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Updated multi-year recruiting rankings after 2017: Michigan, Florida, and Maryland rising

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Now that Signing Day 2017 is in the books, it’s time to look at big-picture trends over the last two and five years for all of FBS.

Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images

There are three primary components to my S&P+ team projections: recent history, returning production, and recruiting. I wrote about the first two earlier this week, and with Signing Day in the rear view, it’s time to look at recruiting.

The purpose of recruiting in these projections is to fill in the gaps. Returning production tells you how much of last year’s team returns, and recruiting gives you an idea of what will replace departures.

I use a simple, two-year average for the recruiting portion. Here's how:

  • Because these ratings rank all 130 FBS teams, I've found a blend of Rivals ratings and the 247Sports Composite tends to predict the best. Neither service tends to have ratings for everyone signed by some mid-majors, and splitting the difference creates the best correlations for me between recruiting success and on-field success.
  • I also use a blend of point totals (how the recruiting services determine their class rankings) and per-recruit averages. Teams signing 32 guys in one year don't end up getting a long-term advantage over teams signing 23, but teams with tiny classes (like Clemson, which signed just 14) won’t grade out incredibly. This works, since recruiting rankings are proof of depth as much as elite talent.
  • These two services and two data points combine to create a percentile average for each school. For 2017, No. 1 Alabama's was 99.8 percent, No. 65 Boise State’s was 46.8, and No. 130 Idaho’s was 4.5.
  • Average the last two classes together, and voila! Two-year averages. You can do the same for five-year averages. All are below.

By now, you know the other primary Signing Day story lines: Nick Saban’s machine is still humming, Ohio State is keeping up, Georgia surged, Texas had a disappointing haul, Kobe Buffalomeat, etc.

Now it’s time to look at the entire picture. Below are 2017, five-year, and two-year rankings.

The two-year rankings are what I use in projections, but I wanted to share all of it.

We start with the top 25.

2017 recruiting rankings (Nos. 1-25)

Team 2017 class Rk 5-year avg (2017) Rk Change in 5-year Rk 2-year avg (2017) Rk Change in 2-year Rk
Team 2017 class Rk 5-year avg (2017) Rk Change in 5-year Rk 2-year avg (2017) Rk Change in 2-year Rk
Alabama 99.8% 1 99.4% 1 0 99.6% 1 0
Ohio State 99.6% 2 98.3% 2 -2 99.1% 2 3
Georgia 99.1% 3 96.4% 6 0 98.0% 6 1
Michigan 98.9% 4 87.2% 19 10 98.6% 4 10
USC 98.8% 5 97.8% 4 2 97.9% 7 -5
Florida State 98.7% 6 97.7% 5 2 98.9% 3 0
LSU 98.0% 7 98.0% 3 -4 98.1% 5 3
Oklahoma 96.9% 8 90.6% 14 -2 92.4% 11 5
Florida 93.6% 9 92.8% 10 -2 94.1% 8 12
Texas A&M 93.2% 10 93.9% 9 -1 92.0% 12 1
Miami-FL 92.5% 11 88.0% 17 0 88.6% 17 4
Notre Dame 92.0% 12 94.8% 8 0 93.0% 10 0
Auburn 91.5% 13 95.1% 7 2 94.1% 9 -5
Penn State 91.1% 14 85.6% 21 -5 88.4% 18 -1
Tennessee 88.8% 15 91.9% 13 -2 91.2% 14 -5
Stanford 88.3% 16 88.6% 16 -2 89.4% 16 8
Maryland 87.3% 17 67.4% 37 -4 76.1% 32 15
South Carolina 85.9% 18 85.6% 20 -2 82.4% 21 7
Oregon 85.6% 19 84.9% 22 3 81.8% 23 -4
Clemson 85.4% 20 92.1% 12 -2 91.4% 13 -7
UCLA 84.4% 21 92.2% 11 -2 90.2% 15 -4
Nebraska 83.2% 22 77.9% 26 2 82.2% 22 7
Washington 81.5% 23 77.7% 27 -2 77.4% 28 2
Mississippi State 79.4% 24 78.0% 25 -2 76.2% 31 -8
Arkansas 78.4% 25 74.3% 31 0 78.1% 26 -1

From year to year, not a lot changes here. The teams that recruit well tend to be the teams that always recruit well.

