I posted this recruiting composite back before football season started and I want to revisit it now to see what can be learned from the results of the 2014 season. These are combined recruiting rankings from Scout and Rivals that are weighted by class. If you want to see the method in more detail:
But first, I will pay proper respect and homage to "The Godfather" and keep tradition alive by posting Figure Four's usual recruiting disclaimer:
We should not have to tell you this, but some folks debate what to take from these articles. We expect you, the reader, to form an opinion of your own. Often we will give you our take on things, but you should independently form your own thoughts based on information out there. We think this is an interesting and valuable tool that is useful in overall program evaluation because there is a link between these star ratings and other metrics in both college football and the NFL. We picked carefully through the data and believe all is correct. However, if we've overlooked an item we apologize in advance and ask that you point it out so that we can make the correction in our database.
My opinion is also that Clemson should be an Elite Level Program in football as long as the administration desires to be one. I believe that the commitment from the administration wasn't fully there from 1990 until the botched attempt at firing TDP in 2010. The commitment is there now and we see growth in the program for the first time since 1990.
That's what this recruiting composite is all about for me and that's what I use it for. How much growth are we making? How much would we have to overachieve from our recruiting rankings to get to the Eilte Level? Can we shorten the recruiting gap further? Can we overachieve on the field with our current program philosophy?
Now, obviously, I'm not answering all those questions in this post...just the first couple. I use other data (Elite Teams, Elite Programs, and another that I haven't posted yet) together with this one to evaluate the overall status of the program. This is just the big picture that represents the lifeblood of your program, recruiting. With this foundation, we can make comparisons between our recruiting and our results on the field.
So, in that big picture, we are not in the top 12 where the Elite Programs live in recruiting. On the field, we reflect our recruiting level pretty consistently. We have one win over an Elite Team; LSU in 2012. We have 3 wins over Elite Programs; LSU, Ohio State, and Oklahoma. Since 2012, we are 1-5 vs. Elite Teams but we are 4-3 vs. Elite Programs. The results say that we are slightly better than the Elite Programs on their down year but not at a point where we can defeat Elite Teams consistently.
So, let's revisit the Recruiting Composite. First, I'll give it to you sorted by recruiting rankings. (I've also added some teams from August and will continue to do so until I have every FBS school listed here.)
In case you forgot, this is a combined ranking of Scout and Rivals Team Rankings over the past 5 years and the classes are weighted based on what part of the each class comprises the two deep. First Year players (FR) comprised 8.90% of the two deep, Second Year players (FR*, SO) 22.46%, Third Year players (SO*, JR) 27.54%, Fourth Year players (JR*, SR) 25.00%, and 5th year players (SR*, GR) comprise 16.10% of the two deep. Column one is the recruiting ranking by this method. Column two is their preseason AP poll rank. Column three is their final AP poll Rank. Elite Programs are bolded.
The data here shows that recruiting rankings matter a lot when it comes to program sustainability.
10 of the top 13 teams in this Recruiting Composite will also appear in my 2015 Elite Programs list. That's one enormous coincidence if you're in the camp that recruiting rankings aren't all that important.
It may not seem like it now, but the 2014 National Champion, Ohio State, was an easy target from some that did not want to accept the legitimacy of this data in August. Here was an attention getting post in the comment section back then.
So, let's take the inexact science of recruiting rankings and extrapolate them to perceive the talent level on each team
Dude, the margin-of-error on those numbers needs to be +/- 50%.
I take the case of Ohio St. They recruit at an elite level, much higher over the last 4 years than Clemson. Is that what we saw in the OB?
I don't just mean that Clemson won. But the talent level, Clemson was more talented, b/c we surely weren't more disciplined. Clemson made way more mistakes, and looked very sloppy. But what stuck out to me was how much more athletic Clemson was. Ohio St looked slower, without being bigger or stronger.
Had Clemson been disciplined, i.e. no Tajh stupid turnovers or safety busts in coverage, that game is a blowout.
So, this review and a $4 gets me a bottle of water in DV.
My opinion on Ohio State in that thread:
"Ohio St. is an outlier. They got hit with a scandal and probation that culminated in a firing of their coach, having a sub-par recruiting class (for them), having some good players transfer out of the program, and having some good players get dismissed. They were certainly not as talented as FSU last year. However, the rankings above are for this year, so their weak class of 2010 carries less weight than it did last year. Let's see how this pans out in 2014."
Well, Ohio State turned out to be the sleeping giant that this data pointed out. The "inexact science" was more accurate than the eye test...which seems to happen a lot. But, why?
For starters, Recruiting Rankings ARE based on the eye test. They are based on the eye test of a lot of people that form a cumulative opinion based on what they've seen and information they have gathered. Sometimes, you have to accept that you only know who your Daddy is because your Momma told you so. You can't see every game and evaluate every player.
To be fair, Clemsonman was accurate in his assessment of the visual talent disparity between Clemson and Ohio State in that one game. He was also accurate in saying that recruiting is an inexact science.
