The University of Georgia and LSU led the SEC with six players selected from each program. Based on Scout.com's recruiting rankings, 24 of the 38 players drafted were previously rated as four-star talent or better (63.2 percent) coming out of high school. Only two players were rated as two-stars, Randall Cobb of Kentucky and Zach Clayton from Auburn.
The average star rating of the 38 draft selections from the SEC was 3.76 and the average star rating of the 10 players selected during the first round was 4.2.
Though college recruiting and the NFL Draft are not exact sciences, one thing holds true for both events. The more talent you can accumulate, the better chance you have of being successful.
From 2002-2007 Auburn recruited 43 players who eventually started for at least two seasons. Of those 43 starters, Scout.com rated 42 percent of them as four-stars or better and only 19 percent were rated as two-stars or less. During the 2008 season Auburn's average star rating of its starting offense was 2.64. The average star rating of the starting defense was 3.00.
When the 2010 Auburn Tigers lined up to play Oregon for the BCS National Championship, the average star rating of the Tiger starting offense was 3.64 and the defense had an average star rating of 3.36.
From 2002-2008, 31.7 percent of Coach Tommy Tuberville's recruits were four-stars or better and 30.1 percent were two-stars or less. Coach Gene Chizik's first three recruiting classes at Auburn consisted of 45.8 percent four-star players or better and only 14.4 percent were two-stars or less.
There is no doubt that Chizik's staff has raised the bar when it comes to recruiting, but it doesn't guarantee success. Of the 58 four-star players signed by Auburn from 2002-2008, 26 of them never became starters (45 percent) and saw less than 20 games on the field during their careers. The key for Auburn's current staff will be minimizing their attrition rate, which was extremely high during Tuberville's final three recruiting classes. Thus far, Auburn under Chizik has lost four of the Tigers' 38 four-star recruits signed from 2009-2011.
Coach Tuberville has been fondly remembered for his ability to find diamonds in the rough during the recruiting process. From 2002-2008, eight Auburn recruits rated as two-stars or less went on to become two-year starters for the Tigers and four of them were later selected in the NFL draft. As great as these stories of "rags to riches" were, it basically equated to one per season. It also left Auburn with 34 players rated as two-stars or less who never became starters.
Obviously there is some form of gamble or risk in all of recruiting, but the best of gamblers know how to play the odds. It doesn't take a genius to figure out that a higher number of four-star players than two-star players will translate to a higher probability for success. To build a successful program requires recruiting, development and coaching, but talent certainly gives you a good head start.
For Tuberville 45 percent of his four-star recruits became major contributors or starters during their Auburn careers. So far 54 percent of Chizik's recruits from 2009-2011 have become starters or major contributors. Once again, they all cannot become major contributors, but the more you possess, the higher probability for success. In the end, development and coaching factor into the equation as the average star rating of the Top 10 BCS running backs from the 2010 season was only 2.9. In fact, only two of the top 10 were rated with four-stars or better and three were rated as two-star players coming out of high school.
The quarterback position might require more talent as the Top 10 BCS quarterbacks from 2010 had an average star rating of 3.8 with six of the quarterbacks rated four stars or better coming out of high school. The top 10 BCS wide receivers from 2010 had an average star rating of 3.4 with four having a star rating of four or better.
The key to recruiting is maintaining consistency year after year. One great class won't make a team just as one bad class won't break a team. Back-to-back poor recruiting classes will eventually catch up with a program, which is why attrition rate factors into the success or failures of a team.
When Alabama won its BCS national title in 2009, it did so with a starting offense and defense that had an average star rating of 3.45 on both sides of the football.
In 2010 the Crimson Tide had a star rating average of 3.7 on offense and 3.8 on defense putting them in position to compete for another championship. In the end, they suffered through three losses, but they were competitive in all three defeats. Based on star ratings, Auburn could be more talented in 2011 than 2010 but like Alabama, it might not result in a championship season.
For Auburn's coaching staff it's about building a foundation and maintaining the strength of the structure with talent and quality depth. We will see a youthful team in 2011, but talent will keep Auburn competitive as its build for another championship run in 2012.
The Tigers are in far better shape than 2009, but are probably one more solid recruiting class away from reloading on a yearly basis. Back-to-back average classes hampered Auburn going into the 2009 season, but now we will see the effect of back-to-back abundant classes making a better team.
Yes, star value does matter when it comes to recruiting, but only when supported by a coaching staff capable of cultivating it into something special. Finding the right "team" chemistry is not always easy. but having a substantial amount of talent makes coaching them up a smoother transition.