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Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Fun with Numbers: The Best Talent is Home Grown

If the world of coaching college football came down to just, well, coaching, it would be hard to offer much criticism of Georgia's two most recent hires. Both have distinguished resumes, impressive pedigrees and a history of success. But what Todd Grantham and Scott Lakatos both lack is a track record of recruiting the SEC, and therein lies the obvious criticism of Mark Richt's choices.

Now... does having not recruited the South mean they can't recruit the South? Absolutely not. And given that they'll be recruiting for UGA and Mark Richt, a lot of doors will be opened for them regardless of their track record.

(Think of it this way -- I've never interviewed President Obama, but if I worked for the New York Times and they sent me to the White House, I'm pretty sure I can think up a few good questions to ask.)

Still, there's no doubt that recruiting is at the core of success. To paraphrase Bill Parcells, it's one thing to be a great cook, but you also have to have someone who knows how to buy the groceries.

So with that, I want to offer a huge (HUGE!) hat tip to our pal Jim F., a Bulldogs Blog MVP candidate* who I'm fairly certain spends more time thinking about college football than I do. Jim has done some exhaustive research on recruiting going back to 2002, and has graciously allowed me to sift through the results for the blog.

(*Side note: As reader Kathleen pointed out to me last week, I think we need "Bulldogs Blog MVP" t-shirts made up. Kathleen, of course, will get one for suggesting the idea.)

Given the sheer volume of work Jim has done, this just isn't going to fit into one post. So what I'm thinking we'll do here is go through it one dose at a time and see how long we can stretch it out.

(BTW... Jim has started his own blog which you can find HERE. Given the amount of info he's provided me with over the past year, you can rest assured he'll have lots of good stuff on his own site, too.)

Since we're on the subject of Georgia's new coaching staff, however, and the questions remain about how well they'll be able to recruit, I figured a good starting point might be to ask how well Georgia's coaches have already been recruiting.

So... here's what we've got: Jim has collected information on the Rivals Top 100 recruits each year dating back to 2002 (in other words, the top 800 recruits of the past eight years) and sorted them by where they came from and where they went. Let's take a look...

States producing the most top high school recruits:

Pop Rank
Florida 120 4
Texas 107 2
California 101 1
Georgia 47 10
Ohio 34 7
Louisiana 33 22
Pennsylvania 33 6
Alabama 28 23
North Carolina
28 11
Illinois 21 5
Virginia 21 12

*Of note: Next up on the list is Maryland, Michigan and South Carolina with 20, then Mississippi and New Jersey with 19.

So, what do we notice right off the bat from these numbers?

First off, it should be no surprise that the three most consistent winners in the past decade have been Texas, Florida and USC. Those top three states combined to produce 41 percent of the Rivals Top 100 recruits since 2002, and have each produced more than double the No. 4 state on the list.

In fact, more than anything else, you could make a pretty valid argument that the biggest key to success for a college program is proximity to the top recruits. Take a look at the teams with the most wins in the 2000s (*BCS teams only):

Decade W-L
State Recruit Rank
110-18 2
Oklahoma 110-24 17
Ohio State
102-25 5
USC 102-26 3
Florida 100-30 1
LSU 99-31 6
Georgia 98-31 4
Virginia Tech
99-32 10 (t)

Of the eight winningest BCS conference teams in the 2000s, all but Oklahoma pulls from a state that ranks in the top 10 in top-100 recruits produced. (And it's fair to say Oklahoma gets quite a few recruits from Texas, to even out that disparity. In fact, of Texas' 107 top recruits, 18 signed with Oklahoma.)

Add to it that Texas, USC, Ohio State and LSU don't really have an in-state rival that offers anything near the same level of success and you get a situation in which those teams not only have access to the largest number of top recruits, but also have a distinct advantage in getting them. Which leads us to the next question...

Who does the best job of keeping its local talent close to home?

Let's just look at those top producers of talent first:

Top Recruits
Florida 120 80 67%
California 107 61 57%
Texas 101 70 69%
Georgia 47 25 53%
Ohio 34 23 68%
Louisiana 33 26 79%
Penns. 33 11 33%
Alabama 28 21 75%
North Carolina
28 9 32%
Illinois 21 5 24%
Virginia 21 14 67%

("In-State" = players who stayed in state for college, "Percentage" is the percent of overall top-100 players from that state who went to an in-state school.)

