It’s hard to get five stars. The odds of being even a three-star college football recruit are microscopic, and the chances of being a five-star are basically a rounding error. The 2016 class had 33 five-stars out of about 300,000 high school seniors playing the sport.
Player photos are via Nike, Student Sports, and SB Nation’s Bud Elliott.
For the most part, recruits are in a few states. Six are from Florida, five from California, and four from Texas, the three best recruiting states by far. Tennessee has three five-stars this year, and Georgia has two. A wide swath from the Midwest to the Rockies has none at all. New England also doesn’t have any five-stars, as is common.
This year’s Five-Star Desert, with none of the top 32 recruits in the country anywhere in it, is about 2.2 million square miles. It touches about half of the 50 states.
Even if there’s some evaluator bias that repeatedly boosts their numbers of top-rated prospects, a few big states are blowing everyone else away. The fourth most populous state (Illinois) has one five-star this year. The fifth (Pennsylvania) has none.
College football hasn’t had a national champion located deep within this year’s Five-Star Desert since Oklahoma, which is able to regularly recruit Texas, in 2000. Nothing about that is coincidental. (The Longhorns are technically a bit within this year’s Desert, but have easy access to as many five-stars as anybody.)
Even programs with strong traditions like Wisconsin and Nebraska have to reach way beyond their natural geographic footprints to get the best players. The Alabamas, USCs, and Florida States of the sport do not, and that’s a huge built-in advantage for Southeastern and Western teams.