College football recruiting and the dilemma of 3000 three-stars

A while back, I studied a college football prediction system that based itself primarily on how each team recruited over the prior four years.   The premise was that the team with the strongest roster wins.

That sounded like a good approach and it proved to be quite accurate for the elite programs that have plenty of four and five-star players.  But, the premise began to crumble when it came to predicting results for other teams that didn’t have any four or five star players.  In other words, most of the FBS.

What I find interesting about those non-elite teams that are ladened with three-star talent is how often some of them reach the top 25.  The three service academies are good examples.  If you combine their recruiting rankings over the past four years, they are 128th out of 130 teams. Yet last year, two of them combined for 22 wins and wound up in the final top 30.  And how about Boise State?  The Broncos have a four-year recruiting ranking of 61st yet they won 11 games last year and wound up in the top 15.

How does that happen?

Usually, we attribute it to coaching.   Other times we say it’s a program thing—that the program itself always wins no matter if it has coaching changes, injuries, graduations, second-rate recruiting, or what have you.  They win in defiance of good logic because, well, that’s what they do.   Think of Appalachian State.

Teams that increase their number of four and five star players are almost certainly going to rise.  But, only 39% of the teams in FBS recruited even one four or five star in this past cycle and that means that we have to sift through 61% of the college football recruits and try to distinguish one three-star from another.

Listen, three-stars are a dime a dozen.  Did you know that there are more than 3000 former three-star players in the FBS?

Three-freaking-thousand!

All in one classification.

I read somewhere the suggestion that scouting services should create sub-classes like 3a, 3b, and 3c to separate things more.  But, I’m not sure that would do anything except increase the chances of mis-categorizations.  I mean, it sorta has the feel like we would be trying to get water out of our sinking boat by drilling holes in the floor.

Recruiting has some affect on Savvy Index and its preseason projections for teams, but not a lot.

Still, it’s fun to look at what teams have been doing in recruiting and seeing how they compare. Today, we’ll look at recruiting using three different charts:

#1 the best recruiting programs over the past four years;

#2  the teams with the most recruiting momentum— early indicator of which teams are heating up and which coaches are headed for the hot seat;  and,

#3, a listing of all 130 teams with a display of their over all recruiting ranking with their momentum ranking alongside.

We’ll look at three aspects but the one that will be most interesting is #2— the recruiting momentum for each team because that has proven to be a rather beneficial, prophetic indicator.

CHART 1:      THE 25 BEST RECRUITING PROGRAMS OVER THE PAST FOUR YEARS

Data for Chart 1 comes directly from 24/7 Sports and is an average of all recruiting grades for every player recruited in the past four years for each team.  You already know who the prime suspects are so we won’t spend much time here.


  Savvy Index  
  recruiting summary  
4 year rank   4 year average
1 Alabama 93.41
2 Ohio St. 93.14
3 Georgia 93.01
4 Clemson 92.19
5 LSU 91.19
6 Texas 90.71
7 Oklahoma 90.62
8 USC 90.47
9 Florida 90.41
10 Auburn 90.40
11 Michigan 90.27
12 Notre Dame 90.19
13 Penn St. 90.15
14 Texas A&M 89.86
15 Florida St. 89.77
16 Miami Fl 89.43
17 Oregon 89.31
18 Washington 89.24
19 Stanford 88.98
20 Tennessee 88.80
21 S Carolina 88.46
22 Nebraska 88.10
23 Mississippi St. 87.29
24 N Carolina 87.24
25 UCLA 87.16

Not much in the way of surprises except for possibly USC.  We’ve all heard how horrible the Trojans have been recruiting yet they show up well on Chart 1.

That’s okay.  We’ll take another look at USC in Chart 3 where we list the four-year recruiting accomplishments against the current momentum for all 130 teams.

