Florida's Friday Night Lights — and any other midsummer recruiting camp — isn't just about recruiting highly-touted players. It's about some players getting excellent instruction from college coaches, about high school and 7-on-7 coaches networking with both college coaches and recruiting reporters to better aid their players in getting a college scholarship, and about teams putting on a camp effectively.
But you really only care about the highly-touted players at Florida tonight. I know. It's okay. With both that and the fact that it isn't all that matters in mind, there are five questions to ask when thinking about Friday Night Lights.
1. Who showed up?
The visitor lists that sites pump out before events like these are always an exercise in exciting fans who think all of the players who come to a school's camp could be considered leans to that school. You know what they're rarely followed by? Attendance reports.
It means a lot more that Miami commit Sam Bruce and uncommitted Binjimen Victor are in Gainesville than it ever did that they intended to, right?
And, certainly, it means something that Florida commit and super-recruiter Jake Allen rode with them on the way up from South Florida, and clearly has enough of a rapport to razz them:
I'm going to try to put together as complete a list of prospects who actually showed up in Gainesville this weekend on Saturday or Sunday, but whether you read one here or elsewhere: Cross-reference the recruits who said they were coming to Friday Night Lights with the ones who did — and remember the former class's names.
2. Who showed out?
This is always tough, because the best of the best rarely compete at camps like this, at least not in drills. The true stars at these events are usually there to talk to and be recruited by coaches, to be seen, and to recruit fellow players (hi, Jake Allen); players like Stefon Diggs competing and doing so brilliantly is rare.
Heck, even something like Tyrek Tisdale apparently blazing a 4.3 40 time is rare.
Breaking News I Just Bussed A 4.36 40Yd Dash At Friday Night Lights ❗ #ChompChomp— Tyrek Tisdale ⚡❗ (@TyrekTisdale) July 24, 2015
But underrated players can sometimes impress enough to get scholarship offers, even committable ones, by performing well. Chris Thompson, who got his offer just after FNL in 2012 and committed days later, is a fantastic example of the opportunity these camps present to the underrated prospect: Thompson plays high school games literally 10 minutes from The Swamp, give or take five minutes for traffic, and he wasn't on any team's radar until he showed out on that night in July.
Whether Thompson — who hasn't done a ton for Florida through two years on campus — was a good take or not is a different debate, but it's virtually a guarantee that some player who isn't well-known will become a name to know tonight, especially with the critical mass of recruiting reporters in town to breathlessly report the results of drills.
3. Who committed?
And, well, who knows who could join him? 17-year-olds do crazy and unanticipated things. If a prospect commits, he's probably at least got Florida in the driver's seat — especially if he's a 2016 prospect.
4. Who's blowing smoke?
I'm reposting this quote from then-Florida commit George Brown Jr. from last year's Friday Night Lights preview because it's instructive:
"I’ve been recruiting a lot of people so far already," Brown said. "I’ve been recruiting my good friend CeCe Jefferson, Byron Cowart. I’ve also been talking to Adonis Thomas, Tevon Coney, Auden Tate, Jalen Merrick and a few other people."
The talk back then was that Brown was a conduit to many of those players, and the first part of a "package deal" that could net Florida one or more of them in addition to Brown himself. Of those players, the only one who committed to Florida was Jefferson — and literally every other player in that group, including Brown, went to a distinct different school.
When reading the reports that come out of Friday Night Lights, do so with a semi-skeptical eye.
5. Who stuck around? Who's coming back?
Some players will turn spending Friday night in Gainesville basking in the glow of the lights in the The Swamp into spending a whole weekend in town with their families. Some will set return visits before they leave. Either development is good: The more comfortable a recruit is with spending time with any given program, the better off that program probably is with that recruit.