But there are still some shifts. As it pertains to the S&P+ projections, here are some of the most important:

Largest positive change in two-year recruiting rankings (Power 5)

  • Iowa State (19 spots, from 68th to 49th)
  • Maryland (15 spots, from 47th to 32nd)
  • Florida (12 spots, from 20th to eighth)
  • BYU* (11 spots, from 66th to 55th)
  • Michigan (10 spots, from 14th to fourth)
  • Illinois (10 spots, from 67th to 57th)
  • Oregon State (nine spots, from 52nd to 43rd)
  • Stanford (eight spots, from 24th to 16th)
  • Utah (eight spots, from 43rd to 35th)
  • Iowa (eight spots, from 49th to 41st)
  • South Carolina (seven spots, from 28th to 21st)
  • Nebraska (seven spots, from 29th to 22nd)

* A half-decade into BYU’s independence, I still have no idea how to classify the Cougars.

You can forgive Jim Harbaugh and Jim McElwain if they are looking for a fast-forward button. Both will be forced to deal with key departures in 2017 — Michigan’s returning production is the third-lowest in FBS, while Florida’s returning defensive production, key to the Gators’ back-to-back SEC East titles, ranks 103rd.

Generally speaking, that portends a drop-off. Florida’s offense might pick up the slack, but the thought of having to rely on an offensive attack probably sends shivers down Gator fans’ spines. Meanwhile, if S&P+ projections were based entirely on returning production and last year’s ratings, Michigan would be projected to fall from the S&P+ top five to the teens.

Both will be good in 2017. But if recruiting is any indication, both will be even better in 2018.

Maryland and Iowa State deserve a moment in the spotlight.

Matt Campbell has recruited at a top-50 level, which is tricky to pull off in Ames. The Composite ranked D.J. Durkin’s Terrapin haul 18th, absurdly good for Maryland ... or any other program averaging under five wins over the last six seasons.

For national projections, however, the big stories are Florida and Michigan, which both moved from strangely low standings back to their usual spots in the top 10. McElwain’s 2015 class ranked 21st per 247, but the Gators have ranked 12th and 10th the last two years. That might not be good enough for Gator fans, but you can work with that.

2017 recruiting rankings (Nos. 26-50)

Team 2017 class Rk 5-year avg (2017) Rk Change in 5-year Rk 2-year avg (2017) Rk Change in 2-year Rk
Team 2017 class Rk 5-year avg (2017) Rk Change in 5-year Rk 2-year avg (2017) Rk Change in 2-year Rk
Virginia Tech 77.9% 26 77.4% 28 3 70.1% 37 -5
Texas 77.1% 27 90.4% 15 4 86.1% 19 -7
Kentucky 76.9% 28 76.1% 29 -3 76.5% 30 6
North Carolina 76.8% 29 79.0% 24 1 77.0% 29 -3
Louisville 74.8% 30 71.3% 33 -6 72.1% 34 5
Utah 72.4% 31 64.3% 42 -4 71.4% 35 8
Colorado 72.1% 32 51.0% 61 5 57.7% 47 3
Ole Miss 72.1% 33 87.9% 18 -2 84.9% 20 -5
Michigan State 72.0% 34 80.9% 23 2 79.3% 25 -7
Pittsburgh 71.2% 35 64.5% 41 4 74.0% 33 2
TCU 70.7% 36 71.2% 35 0 78.0% 27 4
Baylor 69.2% 37 73.7% 32 2 80.1% 24 3
Wisconsin 68.5% 38 71.3% 34 0 71.0% 36 -3
Oklahoma State 68.0% 39 69.9% 36 -2 64.7% 40 0
Iowa 66.5% 40 58.1% 50 -1 64.4% 41 8
Arizona 66.1% 41 64.9% 39 -5 62.8% 42 2
Georgia Tech 64.0% 42 57.8% 51 6 54.2% 54 -6
Rutgers 64.0% 43 53.5% 56 3 48.5% 63 -3
Arizona State 62.7% 44 75.8% 30 2 68.9% 38 -16
Duke 61.9% 45 57.5% 52 0 68.5% 39 -2
Illinois 61.6% 46 52.4% 58 -2 50.9% 57 10
Oregon State 61.4% 47 58.4% 49 -5 62.4% 43 9
Iowa State 61.2% 48 52.5% 57 -8 57.3% 49 19
Washington State 60.7% 49 55.4% 54 -3 56.8% 51 5
Texas Tech 60.4% 50 62.0% 45 3 61.1% 45 -4

And now we look at the other side: the teams that are falling.

