Nike’s The Opening: Exhibition or Exploitation?

College Football Recruiting, Uncategorized

One could easily argue that a country’s most valuable resource and most important commodity is its youth. For the youth represents hope for a better tomorrow. It’s the possessor of the light passed down from the generations before it.

What the youth also represents, especially in a capitalist society, is the future of the culture of consumption, and a future potential source of profits.

The battle for control of America’s youth is a cutthroat fight, one that’s being waged by some of the world’s most powerful corporations, which recognize the importance of shaping young minds through campaigns centered around fostering ideology, and most importantly, building brand allegiance, disguising the element of commercial exposure as the freedom of choice.

One of the most important battlefields in that everlasting war is the apparel industry.

Within that contentious realm is the biggest slinger of heavy propaganda artillery, Nike, a company which, well, let’s say has always had somewhat of a suspect relationship with the world’s youth.

There’s no new ground to break in talking about the company’s abhorrent sweatshop labor practices, nor are there many revelations to uncover about its marketing tactics, which are mainly based around hawking exorbitantly priced sneakers to the young demographic who have had it blasted into their brains that it’s necessary to “Be Like Mike.”

Let’s tackle this “Opening” thing instead. 

This week, 166 of the best high school football players in the country will make the trek to the Pacific Northwest to bow at the altar of the Swoosh and take part in Nike’s The Opening ritual, which takes place at the company’s main campus headquarters in Beaverton, Oregon. It’s the culmination of a spring schedule that’s included numerous national regional combines and camps.

The highly touted prospects will be put through rigorous physical tests and assorted measurements of athletic prowess: dashes, leaps, shuttles, jumps and other drills. They’ll perform all these tasks while wearing the latest “hot, new, fresh” gear — born of the global supply chain — ranging from shirts, to shoes, to cleats, which Nike is readying to soon unleash and market to the masses.

The buzzword Nike will use to describe this event will be simple and to the point: Showcase.

It’s an opportunity to prove oneself against the best of the best on the grandest of stages, while clad in bright colored attire adorn with the symbols of the host.

Players will be expected to volunteer their perspective about the event in social media diary form on their own personal twitter accounts, without any compensation from Nike of course — maybe even tweet out a picture of the new gear to their followers if the mood strikes them.

The overarching backdrop of college football recruiting is a fitting one. You didn’t have to watch the 30 For 30 about Sonny Vaccaro to know that this is what that is: Recruiting.

“Get the young kids,” is how Sonny eloquently put it.

You can’t help but wonder what type of clever hashtag campaigns a marketing genius like Vaccaro would have thought of if he was in his prime today. Vaccaro may have grown old, but the kids have stayed the same age. Their enthusiasm remains as well.

The desire to escape into a better life, a life where one is rewarded for their skills and properly compensated for all their efforts on the field will always exist.

Today’s world is today’s world.

Today’s world is one in which blue-chip recruits tag apparel companies in their tweets.

https://twitter.com/TheTateMartell/status/736966964644446208

Today’s world is one in which the military industrial complex uses celebrated high school athletes as pawns in its propaganda machine.

swoo

Today’s world is one in which recruits compete in 7-on-7 tournaments as members of  teams named after a cleat, for free, because in today’s world, the participants aren’t just the consumers; they are the marketing tools as well.

So here we are, about to witness another group’s transition from innocent raw talent into something else — a unification ceremony of ideals that may just be a bit beyond their current level of comprehension. Maybe it’s even beyond the grasp of the viewers as well.

The idea of being a willing participant in the marketing spectacle is certainly up for debate.

What separates man from mannequin?

Should exposure be treated as a currency?

What’s the value of the exchange?

Where’s the line between exhibition and exploitation?

An easy answer to those complicated questions in this new age of social media evolving as the dominant new platform is that the lines are becoming even more blurred than usual.

There are no more definitive answers when it comes to the question of morality concerning relationships between major global brands and athletes, especially those on the younger end of the spectrum. More thoughts about the medium of the message and its participants and questions about the process are undoubtedly necessary.

So ask we must.

Mutual benefit between both parties is supposed to be the ultimate goal, isn’t it?

The audience, not the participant, is left to judge if that’s truly the case.

Only one thing’s for sure now: We’re all exposed.

Let’s watch and see what happens.

College Football Recruiting 2016: Breaking Down the Top 10 Classes By State

College Football, College Football News, College Football Recruiting

There’s no right or wrong way for a college football coaching staff to build a great recruiting class. Some coaches prefer to focus on their own backyard and make in-state recruiting the top priority, while others prefer to branch out and go searching around the nation for talent.

Those different strategies and philosophies can be seen in the top 10-ranked recruiting classes for the 2016 class.