Given that Florida has three (and maybe four depending on how you quantify South Florida) teams who can legitimately contend for a BCS title berth, it's not surprising that a large quantity of its best players remain in state. There are plenty of options.

As we mentioned, Ohio State, Texas, USC and LSU lack a truly competitive in-state rival, but all have done a nice job of keeping talent in-state (as has Virginia/Virginia Tech and Alabama/Auburn).

With Illinois and North Carolina, the low number of players who remained in state makes some sense, too. After all, the Tar Heels, Duke, NC State and the Fightin' Ron Zooks are hardly programs that traditionally lure five-star talent on a regular basis. There are far superior out-of-state options for those kids.

The two states that really stand out on this list then are Georgia and Pennsylvania.

To address the latter, Penn State is really the only legitimate football school in Pennsylvania -- and really, one of the few in the Northeast, sad to say. So on one hand, it looks bad that the Nittany Lions aren't keeping talent in state. On the other hand, Joe Paterno can pull recruits nationally and, more improtantly, has a big edge throughout the entire region. He doesn't need to worry as much about closing ranks within the state because he really doesn't have to worry about competitors from neighboring states (aside from maybe Ohio State).

That leaves us with Georgia, which despite having two programs routinely ranked in the top 25, secures just 53 percent of its in-state talent.

Clearly we've seen the Bulldogs make some splashes nationally of late (Stafford, Moreno, Lynch to name a few) and they've gotten some steals in Florida, too (Charles, Murray) but how many are they letting get away from their own backyard?

Here are some numbers:

-- Nine "top" recruits, including three five-star players, have left the state of Georgia to go to a school in Florida since 2002 (six to FSU including one five-star, two to UF, both five stars, and one to Miami).

-- On the other hand, UGA has swiped just three "top" players from the state of Florida, none of which have been five-star guys.

-- Considering that Florida has produced nearly three times as many "top" players since 2002 as Georgia has, but has taken three times as many "top" recruits from the state of Georgia than UGA has from Florida, that's a problem.

(*And as a side note, here are the three UGA stole from Florida: Orson Charles, Aaron Murray and... wait for it... Bryan Evans!)

(*And if you're interested, here's who was stolen from Georgia: Cameron Newton (QB-Fla), Omar Hunter (DT, Fla), Jae Thaxton (LB, FSU), Justin Mincey (DE, FSU), Marcus Ball (LB, FSU), Antwane Greenlee (OL, FSU), Jarmon Fortson (Ath, FSU), Greg Reid (DB, FSU), Allen Bailey (DE, Miami)... not the most impressive list, so perhaps UGA didn't "lose" these guys as much as they "passed" on these guys.)

Anyway, the bottom line, of course, is how many players do you have? Here are the final results in terms of who got the top recruits (remember, there were 800 total)...

Top 100 Signees
USC 72
Texas 49
Florida 47
Fla State
LSU 43
Oklahoma 42
Miami 39
Michigan 36
UGA 35
Ohio State

A couple quick notes from this list:

-- Holy smokes! USC has landed nearly one out of every 10 top-100 recruit since 2002.

-- Miami, Michigan and Florida State have all been "down" during this time... and all rank in the top 10 in most high-end recruits.

-- Georgia ranks pretty high on this list (tied for ninth) and I'd saying calling Georgia the eighth or ninth best program in the country during this span might be a pretty fair analysis. (Although, to be even more fair, some of these recruits have yet to see the field for UGA and the wins earned in 2002 and 2003, for example, had little to do with the recruiting classes those years.)

-- But while Georgia is successful on the recruiting trail, what always seems to get overlooked is that their competition is successful, too. Twenty-one teams have landed at least 10 top-100 recruits since 2002, and of those 21, seven (or 33%) are SEC schools.


OK, that's about all I can read into this without going bug-eyed today. But I'm interested in your thoughts. What jumps out to you from these numbers? Are you concerned about Todd Grantham and Scott Lakatos' ability to keep UGA competitve on the recruiting trail? What happens if Rodney Garner leaves?