Largest negative change in two-year recruiting rankings (Power 5)

  • Arizona State (16 spots, from 22nd to 38th)
  • Missouri (16 spots, from 34th to 50th)
  • California (15 spots, from 38th to 53rd)
  • Mississippi State (eight spots, from 23rd to 31st)
  • Vanderbilt (eight spots, from 51st to 59th)
  • Wake Forest (eight spots, from 58th to 66th)
  • Clemson (seven spots, from sixth to 13th)
  • Texas (seven spots, from 12th to 19th)
  • Michigan State (seven spots, from 18th to 25th)
  • Boston College (seven spots, from 64th to 71st)

Arizona State and Missouri have gone 20-29 over the last two years; ASU has dealt with severe turnover on the coaching staff, and Missouri has dealt with not only a coaching change but also, potentially, the residual effect of 2015 protests. That the two have gone from top-30ish recruiting to more like top-50 probably makes sense.

Per the headlines, the big story is Texas, which ranked 10th per 247 in 2015 and seventh in 2016 but fell out of the top 25 on Wednesday. There’s no way to spin that as a positive.

Recruiting hasn’t been Texas’ problem, though.

With all the star recruits in the world, the Longhorns haven’t finished higher than 36th in S&P+ since 2012 and haven’t finished in the S&P+ top 10 since 2009.

If new coach Tom Herman can cull a top-30 product from a top-30 class, that’s a step in the right direction. And he did just produce back-to-back top-50 finishes at Houston, which was not, on average, recruiting at a top-50 level.

2017 recruiting rankings (Nos. 51-75)

Team 2017 class Rk 5-year avg (2017) Rk Change in 5-year Rk 2-year avg (2017) Rk Change in 2-year Rk
Team 2017 class Rk 5-year avg (2017) Rk Change in 5-year Rk 2-year avg (2017) Rk Change in 2-year Rk
Missouri 60.3% 51 66.6% 38 5 56.8% 50 -16
NC State 57.4% 52 64.6% 40 -7 59.4% 46 -1
Northwestern 57.1% 53 58.5% 48 5 57.7% 48 -2
West Virginia 56.1% 54 63.4% 43 -7 61.6% 44 -2
Virginia 53.1% 55 61.1% 46 -2 50.5% 58 4
Minnesota 52.2% 56 53.7% 55 -3 55.5% 52 1
Memphis 51.4% 57 35.7% 75 -13 46.8% 65 9
Central Florida 50.5% 58 47.4% 65 6 49.2% 60 -3
Syracuse 50.3% 59 50.1% 62 -1 48.9% 62 -3
Kansas State 49.0% 60 51.3% 60 -1 41.7% 68 -5
Cincinnati 48.5% 61 46.4% 68 4 42.4% 67 3
Vanderbilt 48.2% 62 60.0% 47 7 49.5% 59 -8
BYU 47.7% 63 46.5% 67 -3 53.2% 55 11
Indiana 47.5% 64 57.2% 53 -2 49.0% 61 -6
Boise State 46.8% 65 48.6% 64 -5 46.9% 64 1
Kansas 46.4% 66 45.3% 69 -2 35.4% 75 2
Boston College 44.6% 67 47.4% 66 0 38.6% 71 -7
Wake Forest 42.1% 68 48.7% 63 1 45.6% 66 -8
Purdue 41.9% 69 44.5% 71 4 38.3% 72 -1
Houston 40.3% 70 44.9% 70 2 52.6% 56 5
UTSA 38.9% 71 22.6% 93 -1 27.7% 86 12
Florida Atlantic 38.0% 72 30.0% 80 -7 31.6% 80 1
California 37.8% 73 62.7% 44 8 55.3% 53 -15
East Carolina 37.5% 74 31.7% 78 3 34.9% 76 -3
South Florida 37.2% 75 51.4% 59 10 40.0% 70 -16

Once we step out of the top 50, we get into a mix of strong mid-majors and weaker Power-5 programs. And with my season preview series beginning next week, this is a good time to look at the best in the mid-major universe.

