Review: Football's Second Season - Scouting High School Game Breakers

If you've followed Corn Nation much, you'd know that I don't follow recruiting very closely. I don't have a lot of faith in recruiting service rankings and there are too many things that can happen to a recruit before he becomes a true asset to your team. Still, you can't help but notice the names that are committing to your school and look at their rankings.

Prior to reading Tom Lemming's story, "Football's Second Season - Scouting High School Game Breakers", my impression of Lemings was that of a snake-oil salesman. I always thought he was one of those guys who looked at high school prospects, then arbitrarily gave them a rank based on what school was recruiting them rather than anything based on reality.

Given my ignorance, it's a good thing Lemming decided to tell his story. In "Football's Second Season" Lemming details his life story, including the process he uses for evaluating high school prospects as part of the college football recruiting process. We learn the hows and whys of how Lemming got into recruiting. He does his damnedest to distance himself from the online recruiting services like Scout.com and Rivals.com by making it clear he outworks them. In 2005-2006, he totalled 55,000 miles and met with over 1,200 recruits. He continually evaluates film, working with college and high school football coaches.

The book is littered with Lemming talking about recruits he found, missed, and stories throughout his career which he started in 1978. Like Bruce Feldman's book, "Meat Market: Inside the Smash-Mouth World of College Football Recruiting", Lemming reveals some of the shady aspects of college recruiting (more on this below).

Lemming offers chapters of advice to recruits, high school football coaches, and parents of recruits. If you're in one of those positions, it would be worth your while to read the book. Lemming also spends some time talking about his Christian faith and its relationship to his work as a recruiting analyst, although he doesn't present it as a personal crusade. You do get the idea that Lemming cares about the kids, and he responds to critics who complain that he favors specific schools. After reading the book I have a great deal more respect for Tom Lemming, although it didn't cure my skepticism about the recruiting process.

The book isn't as entertaining as Feldman's, but the two together make for interesting perspectives on college recruiting. As Lemming is part of the process, his insight is more bubbly than the damning tones found in "Meat Market". As an example, he fairly discusses  Jimmy Clausen's Hollywood-style announcement to attend Notre Dame, and then concludes:

It was a stroke of genius for whoever thought of it - Weis, Clausen, his father. In the wake of Clausen's announcement, Notre Dame got four or five commitments in the next two weeks. All of them said they loved the attention and atmosphere that Clausen brought to Notre Dame with the ESPN cameras. You can't penalize kids who love the exposure in newspapers, radio, television, and the Internet, and do a good job with it.


Fact is, you can penalize them, as the book includes a key point about how these recruits are handled by the media:

Eric Sondheimer of the Los Angeles Times wrote:
"Sportswriters and fans have been given the green light, and they're going to treat [Clausen] as they would any high-profile college or pro athlete. That means every mistake is open to ridicule and every decision made on or off the field is fair game for scrutiny."

Such is Lemmings' book - presents a fair picture of recruiting even if you and I think it's plain wacky most of the times.

Both books reveal that there is a seedy underside to recruiting that we'd rather not know about or admit. Lemmings reveals he's aware of several programs that will do anything to get a recruit, including systems in place where alumni are paying players with the coaches aware of what's happening.

Other problems contained in both books:

  • The arbitrary nature by which recruiting sites rank the prospects, including Feldman's revelation that a recruit lied about his stats after a high school football game.
  • While there are restrictions on coach's contacts, there are no such limits to Internet recruiting services. Feldman points out that these services call players day and night.
  • Text messaging was eliminated by the NCAA this season. Feldman points out that a recruit's text messaging and phone bill ran up to $268 per month when he was being recruited.
  • Both books contain numerous references to recruits who switch commitments at the last minute or simply lie about where they're going. Some are having fun. Some crave publicity. Lemming tries to point out that these are just kids, but warns about them making good decisions during the recruiting process.

"Football's Second Season - Scouting High School Game Breakers" isn't about pure entertainment - it's about Tom Lemming telling his side of the recruiting story. It won't get as much publicity as "Meat Market", but it's still worth reading if you want to learn more about the recruiting process.

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