It's hard to watch highlight videos sometimes, because there's always that little voice in the back of your head going "hey, these are supposed to make players look good so you don't get that great of an idea of how good they are at football." So when a highlight tape is amazing, the first thought that crosses my mind is "this is only a small glimpse of the fun things a person can do, but these aren't consistently a thing that they're capable of." And when they're bad? Yikes.
But still, highlight videos are so god damn fun they're the best I love them so very much. In fact, I love them so much that I decided to watch the 20 National Signing Day highlight videos by the fine folks at GoPSUTV and rank them based on how much I enjoyed them. These rankings are 100 percent subjective, so if you disagree, cool. I also included fun little write-ups with my super expert analysis* on all of the videos. And, of course, you can click on the players' names and watch them. Let's go 20-to-1 and rank these pieces of film.
20. Brenon Thrift – This is what happens when a linebacker moves to the defensive line, in good (motor, never gives up on plays, can read things well) and bad (you can tell he’s still learning the position) ways. Thrift seems to be really good at diagnosing plays and attacking, which is fun, because it’s one of those "ya can’t teach that" things.
19. Alex Gellerstedt – You can see that Gellerstedt is still getting used to playing on the offensive line, but you can also see that he has a lot of flashes of talent. This one’s fun to watch because he’s a minimum of like six inches taller than everyone and it makes for a fun visual when they get helplessly driven backwards.
18. Zech McPhearson – Weirdly enough, there aren’t a ton of highlights of McPherson playing DB in his tape, which is why he’s so low (do find some DB film of his, he can play). But watch the dude return kicks and follow blocks and all that. He’s so insanely good at that, it rules.
17. Alex Barbir – The best part of this video is that the return men on kickoffs are just like "screw it, Barbir’s kicking, we have no chance at returning this." And the funny thing is, they don’t because Barbir kicks footballs out of the end zone like it’s an easy, normal thing for humans to do.
16. Shaka Toney – Most of Toney’s game is predicated on speed right now, and while he needs to work on other elements of this game, you can see that he can motor. He’s capable of blowing people up on the regular because he’s just faster than everyone.
15. Antonio Shelton – For a large man, Shelton can rumble. He can also hit very hard, because he is a large man, and large men usually hit hard when you put them on a football field.
14. Will Fries – It’s hard to get consistently fired up over an offensive lineman’s highlight tape, and Fries proves that. However, watching individual moments of nastiness makes watching an offensive lineman’s highlight tape fun, and Fries proves that, too.
13. Dae'lun Darien – Hey, wanna watch a person who is half a foot taller than defenders go up and high point a lot of footballs? Well, I have good news: Darien’s highlight tape exists.
12. Michal Menet – His tape doesn’t show him committing cartoonish acts of violence the way that one of his fellow lineman's tape does, but Menet can scoot for a big man, and trust me, it’s entertaining as hell. He’s also a ruthless lineman. I like that.
11. Ellison Jordan – Ellison Jordan is to footballs what really hungry people are to lunch buffets: they are going to pursue them with an impressive ferocity, and they are going to eat.
10. Danny Dalton – Do you like watching big ol’ tight ends do fun stuff in a passing game? Well, good news: you’ll love watching Dalton’s tape.
9. T.J. Johnson – My favorite football players are defensive backs who have a "screw you, you are not catching this football because I am going to lock you down" mentality. Johnson has that, and it comes through on his tape.
8. Tyrell Chavis – This is what happens when a very large person is much faster than he has any business being for his size and much stronger than anyone can handle. Chavis just attacks offensive linemen, and there’s nothing the poor saps can do about it.
7. Blake Gillikin – On the first kick of his tape, Gillikin boots the ball from his nine yard line. By the time the play ends, the ball has gone out of bounds…at the opponent’s 16. He’s also hitting field goals from 50+, sending kickoffs out of the end zone, and having punts downed inside the opponent’s five. Lord have mercy.
6. Connor McGovern – Imagine watching a home movie of your dad playfully throwing you lightly onto your bed as a child. Now imagine your dad is Connor McGovern, you are some poor defensive lineman in NEPA, the bed is a football field, and instead of playfully throwing you lightly he’s going all Kevin Steen vs. El Generico you. That.
5. Cameron Brown – You go to the 35 second mark right now and laugh at this gargantuan man (6'5, 210) doing hilarious things on a football field. There are a bunch of plays in here where Brown is bigger and quicker than everyone, so opponents are helpless. I like when a person's tape makes an opponent look helpless.
4. Shane Simmons – It’s so enjoyable watching Simmons, who is all of 6’3 and 230, chase down skill position guys like it's the easiest thing on earth and then absolutely nuking them. I highly recommend it.
3. Jake Zembiec – Because he played in an offense where his skill position guys normally ruined defenders, watching Zembiec throw isn’t too fun (it’s still fun because he's dropping dimes, you’re just not watching prime Peyton Manning shred the ’86 Bears or anything). What is fun is watching Zembiec run – he’s a bigger QB and he moves like he’s a dual-threat guy. Whether he's extending plays or executing designed runs, his feet are outstanding.
2. Daniel Joseph – VIOLENCE. PURE, UNADULTERATED VIOLENCE. The fake punt highlight in this is the single funniest highlight I have ever seen (in a good way). This is like watching a grown man play football with a bunch of 6 year olds. I honestly don't know if there's anything Joseph can't do on a football field based on this video.
1. Miles Sanders – This is probably what it was like to watch Michelangelo paint the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel: you know you’re watching art, straight from the hands of someone who is capable of unparalleled moments of brilliance. And the best part? We get to watch Sanders work on Saturdays in the fall starting in September. Heck yeah.