Top 10 recruiting classes of 2017 (Group of 5)

  1. Memphis (57th overall)
  2. UCF (58th)
  3. Cincinnati (61st)
  4. Boise State (65th)
  5. Houston (70th)
  6. UTSA (71st)
  7. FAU (72nd)
  8. ECU (74th)
  9. USF (75th)
  10. SDSU (76th)

First, five of these 10 are AAC schools. The conference continues to separate itself from the rest of the mid-majors, while still remaining comfortably behind the Power 5.

Second ... hello there, UTSA!

Frank Wilson was hired from LSU by the Roadrunners primarily because of his recruiting prowess, and he quickly engineered the school’s first bowl berth in 2016. And now come the real fruits. Wilson pulled off the best class in Conference USA, edging out Lane Kiffin’s first FAU haul. It will be interesting to observe any shifts in the C-USA balance of power, especially with WKU changing head coaches and old power Marshall cratering in 2016.

2017 recruiting rankings (Nos. 76-100)

Team 2017 class Rk 5-year avg (2017) Rk Change in 5-year Rk 2-year avg (2017) Rk Change in 2-year Rk
Team 2017 class Rk 5-year avg (2017) Rk Change in 5-year Rk 2-year avg (2017) Rk Change in 2-year Rk
San Diego State 37.0% 76 38.8% 73 -1 36.6% 74 5
Toledo 36.0% 77 29.7% 81 -3 30.3% 81 6
Southern Miss 35.6% 78 28.5% 83 1 29.8% 82 6
Colorado State 35.2% 79 31.0% 79 -7 40.0% 69 7
Navy 32.1% 80 27.3% 85 -11 29.0% 83 27
Middle Tennessee 30.9% 81 26.6% 87 -15 28.9% 84 9
SMU 30.9% 82 32.5% 77 1 34.5% 77 5
Florida International 30.1% 83 21.5% 100 2 24.8% 92 13
Western Kentucky 29.5% 84 24.6% 91 2 25.1% 91 1
Tulsa 29.5% 85 27.4% 84 5 27.4% 87 2
Ball State 29.5% 86 19.6% 106 -2 22.3% 96 15
Bowling Green 28.3% 87 22.2% 96 -1 21.4% 98 5
Miami-OH 27.3% 88 23.7% 92 -13 26.8% 88 2
Fresno State 25.7% 89 29.4% 82 4 27.7% 85 -13
Western Michigan 25.6% 90 35.4% 76 -7 37.0% 73 5
Central Michigan 25.5% 91 19.2% 109 8 19.5% 106 -15
Louisiana Tech 24.9% 92 27.2% 86 5 25.6% 89 -5
Texas State 24.7% 93 22.5% 94 2 20.6% 101 8
Tulane 23.1% 94 26.1% 89 9 24.6% 93 1
UL-Monroe 22.8% 95 15.8% 119 -4 17.8% 108 10
Marshall 22.3% 96 41.5% 72 0 32.7% 78 -3
Connecticut 21.5% 97 25.5% 90 13 20.1% 104 -21
Troy 21.4% 98 20.4% 104 -6 23.0% 94 13
Georgia State 21.4% 99 15.6% 121 -8 16.6% 113 8
Charlotte 19.9% 100 17.1% 116 4 14.6% 119 -19

Service academy recruiting rankings are notoriously strange. A lot of guys commit, many don’t get accepted, many change their plans, and plenty without recruiting profiles end up on the roster. So the grain-of-salt method is the way to go with Army, Navy, and Air Force.

Still, it might mean something that Army and Navy saw the two biggest overall shifts in their two-year rankings and that Air Force wasn’t dramatically far behind.

