Stocking the Larder: Comparing Recruiting Rankings

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With National Signing Day behind us, and the Irish larder “full,” I thought it might be a fun way to start the week by looking at how our opponents fared and have fared over the last four years. Before I begin, though, I want to explain my methodology, such as it is. First, I decided to use Rivals. I used one ranking site for clarity. Why did I feel that important? Well, for example, Rivals has ND ranked eleventh overall for 2014, whereas Scout has the Irish in at an eyebrow-raising sixth. Because my point wasn’t to compare individual classes, I wanted consistent numbers. After deciding on a source, I pulled the rankings back to 2010 for every team on our 2014 schedule. Then, I made a table.

TEAM 2014 2013 2012 2011 2010
RICE 94 91 92 89 106
MICHIGAN 31 5 7 21 20
PURDUE 75 56 33 94 54
SYRACUSE 52 74 66 76 78
STANFORD 14 64 5 22 26
NORTH CAROLINA 23 42 44 16 29
FLORIDA STATE 4 10 6 2 10
NAVY 104 93 87 103 112
ARIZONA STATE 22 34 38 58 35
NORTHWESTERN 69 53 61 88 77
LOUISVILLE 46 52 42 29 48
USC 10 13 8 4 1
NOTRE DAME 11 3 20 10 14

So what jumps out at you? To me, the following does:

Only USC and FSU have put together “better” recruiting classes in the last five years than Notre Dame.

Brady Hoke put in some strong classes in 2013 and 2012, but with only sixteen recruits signed in 2014, Michigan’s ranking tumbled. Whether that means Michigan’s downward trend in the polls will continue is anyone’s guess. But I sure hope it does.

Stanford’s 2013 rank of 64 is clearly an outlier and can partly be explained by the Tree only signing 12 players that year. Looking at the rankings on either side, though, you don’t see the ball bouncing all the way back from their high mark at 5 (2012), so that the rebound from 64 to 14 could presage a discussion of whether Stanford might be losing steam. I really, really hope so.

We should slaughter Rice. Whereas last year’s Opening Day opponent, Temple, pings between the 60′s and the 100′s, Rice has only cracked 90 once. And you saw how quickly Temple rolled over for us.

North Carolina’s put together some surprisingly decent classes. Perhaps they should offer a class in recruiting.

Lane Kiffin squanders more talent than Paul Verhoeven. The man’s a cancer and I hope he infects Alabama.

All in all though, recruiting classes are but tea leaves. You can read them all you want, but they don’t come together without a lot of help. Unrated players can come out of nowhere to dominate, while five-star guys can fizzle. A class’s rank is really only determined after its fifth-year players pass on and the complete book can be written.

About Bayou Irish

Featured Columnist: Notre Dame Football & Other Notre Dame Sports
Hating Hurricanes Since 1990.

Bayou Irish is a Jersey boy and Double Domer who fell under New Orleans' spell in 1995. He's been through Katrina and fourteen years in the Coast Guard, so we cut him some slack, mostly in the form of HLS-subsidized sazeracs. But, when he's not face down on the bar and communing with the ghosts of Faulkner and Capote at the Carousel Bar in the Hotel Monteleone, he's our man in SEC-land, doing his best to convince everyone around him that Graduation Success Rate is a better indicator of success than the number of MNC's won in the last five years.

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  • Mathew Normile

    Great article. It is always lot of fun to correlate recruiting rankings with the ultimate results. However, one thing that doesn’t make sense about the way rankings are calculated is that they ignore how many recruits a team needed and how many scholarships they had available. For example, just to make the point, if Stanford only needed to fill 12 scholarship spots in 2013 and they did it with high quality recruits, then their ranking should be much higher. Somehow there should be a way to adjust the rankings to the number of scholarships that teams have available for a given year.

  • domerboyirish

    I have never been a big fan recruiting rankings that are ‘point total’ driven. It takes into account the quantity of the class. As an example, if Tennessee signs 32 kids that are 3.2 stars, they get a pretty decent ranked class. I don’t consider that a great class because they just filled their roster with moderate talent. What does that get them in the long run?.

    I would be interested to know what this chart would look like if you went back to the Rivals site and resorted the list based on ‘average stars’. That would give a better indication of the perceived quality of the players recruited. I think a class of 15 kids that average out at about 3.8 stars would be a much better class of recruits than the list Tennessee class mentioned above.

  • Bayou Irish

    Hi Mathew and thanks for reading and commenting. Couldn’t agree more about the “adjusted” ranking. Meaning, if theoretically all you needed was a QB of the future and you signed three five-stars, you should win.

  • Bayou Irish

    Hi domerboyirish and thanks for reading and commenting. Great point, too. I think a team should get retroactive credit if they offer to an unranked player who turns into a stud.