June 4, 2010

Thigpen: Five-star not always football star

The Internet has brought fans closer than ever to the college football recruiting process. It takes mere minutes to search for a high school player's film, learn what schools he is interested in and compare him to the other recruits that could potentially commit to their favorite program.

But those research capabilities aren't exclusive to fans. With the creation of video-sharing websites like YouTube, coaches are now able to save hours of valuable time by simply typing a player's name in the search bar to watch his highlights.

"You've got access with one click," said Auburn safeties coach and recruiter Tommy Thigpen. "You don't have to go back to the library, find his tape, pull it out, download it on your system. All that takes time. Now you just go to YouTube, one click and you're seeing anybody play. It's changed the way we do business."

With that capability, Thigpen added that it is getting harder to miss those "hidden gems," the players with D-1 talent from tiny towns.

"Now in the information age, it's opened the door and there are no secrets in these states anymore," he said. "Back in the day, back when there were no cell phones and the Internet, Rivals, Scout and ESPN 150, people didn't know. You didn't have people scouring the earth looking for football players. Now, everything shows up on the Internet. You couldn't get that kind of exposure before."

But despite its convenience, recruiting going viral has created some issues. With the newfound interest in the process, the level of competition in recruiting has increased drastically.

For instance, with players as young as high school sophomores getting interest, kids are getting college scholarship offers before they even have their drivers licenses. And because some schools are after those players, other schools are forced to follow suit just to keep up.

"It's a slippery slope," Thigpen said. "If you don't offer them, then you're out of the game. And then if you do offer them, what if they don't develop in their 12th or 11th grade seasons? It's hard to evaluate a 10th grader. Just a year before he was probably on the JV team. He's only got one year playing with the older kids, and he's getting college offers.....

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