Comparing Careers: OSU 3- and 4-star recruits

After looking at the success rates of five-star players at Ohio State, we turn our attention to the guys who ranked lower by Scout. The results might surprise you.

Earlier we looked at how Ohio State's five-star recruits have performed compared to the rest of the Buckeyes' recent recruits. Today we look at everyone else.

Five-star studies are nice, but they also present a relatively small sample size. Every team can only sign so many five-star prospects because there are only so many to go around. A starting lineup requires 22 players, but there are only 50 five-stars every year. Ohio State, one of the best in recruiting, signed 22 from 2002-09 (while also bringing in one five-star transfer).

Every roster needs players of all types to fill various roles, but it stands to reason the more talented players one can amass, the better that team will be. To see if it is that simple, we crunched the numbers, and this is what we came up with.

Recruit study

Four-star prospects were just slightly more likely to become starters than the overall average while the draft rate was just a bit lower and the transfer rate a bit higher.

The drop in percent who became starters from the overall rate was, not surprisingly, larger for three-star prospects, but the odds of making the All-Big Ten first team was actually higher, as was becoming an All-American.

As far as comparing four-stars to three-stars, the percentage of four-stars who became starters remained significantly higher, but the draft rate was nearly identical, as was the percentage of players who did not make it through for one reason or another.

Even more curious: a higher percentage of three-star recruits earned All-Big Ten and/or All-America recognition than four-stars.

Yep, you read that right: the total of four-star All-Americans at Ohio State (Kurt Coleman, Quinn Pitcock and Troy Smith) is lower than All-Americans who were rated a three-star or lower, a group that includes Malcolm Jenkins, James Laurinaitis, Kirk Barton, Chimdi Chekwa and A.J. Hawk.

What gives here? Well, it could be somewhat of a fluke because sometimes subjective awards such as those are dependent on who else happens to be playing around the league/country in a particular season. Quality of the team often affects how many honors players on that squad receive, too, and the NCAA issues that helped turn the 2011 squad into a sub-.500 team as well as the bowl ban of 2012 served to knock Ohio State off the radar for voters across the country.

These results also illuminate that sometimes there is not a huge difference between a high three-star recruit and a four-star, particularly one of the latter who checks in on the lower end of the spectrum. For example, the No. 100 player in the country is a four-star prospect, as is the No. 300 player, but No. 301 could be a three-star. Sometimes the explanation is as simple as that, but of course there are other times a player will simply come out of nowhere.

I remember when he was still at Ohio State, I asked Jenkins how he ended up a three-star recruit and he guessed it was because he didn't go to many (any?) of the recruiting combines. One wonders if James Laurinaitis had shown the same kind of ability he did in Minnesota as an Ohio high schooler he might have gotten a bit more of a benefit of the doubt and moved up a few notches.

It's also worth mentioning the process continues to get refined, and the ability of services like Scout to put more boots on the ground and hold more recruiting events makes it easier to evaluate more players, reducing the chances that a future Pro Bowler such as Nick Mangold (who wasn't rated by Scout at all but was by other services) can slip through the cracks.

So, what did we learn at the end of the day, what did we learn? As expected, the more highly rated players you can find, the better your team is probably going to be. But with obviously elite prospects available only in small numbers, the most important factor in building (maintaining is another issue) the optimal roster is identifying the best players in the next wave. Sometimes you have to dig a little deeper to find them.

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