In November, a high school senior named Blake Carringer tweeted he had received a scholarship offer from Syracuse University. His friends congratulated him on his accomplishments, and scouts began to take notice.
Soon after, more schools began to take notice of the offensive tackle from East Tennessee. Eventually, Carringer tweeted he had received scholarship offers from the University of Georgia and the University of Alabama.
Quickly, the high schooler rose in the recruiting rankings, eventually earning a three-star ranking on the recruiting website, Rivals.com. The ranking was added to his 247Sports composite ranking, and Carringer burst onto the national scene, appearing in numerous recruiting magazines and newspapers.
The problem: Blake Carringer, the three- star lineman, does not exist, or at least not in the form recruiting pages would have you believe.
Blake Carringer, the person, is 5-foot-7, 220 pounds, far from the 6-foot-6, 315-pound giant he appears to be on Twitter.
Carringer was the product of a group of high-schoolers’ imaginations, and recruiting services took the bait hook, line and sinker.
With the rise of the internet and social media, recruiting has been thrust into the national spotlight. Message boards and blogs discuss schools’ recruiting classes, and people acrossthecountrytweetatrecruits,begging them to come play for their favorite school.
Now, the integrity of recruiting rankings and services everywhere is being put under the microscope as followers question their validity.
Recruiting rankings hold power in the world of college football. A high ranking can earn you massive national recognition and offers from top programs across the country. Sometimes that ranking can even carry a player throughout his college career.
Christian Hackenberg is a prime example of this. A product of Fork Union Military Academy in Fork Union, Virginia, Hackenberg was rated as a five-star quarterback and the No. 2 pro-style quarterback in the nation.
He carried those expectations with him to Penn State University, where he was immediately thrown into the spotlight. There, he struggled to truly succeed. Hackenberg played three years for the Nittany Lions, but never once had a completion percentage above 59 percent. His senior year, Hackenberg ranked 104th in the Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS) in completion percentage and 85th in passer efficiency rating.
Still, Hackenberg’s five-star expectations carried him to the 2016 NFL Draft, where he was selected in the 2nd round by the New York Jets. His NFL career went about how you would expect the 85th ranked passer in the FBS’s career to go. Hackenberg played for five NFL teams in three years before finally being cut.
Now, Hackenberg has received a fresh shot as the starting quarterback of the newly- formed Memphis Express of the American Alliance of Football but has struggled yet again. In two games, he has only completed 50 percent of his passes and is averaging less than 100 yards passing. He also has thrown an interception. Still, the reputation he earned as a five-star recruit is helping him to retain his spot as a starter for the Express.
Recruiting is a tough subject to cover. There are tens of thousands of high schools across the country, each with football teams that have numerous athletes. Keeping up with breakout stars requires extensive networks and the skillful use of technology and social media.
Given their power to make or break high school athletes, recruiting rankings must be held to a higher standard or thrown to the wind. Players should not be allowed to hide behind their ranking, and elite athletes like Blake Carringer should never be allowed to gain national focus, even on Twitter.