Again, this is just the tip of the iceberg on Jim's fine research, so we'll have some more on all this later in the week.


Keese said...

That's some real analysis paralysis. Bottom line UGA needs to hammer the state of Georgia for recruiting. Success and proximity are the most important factors and relationship between them. Different levels of success also play a role as well.

Anonymous said...

Maybe I am mistaken, but I thought McClendon was really developing in to an amazing recruiter. Is this true or am I mistaken? I figure that he would be getting called on for more of the heavy recruiting this offseason, in addition to coach Garner.

Dawg '85 said...

Interesting numbers... thanks for the stats guys. I have one immediate thought about "top prospects"... Bryan Evans... if he was rated highly, they missed... maybe he could have been coached up a bit better, BUT, he lacked fundamentals like ball awareness and tackling that you learn the first day of HS ball to "form tackling"... driving thru the ball and wrapping arms... NOT shoulder dives to the knees. So the Rival and Scout folks aren't always right.

"That being said", the SE is obviousle a hotbed that UGA needs to lock up better.

Although I was initially skeptical of the lack of recruiting ties for CTG and Lakatos, there is reason for optimism:

- They both seem intelligent enough to read a map and their increased salaries should afford a decent GPS system... they can find these SE recruits!

- Despite CMR's public relations skills and communications lapses, UGA recruiting has a VERY compelling message: "We know what it takes to get to the NFL, we've done it it with kids less talented than you, and we are going to do it the right way!"

- CMR must hammer the message that our program is consistent, stable and sturdy... TN is a mess, Urban might ascend to heaven any day, and Saban will descend to Hades for a better contract.

Ausdawg85 said...

I seem to recall that our graduation rates and other classroom performance indicators are superior...if not significantly a lot of these other top 10 recruiting schools. Since the Jan Kemp days, I get the impression UGA has had to run a tighter ship on academic qualifications than, shall we say...Florida? And I believe Texas grad rates are abysmal. Measuring recruiting results takes a lot of dynamics...and I'm not sure to what end beyond ultimate won-loss records. Would it be so bad if UGA was 25th in recruiting, but Richt/Grantham and Company coach 'em up to championship caliber?

JasonC said...

2 thoughts:
Georgia has always had problems with neighboring schools raiding their talent which isn't surprising when you have 3 major football schools that are all within an hour of the border: Auburn, FSU and Clemson.
Auburn was notorious for raiding south GA in the 80s and still gets a lot of kids from Columbus, LaGrange, etc.
FSU is close to Valdosta and Thomasville which is usually rich in talent.

RE: Miami
I read an article this past year talking about Miami's decline in the mid-naughties. One of the reasons cited was poor talent evaluation. There were allegations that the coaches were "star happy" and just getting high-profile athletes without getting the right athletes, i.e. trusting the recruiting services more than doing the legwork to see if the kid is the 'real deal'.

Anonymous said...

count me in for one of those Bulldogs Blog Shirts David, I would gladly be a walking billboard for this site

Anonymous said...

None of this is surprising. Look at the BEST player of the decade for two of our primary opponents: Eric Berry and Calvin Johnson, the two best high school players in GA this decade went elsewhere.

We have totally ignored phenomenal piplelines in Stephenson, Carver Columbus and Gainesville. Why? Going after a guy like Chase Vasser over Jarvis Jones was obviously ludicrous, and the coach responsible has been fired, but still, it happened on CMR's watch.

Every year, there are 4-6 "national" recruits in the state that UGA chooses not to recruit. Why?

I think what a lot of this says is that Rodney Garner is a lot more hype than substance at this point, and if he were to go elsewhere, it would not be as big a deal as so many people make it out to be.

Pete said...

With all the early verbal commitments of the past few years, it seems that Georgia focuses on players who want to be Bulldogs rather than get into battles over players. This seems to hold true for their national recruits as well (Stafford, Moreno). It's not a bad strategy. The downfall that I've seen is that we seem to get in too late on players we probably could've had if we'd made more of an effort.