NCAA Football News

Do Top 10 Recruiting Classes Really Equal Championships?

Whether you want to admit it or not, recruiting at an elite level is critical in competing for and winning a national championship. Yes, coaching matters, too. So does player development. We can be nuanced and honest enough to understand there's not one factor that overrides all else when it comes to putting together a championship-caliber team. If you want to head down that road, lucky breaks play a role, too. 

However, combining individual factors like those can't lead to blanket statements like "recruiting stars don't matter." Of course they do. The star system is an inexact science, but it matters all the same. 

Just look at the string of recent national champions. Every single one recruited annually at a high level. Alabama, in fact, has taken its dynasty and made it twofold. There's the dynasty on the field and the dynasty on the recruiting trail. 

"Nobody has had a recruiting dynasty like this in college football," Mike Farrell, a national recruiting analyst for Rivals, told Bleacher Report's Lars Anderson last year. 

In the table below are the last 10 national title winners and their previous four recruiting classes dating from four years before (Year -4) to the year immediately preceding (Year -1).

With the exception of Auburn in 2010, every single championship winner averaged a top-10 class in the four years leading up to their big win.

However, the Tigers had a once-in-a-lifetime player in quarterback Cam Newton—who, by the way, is likely going to be this year's NFL MVP, is playing in the Super Bowl on Sunday and who is, according to B/R's Mike Freeman, "the most dangerous quarterback weapon we've ever seen." Still, Auburn averaged a top-15 class for this exercise. 

There are variances, of course. First of all, not all recruiting services rank players and classes the same. Where 247Sports and Rivals rank the same class could vary. Secondly, as Stewart Mandel of Fox Sports rightly explained, "whether your favorite school finishes fourth or seventh is a largely arbitrary distinction. ... ultimately those are both really good classes." 

The distinction, as Mandel goes on to write, is "between fifth and 35th." 

Additionally, claiming that recruiting matters doesn't instantly mean a program is going to win a national championship. LSU, Texas and USC are recent examples of underachieving programs in the star-system era. Conversely, one could look at programs like Baylor, Michigan State and Stanford as overachievers. 

These are outliers, though. And, for the record, the aforementioned overachievers have a whopping zero national championships in the star-system era among them.

The point is if a program routinely recruits at a top-10 level, it puts itself in a better position to win a national title. This is what Josh McCuistion of SoonerScoop.com firmly believes:  

Based on the above chart, McCuistion isn't wrong. Paul Myerberg of USA Today, on the other hand, puts that magic number at 15: 

There's a large degree of truth in both statements. Auburn has already been discussed, but there's another example that somewhat supports Myerberg's assertion: Clemson, which was No. 1 in the eyes of the College Football Playoff selection committee last season.

Over the last four recruiting cycles, the Tigers averaged a recruiting rank of 14th, which puts them just inside the cutoff point. Clemson, of course, came oh so close to winning it all. 

In short, top-10 classes are as close as you're going to get to a sure thing when it comes to translating raw talent to national championships. Top-15 classes are probably the limit. 

With that in mind, who fits the mold for 2016-17?

A quick glance across this year's 247Sports recruiting rankings shows a lot of the usual suspects: LSU, Ohio State, Florida State, Alabama, Michigan, Notre Dame, etc.

Historically speaking, those are the types of programs capable of putting together top-10 to top-15 classes. In other words, don't be surprised if one of those teams hoists the playoff trophy next January. 

As Gerry Hamilton of ESPN.com notes, national title-winning teams have a history of recruiting extremely well in the year leading right up to the championship: 

So the next time you hear someone say national signing day is overrated or that stars don't matter, tell them to look at the numbers, because they say something different entirely.

Is recruiting a perfect formula? Absolutely not. Nothing in sports is predicted with 100 percent accuracy. 

But the correlation is there. That's what matters.  

 

Ben Kercheval is a lead writer for college football. All quotes cited unless obtained firsthand. All recruiting information courtesy of 247Sports

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No. 1 2016 QB Takes On Future Michigan QB in Obstacle Course Through B/R Office

Recently, 2016 stud quarterback recruits Brandon Peters (Michigan) and Shea Patterson (Ole Miss) stopped by the Bleacher Report office to duke it out in the grandaddy of them all: the office obstacle course.

Watch the two future stars face off in the video above.

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Jacob Park to Iowa State: Latest Comments and Reaction

After coming out on the losing end of a quarterback battle at the University of Georgia and subsequently leaving the school, Jacob Park "plans to sign" with Iowa State.  

According to Steve Wiltfong of 247Sports, the soon-to-be sophomore is looking for a new lease on life in the Big 12.

