Analyzing recruiting grades via Alabama and Texas 

December, 28, 2009

Since there was no mailbag last Friday due to the holidays, I'm leading today with a response to something a few of you had asked about in regard to the Wall Street Journal story titled "Top Recruiting isn't a Prerequisite for a BCS Berth." You can find the piece here.

Here's the essential takeaway:

    "If bowl season teaches fans anything, it's that getting top recruits doesn't guarantee success. In this year's 34 bowls, half of the participating teams didn't have a single starter in their final regular-season game that was considered a top-100 prospect in high school, according to recruiting Web site The Count analyzed 1,496 bowl-game starters and found that just 8.4% of them were top-100 recruits."

The first sentence is true -- but then things get murky. Stockpiling talent and the fact about half of the FBS teams end up in bowl games makes this a faulty formula to begin with. As we've talked about a lot in the past year or two, you have to be amazed at the job of evaluating and developing players that schools such as TCU, Boise State, Oregon State and some others do. But I think it is very curious to see how the supposed heavyweights do when they sign similarly rated recruits.

Years ago I found it fascinating that the best Miami players when UM was on top were actually the guys who came into the program with the least hype. I'd once broached the subject with Ed Reed -- one of those low-rated recruits who had picked Miami over Tulane -- and he pointed out that those guys had the most drive and determination to prove they were better than all of the supposed blue-chips. The core of Miami's 34-game winning streak earlier this decade was two- and three-star guys: Reed, Ken Dorsey, Jon Vilma, Jeremy Shockey.

Now compare that to all of the UM's "five-star" recruits, signed from 2002 to 2007: Devin Hester, Ryan Moore, Greg Olsen, Kyle Wright, Lance Leggett, Tyler McMeans, Willie Williams, Kenny Phillips, Reggie Youngblood. Of that list, only Hester, Olsen and Phillips lived up to expectations.

To dig a little deeper on this, I was curious to see how the non-four-star and five-star recruits do at the high-profile schools, and the results -- at least anecdotally -- are intriguing. Just look at the two teams in the BCS title game and how well their lesser-regarded recruits have done. If we bypass the 2009 class -- because it's too soon to get much of an accurate gauge on those recruits -- you see a quite an impact by the lesser-touted recruits.