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Posted: Friday January 23, 2009 10:10AM; Updated: Friday January 23, 2009 11:37AM
Andy Staples Andy Staples >

Picking the top uncommitted football recruits against a computer

Story Highlights

Economists designed a computer model to predict where recruits will sign

The computer model bases its predictions on the behavior of previous recruits

From Reuben Randle to Manti Te'o to Greg Reid, where will top recruits go?

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Today, I'll unleash my inner John Henry. Or better yet, Garry Kasparov. I'm going head-to-head against a machine, and, if history has taught us anything, I'm going to lose.

During an interview with Mike DuMond for our State of Recruiting package, DuMond, an economist at CRA International in Tallahassee, Fla., asked a favor. Would I mind challenging his computer model by predicting the destinations of the nation's top football recruits? DuMond, along with fellow economists Allen Lynch and Jennifer Platania, designed a model in 2005 to guess the college choices of top recruits. This year, the economists wanted to test the model against a reporter who follows recruiting to see if cold logic can beat human interaction when trying to predict the whims of 17- and 18-year-old males. Just call it Andy vs. Deep Recruitnik.

Today, the computer and I will guess the destinations of the 17 uncommitted members of the Rivals 100. I've interviewed many of these players, and for those I haven't, I have the advantage of being able to read news coverage of the players' recruitments. The computer model bases its predictions on the behavior of previous recruits. In the past, according to the economists, elite recruits have proven that they typically will choose a BCS school with a large stadium close to their home.

So which method is more accurate? We'll find out on Signing Day.

Reuben Randle, WR, Bastrop (La.)

Computer pick: LSU

Human pick: Alabama

We may both be wrong. Oklahoma is Randle's third finalist, and Randle has done a good job of keeping his favorites close to the vest.

Devon Kennard, DE, Desert Vista (Phoenix)

Computer pick: USC

Human pick: Texas

A knee injury cost Kennard his entire senior season, but it didn't stop the nation's top schools from recruiting him. Cal is Kennard's other finalist.

Dre Kirkpatrick, Gadsden (Ala.) City

Computer pick: Alabama

Human pick: Alabama

It's awfully hard to get a top-rated player from Alabama out of Alabama. Florida and Texas are trying hard to pull it off, though.

Jelani Jenkins, LB, Our Lady of Good Counsel (Olney, Md.)

Computer pick: Penn State

Human pick: Penn State

Jenkins lists Penn State, Florida, USC, Stanford and Notre Dame as his finalists, but so far, his only official visits have been to Florida and Penn State.

Manti Te'o, LB, Punahou (Honolulu)

Computer pick: Notre Dame

Human pick: USC

Don't count out BYU in this race, which also includes Stanford and UCLA. Te'o is only considering schools that will allow him to go on a two-year Mormon mission if he chooses to take one when he turns 19.

Greg Reid, DB, Lowndes (Valdosta, Ga.)

Computer pick: Georgia

Human pick: Florida State

Reid spent almost a year committed to Florida, but he eliminated the Gators this week. He is also considering Alabama, Tennessee and Auburn. The Tigers, thanks mostly to defensive coordinator Ted Roof, have come on strong in recent weeks.

Cliff Harris, CB, Edison (Fresno, Calif.)

Computer pick: Oregon

Human pick: USC

This appears to be a Ducks-Trojans battle. Edison teammate T.J. McDonald is headed to L.A. Will Harris join him?

Morgan Moses, OL, Meadowbrook (Richmond, Va.)

Computer pick: Virginia

Human pick: North Carolina

Butch Davis continues to recruit well in Chapel Hill, and the 6-foot-7, 347-pound Moses would be a massive addition.

Patrick Patterson, WR, Noxubee County (Macon, Miss.)

Computer pick: Ole Miss

Human pick: Southern Miss

Southern Miss coach Larry Fedora pulled a shocker last year when he convinced receiver DeAndre Brown to come to Hattiesburg despite offers from some of the SEC's top teams. Could Fedora do it again? He'll have to beat out Ole Miss, Alabama and Tennessee.

Tajh Boyd , QB, Phoebus (Hampton, Va.)

Computer pick: Oregon

Human pick: Oregon

Boyd had a fantastic game at the U.S. Army All-American Bowl, and he probably intrigued any coach looking for a dual-threat quarterback. He also is considering Ohio State and Clemson.

Marcus Hall, OT, Glenville (Cleveland)

Computer pick: Ohio State

Human pick: Ohio State

It's always fun when Michigan and Ohio State go after the same player. Every time it happens, the rivalry deepens. Hall also is considering Miami.

Marlon Brown, WR, Harding Academy (Memphis, Tenn.)

Computer pick: Tennessee

Human pick: Florida

Brown, a 6-foot-6, two-sport star, was the player Tennessee coach Lane Kiffin was talking about in his introductory press conference. Brown had narrowed his choices to the above schools, Georgia and Ohio State, but it appears Ole Miss has also jumped into the mix.

Tyrik Rollison, QB, Sulphur Springs (Texas)

Computer pick: Oklahoma State

Human pick: Auburn

Texas A&M, Arizona, Oregon, Baylor and Kansas State are after this dual-threat signal-caller. He's scheduled to visit Auburn soon, and new Tigers offensive coordinator Gus Malzahn should make a strong pitch that Rollison will fit perfectly in his no-huddle spread. Of course, Rollison's skill set also fits the offenses at Oklahoma State and Oregon.

Orson Charles, TE, Plant (Tampa, Fla.)

Computer pick: Florida

Human pick: Georgia

Charles would fit well in the role Florida sophomore Aaron Hernandez currently plays, but he's getting plenty of prodding from his high-school quarterback, Aaron Murray. Murray already has enrolled at Georgia. Still, don't count out Florida State, USC, Tennessee or Miami. Charles has played things close to the vest, and that likely will continue until he makes his choice.

Xavier Su'a Filo, OL, Timpview (Provo, Utah)

Computer pick: Utah

Human pick: LSU

Like Te'o, Su'a Filo likely will take a two-year mission. The coaches from the schools recruiting him (BYU, LSU, UCLA, USC and Utah) understand that. If LSU seems an odd addition to this mix, remember this: Former BYU head coach Gary Crowton, who served his own mission in South Korea from 1979-81, is the Tigers' offensive coordinator.

Tana Patrick, LB, North Jackson (Stevenson, Ala.)

Computer pick: Alabama

Human pick: USC

Nick Saban can't get everyone, can he? The Crimson Tide already have one stud outside linebacker in this class (Andalusia's Nico Johnson). Patrick is scheduled to visit USC this weekend, and Pete Carroll should remember from recruiting current Crimson Tide linebacker Jerrell Harris last year how hard it is to yank top players from Alabama. Besides the Crimson Tide and the Trojans, Patrick also is considering Auburn and Miami.

Jarvis Jones, DE, Carver (Columbus, Ga.)

Computer pick: Georgia

Human pick: LSU

This one is anybody's guess. Jones has revealed little during the process, but he also is considering Florida, Texas and USC.

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