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Friday, May 17, 2013
Ask the Scouts: DawgNation Mailbag

By Tom Luginbill and Craig Haubert

This week, DawgNation subscribers were given the opportunity to pick the minds of's National Director of College Football Recruiting Tom Luginbill and National Recruiting Analyst Craig Haubert, who combine for almost two decades of coaching and scouting at the collegiate and professional levels. Tom and Craig peel back the curtain to give an inside look at how the evaluation process works, as well as scouting questions related to University of Georgia recruiting.

eeford09: Is it better for ESPN to have full game tape to evaluate a prospect, and if so how much tape/games can be received?

Tom Luginbill:  “We use both. We also take games and make cut-ups, which are different than highlights. Cut-ups will consistent of top plays, poor plays, marginal plays etc. There are no perfect players, they all have deficiencies. Deficiencies show up on highlight tapes, too. It is always best to have game film. I always recommend sending out at least 3-4 games including games against a poor opponent, a great opponent and if possible a rival. It is our belief that quality coaches will make final assessments off game tape overall.”

Darryl8223: Guys, UGA has been signing a quarterback pretty much every year in recent recruiting classes.  I guess this is a good thing, right?  Everybody can't be happy though?  Is there a formula for this?

Tom Luginbill: “Formula is based on need, either for depth or talent purposes. This can often be based on scheme, as well, if the quarterback is going to be subject to more hits based on how you use him. You can never have enough good players at QB, but you are right -- only one can play at a time, and there is only one ball. The better the players are within your depth, the better the competition is to determine the best player, which also gives you insights into how the others handle disappointment, how competitive they are and do they stick around.”

tancat64: Does desired size play any role as to how a prospect gets rated? Do you rank on the player's frame and ability to fill out in college (or take this into account), or do you guys look strictly at the game tape?

Tom Luginbill: “Of course measurables now and measurables in the future based on projection play a role in rankings. Players bloom at different rates, and we recognize that. Also, HT/WT ratios are critical factors for teams at each position based on scheme and other criteria. If I am reading your question right, we would never grade a player off measurables without seeing him play the game. Our view in today’s game is that length is a huge factor now -- long arms, long legs, torso, height. Weight and bulk can be added and defined for a much higher ceiling with length than it can without it.”

Keith Marshall
Was Keith Marshall's five-star rating in the 2012 class equal to five-star ratings in other classes?
clint_b11: Was there a tweak in the way ESPN does their ratings/grade system of the recruits between the 2012 and 2013 cycles? Both years saw 11 five star prospects. Though in 2012 Jonathan Gray (grade 86, #2 overall prospect) and nine other recruits were graded out in the eighties with a five-star (Keith Marshall in this group as well). In 2013, zero players graded in the eighties and had a five star (all 11 five-star players graded out in the nineties). In 2013, Su'a Cravens graded out at 89 and was a four-star (#12 overall prospect). Seems to be a different system between the years. Also in 2013, 51 players graded out higher than Jonathan Gray, the second overall prospect in the 2012 cycle; 51-11=40, that's forty players graded higher than the second guy in the ESPN 150, yet he has a five star next to his name. Can I get any insight on this situation and why things look so different? Thank you.

Tom Luginbill: “Yes, the grading scale was tweaked to better mirror our NFL grading scale of draftable prospects out of college. This was an editorial decision which makes things more uniform across all spectrums. This is outlined here.”

HereWeGoBuffalo89: Do you guys ever look at the competition's rankings? If so, how much of it do you use? Also, how do you feel about the perception and claims by the competition that ESPN favors players in the Under Armor AA game?

Craig Haubert: We are aware of the rankings of others, as I would venture to guess that everyone is somewhat aware of what everyone else’s rankings are like. Do we take time to look at or monitor others' rankings and are they at all used in our process? The answer to that would be no. We don’t and never have claimed to have all the answers, but we believe in our process and the experience we collectively bring to the table to formulate our rankings and, simply, we just focus on what we do, as that’s what we can control.