"I feel blessed to have another opportunity," Park said on Tuesday. "I know a lot of people don't get one shot at it. I'm getting two. I'm going to make the best of it."

Tommy Birch of the Des Moines Register believes landing Park could turn out to be a major coup for the Cyclones:

After current Georgia starting signal-caller Greyson Lambert transferred from Virginia to Georgia last summer, Park decided to leave Athens, per Chip Towers of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

“I just want to say thank (you) dawg nation and everyone else who made my stay in Athens special," Park said on social media. "Never will forget the people and friends. Time to move on and turn the page to the next chapter. Go Dawgs."

According to Marc Weiszer of the Athens Banner-Herald, Park attended Trident Technical College this past season rather than playing football at a junior college.

The former South Carolina Mr. Football honoree was a redshirt freshman in 2014 during his only season with the Bulldogs.

Per Wiltfong, Park was rated as the No. 5 pro-style quarterback in the Class of 2014, and he is excited about the opportunity to play for the Cyclones:

Coach (Matt) Campbell, he's the most down to earth coach I've ever met. Coach (Alex) Golesh is like talking to my big brother. (Passing game coordinator) Coach (Jim) Hofher is like the best teacher. I spent 45 minutes in the room for him for two days and learned more in those 45-minute sessions than I did in my whole time at Georgia.

When I showed up on campus they treated me like family and I felt like I was at home. They have a good situation to me at quarterback walking in the door, all signs are pointing that this is has to be the right decision.

With Sam B. Richardson no longer in the picture and Joel Lanning failing to establish himself as the definitive starter as a sophomore, Park has a golden opportunity to step in and start right away for Iowa State.

Park has his work cut out for him since the Cyclones haven't won more than three games since 2012 and haven't had a winning record since 2009, but he should receive the playing time he covets.

It clearly wasn't going to happen for him at Georgia, but Park now has a chance to show the Bulldogs why he deserved a longer look under center.

 

Follow @MikeChiari on Twitter.

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Where Do Auburn, Alabama Turn After No. 1 Recruit Rashan Gary Trims List?

The race to land 5-star defensive tackle and No. 1 overall recruit Rashan Gary is down to two final suitors in Clemson and Michigan, according to Scout’s Brian Dohn.

With the news that they are no longer in the running for the nation’s premier defensive tackle prospect, SEC powers Alabama and Auburn—who were in Gary’s previous group of contenders—have to look elsewhere for help along the defensive line.

Both the Crimson Tide and the Tigers are recruiting other stud recruits at that position, but where will each program turn after missing out on Gary?

As if the two fierce rivals need anything else to battle over, it’s likely that the No. 1 focus for both Nick Saban and Gus Malzahn is 5-star defensive tackle Derrick Brown.

Keith Niebuhr of AuburnUndercover reported that a source close to Brown indicated the Peach State’s top overall prospect has a top three that includes Alabama, Auburn and Tennessee.

Of that group, the Tigers seem to have the most buzz with Brown—as evidenced by the heavy movement toward Malzahn’s program on Brown’s Crystal Ball page.

After his official visit to Auburn the weekend of Jan. 15, Brown told Niebuhr that his comfort level on the Plains is part of what appeals to him with the Tigers.

"Coming out here, you always get the family atmosphere," Brown told Niebuhr. "Some people say that but you can't really tell that. But definitely coming here you get that feel." 

The Tigers would love to pair Brown with fellow Georgia native and 4-star defensive tackle Antwuan Jackson—who is already on campus as an early enrollee.

Another defensive tackle prospect from the Peach State who has both the Tide and the Tigers among his final group is 4-star Michail Carter.

While it would be tough to pull the 6’4”, 302-pounder away from the Bulldogs, it appears as if Alabama is in the best shape to challenge Georgia.

As noted by BamaOnline, Carter visited Tuscaloosa during the week before making his way to Georgia, and he’s been on the Tide’s campus on numerous occasions throughout his recruitment.

Even if the Tide can’t pull Carter on signing day, Saban and his staff have the luxury of already having three 4-star defensive tackles pledged in Raekwon Davis, Kendell Jones and Quinnen Williams.

While losing out on Gary is a blow, both the Tide and the Tigers appear to be in a good position to meet their needs at the defensive tackle spot when the dust settles on national signing day.

 

Sanjay Kirpalani is a National Recruiting Analyst for Bleacher Report. Unless otherwise noted, all quotes obtained firsthand and all recruiting information courtesy of 247Sports.

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Last-Minute Predictions for Top Uncommitted 2016 Recruits

We're getting down to the final moments before Wednesday's national signing day, and we're predicting where the top uncommitted recruits will land.

