Stars and Rankings: The Gift and The Curse for College Football Recruits

ByEd O'Brien

Published on Wed Dec 23 2020


4 min read

Stars and Rankings: The Gift and The Curse for College Football Recruits

"Stars and rankings don't matter." I can't tell you how many times I've heard or posted on social media (see Twitter) for over a decade. Of course, the opposite of that is "stars and rankings do matter."

The truth of the matter is that both sides have a legitimate case for its belief. Stars and rankings matter, until they don't matter?

This is not another article that talks about players who had stars and either did or did not live up to expectations. It's also not an article about the fact that the teams that usually win the National Championship often have the best of the best on their rosters.

No, this isn't one of those pieces. This is about the good and bad about stars and rankings. Let's start with the good.


Let's face it. Most high school football players want to be acknowledged for their talent and want to know how they stack against others at their position. So, of course, they want to be ranked.

There's a ton of websites out there that do rankings on high school football players. However, there's rules to the game. Kids want to be ranked by 247Sports, Rivals, and even ESPN. Rankings by other sites are cool.

However, make no mistake about it, being ranked on one of the "Big 3" can give an athlete more recognition when it comes to recruiting and helps an athlete stand out among the crowd.

Think about it like this: there’s thousands of football players in any state and only 50 to maybe 250 or 300 prospects get stars and a ranking. If you’re one of those players that have any kind of ranking, you stand out. Does it help you get recruited? Depends on who you ask. There’s no question that a kid mentioned as a 3-star, 4-star, 5-star….heck, even a 2-star recruit gets people’s attention.

That’s even more evident when it comes to certain national camps. Whether it’s a Rivals Camp. Underclassmen Camp, All American Combine (formerly U.S. Army All-American Camp), The Opening, or The Elite 11, the prospects talked about the most by the recruiting websites are usually the ones with the rankings.


It’s because recruiting websites cover college team and recruiting news. 247Sports and Rivals have numerous college-based websites with fan bases who pay to get all the recruiting scoop and team news they can get on their favorite school. That is why you’ll see most articles by the “Big 3” are on athletes that have FBS (Football Bowl Subdivision a.k.a. Division I-A) offers and are ranked.

Yes, sometimes you’ll see the same athletes written about repeatedly and it may get to be tiresome. However, the law of supply and demand is the reason why that happens. I’ll save the reasoning behind that for another articles.


There are some negatives to having stars and being ranked. I don’t think the negatives at the high school level are too bad. Yes, athletes with stars and rankings tend to have more of a target on their back during real games, camps, 7v7’s, etc.

The bad side of being ranked and having stars is that there are a lot of athletes that don’t live up to the expectations that come with being a 3-star, 4-star, or 5-star football prospect. Then, once these athletes get into college, “stars and rankings don’t matter.” That’s a very true statement.

However, those athletes still are expected to live up to those rankings “that don’t matter.” So, while the actual stars and rankings themselves are null and void, the expectations that come with a prospect into college are still there one way or another.

While it may not be the college coaches that have those expectations based on recruiting rankings, the school’s fan base certainly has them. Without putting anybody under the bus, there are so many examples of athletes who were 4-star and 5-star athletes that were outperformed by 3-star, 2-star, and even no-star athletes.

Some athletes are erroneously ranked too high in high school. There are several athletes that were either ranked as 5-star football players or ranked in the Top 10 at their position by the Big 3 recruiting websites and never live up to those expectations.

Is it the athlete’s fault? No. They didn’t give themselves the ranking while in high school. Unfortunately, they are held to that standard and if they don’t live up to lofty expectation, they’re considered to be a disappointment.

Is it fair to the athlete? Probably not. The pressure over having to live up to what may end up being unrealistic expectations can be too much for some college football players at the FBS level. You’ll continue to see athletes either outplay their rankings, live up to their rankings, or underperform based on their rankings coming out of high school.

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