Thursday, January 20, 2005

Nike camps: 40-yard dashes and shuttles | by Michael

There's no question that recruitniks love 40-yard dashes and 20-yard shuttles as a measure of a kid's worth. And to a certain extent,'s Nike camps have become the college version of the NFL combine. Everyone oohs and ahs over the recruit who shows up measuring 6'2 and 250 lbs, runs a 4.5 forty, a 4.2 shuttle and benches 185 lbs twenty-five times.

Somewhere along the way, 40-yard dashes at Nike camps acquired a kind of legitimacy. There is little question that they're generally more accurate than self-reported 40-yard dash times, and because kids at one camp are all measured under the same conditions, it's great for comparing kids at the same camp. But what happens when you try to compare kids who posted their times at separate Nike camps? Is that a good idea?

Below is some data gathered from the Rivals database for 20-yard shuttles and 40-yard dashes. All that I did was count up the number of kids who separately recorded shuttle times of 4.0 or better or 40-yard dashes of 4.4 or faster.

At Charlottesville, 20 kids.
At State College, 10 kids.
At Baton Rouge, 9 kids.
At Miami, 6 kids.
At Eugene, 5 kids.
At College Station, 3 kids.
At Palo Alto, 3 kids.
At San Diego, 3 kids.
At Columbus, 1 kid.
At East Rutherford, 1 kid.
At Iowa City, 1 kid.
At Atlanta, 1 kid.

40-Yard Dashes
At State College, 11 kids.
At Miami, 10 kids.
At Columbus, 5 kids.
At Charlottesville, 5 kids.
At Atlanta, 5 kids.
At East Rutherford, 3 kids.
At Baton Rouge, 2 kids.
At College Station, 2 kids.
At Palo Alto, 2 kids.
At San Diego, 2 kids.
At Iowa City, 1 kid.
At Eugene, 0 kids.

My first reaction: did someone in Charlottesville make sure the 20-yard shuttle cones were set up 20-yards apart? Maybe they were only 18 yards apart? How else can you explain the incredible disparity between the results achieved there versus other camps? Was the talent at the Charlottesville Nike camp that much better than what showed up at the other ones?

Second reaction: Is it any coincidence that the participants at State College received such high marks in both categories, compared to the other camps?

Were the athletes at State College really that much better than those at the Florida and Baton Rouge camps? Given the trends in college football and the NFL - that the majority of those players come from the states of Texas, California, Florida, Louisiana, Georgia and Ohio (with New Jersey and Pennsylvania clearly trailing those five, though I'm not sure of the exact order) these results don't seem to reflect that trend. It would seem as though the best athletes are not coming from Texas (College Station), Georgia (Atlanta) and California (San Diego/Palo Alto).

All in all, it's hard to reach any water-tight conclusions...but what it does suggest is that it's nearly impossible to adequately compare kids who ran 40-yard dashes or shuttles at different Nike camps, and that the apparent "legitimacy" that Nike camp numbers seem to command needs to be taken with a grain of salt. In other words, it's no problem to compare kids' timed events at the same camp, but that's about it as far as the usefulness of these numbers.