Before we get to Chart 3, let’s take a look at Chart 2 and see which teams have the greatest recruiting momentum.  For the most part, Chart 2 is the sum of the most-recent two years of recruiting compared to the sum of the two years before that.  There is one minor adjustment that we make so that Savvy can use this data in its preseason projection module for each team.  Otherwise, Chart 2 is a straight-up two-year to two-year comparison of data shown on 24/7 Sports.

Momentum data is not just a measure of the head coach but it is also a good way to measure the effectiveness of recently hired assistants.

Mid Major teams move with greater dynamic so it’s easier for them to rise to the top and harder for Power Five teams.  History has shown that Power Five teams that make this list usually do quite well in the coming season.

CHART 2:   RECRUITING MOMENTUM ANALYSIS


  Savvy Index  
  recruiting summary  
momentum ranking   recruiting momentum
1 N Texas 5.5
2 Purdue 4.7
3 LA Lafayette 4.4
4 UAB 4.2
5 App State 4.0
6 Tennessee 3.6
7 Army 3.2
8 Coastal Car 3.1
9 Charlotte 2.8
10 Kent St. 2.6
11 Texas A&M 2.4
12 Old Dominion 2.4
13 Oregon 2.4
14 Wisconsin 2.4
15 Memphis 2.3
16 Virginia 2.3
17 Rice 2.3
18 Utah St. 2.3
19 Boston Col 2.2
20 SMU 2.0
21 Wyoming 2.0
22 New Mexico St. 2.0
23 Buffalo 1.9
24 Massachusetts 1.9
25 Ohio 1.9

And finally, we get to Chart 3 which is a composite for each team.  It shows each team’s ranking for the best recruiting (essentially a four-year average) alongside each team’s ranking for the most momentum (essentially the past two years compared to the two years before).

This is where we will see USC as one of the best recruiting teams of the past four seasons while being one of the worst in the past two.

Chart 3 is sorted alphabetically by team name so it is easier to find your team.

