Recruiting rankings

Americans love an underdog, which is why we all get a warm fuzzy when some kid who was rated a one-star prospect in high school winds up being a superstar player in college.

And, whether we'll admit it or not, we all feel a hint of satisfaction when an over-hyped five-star prospect winds up riding the bench for four years. He's living proof that the recruiting services are not infallible.

It's worth noting, however, that the recruiting services are correct a very good percentage of the time. Eric Berry, for instance, was rated America's No. 1 defensive back prospect three years ago. All he's done since then is start every game in his two years at Tennessee, dazzle fans with spectacular interception returns and establish himself as the finest safety in college football. The recruiting services were right: He's special.

Berry is not an isolated incident. Schools that post high finishes in the recruiting rankings tend to follow up with high finishes in the national rankings.'s own Scott Kennedy penned a fascinating article on this very topic recently.

Scott pointed out that's ratings for 2005-2008 show Southern Cal recruited better than any other school during that span. The Trojans also posted the nation's best winning percentage (88.5) and the best average national ranking during that span.

Florida, which credited with the second-best recruiting job between '05 and '08, posted the fifth-best winning percentage (83.0) and the third-best national ranking during that time frame.

Texas, pegged fifth in's recruiting ratings over that four-year period, posted the second-best winning percentage (86.5) and the fourth-best national ranking.

LSU, rated No. 6 in those same recruiting rankings, posted the eighth-best winning percentage (79.2) and the fifth-best average national ranking.

Ohio State, which was seventh in recruiting, registered the fourth-best winning percentage (84.3) and the second-best national ranking.

While recruiting is far from an exact science, it is not the hit-or-miss proposition some like to think. Schools that sign the most high-ranking prospects tend to field the most high-ranking teams.

Athletics directors understand this. That's why they expect their head coaches to sign big-time recruits. Once the coach does so, however, he'd better produce big-time results. If he doesn't, he's shown the door.

Exhibit A: Lloyd Carr of Michigan. The Wolverines ranked No. 3 nationally in recruiting between 2005 and '08 but No. 38 in winning percentage (60.0) and No. 18 in average national ranking. Seeing the handwriting on the wall, Carr stepped down 13 months ago.

Exhibit B: Tommy Tuberville of Auburn. The Tigers ranked No. 10 nationally in recruiting between '05 and '08 but ranked No. 21 in winning percentage (68.0) during that span. Growing weary of the grumbling, Tuberville resigned under pressure.

Exhibit C: Phillip Fulmer of Tennessee. The Vols ranked No. 14 nationally in recruiting from 2005 to '08 but their winning percentage (58.0) did not make's top 40 and their average national ranking (No. 28) was a big disappointment. Like Tuberville, Fulmer left under pressure following the 2008 season.

For what it's worth, here's how some other SEC schools fared:

- Alabama finished No. 13 in's recruiting ratings for 2005-08, posted the No. 22 winning percentage (67.3) and had the 17th-best national ranking.

- South Carolina placed No. 22 in the recruiting ratings but missed the top 40 in winning percentage and in average national ranking. (The ol' ball coach may start feeling some heat pretty soon.)

- Ole Miss was No. 26 in the recruiting ratings, missed the top 40 in winning percentage but came in No. 39 in average national ranking.

- Arkansas finished 28th in recruiting ratings, missed the top 40 in winning percentage but placed 35th in national ranking average.

- Mississippi State placed 33rd in the recruiting ratings but missed the top 40 in winning percentage and average national ranking.

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