we signed were Eric Shelton and Elvis Dumervil. On Rivals, Eric Shelton was a 2* (played 1 season at Florida St and then transferred to UofL), and Elvis Dumervil was a 3*. Our class wasn’t ranked in the top 50 on Rivals, and was ranked 66th on Scout. Eric Shelton ended up being a key running back along with Michael Bush and Lionel Gates in his time at UofL. In 2004 he rushed for 938 yards and 20 touchdowns. In 22 games with UofL, he rushed for 1,728 yards and 30 touchdowns. Not bad for a 2* rating in high school.

Of course we all remember what Elvis Dumervil ended up doing in his time at UofL. His junior season, he had 10 sacks, and his senior year he broke the NCAA single-game sack record (6) against Kentucky and broke the Big East record for sacks in a season with 20! He also forced 10 fumbles, which was 1st in the country. So while he did not do too much in his first two seasons, he developed into one of the best defensive players in UofL history.

*2003– This was the class that would end up playing in the Gator Bowl as juniors and the Orange Bowl as seniors. Rivals ranked this class at 35th, and Scout ranked it at 48th. Both sites had the same ratings for these key players: Amobi Okoye 2*; William Gay 3*; Malik Jackson 2*; Kolby Smith 3*. Scout listed Harry Douglas as a 2* and Rivals had him as a 3*.

Okoye, Gay, and Jackson were 3 of the best defensive players I can remember at UofL. I can still hear my friend Pat praising Malik Jackson everytime he made a play, “He’s the smartest guy on the field!” Harry Douglas ended up being one of the best receivers in UofL history, and Kolby Smith stepped up in 2006 when Michael Bush went down with a broken leg and helped carry us to a BCS win.

Louisville’s only 4* player (on both sites) was Michael Bush, and rightfully so. But that is a good group of players to only be rated as 2* and 3*.

*2004– Another year that brought in some of our best players. Scout had this class ranked 54th, and Rivals had us out of the top 50. Both sites had the same ratings for these players: Eric Wood 2*; Mario Urrutia 3*; Gary Barnidge 2*; George Stripling 2*; Breno Giacomini 2*. Scout listed Lamar Myles as a 3* and Rivals had him as a 2*.

Eric Wood ended up being the best center and probably one of the best offensive lineman in UofL’s history, and he was a 2* coming out of high school. He did not even have time to develop as a backup to anyone because he played right away. Barnidge was one of the best receiving tight ends in the country. Urrutia was a deep threat with great hands and made some big plays in his time. Stripling was a play-maker, Giacomini was a beast on the offensive line, and Myles was a stud at linebacker.

Again, the Cards only had one 4* player, and that was Brian Brohm. So it was another class full of 2* and 3* players.

For this year’s signing class, Rivals and Scout both have us with three 4* players (Keith Brown, Nick Dawson, Gerod Holliman). The rest are mainly 3*, with a couple 2* sprinkled in. At the current time, we are ranked 41st on Scout and 39th on Rivals. Seeing how Coach Strong and his staff have worked with young players in the first 2 seasons, I am very excited to see what they do with these kinds of classes. In basketball, you can bring in a couple of top recruits and change a program right away. Only 5 guys play at a time, and it is just a different kind of game. In football, you have 11 guys on the field, and for the most part, guys don’t come in right away and make an immediate impact (2011 was an exception for UofL). You mainly have to develop these kids and get them stronger and smarter on the field. As you can see, some of the best and most important players in our history were rated as 2* and 3* players coming out of high school. When they get to UofL, it is then up to the coaches to turn those guys into 4* and 5* type players. I have nothing but confidence that Coach Strong and his staff will do this. Either way, it should be fun to watch. Go Cards!

– Justin

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