DEVILLE: What Goes Into Recruiting Rankings?

The LSU Tigers wrapped up the 2007 football season with a national championship almost a month ago.

Coach Les Miles and his staff prepare to put the finishing touches on the recruiting season come Wednesday when National Signing Day arrives.

While Tiger fans remain ecstatic over LSU's run to an unprecedented second BCS National Championship on the field, those who follow recruiting closely go from euphoria to anxiety and anticipation as LSU rounds out the recruiting class. Reeling in top talent and an acclaimed class of recruits is key to maintaining success at the highest level in the ranks of college football.

Currently, Miles and his staff have secured a verbal commitment from 24 of the nation's top prospects from the high school ranks. LSU will add the services of one junior college player on signing day, a holdover from the 2007 class, as well as some other surprises.

For the third straight year, the Tigers project to finish with a top 10 signing class.

Former coach Nick Saban started a trend of gathering top-rated recruiting classes when he arrived in Baton Rouge in 2000. In 2001, Saban accumulated the nation's No. 1-ranked class. In 2003 and 2004, he managed to rack up the No. 2-ranked classes in successive seasons.

When Miles arrived at LSU in January 2005, he was forced to close out a slim recruiting class that had only 13 available slots. The former Oklahoma State coach rounded out the nation's 19th-rated class with the No. 2-rated quarter in the land in Ryan Perrilloux, who also turned out to be the only five-star prospect in the class. Miles also attracted four-star prospects Ricky Jean-Francois and Brandon LaFell, both of whom turned out to be major contributors in LSU's run to the 2007 BCS national title.

Twelve months later, with a full year under his belt in Baton Rouge, Miles nabbed the seventh-ranked class in 2006. Last February, he managed to pull in the No. 5-rated class of recruits, maintaining LSU's level of excellence.

While Miles and his staff were trying to close out that 2007 class, Saban re-emerged at Alabama and proved to be a thorn in the side of most every coach in the surrounding areas. Saban was faced with a similar situation to Miles' plight of January 2005 in which he was given less than a month to close out the class.

A year later, in the wake of a 7-6 2007 campaign in Tuscaloosa, Saban has the Crimson Tide rated No. 1 in's national recruiting rankings heading into National Signing Day.

As one might imagine, folks are up in arms over Saban's recent success on the recruiting trail. Internet message boards throughout the SEC have been blazing with discussion over Alabama's climb through the recruiting rankings in Saban's second season.

But in analyzing those rankings and what each class entails, the 2008 class of recruits assembled by the Tide coaching staff isn't much different from top-five classes from years past. That is, according to's rankings.

First and foremost, one must remember that recruiting rankings are subjective, based on the observations and opinions of recruiting experts across the country. Now, these experts are the best in the business at evaluating high school talent prior to being exposed to coaching at the collegiate level.

The true value or rank of a recruiting class can only be determined four years after the fact, after those prospects have performed on the collegiate playing field.

But as these prospects are readying for the college ranks, analysts apply their expertise to evaluate talent. Once a class is assembled, the following theory is applied to determine the rank of the class. team football recruiting rankings are based on the Talent, Need and Balance of players committed to that school. We consider only players who have made a Verbal or Soft Verbal commitment to that school. We include high school, prep school and junior college players in our analysis.

Talent - This category reflects the quality of players committed to that school. Teams must recruit difference-makers throughout their class to obtain a high ranking.

Need - This is analysis of whether the team needs are being met at each position. This value is capped per position type (i.e., a team does not receive extra credit for overloading at a position).

Balance - Teams must be represented at every position by players of each body type. Securing balance in every recruiting class is a necessity due to the injuries and attrition that are part of college football.

Examining the nation's No. 1 class in 2008, the Alabama Crimson Tide has a total of 28 commitments. However, only the top-25-rated prospects in the class are factored into the rankings to ensure uniformity among other schools.

The Tide's class consists of two five-star prospects, 15 four-star athletes, and nine three-star prospects. Three of Alabama's commitments are ranked in the Top 100. All totaled, Alabama's average rank is 3.61 (stars).

Presently, LSU has one five-star prospect, 10 four-star recruits, and 13 three-star athletes. Two players are rated in the Top 100 and the average rank of LSU's class 3.50.

A year ago, the Tigers had seven of the Top 100 players, four five-star players, and 15 four-star players. The average rank of LSU's class was 3.88, which was .27 better than Bama's No. 1-ranked class this season.

Now, take into consideration the No. 1-ranked class in 2007. Coach Urban Meyer reeled in 12 of's Top 100 players, 10 of which were five-star players along with 13 four-stars.

Wow, huh?

And the Gators' average rank was 4.22 per commitment.

Just think what USC could have accomplished had they had a full complement of 25 slots. The Trojans signed only 18 players, but 12 were listed in the Top 100, same as No. 1 Florida. Southern Cal had 10 five-stars (same as Florida) but only five four-stars. The average ranking was 4.39, which was .17 better than the Gators.

But that is when the above formula is applied to calculating the ranking – or worth – of the class.

Going back to 2003, LSU had an average ranking of 3.67, which was .17 better than No. 1 USC. The Tigers had only two five-star prospects (JaMarcus Russell and Kenny Hollis) offset by five by No. 1 Southern Cal. But the Tigers racked up 15 four-star recruits, besting USC's 10.

So, you ask, what does all this mean?

Everything if you are a recruiting fanatic. Logging the nation's No. 1 class is like winning the national championship all over again. And with Alabama coach Nick Saban holding the No. 1 rating heading into National Signing Day, it stings like salt in the wound.

But in the grand scheme of things, it's not the number attached to the class that matters most, but more along the lines of what happens three and four years down the road.


Matt Deville is the editor of Tiger Rag. Reach him at

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