There are many times when the fantasy side of recruiting has vastly different opinions on players than recruiting services seem to. I am not implying this is a negative thing, as I am a culprit of this often. With certain players, though, this can bring some doubt in relation to your evaluation. Carnell Tate exemplifies this for the 2023 recruiting class. Carnell Tate is a consensus top-3 WR for every recruiting service except ESPN, which has been wildly inaccurate for several years now with WRs. In truth, ESPN is not even in the ballpark with predictiveness compared to Rivals and 247. Rivals have him at WR1, 247 has him at WR2, and ON3 has him at WR3.
Tate has received 36 Power 5 offers, including Alabama, Georgia, and of course, Ohio State, where he committed. All of this together leads me to a question; what are we missing? What does every reliable recruiting service, major college program, and Brian Hartline see that we do not? In the case of Tate, I believe the discrepancy can partially be explained by what I’m calling “The Barrier of Information.”
The Barrier of Information
There is a significant lack of information on recruiting, especially compared to NFL draft prospects. For film, you have Hudl, which mostly contains player’s highlight tapes unless you pay for premium services. For stats, you have MaxPreps. And for rankings, you have the recruiting services. Issues arise with these methods because they rely on users to upload. Hudl relies on the player or coach to upload their tape onto the platform. Players sometimes decide not to do that, especially after they’ve locked in their recruitment. The same applies to MaxPreps. And when a player does not have information on one of these platforms, you will not likely find it at all. Sure, you can find some individual games on YouTube, which are mostly just highlights from the sideline where you can’t gather any meaningful information.
Lack of Film
So now you probably wonder what this has to do with Carnell Tate. He is a big-name and top prospect playing at one of the most well-known football high schools, IMG. There has got to be a ton of tape on him.
Carnell Tate has no junior highlight tape. Instead, on his Hudl, there are single-game highlights for six games in 2021. The total playtime of his film on Hudl is just over three minutes, and in those three minutes, he has 13 catches for 221 yards and six TDs. These would be woefully bad numbers for a highlight tape, considering highlights only show the best of the best. It gets even worse when you consider one of those games is against Bishop Sycamore, the famous fake high school team that was all over the news last season.
So the information we have from his Hudl alone can not justify him as a top-3 WR, but what about NFHS? NFHS is another subscription service that carries full high school games for those who don’t know. Fortunately, they have four games available from the 2021 season. It’s a very helpful platform for those looking for extra information on players.
NFHS is not without its issues. At times can be a bit unreliable. Some games can only be partially watched at random times for each video, and it can just refuse to load a game further. Three of IMGs games on NFHS have this issue, so now we are down to just one full game tape of Carnell for the season. On August 20th, 2021, IMG played American Heritage and Tate performed alright but still doesn’t look like an elite recruit. In this game, he ran 15 routes, had seven targets with two catches for 32 yards and a TD, and also a long punt return TD. This is all of the available tapes of Tate from the 2021 season.
This is not a rare occurrence in recruiting, having little to no tape from a season. In those cases, the simple solution is to watch tape from the player’s previous season. With Tate, that would be his sophomore season. Tate did not play football in his 2020 sophomore season. His former high school team Marist had their season canceled due to the pandemic. So now we are dealing with a situation where a player has minimal and unimpressive junior tape and zero sophomore tape. He does have tape available from his freshman season at Marist available, but freshman tape is not something you want to make any actual evaluations of. And even if you did, it is certainly not enough to vault him into the top 3 of his class now.
Lack of Stats
With a lack of film on a player, the next logical progression is to find their stats and see how they performed the entire season, not just the limited sample of games we have. As mentioned before, MaxPreps is the go-to source for high school football stats. There are other ways to acquire them, but this is the first place to go. A lot of the time, MaxPreps is a super helpful platform, but it has a pretty glaring flaw similar to Hudl. They require users to upload stats, and they host those stats. So, a player, a coach, or a local reporter must input those stats into the website. IMG has no 2021 stats on MaxPreps.
That leaves us with very limited options for finding stats. The remaining options are scorebooklive, which has some players Maxpreps doesn’t, finding game logs or stats from a local reporter on Twitter, checking their high school team’s website, checking if they posted their stats on Hudl, and looking for any local papers that keep stats for the teams in their area. I was unable to find any statistics on Tate using these methods.
There is nothing.
This leaves us in a pretty difficult situation for player evaluation. We have no evidence of a player’s high-caliber skill set, yet he is heralded as potentially the best WR in this class by recruiting services. Are we wrong? Are they wrong? Time will tell on that part. Some of you, at this point, may be wondering how it could be justifiable for the services to rank him this high. That is where the barrier of information comes in again.
