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Updated multi-year recruiting rankings after 2018: Penn State and Miami are joining elite company

Georgia and Ohio State are your new recruiting overlords, but Penn State and Miami are making up acres of ground.

PlayStation Fiesta Bowl - Penn State v Washington Photo by Christian Petersen/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 last week, and with Signing Day in the rear view, it’s time to look at recruiting. With these pieces in place, the 2018 S&P+ projections will officially go up tomorrow.

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: Georgia is your new recruiting overlord, USC and Texas A&M closed well, Michigan and LSU didn’t, Chucky dolls played a role, 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 because I know some people like thinking in terms of five-year trends.

College football 2- and 5-year recruiting rankings

Team 2018 class pctile (Rk) 2018 Rk 5-year avg 5yr Rk 2-year avg 2yr Rk Chg in 2yr Rk
Team 2018 class pctile (Rk) 2018 Rk 5-year avg 5yr Rk 2-year avg 2yr Rk Chg in 2yr Rk
Ohio State 99.6% 2 98.7% 2 99.6% 1 1
Georgia 99.7% 1 97.8% 3 99.4% 2 3
USC 98.8% 3 97.5% 5 98.7% 3 4
Alabama 97.0% 7 99.0% 1 98.4% 4 -3
Florida State 95.1% 10 97.8% 4 96.8% 5 -2
Oklahoma 96.1% 9 92.7% 11 96.4% 6 6
LSU 92.5% 14 96.9% 6 95.1% 7 -1
Penn State 97.8% 5 89.8% 16 94.8% 8 9
Miami-FL 97.0% 8 89.1% 17 94.6% 9 9
Notre Dame 94.5% 11 94.1% 8 93.4% 10 0
Auburn 94.2% 12 95.1% 7 92.7% 11 -2
Clemson 97.0% 6 94.0% 9 92.3% 12 -1
Florida 90.3% 15 91.6% 13 92.0% 13 -5
Texas A&M 90.0% 16 93.3% 10 91.1% 14 -1
Michigan 79.9% 23 83.8% 22 89.3% 15 -11
Texas 98.3% 4 91.1% 14 88.3% 16 3
Washington 93.0% 13 79.1% 24 88.0% 17 9
Oregon 89.8% 17 85.3% 19 87.6% 18 5
UCLA 86.9% 18 90.4% 15 86.0% 19 -4
South Carolina 85.3% 19 85.6% 18 85.5% 20 2
Tennessee 82.2% 20 91.7% 12 85.0% 21 -7
Nebraska 81.5% 21 78.4% 25 82.9% 22 -1
Maryland 75.5% 27 68.5% 37 80.4% 23 9
Virginia Tech 80.8% 22 76.3% 29 78.8% 24 14
North Carolina 79.3% 24 78.2% 26 77.8% 25 4
Mississippi State 77.3% 25 77.5% 27 77.6% 26 5
Stanford 61.2% 45 83.9% 21 75.7% 27 -11
Louisville 74.9% 28 70.9% 34 74.6% 28 8
Kentucky 70.7% 35 75.6% 30 73.6% 29 1
Ole Miss 74.7% 29 84.3% 20 73.4% 30 -10
TCU 77.0% 26 72.2% 33 73.4% 31 -3
Utah 69.6% 37 65.4% 41 73.0% 32 1
Michigan State 74.5% 30 79.7% 23 72.7% 33 -8
Baylor 74.3% 31 74.7% 31 71.5% 34 -10
Oklahoma State 71.8% 34 69.6% 36 70.1% 35 5
Wisconsin 67.7% 39 70.6% 35 69.2% 36 -1
Pittsburgh 67.2% 40 64.7% 42 68.3% 37 -3
Arizona State 70.3% 36 76.4% 28 67.6% 38 -1
Iowa 66.9% 41 59.7% 46 66.4% 39 2
NC State 74.0% 32 68.0% 38 66.2% 40 6
Arkansas 52.7% 58 73.7% 32 65.4% 41 -14
West Virginia 72.2% 33 66.8% 39 65.0% 42 1
Colorado 57.5% 50 52.6% 57 64.7% 43 7
Missouri 64.9% 42 65.9% 40 63.7% 44 5
Arizona 55.4% 53 64.2% 43 60.4% 45 -3
Washington State 61.1% 46 56.0% 52 60.0% 46 6
Minnesota 68.1% 38 57.5% 48 59.8% 47 6
Georgia Tech 56.1% 51 57.3% 49 59.5% 48 6
Iowa State 55.8% 52 53.9% 55 58.4% 49 2
Illinois 55.1% 54 51.6% 59 57.5% 50 9
Duke 51.5% 59 58.8% 47 57.3% 51 -12
Vanderbilt 63.9% 44 56.9% 50 57.0% 52 5
Rutgers 51.1% 60 50.6% 60 56.5% 53 10
Northwestern 53.1% 57 55.9% 53 55.8% 54 -7
