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When looking at early recruiting rankings, focus on quality over quantity

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Welcome to The Crootletter (sign up to get this in your inbox every morning!). I'm Bud Elliott, SB Nation's National Recruiting Analyst, and in this space I'll be sharing news, rumors and musings on the world of college football recruiting.

Mississippi State v Texas A&M Photo by Thomas B. Shea/Getty Images

Almost eight months remain until National Signing Day, but there’s been a lot of chatter about the teams at the top of the recruiting rankings. Due to the incomplete nature of recruiting rankings this far out, I find the celebrations and nail-biting to be premature, but there is something important to remember when reviewing them this early: Keep the focus on quality over quantity.

This early in the year, teams have wildly different numbers of commitments. Some teams have close to 20, while some have five. This greatly impacts the point totals and ratings formulas, which are not intended to rate classes so varied in number. It’s a complicating factor not present on Signing Day, when the vast majority of teams will take somewhere around 20 players.

Some examples of teams that are incredibly high in the rankings on June 22 due to quantity over quality include:

No. 7 Tennessee (only three of 18 commitments are four- or five-stars),
No. 11 Texas A&M (four of 14),
No. 13. Arizona (three of 18),
No. 14 Mississippi State (two of 16),
No. 16 Northwestern (none of 16),
No. 17 South Carolina (one of 16) and
No. 19 Oklahoma State (one of 16)

If those ratios and ratings hold, and that’s far from a given, these teams will plummet as other teams begin to add more (and better) players to their classes. These seven teams have an average rank of 14th, and I’m willing to bet that falls to something in the mid-20s by Signing Day. We’ll revisit this at that point.

We see this every year.

Case in point: Kentucky. In 2013, Mark Stoops' Wildcats reached the top of the Rivals.com rankings on June 19, and members of Big Blue Nation went wild. However, when all was said and done, 21 programs signed more four- and five-star recruits than the Wildcats, according to the 247Sports Composite.

Mississippi State seems to follow the pattern of taking a bunch of commitments early each year. In June of 2014 I noted ...

The Bulldogs have an impressive 18 commitments, but only three are rated four-stars or better. In fact, Mississippi State's clip does not represent an improvement over its recruiting from the last four years at all, as the Bulldogs have maintained about that exact percentage in that time frame. Even if the percentage improves slightly, a class with a 17 percent blue chip ratio has no chance of finishing 12th, which is where the Bulldogs currently rank in the overall rankings.

Seven teams with at least 10 verbal commits have as many blue-chip commits as two- and three-stars: Ohio State, Alabama, Oklahoma, Georgia, Notre Dame, Florida State and Clemson. This has been the national championship formula since the advent of the BCS.

Then there are the schools with good ratios but fewer commitments. If they can maintain their ratio of great-to-good players while adding more of them, Texas, Stanford, UCLA and Auburn will rise in the rankings.

Quickly

On this same topic, Maryland is having an interesting year. The Terrapins had a top-11 class in the first week of the month, but they've tumbled as other teams have added commits. However, there's a lot of quality in that class, too.

Texas A&M added a four-star linebacker, the fourth blue-chip prospect in the Aggies’ class.

I joined Dan Wolken and Paul Myerberg on the USA Today Football Four Podcast to discuss national recruiting and Florida State. (I still manage SB Nation’s FSU site, Tomahawk Nation.)

Garnet and Black Attack is advising patience over South Carolina’s lack of blue-chip recruits thus far. Will Muschamp is a very good recruiter, but I do not expect his commitment lists to look anything like Muschamp's did at Florida.

Five-star running back Cam Akers visited Ole Miss, and some Rebels believe he’s an Ole Miss lean. A lot of programs are feeling optimistic from what I hear. Akers being from Mississippi doesn’t hurt Ole Miss’ chances.