The two Purple Hurricanes players are each given a grade of 75 on ESPN.com’s Recruiting database along with scouting reports detailing the players’ strengths and weaknesses.
Barden, who committed to UNC-Charlotte before the season, is ranked by ESPN.com as the 40th best pocket passer in the class of 2014 (ESPN.com distinguishes quarterbacks as either dual-threat or pocket passer). He also is ranked as the 83rd best player in Georgia.
Along with his rankings, ESPN.com bestows several compliments on Cartersville’s quarterback.
“A good looking prospect who is capable of helping a multitude of offensive philosophies and should be recruited by a lot of the mid-level BCS schools,” the scouting report said before Barden committed.
Perhaps the most encouraging comments on Barden are under the “Mental-Makeup” section of the scouting report.
“Displays a true quarterback’s make up as he calmly sits in the pocket bouncing on his toes with his eyes on the move. He can take a hit, get up and throw it again, or he can move, stop and still make a throw. He has his wits about him and exudes confidence.”
Barden has come a long way since his freshman year at Cartersville High. Maybe the most notable change has been in his physique.
“Barden is a very good size for a pocket passer both in his height and his weight, plus he still has a chance to go through a growth spurt. Plays with good strength as evidenced when he breaks tackles as he leaves the pocket. His mobility is well above average for a pocket passer and when he scrambles he is capable of big plays.”
Against Cass on Friday, Barden went 13-for-30 running the ball. It was not his best performance, but the scout who wrote on him for ESPN.com actually believes his accuracy and mechanics are on point.
“Throws all the throws well. He can get the short one out in a hurry, feather the deeper ball and drive the intermediate ball with all of them being catchable without effort by his receivers,” the scout wrote. “The ball gets out of his hand quickly. His release is a compact one without wasted motion. When he releases it, it jumps out, displaying plenty of arm strength without a whole lot of effort.”
Barden is given a ranking of 88 by 247Sports.com, making him a three-star recruit and the 27th-ranked pro-style quarterback in the class of 2014. The recruitment website also ranks him as the 53rd overall recruit in the state of Georgia in the class.
Ford, a Kansas State Wildcat commit, is ranked just below Barden by ESPN.com.
The senior receiver is the 97th-ranked player in Georgia in the class of 2014 and ranked 129th in the nation at the wide receiver position. 247Sports.com has given him a three-star, 84 ranking and has him as the 145th best receiver in the country. It also has him ranked as the 99th best player in Georgia for his class.
“Ford has very good measurables and will make his fair share of plays. Needs precision as a route runner. Size and flexibility are his best traits. He is a consistent and reliable guy and we feel could have better upside on the inside. Would expect him to see mid-major attention. Good in many areas, but not great in any,” an ESPN.com scout said in the “Bottom Line” section of the scouting report.
Obviously, both the scouting reports for Barden and Ford were written before the two players committed, but here is what the report says under “Ball Skills” and “Big Play Ability.”
“Confident, strong hands. Extends out from the body, shows enough torso flexibility to bend and contort to low and behind throws. Has jump ball upside due to size and long arms. Will elevate, but must be careful not to cradle catch when elevated. Has the flexible body control you want to adjust and make plays in the air,” the report says of Ford. “He’s a run and catch guy, move the chains and can play inside or out. Not a ton of big play flair. Makes more plays on the inside on deeper routes where he can navigate coverage and exploit soft spots in zones. Has shown a penchant for making plays when contested in somewhat acrobatic fashion.”
One aspect of Ford’s overall package that makes him unique and drew interest from Kansas State is his size.
“Tall and long. Lanky, underdeveloped frame that lacks physical strength at this stage. Pretty smooth and sleek overall. Speed is deceptively good. At times can be a bit of a short stepper, but when he opens up he can gain momentum pretty quickly,” according to ESPN.com.
Both Barden and Ford are the only current players with scouting reports on ESPN.com. Other Bartow County players such as Cartersville’s Mark Quattlebaum and Cass’ Lucas Johnson also have pages, but without rankings and scouting reports. Quattlebaum is committed to play with Barden at UNC-Charlotte while Johnson has committed to Georgia State.
Of course, an ESPN scout probably does not watch these players play every game. You can, every Friday night in Bartow County.