As far as your second question, we don’t think about that at all, because it’s not a valid argument. The Under Armour All-American Game has quickly developed into the premier high school all-star game, which attracts many of the top prospects in the nation, so there is no reason for any bias.

GAbread: Are the summer camps like The Opening, college camps, Elite 11, the 7 on 7 tournaments, etc., factored into the ratings of players? If so, how big of a factor are they?

Craig Haubert: “Film is the foundation for our ratings. If you want to try and best determine how a prospect will perform, the best way to do that is to see how they play the game in pads between the white lines, so everything starts with the film, and that weighs the heaviest. That being said, the more information we have, the better, and events like you mentioned can be helpful tools in the evaluation process by providing more information.

Seeing prospects at events like those can allow us to get a better feel for things like size and speed, as well as see how they compete, and at events like The Opening, how they perform against a large group of prospects that are around their ability level. They can also provide opportunities to interact with players and learn more about them. It all starts with the film, and that is unquestionably the biggest factor, but those events can provide helpful additional information to supplement the film study, and when they do we certainly take into account as well.”

dawgsforlife76: “What positions do you feel the state of Georgia is strongest at as far as providing top talent consistently year after year? It looks like pass rushers and interior defensive linemen are strong points, but wide receivers and offensive tackles are scarce.”

Robert Nkemdiche
Robert Nkemdiche, the No. 1 prospect in the Class of 2013, is the latest in a long line of strong defensive linemen from Georgia.
Craig Haubert: “Georgia is undoubtedly one of the premier producers of talent in the nation, and there is talent to be found at multiple positions each year, but as far where it’s shown some tendency to be consistently strong in the talent it produces, I think you nailed it on the head with defensive linemen. Just look at the 2013 class -- Georgia was home to the top two DE prospects in the nation, who also were the top two prospects overall nationally in Robert Nkemdiche and Carl Lawson. It was also home to the No. 2 rated DT Montravius Adams. Going back over the span of the ESPN 150 era, Georgia has fairly regularly had multiple prospects among the top 10 DLs nationally.

Also on the defensive side of the ball, I feel DBs have been an area of some strength, as well, led by players like Eric Berry and Greg Reid. Again, I think you make a good point with OTs, but WRs are little more tricky. I wouldn’t say they are among the very best, but Georgia has produced good talent at that position. Some, though, haven’t had as strong a career as their potential suggested, but they still have been productive college players. Others have shown flashes but have allowed off-field issues to prevent them from fully utilizing their abilities. Granted it’s not a real strong group for 2014, but this past class out of the state is a promising group to keep an eye on, led by Demarcus Robinson.”

drew davidson: If UGA is able to reel in Nick Chubb at the end of the month, how would you compare the tandem of him and Sony Michel to the 2012 signing of Keith Marshall and Todd Gurley?

Craig Haubert: “That is an interesting question, Drew. Marshall and Gurley are two very talented RBs, either of whom could be a featured back. Each also brings some distinct strengths, and as a result they complement each other very well. In Gurley you have a bigger back with an excellent combination of size and speed, and in Marshall you have back who doesn't have the same physical size, but has outstanding acceleration and can be a nightmare when he gets into some space

Now, working under the hypothetical that Chubb commits to Georgia and that Marshall and Gurley are not in the picture, I think he and Michel can be a strong tandem, as well, but to a little different degree. All four backs are very talented and in certain areas you can argue that one is stronger than the others, but I feel that overall Michel might be the most well-rounded of the group. He has a very nice blend of size, speed and strength and can be an every-down back, and as his evaluation says, he can change up his style as needed to get the job done and move the chains.

Chubb is a talented and physically well put together back who is well rounded as well but is not as close to the elite level in as many ways. He can supply some big runs but can contribute more by providing tough yards between the tackles and be a strong blocker. Both can bring a lot of ability to the table like Marshall and Gurley and can offer a fine one-two punch, as well, and there are some similarities between the two pairs, but I feel in their case the well roundedness of Michel’s game could lead to him carrying more of the load. Marshall and Gurley bring a bit more distinctive game-changing traits that create a bit more of even of a tandem attack.