It's just that his conclusion was wrong because he valued what he saw with his own eyes for three hours over the millions of hours that went into the recruiting assessment. This is why you want to be open to all the information available to you, including (gasp) numerical based data.
This is also why, being "Clemson-centric" and not objective, often leaves you with incorrect opinions and false assumptions. The reason we hold our head high here at STS is because we make an effort to rise above the "I only care about Clemson" stance and the "Orange Colored Glasses" viewpoint that uses half-truths to attract a lot of readers at other sites. Go to those sites to feel good about Clemson, and then come here for the truth.
Ohio State improved on almost a weekly basis and finished the year at the height of their potential by soundly beating Michigan St., Alabama, and Oregon. Their talent level provided them with a higher ceiling.
By improving up to their talent level, they accomplished more in those three games than we have accomplished as a program under Dabo Swinney. So, touting our win over Ohio State in 2013 is just making a leap of logic to make ourselves feel better about our program. We did not play the same team Michigan St., Alabama, and Oregon did. We played the underachieving team that Virginia Tech also beat in the season opener.
What is shown by this data is that you can get a bead on a program's potential and upside. Is there anybody left who will try to argue that it is a coincidence that the last 12 National Champions are all ranked in the top 8 of this list? No? Then I think we found the logical recruiting goal for our Tigers, Top 8. And, if you happen to be a gambler, I hear you can get some great odds on Florida or Texas to win it all next year.
Now, despite being in the Top 8 though, down years happen for Eilte Programs and "up" years happen for non-elite programs. A higher level of consistency from year to year and a higher ceiling is what separates the Elites from the Non-Elites.
Here is the same data sorted by how they finished in the Final AP Poll last year.
Gary Patterson and TCU had already proved that they can dominate the Mountain West Conference and last year they proved they can overachieve in the Big 12. However, TCU had a rough start adjusting to the step up to the Big 12. TCU had a mediocre 7-6 season in 2012 followed by the very underachieving 4-8 season in 2013.
We look at the #3 ranking from 2014 and we see great over-achievement. We tend to forget the two down years. This data shows that it is very difficult to consistently deliver elite level performance without elite level recruiting (top 12).
This data also helps show why it's harder to jump up to the Elite Level than it is to stay there. We have seen plenty of teams have success for a year or two only to lose their coach or not be able to upgrade recruiting. The typical pattern for program building involves over-achievement followed by great recruiting.
If you look at the two "new money" Elite Programs, Stanford and Michigan State, you'll notice how their recruiting is getting better as they gain program credibility. Notice how Stanford took a big hit when Harbaugh left but took that leap right back up when Shaw's teams delivered.
Mark D'Antonio at Michigan State is not in the most fertile recruiting ground in the nation but his program is moving up this list every year. Michigan State and Stanford are good examples of what I call "The Synergistic Trend." The synergy of overachieving leads to better recruiting which leads to better teams which leads to better recruiting...and on and on.
The synergy of this pattern is typically broken when 1. The head coach gets old and loses passion/energy or he retires (FSU, Texas, Tennessee, Virginia Tech). 2. The head coach leaves for another job (Oregon, Stanford, Boise St., Boston College, Rutgers). Or 3, the worst one, the coach and/or program gets caught breaking rules/the law (Ohio St., USC, Miami, Penn St.). (FYI, the Synergistic Trend is typically not broken when a star coordinator moves on. Even Auburn was on a sharp decline when Malzahn was still there placing the blame on the head coach).
The typical pattern of re-ascension for Elite Level Recruiting Programs is to fire your coach and hire either a coordinator at an Elite Program or a young head coach overachieving at a smaller school. Notice the 3 programs above that are top 10 in recruiting ranking and finished last year unranked (Texas, Florida, Michigan). Those are teams that are also breaking in new head coaches.
So what we've learned is that you cannot out-recruit incompetent coaching, but you need both competent coaching AND competent recruiting to become an Elite Level Program. Where my FSU fans at? Testify.
I'm going to post the Elite Teams in 2014 and Elite Programs for 2015 pretty soon while this is semi-fresh in your mind. I'll post the 2015 Recruiting Composite in August after the preseason poll comes out and before the season starts. Like last year, I'll have Clemson's schedule and the ACC teams separated and ranked for you as well.
I'll spoil the big surprise and let you all know that we are trending up in recruiting.
I'll also say that we registered slight over-achievement on-the-field compared to our recruiting level in 2012 and 2013 and finished almost even with our recruiting rankings in 2014. We have not registered a year of major over-achievement like Stanford or Michigan State but there is also less room for that because of our initial recruiting ranking when Dabo took over the program.
Compared with the on-the-field results, this Recruiting Composite shows that the coaching staff has moved upward in recruiting and has been able to consistently field a team that competes on the same level as their recruiting.
That's what the trend has been at Clemson. Whatever that means...you be the judge.