Ask a thousand football coaches what they think about recruiting services, and all 1,000 will tell you they use them as a reference point, and not a single one of them will put any stock into their evaluations.
In FootballScoop's Recruiting/Technology survey from a year ago, 29 percent of respondents said they valued Rivals the most of any recruiting service, followed by ESPN (seven percent), Scout (six percent) and then 247 (three percent). Fifty-four percent of coaches said they did not value information from any recruiting site.
No matter your opinion of recruiting services, they're an integral part of the industry in 2014. Actually, they are what turned recruiting into an industry in the first place.
Stephen Bailey of Syracuse.com surveyed each of the four major recruiting sites to see how their own internal evaluations are made. Not surprisingly, the process differed from site to site.
For instance, ESPN and Rivals differ significantly on their opinion on just how value a camp evaluation truly is. "Not a camp, not a free-agent tryout, not a combine, no matter what it is," said ESPN national recruiting director Tom Luginbill. "That's not going to garner you a scholarship." "... In football, the game can't be duplicated in shorts and shirts. It can't be duplicated during a vertical leap or a three-cone drill or a short shuttle."
Rivals, on the other hand, figures that if college coaches find camp evaluations valuable, then they should, too. "People always point to, especially the spring evaluation where there is no football being played and the summer when it's mostly 7 on 7, they say 'Oh, that's underwear football. It doesn't count,'" said Rivals national recruiting director Mike Farrell. "Scholarship offers have been handed out at camps for years and years and years."
One thing each service is in agreement on: the value of an offer has diminished completely in recent years. "You have to dwindle the offers to real offers," said Scout national recruiting analyst Brandon Huffman. "You have thirty schools that offer a kid but only five schools would take him. But the (other) schools still want those checkmarks there."
Like many college recruiting offices they cover, the major recruiting sites produce a massive volume of evaluations without the benefit of a large staff. Which site offered the most assured quote of its own evaluation process? That goes to ESPN, who, in addition to employing only analysts who have worked professionally as a coach or scout in the past, writes up nearly 200,000 words in player evaluations.
"If they could do that, they'd be doing what we're doing," Luginbill said. "And that's not the case."