Sprint speed, height, and weight are the best predictors of how high school football players will be ranked by college recruiting scouts, reports a study in the May issue of The Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, official research journal of the National Strength and Conditioning Association. The journal is published by Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, a part of Wolters Kluwer Health.
Jamie J. Ghigiarelli, Ph.D., CSCS, of Hofstra University, Hempstead, N.Y., analyzed physical characteristics and performance data on elite high school football players to determine which factors best predicted player rankings. He writes, "The results may help strength and conditioning specialists better understand the anthropometric and physical attributes that distinguish highly recruited from recruited players and which attributes are likely to predict higher star value scores."
Combine Performance Factors Predict Recruits 'Star' Rankings
The study used scouting data on 2,560 elite high school football players between 2001 and 2009. Factors such as height and weight, sprint time, and vertical height jump were analyzed for association with the players' "star" rankings, as assigned by a national ranking website (www.scout.com). Dr. Ghigiarelli looked for factors that could differentiate "highly recruited" players (4- and 5-star rankings) from "recruited" players (2- and 3-star rankings). Both groups were considered competitive on the Division 1-A collegiate level.
The most consistent factors identifying the two groups of players were height, weight, and sprint speed. On average, the 4- and 5-star players were about one inch taller and five pounds heavier than the 2- and 3-star players. Average 40-yard sprint time was 4.76 seconds for the highly recruited players versus 4.84 seconds for the recruited players.
Forty-yard sprint time predicted star value for all ten positions—overall, it explained up to 25 percent of the variation in star rankings. Height and weight were significant predictors for seven of the ten positions. Vertical jump height was a significant predictor for only one position (tight end).
"Over the past three decades, football players have become bigger, faster, stronger, and more powerful," according to Dr. Ghigiarelli. There is debate over the use of performance measures from scouting combines to evaluate players' on-field abilities. However, these measures may help coaches and trainers evaluate the effectiveness of their training programs. Few studies have looked at how physical and performance factors affect recruiting potential in high school football players.
The results suggest that height, weight, and sprint speed are the key factors affecting rankings for high school football players. The article includes tables breaking down factors related to star rankings for players in ten different positions, which Dr. Ghigiarelli believes could help to guide training regimens for players who are at—or trying to reach—the elite competitive level. "These physical characteristics can be used as obtainable training goals," he writes. "If these goals are reached, it's plausible a player may increase the likelihood of obtaining more Division 1-A scholarship offers."