CHART 3:   COMPOSITE OF RECRUITING EFFECTIVES AND MOMENTUM


    Savvy Index    
    recruiting summary    
average recruit ranking momentum ranking   4 year recruiting average [weighted] momentum
128 26 Air Force 78.90 1.9
123 40 Akron 79.67 1.2
1 67 Alabama 93.48 .2
91 5 App State 81.47 4.0
61 112 Arizona 84.58 -1.8
28 35 Arizona St. 87.22 1.5
30 41 Arkansas 87.18 1.2
96 59 Arkansas St. 81.23 .4
126 7 Army 79.30 3.2
7 56 Auburn 90.83 .5
120 61 Ball St. 79.77 .4
41 77 Baylor 86.05 -.1
63 49 Boise St. 84.44 .8
57 19 Boston Col 84.90 2.2
112 118 Bowling Green 80.22 -2.8
125 24 Buffalo 79.41 1.9
81 96 BYU 82.04 -.8
113 55 C Michigan 80.19 .5
48 82 California 85.66 -.4
103 9 Charlotte 80.64 2.8
58 72 Cincinnati 84.65 .0
4 123 Clemson 92.28 -4.4
122 8 Coastal Car 79.72 3.1
54 104 Colorado 85.16 -1.2
84 83 Colorado St. 81.88 -.4
105 63 Connecticut 80.49 .3
51 114 Duke 85.30 -2.2
79 46 E Carolina 82.16 1.0
124 48 E Michigan 79.57 .8
8 76 Florida 90.82 -.1
73 103 Florida Atl. 83.10 -1.1
77 87 Florida Intl. 82.56 -.4
19 127 Florida St. 88.94 -7.0
88 30 Fresno St. 81.57 1.8
2 119 Georgia 93.11 -2.9
102 80 Georgia So. 80.70 -.2
94 36 Georgia St. 81.39 1.4
34 31 Georgia Tech 86.26 1.6
115 88 Hawai’i 80.13 -.4
69 60 Houston 83.43 .4
55 32 Illinois 85.09 1.6
52 51 Indiana 85.22 .7
40 66 Iowa 86.11 .3
53 78 Iowa St. 85.18 -.1
68 73 Kansas 83.80 .0
66 97 Kansas St. 84.08 -.8
110 10 Kent St. 80.39 2.6
26 47 Kentucky 87.33 .8
82 3 LA Lafayette 82.01 4.4
118 53 LA Monroe 79.85 .6
76 34 LA Tech 82.63 1.6
109 70 Liberty 80.40 .1
49 125 Louisville 85.60 -4.5
6 58 LSU 91.61 .4
95 84 Marshall 81.35 -.4
42 124 Maryland 85.94 -4.5
106 23 Massachusetts 80.48 1.9
70 15 Memphis 83.42 2.3
16 121 Miami Fl 89.58 -3.6
99 42 Miami Oh 80.74 1.1
13 98 Michigan 90.15 -.8
32 93 Michigan St. 86.52 -.7
93 27 Middle Tenn 81.39 1.8
44 68 Minnesota 85.89 .1
27 64 Mississippi 87.23 .3
22 54 Mississippi St. 87.71 .5
45 69 Missouri 85.81 .1
24 110 N Carolina 87.63 -1.5
38 99 N Carolina St. 86.18 -.9
98 74 N Illinois 80.78 -.1
78 1 N Texas 82.39 5.5
129 90 Navy 78.74 -.5
21 91 Nebraska 88.28 -.6
101 37 Nevada 80.73 1.4
121 39 New Mexico 79.73 1.3
127 22 New Mexico St. 79.25 2.0
39 71 Northwestern 86.11 .0
11 75 Notre Dame 90.56 -.1
114 25 Ohio 80.19 1.9
3 128 Ohio St. 92.35 -7.2
9 106 Oklahoma 90.77 -1.3
43 113 Oklahoma St. 85.91 -1.9
116 12 Old Dominion 80.04 2.4
14 13 Oregon 90.11 2.4
62 62 Oregon St. 84.48 .3
12 109 Penn St. 90.47 -1.5
46 111 Pittsburgh 85.72 -1.6
35 2 Purdue 86.23 4.7
104 17 Rice 80.53 2.3
65 108 Rutgers 84.27 -1.4
119 65 S Alabama 79.78 .3
20 85 S Carolina 88.85 -.4
83 81 S Miss 81.91 -.3
87 105 San Diego St. 81.76 -1.3
111 50 San Jose St. 80.38 .7
71 20 SMU 83.41 2.0
23 129 Stanford 87.66 -7.3
60 115 Syracuse 84.62 -2.3
29 79 TCU 87.22 -.2
86 33 Temple 81.80 1.6
15 6 Tennessee 89.60 3.6
5 38 Texas 91.73 1.4
10 11 Texas A&M 90.70 2.4
108 44 Texas St. 80.42 1.1
50 122 Texas Tech 85.38 -3.8
74 52 Toledo 82.96 .6
90 43 Troy 81.52 1.1
75 29 Tulane 82.66 1.8
100 94 Tulsa 80.73 -.8
89 4 UAB 81.52 4.2
67 100 UCF 83.92 -.9
31 126 UCLA 86.63 -5.4
97 28 UNLV 80.88 1.8
18 130 USC 89.14 -12.5
72 95 USF 83.28 -.8
36 101 Utah 86.22 -1.1
107 18 Utah St. 80.44 2.3
130 57 UTEP 78.15 .5
85 92 UTSA 81.85 -.7
33 120 Va Tech 86.26 -3.2
56 116 Vanderbilt 84.98 -2.3
47 16 Virginia 85.67 2.3
92 89 W Kentucky 81.41 -.5
80 102 W Michigan 82.11 -1.1
37 86 W Virginia 86.21 -.4
59 45 Wake Forest 84.63 1.0
17 117 Washington 89.31 -2.4
64 107 Washington St. 84.38 -1.4
25 14 Wisconsin 87.34 2.4
117 21 Wyoming 79.97 2.0

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