The services and college teams naturally have significantly more information on hand. If they don’t have the information, they have connections to acquire it. And teams and services naturally end up sharing information as well. This doesn’t necessarily mean they are right, but more information is always beneficial.
Rivals, for example, run their regional camps to get a first-hand look at players. Unfortunately, it seems Tate has never participated in one of these. Something that all the services and college teams have, though, is feet on the ground. Going to players’ schools, seeing them up close, going to games in person, going to camps, and going to 7v7 offseason ball. We have recently started breaking into this area at C2C by going to the Elite 11 camps, building connections, and interviewing people. But it has always been the way for schools and services, and with it comes a lot more information.
Allen Trieu’s Take
No need to take my word on it, though. 247s Midwest Recruiting Analyst Allen Trieu was kind enough to give me his take on this. “We actually have a lot of debate about the wide receivers from 1-10, and I think you’ll see some movement there. I definitely think the in-person exposure is something the services have to use. Even if it is a non-padded setting, I think our staff gained a lot from seeing Carnell, Jurrion Dickey, Brandon Inniss, etc., all in the same setting at the recent Overtime event. We have also had staff see Tate at IMG practices, workouts, and in the various events he has played in with South Florida Express. Without those in-person exposure points, I think he would be a much tougher eval.”.
Brian Hartline’s SFE Pipeline
Hartline’s Connection to SFE
Tate is on a 7v7 team called South Florida Express (SFE), considered one of the best in the nation. You might recognize some of his teammates: Brandon Innis, Nathaniel Joseph, Santana Fleming, Lamar Seymore, Jeremiah Smith, and Joshisa Trader. Assuming they both stay committed, he and Innis will be college teammates. Additionally, Jeremiah Smith, 247s WR1 for the 2024 class, is expected to attend Ohio State. Based on this, it seems Hartline has a Pipeline of sorts with that team.
What Hartline Wants in a WR Recruit
In an article for The Athletic on high school scouting(it’s free to read, I’d recommend checking it out), Hartline was asked what he is looking for in WR recruits, he answered, “I’ll get really nervous when I don’t see fast guys playing fast on film. … If I can’t see that on the film, it makes me nervous because the more I tell you, and the more pre-snap plan and post-snap execution that we do, and if you can’t really mentally calculate that and apply it, it’s gonna make it hard for you to play fast.”. He further elaborated on why JSN is the most impressive WR recruit he has seen lately. “His production was off the charts, and he was doing it against really tough competition in Texas, and it was his sudden-ness, explosiveness, and his ball skills were off the chart, and the way he would seamlessly run through a catch point, pluck the ball and transition to YAC. It was like a long handoff. That was different. His receiver coach did a really good job with him.”.
If these are traits Hartline likes in a receiver, a logical assumption would be that Tate checks at least a decent amount of these boxes for Hartline. He is the best developer of WR talent in CFB and has a pretty good track record. He has misses, of course, Fleming being the big one, obviously, but nothing about Fleming and Tate is comparable other than both being touted as top recruits.
My Thoughts on Tate
As a Player
At the moment, I am ranking Tate pretty conservatively at WR14 simply because I do not have the information on hand to justify him any higher than that. But at the same time, I understand why he could be higher for schools and recruiting services. As a player, he has slot and outside versatility, he has a good release package and gets in and out of his breaks well, which should lend him to being able to separate consistently at the next level. Tate has excellent ball skills with his tracking, body control, and winning contested catches. The weaker parts of his game would be overall athleticism and lack of YAC ability. He is not a bad athlete by any means. He just isn’t high-end in that area. Tate probably won’t ever be in my top 5, but with good senior tape and/or stats, he could definitely be in my top 10, and I expect he will be. There is a risk, though, that he doesn’t post senior tape, which many high-end seniors do, and IMG could not post stats again. That would leave me trapped in the same cycle of lacking information.
His Fit in WR Room
When it comes to the current state of the Ohio State WR room, it is a bit of a toss-up considering the vast amount of talent they have. Here is how I would currently rank the room, including these new recruits, JSN, Marvin Harrison JR, Emeka Egbuka, Brandon Innis, Kyion Grayes, Noah Rogers, Carnell Tate, Julian Fleming, Kojo Antwi, Jayden Ballard, Bryson Rodgers, Caleb Burton, Kamryn Babb, and Kaleb Brown. Compared to the other WRs on Ohio State, I think his skill set matches Marvin Harrison Jr. Both are tall, technically refined receivers that will play outside or inside, almost in a Michael Thomas mold. I am unsure if he has the same level of upside based on my information, but he certainly could.
This may seem wishy-washy, and I don’t have any strong opinions on Tate, which is correct to a certain extent. I choose not to be so bold on a player we do not know much about. It is the safe route and one I’m happy to take with Tate.