Cincinnati 60.2% 48 48.7% 64 55.0% 55 12
Indiana 60.6% 47 56.1% 51 54.3% 56 6
California 64.7% 43 62.9% 44 54.1% 57 -9
Syracuse 53.8% 55 52.0% 58 52.9% 58 3
Texas Tech 41.9% 71 59.8% 45 52.1% 59 -15
Oregon State 42.6% 70 53.2% 56 51.6% 60 -15
Virginia 47.5% 64 55.6% 54 49.6% 61 -1
Purdue 57.6% 49 45.2% 69 49.4% 62 10
Kansas 53.6% 56 44.6% 70 49.2% 63 14
Kansas State 47.4% 65 50.1% 61 49.1% 64 4
Boise State 51.0% 61 48.6% 65 48.9% 65 -1
Central Florida 42.9% 69 47.5% 67 47.9% 66 -8
Wake Forest 50.2% 62 49.3% 62 46.0% 67 -1
Boston College 44.2% 67 47.8% 66 44.5% 68 3
South Florida 49.2% 63 49.0% 63 43.3% 69 0
Houston 44.5% 66 42.8% 71 42.2% 70 -14
Memphis 31.8% 84 38.5% 75 40.4% 71 -6
BYU 31.2% 85 46.4% 68 39.0% 72 -17
Toledo 40.4% 73 30.3% 81 37.0% 73 10
Southern Miss 35.0% 77 29.8% 82 35.9% 74 7
San Diego State 34.3% 79 38.9% 74 35.7% 75 -1
UTSA 34.1% 80 24.3% 94 35.7% 76 10
Florida Atlantic 27.4% 90 31.2% 79 34.3% 77 2
Western Michigan 41.3% 72 40.3% 72 33.4% 78 -5
Tulane 43.7% 68 28.6% 84 32.9% 79 13
Marshall 38.9% 74 40.2% 73 32.8% 80 -5
East Carolina 29.4% 86 32.0% 78 32.7% 81 -3
Colorado State 29.4% 87 31.0% 80 32.2% 82 -12
Florida International 37.2% 76 24.8% 91 32.2% 83 10
SMU 31.8% 83 32.8% 77 31.7% 84 -8
Western Kentucky 33.3% 81 26.7% 87 30.9% 85 6
Louisiana Tech 37.4% 75 28.7% 83 30.6% 86 4
Tulsa 27.0% 91 26.4% 89 28.3% 87 -2
Bowling Green 26.2% 92 21.9% 97 27.0% 88 11
Arkansas State 32.3% 82 25.4% 90 26.2% 89 6
Temple 34.7% 78 37.5% 76 25.4% 90 -10
Northern Illinois 28.3% 88 20.8% 101 24.6% 91 26
Navy 20.8% 98 27.3% 86 24.0% 92 -4
Middle Tennessee 18.4% 101 24.6% 93 23.8% 93 -9
Georgia State 27.4% 89 19.2% 105 23.8% 94 21
Fresno State 15.9% 106 26.4% 88 22.6% 95 -13
Connecticut 23.1% 95 21.9% 96 22.3% 96 6
Troy 24.5% 93 20.6% 102 22.1% 97 -3
Nevada 23.5% 94 21.7% 98 21.3% 98 6
North Texas 22.6% 96 19.1% 106 21.0% 99 15
Texas State 19.4% 100 20.1% 104 20.7% 100 5
Ball State 12.5% 115 18.1% 109 19.2% 101 0
UL-Monroe 16.6% 103 16.8% 115 19.0% 102 11
Miami-OH 10.6% 121 21.9% 95 18.8% 103 -16
UNLV 20.0% 99 21.5% 99 18.5% 104 -15
Hawaii 15.8% 107 14.9% 119 18.4% 105 6
Georgia Southern 20.9% 97 24.6% 92 18.4% 106 -10
Central Michigan 12.3% 116 17.2% 113 18.1% 107 -1
San Jose State 16.2% 105 27.3% 85 17.3% 108 -8
Appalachian State 14.8% 110 20.4% 103 16.4% 109 3
Army 16.5% 104 16.4% 116 15.7% 110 -2
Wyoming 9.4% 124 16.1% 117 15.4% 111 -1
Charlotte 11.6% 118 14.9% 120 15.3% 112 7
Ohio 14.4% 111 17.4% 111 15.1% 113 3
New Mexico 9.1% 126 18.3% 108 15.0% 114 -16
Utah State 9.4% 125 17.2% 112 13.9% 115 -6
Massachusetts 11.1% 119 17.9% 110 13.3% 116 -19
UAB 17.7% 102 14.9% 121 13.3% 117 -14
South Alabama 13.4% 113 18.4% 107 13.2% 118 -11
Kent State 14.9% 108 12.5% 126 12.7% 119 -9
UL-Lafayette 10.8% 120 16.9% 114 12.3% 120 -2
Eastern Michigan 13.4% 112 13.2% 123 11.5% 121 5
Old Dominion 10.3% 122 20.9% 100 11.5% 122 1
Rice 7.6% 127 15.4% 118 10.8% 123 1
New Mexico State 12.5% 114 11.3% 128 10.4% 124 3
Buffalo 5.6% 130 14.3% 122 10.1% 125 -5
Akron 11.9% 117 13.0% 124 9.7% 126 -3
UTEP 9.4% 123 12.2% 127 9.5% 127 5
Coastal Carolina 14.9% 109 9.1% 128
Air Force 7.1% 128 12.8% 125 7.3% 129 -8
Liberty 6.7% 129 7.1% 130

