Monday, January 23, 2012

Three reasons why rankings of college football recruiting classes are full of it ...

College football fans love the annual rankings of college football teams' recruiting classes. Interest peaks around National Signing Day, which is February 1 this year. But as a measure of predicting success on the football field, these rankings of recruiting classes are pretty much meaningless, looking at team performance four years later. By that time, most of those players would be seniors or redshirt juniors. We’d expect them to have moved into starting positions, or at least be making strong contributions to their teams’ success. So likewise, we’d think that we’d have college football teams performing in line with the perceived strength of those recruiting classes. Here’s why we need to think again:

1)     Most of the recruiting classes ranked in the top 10 fail to produce teams that perform at that level. In 2008, the recruiting classes of six college football teams were ranked among the top 10 by all of three national recruiting sites (Rivals, Scout, and ESPN). Those teams were Alabama, Notre Dame, Ohio State, Miami, Georgia, and USC. But of those, only two – Alabama and USC – ranked among the top 10 in the final Associated Press rankings for the football season four years later, in fall 2011.  And another three of those consensus top-ranked recruiting classes – at Miami, Notre Dame and Ohio State – produced teams that didn’t even make it into the A.P.’s  top 25 at the end of the 2011 season.

2)     Many of the recruiting classes ranked low – even very low – produce teams that perform at very high levels. For example, Stanford’s 2008 recruiting class was ranked No. 50 by Rivals and No. 43 by Scout, and didn’t appear in the ESPN’s top-25-only rankings. But Stanford ended up the fall 2011 season as the No. 7 team in the nation, according to the final A.P. poll. Arkansas is another example. At the end of the 2011 season, it was ranked by A.P. as the No. 5 team in the nation. But its 2008 recruiting class was ranked No. 36 by Rivals, No. 24 by Scout, and No. 18 by ESPN.

3)     Rankings of recruiting classes don’t – and can’t – take into account all of the intangibles that affect player and team performance in the future. There’s no way to know which recruits will be able to adapt to the physical and emotional demands and faster pace of the college game. It’s a tough transition for many. Other factors include the nearly 50 percent turnover rate among NCAA Division I head coaches every three years. New coaches often bring different offensive and defensive schemes that might not fit the skills and talents of players recruited by previous coaches. These and other issues are explored in Beyond Friday Nights: College Football Recruiting for Players and Parents, a great read for anyone interested in college football recruiting.

No comments:

Post a Comment