Tyjon Lindsey is one of the top wide receivers in the nation, has 24 scholarship offers and plans to announce his college commitment on Aug. 22.
But first, he needed to narrow that group to a more manageable number. He released his nine finalists on Twitter in early June.
“These schools were extremely evaluated and I took the time to focus and break down each school for the correct reasons,” said Lindsey, from Centennial (Corona, Calif.).
So why nine and not eight or 10? Lindsey says he didn’t have a number in mind, and nine is what he ended up with.
“The List” has been a rite of passage in recruiting, but social media has turned the reveal into its own event complete with media attention and 140-character responses that range from joy from fans of the colleges on the list to disappointment — and sometimes anger — from fans of the schools left out.
But what’s the “right” number, if there is one?
Lindsey’s former Bishop Gorman (Las Vegas) teammate, quarterback Tate Martell, announced a top 7 in early June and then trimmed it to five days later before picking Ohio State.
Atlanta’s Wendell Carter Jr., the No. 2 basketball prospect in the Class of 2017 according to ESPN.com, announced a final eight. Carter and Gary Trent Jr., ranked No. 9, have said they plan to attend the same school. Trent released a top five this week.
Then there are those who announce a top 10 and even a top 16.
For coaches, that often means an athlete is “playing recruiting.” They like the attention and like to show off how many offers they have. And sometimes the list includes the in-state school that the athlete has visited often or the school that mom or dad attended, even if it is not seriously being considered. There is no doubt external pressure can impact which schools make it.
“I think anytime you go larger than 10, it’s not taken as seriously,” said Scout.com national football recruiting director Brandon Huffman. “You still can only officially visit five schools. You can still only sign with one. Going any bigger than that, especially once you get into the summer before you sign, usually isn’t taken as seriously.
“As it is, sometimes those top 10, 15 or 20, only a handful of those schools are being seriously considered by that recruit, and in a lot of cases, those schools have already moved on to another player or filled up at your position.”
Hayes Fawcett, the Louisiana teen who has become a trusted confidante for recruits because of his photo edits, says he has done an edit with 16 schools, but generally thinks a top five is the way to go. Photo edits are designs that athletes share on social media with their photo surrounded by logos, a neat background and graphics.
“I think five and down lets the fans know how highly the chance of the player committing there,”
And in some ways, therein lies the mystery. Only the recruit – and in many cases the coaches whose schools are on the list – knows just how seriously a player is considering each school.
A year ago before committing to Duke, basketball star Jayson Tatum announced a top 10 and then went to a top four.
“When you start out you feel like you’ve gotta hear everyone out that’s offered you a scholarship,” Tatum said. “Then you get more serious and you try come up with the right number to focus on. I was strong on six then there were four I felt like I wanted to visit to see if I liked. It’s hard when you’re in our position.”
Last summer, Plano East (Texas) linebacker Anthony Hines released a video to narrow his 70-plus offers to 20. Then in early July during The Opening Final, Hines announced with another video that he was trimming his 20 to 10. Hines, ranked as the No. 1 inside linebacker in the Clas of 2017, is up to 90 offers.
The video shows a highlight of Hines in action and then flashes one of the schools, then another highlight and another school and so on.
“For football, I feel like the top 10 is the cutoff to where I pay attention,” ESPN college football recruiting analyst Tom VanHaaren said. “If a coach sees that top 20 list and he’s not on it, 100 percent guarantee it’s not gonna stop him from continuing to recruit the kid.”
And that has been Lindsey’s experience, even with his top nine. Asked if coaches from schools not on his list are still reaching out, he replied, “Yes, they keep coming.”
So much for “The List.”
Contributing: Jason Jordan, USA TODAY High School Sports