(Note: 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.)

There are rarely a ton of changes here — the teams that recruit well tend to be the teams that always recruit well. Still, there are some interesting 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)

  • Virginia Tech (14 spots, from 38th to 24th)
  • Kansas (14 spots, from 77th to 63rd)
  • Rutgers (10 spots, from 63rd to 53rd)
  • Purdue (10 spots, from 72nd to 62nd)
  • Penn State (nine spots, from 17th to eighth)
  • Miami (nine spots, from 18th to ninth)
  • Washington (nine spots, from 26th to 17th)
  • Maryland (nine spots, from 32nd to 23rd)
  • Illinois (nine spots, from 59th to 50th)
  • Louisville (eight spots, from 36th to 28th)

Obviously a list of rising rankings is going to feature a lot of teams that started really far down the list (with lots of room to rise), but two of the top 10 risers were already doing reasonably well.

Both Penn State and Miami have kicked their respective recruiting games up a notch or two. Penn State’s 2018 haul finished fifth overall in my percentile ratings, ahead of Alabama, while Miami finished eighth, just behind the Crimson Tide. James Franklin has taken full advantage of PSU’s recent on-field success, while it appears that both Georgia and Miami benefited when the former fired head coach Mark Richt and the latter picked him up.

Three other teams rose a decent length to join the two-year top 25: Washington, Virginia Tech, and Maryland. Terps head coach D.J. Durkin is doing all he can from a recruiting standpoint; we’ll see if that begins to translate on the field in 2018.