Largest positive change in two-year recruiting rankings (Group of 5)

  • Navy (27 spots, from 110th to 83rd)
  • Army (23 spots, from 126th to 103rd)
  • Ball State (15 spots, from 111th to 96th)
  • FIU (13 spots, from 105th to 92nd)
  • Troy (13 spots, from 107th to 94th)
  • UTSA (12 spots, from 98th to 86th)
  • ULM (10 spots, from 118th to 108th)
  • Air Force (10 spots, from 125th to 115th)
  • Memphis (nine spots, from 74th to 65th)
  • MTSU (nine spots, from 93rd to 84th)

Meanwhile, Mike Neu is evidently making moves at Ball State.

2017 recruiting rankings (Nos. 101-130)

Team 2017 class Rk 5-year avg (2017) Rk Change in 5-year Rk 2-year avg (2017) Rk Change in 2-year Rk
Team 2017 class Rk 5-year avg (2017) Rk Change in 5-year Rk 2-year avg (2017) Rk Change in 2-year Rk
Northern Illinois 19.4% 101 18.6% 112 -10 14.1% 122 -5
Wyoming 19.3% 102 17.3% 113 -4 17.3% 110 6
New Mexico 18.8% 103 21.3% 103 -1 20.2% 102 4
North Texas 18.6% 104 17.2% 115 6 16.2% 114 -15
Army 18.5% 105 15.9% 118 -8 20.2% 103 23
Arkansas State 18.4% 106 22.4% 95 10 21.3% 99 -14
San Jose State 18.2% 107 26.4% 88 -2 20.8% 100 -20
Georgia Southern 18.0% 108 21.5% 101 -5 22.9% 95 0
Nevada 17.6% 109 21.8% 97 4 18.8% 107 -11
Utah State 17.2% 110 18.9% 110 3 17.8% 109 -5
Buffalo 16.9% 111 15.8% 120 6 15.2% 117 -3
Appalachian State 16.7% 112 19.6% 107 -6 17.0% 112 3
UL-Lafayette 16.6% 113 21.8% 98 -1 15.5% 116 -8
Temple 16.4% 114 35.8% 74 1 32.4% 79 -10
UNLV 16.2% 115 21.4% 102 7 25.5% 90 -4
Old Dominion 15.4% 116 21.7% 99 -21 14.9% 118 -5
Massachusetts 15.1% 117 19.6% 108 -8 21.7% 97 4
Ohio 14.9% 118 17.3% 114 3 14.6% 121 -2
Hawaii 14.7% 119 15.6% 122 22 14.6% 120 -18
Rice 13.5% 120 18.8% 111 20 12.6% 124 -12
Air Force 11.4% 121 16.0% 117 -4 16.0% 115 10
Kent State 10.8% 122 12.9% 125 1 7.3% 128 -5
South Alabama 10.2% 123 19.9% 105 2 17.2% 111 -14
UAB 8.9% 124 20.1% 105
Eastern Michigan 8.1% 125 13.9% 124 5 8.7% 126 -6
Akron 8.1% 126 14.2% 123 8 7.2% 129 -5
UTEP 8.0% 127 12.7% 126 1 13.0% 123 -1
New Mexico State 5.8% 128 11.4% 127 9 7.8% 127 0
Coastal Carolina 4.8% 129 4.8% 130
Idaho 4.5% 130 11.3% 128 0 8.9% 125 3

If we looked at positive shifts, we have to look at the negative ones, too.

Largest negative change in two-year recruiting rankings (Group of 5)

  • UConn (21 spots, from 83rd to 104th)
  • San Jose State (20 spots, from 80th to 100th)
  • Charlotte (19 spots, from 100th to 119th)
  • Hawaii (18 spots, from 102nd to 120th)
  • USF (16 spots, from 54th to 70th)
  • North Texas (15 spots, from 99th to 114th)
  • CMU (15 spots, from 91st to 106th)
  • South Alabama (14 spots, from 97th to 111th)
  • Arkansas State (14 spots, from 85th to 99th)
  • Fresno State (13 spots, from 72nd to 85th)

That is most certainly not the right direction, UConn.