The Recruiting Guy:

Pandemic puts limit on evaluation options

By: Richard Davenport
Published: Sunday, January 3, 2021

The last rankings for the 2021 ESPN 300 college football prospects will come out in about two weeks minus the normal amount of evaluation events than a normal year.

The coronavirus pandemic cut the amount of camps and other events for analysts in half. Despite the setbacks, ESPN national recruiting coordinator Craig Haubert said his job didn’t change a lot.

“It was different, but we got most of the camp series in which is always helpful because you can always watch film, and I think film is the most important thing,” Haubert said. “It’s always good to see kids in-person from the measurable standpoint, and try and get around them and learn about their personalities. This year has certainly been more challenging, but from an evaluation standpoint it wasn’t radically different.”

The ESPN High School Football Showcase in the fall went surprisingly smooth and helped Haubert’s evaluation process.

“I think we only had one game canceled on the entire schedule,” Haubert said. “We still got to see a lot of players this fall.”

While most of the states played high school football, some prospects weren’t able to show off their talents.

“The toughest thing was obviously kids in California and kids in the Northeast didn’t have that opportunity,” Haubert said.

In the past, high-profile all-star games such as the Under Armour All-American game in Orlando, Fla., and the All-American Bowl in San Antonio have given analysts one last look at the top senior prospects in the nation.

“It will be different because a big tool that was used will be gone, but on the flip side I think Texas is finishing up this week, and I think Florida just finished up last week,” Haubert said.

When the NCAA announced the dead period March 13, it kept prospects of all classes from visiting Division I campuses and participating at summer camps to be evaluated by coaches.

The dead period also kept college coaches from going on the road for the spring evaluation period. The lack of spring evaluation and college camps killed the chances for lesser-known players to get noticed.

Haubert believes a larger than normal group of prospects will end up at midmajor programs or in the FCS and become successful.

“I think what we’re going to see is in a year or two, you’re going to see some guys maybe at the Group of Five level or the FCS level that kind of fell through the cracks because of the limitations of the evaluation process for this class,” Haubert said. “I think we’ll see that number increase a bit because there were some players that did not get the opportunity to get seen or because they are late risers and a lot of theses classes filling up early.”

For the senior prospects who aren’t happy with their college options, Haubert has a suggestion.

“The advice would be maybe this is the path to either find a prep school or the junior-college route and try that opportunity to be seen,” he said.

ESPN probably will update the rankings for the 2022 ESPN Junior 300 class later this month, while the first rankings of the 2023 class will come out during the summer.

While the 2021 prospects had challenges in getting evaluated, Haubert believes the 2022 class could be worse off should the NCAA extend the latest dead period of April 15.

“The 22s and 23s, those guys are much younger and this would’ve been the year where they probably would’ve jumped on the radar as underclassmen through camps,” Haubert said. “I think if things don’t open up … I think this 2022 class will be much more challenging for us on this side and more importantly for coaches as well.”

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