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

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

  • Oregon State (15 spots, from 45th to 60th)
  • Texas Tech (15 spots, from 44th to 59th)
  • Arkansas (14 spots, from 27th to 41st)
  • Duke (12 spots, from 39th to 51st)
  • Stanford (11 spots, from 16th to 27th)
  • Michigan (11 spots, from fourth to 15th)
  • Baylor (10 spots, from 24th to 34th)
  • Ole Miss (10 spots, from 20th to 30th)
  • California (nine spots, from 48th to 57th)
  • Michigan State (eight spots, from 25th to 33rd)

* If we count BYU as a Power 5 team, the Cougars would be the first name on this list. They dropped from 55th to 72nd.

One would expect teams like Oregon State and Baylor to fall after poor 2017 campaigns, and Ole Miss’ NCAA sanctions provided a bit of a tougher sell (though the Rebels still managed a top-35 finish!). But the two teams in bold are most interesting here.

I can’t pretend to be particularly worried about Jim Harbaugh and Michigan just yet; as I’ve written before, the 2017 season was all about building for 2018, and the classes Harbaugh signed in 2016 and 2017 — which featured a whopping 34 blue-chippers — could begin to blossom nicely in 2018. (Plus, Ole Miss transfer Shea Patterson was probably the most important signee in the 2018 class, but because he’s a transfer he doesn’t count.)

But the fact that the Wolverines ranked only 23rd in my 2018-only ratings doesn’t tell a favorable story about what might happen if Michigan doesn’t break through as envisioned this fall, could this be the beginning of a trend, or is just a blip? Now’s the time for Harbaugh to put the pieces together on the field so he doesn’t have to find out the answer to that question.

As for Stanford, even though I incorporate per-prospect averages into my numbers, the Cardinal’s penchant for signing tiny classes — 13 players in 2017, 14 in 2018 — has still dragged down their numbers a bit. Head coach David Shaw was also very much opposed to the early signing period because, with the school’s admissions standards, it takes longer for him to get the green light to offer kids.

The Cardinal’s average signee in that time period still has a four-star rating, but when you sign two straight tiny classes, it suggests that a) you have avoided roster turnover, which is good, b) you probably have a metric ton of juniors and seniors getting ready to cycle out of the program, and c) you’re going to have a lot of recruiting to do in the coming years.

Top 10 recruiting classes of 2018 (Group of 5)

  1. Cincinnati (48th)
  2. Boise State (61st)
  3. USF (63rd)
  4. Houston (66th)
  5. Tulane (68th)
  6. UCF (69th)
  7. WMU (72nd)
  8. Toledo (73rd)
  9. Marshall (74th)
  10. Louisiana Tech (75th)

Last year, the highest-ranked G5 class (Memphis’) came in at 57th, which tells you just how good a job Cincinnati head coach Luke Fickell did this year. He had no on-field product to sell yet (the Bearcats went 4-8 and ranked 102nd in S&P+ in his debut season), but he locked down a four-star recruit (tight end Leonard Taylor) and 22 three-stars all the same.

Once again, the AAC is recruiting laps around the rest of the Group of 5. Five of the top six teams here are from the AAC, and a sixth (Temple) ranked 13th among G5 classes. Plus, recruiting stalwarts like Boise State (which signed four-star California athlete Khalil Shakir) and Toledo (which signed quarterback Carter Bradley, son of NFL defensive coordinator Gus Bradley) assume their normal positions.

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

  • NIU (26 spots, from 117th to 91st)
  • Georgia State (21 spots, from 115th to 94th)
  • North Texas (15 spots, from 114th to 99th)
  • Tulane (13 spots, from 92nd to 79th)
  • Cincinnati (12 spots, from 67th to 55th)

Willie Fritz and Tulane, making moves. Georgia State, led by head coach Shawn Elliott and offensive coordinator Travis Trickett, is moving up quickly as well.

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

  • UMass (19 spots, from 97th to 116th)
  • New Mexico (16 spots, from 98th to 114th)
  • Miami (Ohio) (16 spots, from 87th to 113th)
  • UNLV (15 spots, from 89th to 104th)
  • UAB (14 spots, from 103rd to 117th)

A lot of things fell apart for Bob Davie and New Mexico this year. First, the Lobos plummeted from 9-4 to 3-9, losing to New Mexico State in the process. Then they got out-recruited by NMSU as well.