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Recruiting Coordinator: Harrison Bailey is Getting “Screwed Over”

(Photo via Detroit Free Press/John Silas)

Recruiting rankings are a hot topic of conversation for college football fans, especially in the offseason. Recently, one of Tennessee’s 2020 commits has been a focal point of discussion among Vol fans and recruiting analysts because of his slide down the rankings.

Four-star quarterback and Vol commit Harrison Bailey is considered one of the best pro-style quarterbacks in the 2020 recruiting cycle. He’s a top-50 overall prospect on Rivals and is rated as the No. 5 pro-style quarterback on 247Sports. But in 247Sports’ most recent rankings update, Bailey dropped several spots in his overall ranking, following a theme that’s been prevalent since he committed to Tennessee in November of 2018.

The Marietta High School quarterback was rated as the No. 59 overall prospect in the 247Sports Composite rankings when he committed to the Vols on November 29th. The regular 247Sports rankings listed him as the No. 85 overall recruit in the 2020 class.

Since then, though, Bailey has only dropped in the rankings.

Every time 247Sports has updated their overall rankings in the 2020 class, Bailey has slid down their board. There are a myriad of reasons for why, including other prospects having breakout junior seasons and other players performing better at camps. But Bailey hasn’t been a slouch on the field or in camps, either.

Bailey won the MVP for the quarterback position at the Rivals Five-Star Challenge this summer, and he finished his junior campaign with Marietta completing 63.3 percent of his 335 pass attempts for 2,809 yards, 29 touchdowns, and six interceptions according to MaxPreps.

Still, Bailey has dropped significantly in recruiting rankings over the last several months.

A drop in rankings is understandable, and often times too much is made of recruiting rankings and how many stars a prospect has. But Vol fans have been left wondering why UT’s 2020 quarterback commit has plummeted so far since the end of his junior season.

One former coach and recruiting coordinator believes that Bailey is just one of several prospects in the 2020 class who is getting “screwed over” by recruiting services.

Kenyatta Watson Sr., the former recruiting coordinator for Grayson High School in Georgia and the current Under Armour Southeast Recruiting Coordinator, is a co-host for the “Toe the Line Podcast,” and on Thursday he discussed the latest recruiting updates on 247Sports. Watson’s son, Kenyatta Watson Jr., was a defensive back for Grayson before signing with the Texas Longhorns in the 2019 recruiting class. The elder Watson got to see Bailey up close when Marietta faced Grayson during the 2018 season, and he thinks Bailey isn’t getting a fair shake.

“I’m gonna tell you another kid they’re screwing over: Harrison Bailey,” Watson stated. “Harrison Bailey’s dropped over 80, 90 spots, some crazy amount of spots since he committed to Tennessee. All this kid has done is perform every single year he’s been in high school. He won…the Five-Star Challenge. He won all this stuff, and the kid keeps dropping. Guess what? This man hasn’t thrown double-digit interceptions in no season he’s been in high school. It ain’t his fault he’s been hurt. He gets hurt because he’s playing behind a below average offensive line. The film proves it.

“I watched this kid up close and personal take a beating against Grayson last year. He was like 5-for-14, maybe 40 yards in the first half. He comes out in the second half and throws for over 370 yards and five touchdowns. The kid kept getting up. Kevin Harris (four-star Alabama signee in the 2019 class) was pounding this kid. He was getting pounded, and he kept standing up, coming back and fighting, fighting, fighting. The stats don’t lie.”

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According to MaxPreps, Bailey actually finished the game against Grayson with 281 passing yards, five touchdowns, and one interception, but Watson’s overall point still stands: Bailey had a weak offensive line in 2018 and still managed to put up some big numbers.

Bailey only threw six interceptions in 335 passing attempts as a junior in nine games, and he tossed just five in 203 attempts in six games as a sophomore according to MaxPreps. That gives him an interception percentage of just 2.05 percent in his high school career.

And Bailey has been doing that against stellar competition.

Marietta plays in the highest classification of high school football in the state of Georgia. So Bailey hasn’t been racking up his stats against mediocre teams.

Watson was asked about Brock Vandagriff, one of the top-rated quarterbacks in the 2021 class. Vandagriff recently committed to Oklahoma and is ranked as the No. 14 overall prospect in the class according to the 247Sports Composite rankings. Vandagriff plays for Prince Avenue Christian High School in Georgia, a private school in the single-A classification of Georgia high school football.

Vandagriff threw for 3,190 yards, 28 touchdowns, and seven interceptions while completing 64.9 percent of his 296 pass attempts as a sophomore last season per MaxPreps. Watson thinks that Bailey would blow those numbers out of the water if he played for a team in the same classification as Vandagriff.

“What would Harrison Bailey do in 1-A football?” Watson stated. “He’d probably throw for 10,000 yards in a season.”

Watson’s main point on this particular episode of the “Toe the Line Podcast” was to blast Barton Simmons, the National Director of Scouting for 247Sports. According to Watson, Simmons and the rest of the recruiting analysts have a “flawed system” that looks more at performances during seven-on-seven drills and camps rather than on the field.

“Basically, you’re telling America, you’re telling everybody ‘I don’t care what you do in your football season, as long as you run fast on a track and dominate seven-on-seven, we’re going to jump you from 370 to 28,'” Watson said. “No, no, no. That’s a problem. This is flawed. This system is flawed, and it has to stop.”

Watson is referring to four-star wide receiver Arian Smith out of Lakeland, Florida. Smith — who is also an elite track athlete in high school — was bumped up to the No. 28 overall prospect in 247Sports’ updated rankings. Just a few months ago in March, though, Smith was the No. 366 overall prospect on 247Sports.

Watson is specifically referencing a Twitter interaction Simmons had with a fan when questioned about Smith’s rise in the rankings. A Florida fan asked why Smith saw such a significant jump in his rankings despite “no real football games” having been played and the fact that Smith hasn’t attended any camps. The Florida fan implied that the real reason for Smith’s leap in rankings was because he has been getting a lot of interest from the Georgia Bulldogs.

Simmons came back with an explanation, though Watson wasn’t buying it:

The fact that Smith had very little wide receiver film to judge from high school led to uncertainty about his ranking at first, and it made recruiting analysts such as Simmons unsure where he would play in college. But once Smith got to practice at wide receiver in seven-on-seven  — and showed off elite speed on the track team — he was given a better ranking.

Watson clearly believes that a player’s ranking should be more indicative of their performance on the football field with pads on rather than running in shorts with no pass rush in a seven-on-seven environment. Thus his opinions on Bailey’s drop in the rankings and Smith’s rise in the ratings.

Regardless of Watson’s main points, Vol fans will be happy to know they aren’t the only ones thinking Harrison Bailey isn’t deserving of his recent drops in recruiting rankings.

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