That's a question I often get, and based on the spirited discussion recruiting rankings can generate, it's obvious to me that they mean very different things to different people.
Some consider them affirmation of their own superiority as fans of a team ranked high.
Some consider them nothing more than marketing ploys to pander to the largest fan bases as their team consistently outperforms their historic recruiting ranking.
Some consider them to be gospel, while others consider them to be garbage.
What do they mean to me?
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I went back through Scout's ranking for the Class of 2005 thru 2008, the four years that made up the vast majority of rosters for the 2008 season and I compared those rankings to both the compiled AP ranking and winning percentage for the same period.
Looking through the numbers below, there are several trends worth noticing, while keeping in mind that we're not comparing apples to apples all the time. For example, teams don't all play the same schedules. It's not fair to discount strength of schedule when comparing winning percentage. But by the same token, it would also be irresponsible not to point out that there are multitudes of teams that win at a much greater pace than those who would take recruiting rankings too literally might believe.
One trend I can't help but notice, teams high in recruiting but low on winning seem to be breaking in new coaches the last couple of years, and teams high on the right, but low on the left seem to find their coaches as hot commodities. Coincidence?
West Virginia is the team that immediately jumps out at me as a BCS school that wins at a high level and finishes high in the polls at an equally high level, despite rarely cracking the Top 25 in recruiting. Quarterback Pat White was the square peg in a round hole for most teams, but at West Virginia, his talents fit the system perfectly, and the four-year starter is leaving Morgantown with the accolades of a five-star.
The non-BCS conferences have continually gotten stronger and stronger. Boise State, TCU, Utah, and BYU are four teams that have proven they can compete with anyone on the field, despite typically having to pass on players recruited by bigger-named BCS schools. TCU is in a football hotbed in Texas, but Idaho and Utah aren't exactly considered deep in local talent.
In the ACC, two perennial overachievers are Wake Forest and Boston College. I've said for the last several years that I think Jim Grobe and his staff at Wake Forest do the best job of recruiting to a system based on the players available to them. What impresses me most about what Wake Forest is able to do is the localized competition in a small area. With five Football Bowl Subdivision schools and four in the ACC in a state that produces toughly 60 FBS guys, there's a tremendous amount of in-state competition for a limited amount of players.
Speaking of small states producing big results, the state of Oregon is lucky to produce 25 FBS signees per year, yet Oregon and Oregon State each outpace their respective recruiting rankings. Exciting offenses bolstered by a few special talents can go a long way to leveling the playing field.
In the Big 12, Missouri and Kansas are teams that have to contend with heavyweights that make a living closer to Texas, yet stand toe-to-toe with them on the field. Quarterback play can go a long way to elevating a team on the field. Chase Daniel of Missouri was heavily recruited; Todd Reesing at Kansas wasn't. Both have proven invaluable to their teams.
As another National Signing Day will come and go, much will be made about who won the wars in February. Die-hard recruitniks and skeptics alike should keep in mind that while some battles may have been won and lost, the war for supremacy in 2009 is just beginning and will be settled next fall.
Compiled Rankings 2005-2008
|Recruit Rank||Winning %||AP Rank*|
|6||LSU||6||West Virginia||0.824||6||West Virginia|
|9||Notre Dame||9||Penn State||0.784||9||Virginia Tech|
|12||Florida State||12||Georgia||0.769||12||Boise State|
|22||South Carolina||22||Alabama||0.673||22||Oregon State|
|30||Arizona State||28||Oregon State||0.647||30||Nebraska|
|32||Washington||31||South Florida||0.627||32||Florida State|
|33||Miss. State||31||Wake Forest||0.627||33||Hawaii|
|35||West Virginia||34||Georgia Tech||0.615||35||Arkansas|
|36||Oklahoma State||34||Houston||0.615||36||Wake Forest|
|39||NC State||39||Florida State||0.596||39||Mississippi|
|40||Colorado||40||W. Michigan||0.592||40||Georgia Tech|
*Not every team was ranked all four years. For each time a team wasn't ranked, a ranking of 40 was generated for that year.