On Wednesday, 247Sports updated their rankings for their top 247 prospects in the 2020 class. With that move came a lot of controversy, and some of the biggest surrounded a Tennessee commit.
Quarterback Harrison Bailey out of Marietta, Georgia has been committed to the Vols since November 29th of 2018. When he announced his commitment to Tennessee, Bailey was ranked as the No. 85 player in the 2020 class per 247Sports. When he received his initial ranking all the way back on August 15, 2017, he was rated as the No. 49 overall prospect in the country in the 2020 class.
But ever since then, Bailey has dropped. That continued this past week.
When 247Sports updated their rankings, Bailey fell another 49 spots in the overall rankings, putting him outside the top-200 overall recruits. That drop came after he performed in the Elite 11 Finals and also won the quarterback MVP award at the Rivals Five-Star Challenge.
Vol fans were left wondering why UT’s quarterback commit continues to fall in the rankings. Some stated that 247Sports had a bias against Tennessee and dropped Bailey because he was committed to the Vols. Other claimed that 247Sports preferred what recruits did in camps rather than on the field. That was certainly the accusation of Kenyatta Watson Sr. on Thursday.
Watson, 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.” On Thursday, he discussed the recent rankings reshuffling by 247Sports and bashed Barton Simmons, the National Scouting Director for 247Sports, relentlessly throughout the podcast. One of his issues he brought up was that he felt 247Sports was “screwing over” Harrison Bailey.
“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.”
Simmons had a chance to respond to that on Friday.
On the “Biggins & Power Hour” on the 247Sports Recruiting Podcast on Friday, Simmons joined Greg Biggins and Charles Power of 247Sports to discuss the recent rankings changes. Among several other topics, Harrison Bailey’s drop in the overall rankings was talked about.
According to Simmons, he and the other analysts involved with adjusting rankings have dropped Bailey so much in the rankings over the last year because his progression hasn’t been what they thought it would be. Simmons says he thinks Bailey is still a good player, but his early ranking hasn’t matched how the landscape of the 2020 class has unfolded.
“This is sort of the unfortunate position that we’re in, and hey, we’re getting paid to do this, and I’m not crying over it. But we’ve got to sit here and defend a movement of Harrison Bailey against Tennessee fans who are coloring it as if we think he’s not good,” Simmons explained. “And I hate that for Harrison Bailey, who has to sit there and read that, because it’s not the case. Ultimately what it is, is he was ranked really early, he was really productive early in his career. Same can be said for (Ohio State commit) Jack Miller — guys that were really productive really early in their career.
“As the picture has broadened, our opinion changes, and it’s kind of a slight change in the grand scheme of things.”
Both Bailey and Miller were ranked as top-50 overall prospects in their initial ranking back in August of 2017. Now, both quarterbacks are outside the top 200 overall prospects in 247Sports’ rankings, with Bailey coming in at No. 210 overall and Miller checking in at No. 214 overall.
So what’s been the main reason both have fallen so far in the last two years?
“I think to a degree, both of them, our hang-up is mobility,” Simmons said. “I’m not even talking about testing results, 40 times. It’s more about, can you make plays outside the structure of the offense? Do you have the feet, sudden body movement, pocket quickness to avoid, to sort of play with some twitch in the pocket?
“I think certainly for Harrison Bailey, I think that’s been one of just the hold-ups with us.”
As Simmons said previously, though, that doesn’t mean he thinks Bailey is a bad prospect. In fact, he likens Bailey’s potential as a collegiate quarterback to a highly successful SEC quarterback who terrorized the Vols the past few seasons.
“I think one comparison I would make for Harrison Bailey, he’s actually a lot, to me, like Kyle Shurmur, who had a really good career at Vanderbilt,” Simmons explained. “(He) was really accurate, had a great arm. But you’ve got to have that thing blocked up for Kyle Shurmur. He’s got to be in the pocket.”
Shurmur finished his Vanderbilt career as possibly the greatest Commodore quarterback in terms of pure statistics. He broke his own school record in 2018 with an 88.6 percent completion percentage in the Commodore’s throttling of the Vols, and he finished atop Vanderbilt’s record books in a number of categories.
In four seasons (three as the full-time starter), Shurmur accumulated 8,865 passing yards, 64 touchdown, and 29 interceptions while completing 57.1 percent of his 1,264 pass attempts. But mobility was always a concern for Shurmur, as he finished with negative 326 rushing yards in his career and was sacked around 70 times in his three years as a full-time starter.
Still, that kind of career at Tennessee for Bailey would mean he finished in the top five in most every major statistical category in UT history.
Simmons believes Bailey is still a high-quality quarterback prospect, but he feels his detriments keep him from being rated as one of the top overall prospects in the 2020 class. Bailey is still the No. 5 pro-style quarterback, and Simmons thinks he’ll eventually end up being drafted into the NFL.
“I’d love to have Harrison Bailey ranked 100th in the country, but when you start comparing the other quarterbacks that we’re seeing and the skill sets, there’s just guys that we feel more confident in, particularly the more we see them,” Simmons stated. “So you have to sort of reset a little bit and get the rankings to a place where we feel more conviction about them.
“The long and short of it is, those guys are both — Harrison and Jack are really good football players, and they’ve been really productive in their high school career. But everyone is a really good football player in this Top247. We’re projecting everyone in this list to play in the NFL. I think that’s relevant to restate.”
Recruiting rankings matter, but they also don’t. It’s a fine balance to walk when discussing recruiting and projecting talent. Every year, former five-stars go undrafted or are taken late in the NFL Draft, and every year former two-stars or walk-ons are taken in the first three rounds. But data also proves that teams that compete for championships in college football usually have greater ratios of four and five-star prospects than other teams.
No evaluation service is 100 percent accurate. Vol fans know this firsthand. And they hope Harrison Bailey proves a few people wrong.