Which programs will Mecole Hardman Jr., Ben Davis and Rashan Gary sign with?

Watch Stephen Nelson and Bleacher Report College Football Recruiting Analyst Tyler Donohue break it down in the video above.

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The Toughest Part of NSD for Recruits: Understanding It's a Business

From the end of April through early December, TaDarryl Marshall was a proud Tennessee commit for a little more than seven months.

On Dec. 6, he and Tennessee officially parted ways. On Monday night, the Leeds, Alabama, 3-star athlete committed to Samford.

Marshall is excited about his college future, but outsiders looking in immediately ask the same question: How does someone once committed to play in the SEC—someone with 26 reported offers—prepare to play FCS football?

These are the questions of recruiting that come right around the closing hours before national signing day. And with three words, Marshall seemed to answer every question that comes up regarding the random—and oftentimes unfair—activities that happen before signing day.

"It's a business," Marshall said, "and every athlete should learn how to sell themselves in order to land the offer to the school they want."

The harsh reality of recruiting is that in some cases, commitments don't stick. And by that, we're not talking about athletes decommitting from a program.

In Marshall's case, Tennessee reportedly chose to part ways with him. He said in a tweet that the Volunteers revoked his offer, which forced him to look at different avenues within his recruiting process.

"Once I committed to Tennessee, some of those offers I had went away. Schools were looking at other people," Marshall said. "So after I decommitted, it was so late in the game, and spots were already taken. Kentucky and Arizona ended up pulling their offers the same day.

"I mean, I understand it, but it can be a lot better—especially with the communication part of it. I think it's better to just tell a recruit early rather than when they're looking for something last-minute. If Tennessee told me three months ago, I wouldn't have been in this situation."

Sadly, these things happen in recruiting.

Scholarships are given, and then they can either be downgraded to grayshirt opportunities or, worse, pulled altogether. It's not an illegal process. Some may consider it immoral, but it's not illegal.

When it happens, it puts an athlete in an awkward situation—particularly the athlete who is blindsided by a program's plan or the athlete who spent months helping a program recruit other players. Perhaps even more disturbingly, these situations occasionally happen extremely close to national signing day, which leaves some athletes in desperate situations.

Riley Cole now finds himself in that situation. After committing to Alabama in June, the 3-star linebacker tweeted on Sunday that he has reopened his process after Alabama downgraded his offer to a grayshirt—when an athlete doesn't enroll in class until the second term of his freshman year.

The NCAA allows college athletes five years to complete four years of eligibility.

Athletes grayshirt all the time. It's the timing of the situation that makes Cole's process tough for some to process.

Alas, recruiting is a business. And it isn't always fun.

Last month, 4-star offensive tackle Erik Swenson decommitted from Michigan after reportedly having his offer rescinded. The decommitment happened on Jan. 20, but he found a home at Oklahoma 10 days later and is planning to sign with the Sooners on Wednesday.

Patrice Virgil knows about these horror stories all too well.

Her son is Fresno State quarterback Chason Virgil, a member of the 2015 recruiting class and currently a sophomore-to-be who once thought his future would be at Mississippi State.

The Bulldogs, however, pulled Virgil's scholarship and offered him a grayshirt. The timing sent his family into a frenzy, as Mississippi State pulled the offer 16 days before he graduated early from West Mesquite High School in Mesquite, Texas.

"It was devastating for us because of the fact that we've always taught Chason when you decide where you want to go, there won't any changing of the mind," Patrice Virgil said. "We didn't want to go into thinking it could be Mississippi State today and another school the next.

"Knowing they waited all that time and never said anything until he had 16 days left before he graduated, that hurt."

Additionally, Virgil had to put his college future to the side momentarily in November 2014. He and his family received the news two days before he had to lead his team in a playoff game.

"When they lost, it took him a long time to leave the field," Patrice Virgil said. "It hit him. He didn't have anywhere to go. He said, 'Mama, where am I going to go?' That broke my heart."

The good news for Virgil is that he ended up with an FBS scholarship, as did Swenson. Marshall, who said many of his scholarship offers were no longer available because of lack of space in the class, is currently the top-ranked player in Samford's class.

As for Cole, there's still time for him to land somewhere. Remember, national signing day is only the first day of the actual signing period. Cole will have until April 1 to sign a national letter of intent.

It won't be with the school he originally committed to, but that's the business side of recruiting that no one likes discussing.

 

Damon Sayles is a National Recruiting Analyst for Bleacher Report. All quotes were obtained firsthand. All player ratings are courtesy of 247Sports' composite ratings. Follow Damon via Twitter @DamonSayles.

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