Here’s a look at a complete breakdown by state for the top 10 classes (based on 247Sports’ Composite Team Rankings).

* Note: For this data, Washington DC is considered its own state.

College Football Recruiting 2016: State Talent Power Rankings

College Football Recruiting

When looking the national landscape of college football recruiting, there have always been three states—California, Florida and Texas—that stick out above the rest as the country’s top prospect producers.

The Big Three annually produce not only the most high school football players who sign with FBS schools, they also churn out the highest number of heralded blue-chip recruits.

When analyzing the 2016 recruiting class based on 247Sports’ current composite prospect rankings, California, Florida and Texas are yet again a cut above the rest.

Each of three states is home to four 2016 5-star recruits. Plus, they are the clear-cut leaders when it comes to having the number of prospects who are rated as at least 3-stars in the composite ranking.

When using the “3-star and above” measurement to calculate an overall state talent power ranking for the 2016 recruiting class, Florida comes out as the king this year.

Anyone who’s followed recruiting in recent years shouldn’t be surprised at that. The Sunshine State has emerged as an incredible hotbed for young football talent, which is why every powerhouse college football program in the country has tried to connect a recruiting pipeline there.

Florida may be the most talent-rich state for the 2016 recruiting class. But how do other states stack up in terms of the number of quality recruits?

For this power ranking, the “3-star and above” statistic is used to quantify just how much talent each of the 50 states has this year.

Here are the overall state talent power rankings for the 2016 college football recruiting class.

*Note: Unfortunately, yet unsurprisingly, there were five states: Alaska, Maine, Montana, Vermont and Wyoming, that did not quality for the overall ranking, since they did not have any recruit rated as at least three stars.

2017 No. 1 Overall Recruit Dylan Moses Says He Wants to Think Things Through

College Football, College Football Recruiting

Two years ago, Dylan Moses made national headlines when he committed to the LSU Tigers. His commitment was unique since at the time, Moses was just a 15-year-old freshman at University Lab High School in Baton Rouge, Louisiana.

Now, as he prepares to enter his junior year, Moses has made the decision to decomit from the Tigers and reopen his recruitment. In a message posted on his official Twitter account, the 5-star phenom cited his desire to “think things through” and “live the process up to the fullest.”

https://twitter.com/TheDylan1Moses/status/628285423916335104

Considering how unusual it is to see a prospect the caliber of Moses give a commitment to a program at such a young age, it’s not surprising that the highly touted junior has backed off the pledge in order to make sure that LSU truly is the right program for him.

Moses won’t be playing college football for another two years, but he’s already the most coveted and polarizing recruit in the country. A stud high school football player can only go through the recruiting process once in his life. It makes sense that Moses wants to enjoy the process and all the perks that come with it.

The goal is to make the best decision for the future. Luckily for Moses and his family, there’s plenty of time to figure out what the proper destination is.

Ultimately, the first instinct of wanting to stay in Baton Rouge and suit up for the hometown Tigers could turn out to be the right one, or maybe the coveted RB/LB could end up feeling more at home at a place like Alabama, Florida State, Texas or one of the many other premier programs that have offered him a scholarship.

It’s a life-changing decision—one that deserves the proper time and thought to make.

Shawn Robinson Commits to TCU: Horned Frogs Land 5-Star QB For 2017 Class

College Football Recruiting

“Since my first visit, I kind of knew in the back of my mind that it was the right place for me. The offense fits me. The atmosphere is great. I have great relationships with the coaches. After seeing some other campuses and talking to other coaches, I just knew.”

Those were the words of Shawn Robinson, a heralded blue-chip 5-star QB recruit from Guyer High School in Texas, concerning his commitment to TCU.

Robinson, who is currently rated as the No. 1 dual-threat quarterback and the No. 10 overall prospect in the entire junior class by 247Sports, is one of the most sought-after high school football recruits in the country.

Prestigious powerhouse programs such as Alabama, LSU, Michigan, Oklahoma and USC have all offered scholarshipss. However, the Texas native knew in his heart that he belonged in the Lone Star State.

In an interview with the Denton Record-Chronicle, John Walsh—Robinson’s head coach at Guyer—didn’t sound surprised that his quarterback chose TCU.

“He’s the son of a Texas high school football coach. The Big 12 is kind of our conference. We all have some kind of allegiance to the Big 12. His dad has been in the Fort Worth area as a head coach. Sonny Cumbie has done an unbelievable job of recruiting him. I think I saw this coming about six months ago.”

It’ll be another two years before the 6’2’’, 207-pound 16-year-old suits up for the Horned Frogs. But just the fact that Gary Patterson was able to outbid programs with greater recruiting resources and land such a highly touted recruit speaks volumes.

