ESPN college football analyst Kirk Herbstreit, a former Ohio State Buckeyes’ quarterback, got into it on Twitter this week with a five-star recruit who suggested that Ohio State should give backup quarterback Dwayne Haskins Jr. more playing time. Five-star recruits Jackson Carman and Micah Parsons both commented on that on social media. Herbstreit responded with a statement that recruits should “keep quiet and worry about their own teams, Carman suggested that other schools might be more receptive to his opinions and called Herbstreit “a sheep,” and Herbstreit said Ohio State might be better off without Carman.
Herbstreit then extended the feud Saturday on ESPN’s College GameDay, saying five-star players are “replaceable” and “a dime a dozen”:
— brandon (@MGoBean) September 16, 2017
“Five-star recruits, some of them think they’re more important than they really are. They’re very replaceable. They’re a dime a dozen.”
Those comments from Herbstreit are just patently false. As Matt Hinton has explored in several deep-dive studies over the years, recruiting rankings absolutely do matter; while there are of course some two or three-star players who wind up excelling and some five-star recruits who flop, on the whole, recruiting rankings predict performance very well, with one in four five-star recruits from 2008 to 2012 being named an All-American versus 1 in 127 two-star recruits and recruiting results predicting games extremely well on the team level.
But even if five-star status didn’t matter, five-stars wouldn’t be “replaceable” or “a dime a dozen,” as only about 30 five-stars sign each year. So even if you don’t think they matter, they’re not easily replaced. And Carman in particular might be tough to replace; the 6’6”, 330-pound offensive tackle is reportedly Ohio State’s top recruiting target, and the top recruit in Ohio.
This isn’t even the first inflammatory remark Herbstreit’s made about Carman and other five-star recruits this week. Here’s what he said on The Ryen Russillo Show Thursday, as transcribed by Stephen Pianovich at Land of 10:
“I’m a big respect guy. And I think some of these 5-star guys, they get a little full of themselves because nobody talks real to them,” Herbstreit said. “Everybody plays pretend because they live in a world where everyone pats them on the back.
“I don’t even know that kid. I don’t follow recruiting, I have no idea who he is. I didn’t like that he thought he had an opinion about a guy who was a three-time captain, the only one in the history of a school, and was like ‘get him out and get my guy in.’ ”
Herbstreit added that he thought the Buckeyes might be better off without someone like Carman on their team.
“And then he says he’s gonna go to Clemson or USC. Good, that would be a great decision for you. I think it’d be better for Urban Meyer to not have a guy like that on his roster.”
It seems somewhat absurd that Herbstreit, one of ESPN’s highest-profile analysts, can just flat-out say “I don’t follow recruiting” and “I have no idea who he is” about one of the best high school players out there, especially given the demonstrated importance of recruiting rankings for both individual players and teams. But even beyond Herbstreit being wrong, and beyond him trying to tell unpaid athletes what they can and cannot say (and he’s previously said they should remain unpaid and shouldn’t say anything on social media, nice positions to hold if you’re well-compensated to talk about college football and regularly make all sorts of inflammatory comments, on social media and elsewhere), it’s interesting to consider his effect on the sport he covers here.
As previously mentioned, Carman is one of the top recruits out there, and 247 Sports has him as 94 per cent likely to choose Ohio State. But what if Herbstreit’s decision to keep this feud running turns Carman away, and has him choose another school? One player isn’t the be-all and end-all for a program, but a player of this caliber can make a big difference. And if inflammatory comments from a ESPN analyst alter where he goes, that’s an analyst having a pretty big impact on the sport he covers. If Carman does decide to go elsewhere, that might lead to even less love for Herbstreit in Columbus.