Stat Tiger: Recruiting Thoughts and Numbers

Columnist Stuart Carter takes a mathmatical look back at Auburn's recruiting class and the rest of the SEC.

Recruiting is truly the life blood of college football, which has become a sport in itself. Each year, there are numerous publications ranking each programs efforts on the recruiting trail. The University of Florida captured the BCS National Championship and most publications had their 2007 recruiting class ranked No. 1 in the country. A true example of the rich becomes richer.

According to Scout.com, Auburn finished number six in the nation in recruiting, which is Auburn's highest recruiting ranking since Tommy Tuberville arrived in 1999. Auburn was one of five Southeastern Conference teams finishing in the top ten according to Scout's evaluation of the 2007 recruiting classes. It would make sense that the best football conference in the country would also be tops in recruiting when comparing conferences.

As exciting as recruiting reports might be, most college football fans realize it's nowhere close to being an exact science. It's not who you sign but what you do with them once they're on campus. Many of the so-called "star recruits" never live up to the hype or often fizzle out during their college careers while average recruits become major contributors to their respective schools. The 1991 Auburn signing class was not highly touted but became one of the best in school history in terms of their impact on the football field.

Recruiting Averages in the SEC

According to Scout.com, here are the average recruiting rankings from 2002-2007.

Florida ……….…. 7.67
Tennessee …….… 8.33
LSU ………..…… 8.33
Georgia ……….… 8.50
Auburn ……….… 15.83
South Carolina …. 20.17
Alabama ………... 25.67
Arkansas ……….. 28.33
Ole Miss ……….. 28.33
Miss State ……… 33.67
Kentucky ………. 55.17
Vanderbilt ……… 67.50

Amazingly, Tennessee has wrapped up five top ten recruiting classes in the last six years but has not won a conference title during that same time span. Because the 2007 class has not arrived on campus, let's take a look at the recruiting classes from 2002-2006. The schools will be sorted based on their recruiting ranking average, which will also include their win percentage during the same time period.

Georgia …………. 6.60 … (.803) … 1st
Florida ………….. 9.00 … (.703) … 4th
LSU …………….. 9.00 … (.800) … 2nd
Tennessee ………. 9.20 … (.667) … 5th
Auburn …………. 17.8 … (.781) … 3rd
South Carolina …. 22.8 … (.517) … 8th
Alabama ………... 27.0 … (.571) … 7th
Arkansas ……….. 27.2 … (.587) … 6th
Ole Miss ……….. 28.2 … (.467) … 9th
Miss State ……… 35.0 … (.241) … 12th
Kentucky ………. 54.4 … (.407) … 10th
Vanderbilt ……… 63.8 … (.258) … 11th

From 2002-2006, the University of Georgia had an average recruiting ranking of 6.6 in the nation and they produced the highest win percentage within the conference and the 6th highest win percentage in the nation during the same time period. Though Auburn's average recruiting ranking during that five-year period was 17.8 in the country, they did manage to post the third highest win percentage in the conference and the 9th highest win percentage in the nation.

On the flipside of the coin, Tennessee had the ninth highest recruiting average in the nation but finished with the fifth highest winning percentage in the conference and the 22nd highest win percentage in the nation. LSU was tied with Florida with the second highest recruiting average in the conference but they produced the second highest win percentage in the conference and the seventh highest win percentage in the country.

Until this past season, the Florida Gators had failed to live up to their high recruiting rankings from 2002-2006. The Gators had the second highest recruiting ranking in the conference but only produced the fourth highest win percentage in the SEC and the 17th highest win percentage in the nation. It will be interesting to see if the Florida Gators can live up to their second-ranked recruiting class in 2006 and their number one recruiting class in 2007.

Auburn senior Carl Stewart was the lowest rated player in his signing class in 2003 and is now one of the most valuable players on offense with a chance to play his way into the NFL after the 2007 season as a fullback.

Coaching and Developing

Most of the top football programs in the country can afford to red shirt the bulk of their recruiting classes, which is why we don't actually see the true value of a recruiting class until two to three years down the road. With this in mind, here is a comparison of the recruiting classes from 2002-2004 and the win percentage of each SEC program from 2004-2006.

LSU ……………… 6.33 … (.816) … 2nd
Tennessee ………... 7.00 … (.649) … 5th
Georgia …………... 8.67 … (.763) … 3rd
Florida …………… 10.7 … (.763) … 3rd
Auburn …………... 19.3 … (.868) … 1st
South Carolina …… 20.3 … (.583) … 7th
Arkansas …………. 24.7 … (.527) … 8th
Ole Miss …………. 32.3 … (.323) …10th
Miss State ……….. 32.3 … (.264) … 12th
Alabama ….……… 33.7 … (.594) … 6th
Kentucky …….….. 58.7 … (.371) … 9th
Vanderbilt …..…… 60.7 … (.323) … 10th

Though Auburn was fifth in the conference and 19th in the nation in recruiting from 2002-2004, they posted the highest win percentage in the SEC and the third highest winning percentage in the nation from 2004-2006. Once again, Tennessee ends up with the short end of the stick, despite having the second highest recruiting ranking in the conference and the seventh best in the nation. Tennessee had the fifth highest win percentage in the conference and the 24th highest win percentage in the nation from 2004-2006.

Has Auburn coaches developed their players better than any other program within the conference or are the recruiting rankings overrated? In my opinion, it's a combination of both.

I also believe most of the recruiting publications such as Scout, do a terrific job evaluating players based on the information gathered and provided to them but there are obvious flaws in the system. A school can sign three 5-star quarterbacks in one class but in reality, how much of an impact will each quarterback have during their tenure? There are just too many high school players that are overlooked by the recruiting services and they become hidden gems once they blossom at the collegiate level.

As good as some of the evaluations made by the recruiting services are, can they really compare to the evaluations made by college coaches actually recruiting the players. With all the specialized camps available to the high school players, the college coaches have the best overall eye on the talent. One must also consider the schemes of each individual program. A certain type of player might be an average player at one program but a star at another, solely based on schemes.

The key to successful recruiting is to meet the needs of the program in terms of each position. Though they are recruits today, they are the personnel of the future and their impact won't be felt until sometime down the road. Every team desires talent but depth is the key to winning on a consistent level. Though it's thrilling to see Auburn sign a "big time" recruit, it's far more important to develop that player for Auburn to have success. Looking at the numbers I've compiled, there should be no doubt the Auburn coaching staff has accomplished this goal for the most part.

There are so many factors on and off the field, which will determine the success of a recruit or an entire recruiting class. Auburn coaches have done a wonderful job in molding players on and off the field but there will always be a few pitfalls along the way. If Auburn can turn a three-year recruiting run, rated as the 19th best in the country into the third best winning percentage in the nation, it will be interesting to see what they do with back to back top-ten recruiting classes.


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