TCU already has an exciting dynamic dual-threat quarterback in Trevone Boykin. If Robinson continues developing on his current track, some day, he could be just as good, if not better than the team’s current star signal-caller.

College Football Recruiting Roundup: 5-26-15

College Football Recruiting

The college football recruiting roundup gives you the day’s most important college football recruiting news and links.

Here are today’s most important college football recruiting stories.

Nebraska Football: Cornhuskers Receive Commitment From 3-Star QB Terry Wilson

College Football Recruiting

3-Star QB Terry Wilson from Del City, Oklahoma officially announced his commitment to Nebraska through Twitter on Tuesday night.

https://twitter.com/GLAProdigy/status/595764054725132290

Wilson, who through for over 2,800 yards and accounted for 28 total touchdowns as a junior in 2014, becomes Nebraska’s fifth commitment of the 2016 recruiting class. The Oklahoma native chose the Cornhuskers over offers from schools such as Arizona State, Colorado, Indiana and Texas Tech.

Terry Beckner Jr. Could Be Mizzou’s Next Sheldon Richardson

College Football, College Football Recruiting

When trying to project what type of player a highly rated blue-chip high school football recruit will eventually become once he reaches the collegiate level, often times the comparison game can reach dangerous levels. Unfortunately, many young athletes are saddled with the pressure of having to be “the next (insert current star)” before ever even enrolling in college.

Sometimes, however, obvious parallels between a proven star and a young up-and-comer whose displayed tremendous potential are just too difficult to ignore.

Such is the case with Jets DT Sheldon Richardson and All-American DT Terry Beckner Jr.

Back in 2009, Richardson—then a dominant All-American standout for Gateway High School in St. Louis—was being showered with accolades and hailed as one of the best overall high school recruits in the nation. The highly touted tackle was ranked as a 5-star prospect by both Rivals and Scout and projected to be a difference-making defender in college.

Six years later, it’s now Beckner who is soaking up the spotlight as one of the premier prospects of the 2015 college football recruiting class. The heralded 5-star prospect hails from East St. Louis, Illinois, which is just a few miles east over the Mississippi River from where Richardson grew up.

On National Signing Day, Beckner followed in Richardson’s footsteps and opted to sign with the University of Missouri, giving the Tigers another potential stud defensive lineman to cultivate for the future.

The fact that both defensive tackles grew up in the greater St. Louis area and opted to go to Colombia to play their college ball is just the starting point for their correlation.

Recorded measurements of both players’ physical statures are about as equal as you can get. Richardson currently measures in at 6’3’’, 294-pounds, while Beckner stacked up at 6’3’’, 298-pounds at Nike’s “The Opening” event this past summer.

Equivalency in terms of size and stature is clear but it’s the natural combination of quickness, power and instincts that both possess which truly jumps off the screen when you turn on their respective game films.

That combination made Richardson a star for Mizzou during his junior campaign in 2012, when he recorded 75 total tackles, including 10.5 tackles for loss and four sacks. It was that breakout performance that led the Jets to pick him with the No. 13 overall pick in the 2013 NFL draft.

It’s too early to say that Beckner will follow the same path as Richardson and become a future first-round NFL draft pick. But it’s certainly not too early to admire the type of rare physical traits and potential he has to offer. During the last two seasons, the tenacious tackle dominated his often over-matched peers, racking up over 100 tackles as both a junior and a senior, while displaying the type of complete skill-set that made recruiting analysts salivate.

Beckner’s decision to pick Missouri over the many other prestigious power programs that courted him will likely prove to be very beneficial in the long run. The Tigers have a well-documented recent history of developing standout defensive linemen such as Richardson, Shane Ray, Aldon Smith, Michael Sam, Kony Ealy, Ziggy Hood and Markus Golden. Plus, playing in the SEC will give the young blue-chip prospect the opportunity to prove himself against some of the best offensive linemen that the collegiate ranks have to offer.

Luckily, Beckner won’t have to take the long road to Colombia like Richardson, who had to spend two years in junior college to work on his grades before enrolling at Missouri. That means ESPN’s No. 2 overall recruit in the 2015 class will have the chance to make an instant impact as a freshman for the Tigers this fall. His presence will be a welcome addition to a defensive line that loses its top four performers from this past season, most notably Shane Ray, who will likely be a top-10 pick in the 2015 NFL draft.

The freakish physical ability that the gifted young DT has to offer already has folks around the SEC buzzing. Now, it’s up to Beckner to prove he can handle the pressure and the hype that comes along with being a top-rated blue-chip recruit.

If he can do that, the Tigers may have just found their next Sheldon Richardson.