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Revisiting the 2014 Weighted Recruiting Composite

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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. What can we learn from this now?

Joshua S. Kelly-USA TODAY Sports

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:

http://www.shakinthesouthland.com/2014/8/23/6057257/clemson-football-weighted-recruiting-composite

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.

Recr
Rank
PreS
Rank
Final
Rank
Recruiting Composite
Weighted Scale
2010 2011 2012 2013 2014
Team Rivals Scout Rivals Scout Rivals Scout Rivals Scout Rivals Scout Score
1 2 4 Alabama 5 4 1 7 1 2 1 4 1 1 5.6
2 5 1 Ohio St. 22 20 7 6 4 3 2 1 3 5 13.3
3 6 22 Auburn 4 5 5 2 10 8 8 13 6 8 14.1
4 1 5 Florida St. 10 8 2 1 6 11 10 16 4 3 14.8
5 Texas 3 3 4 3 2 1 17 23 17 15 15.4
6 Florida 2 1 12 25 3 5 4 7 9 9 16.0
7 13 LSU 6 7 8 8 18 6 6 9 2 2 16.4
8 15 20 USC 1 6 3 5 8 20 12 18 11 10 19.4
9 12 9 Georgia 12 21 6 4 12 14 11 8 8 12 21.0
10 17 Notre Dame 18 19 9 8 20 16 3 5 10 6 23.3
11 4 Oklahoma 7 2 13 15 11 10 16 15 14 13 23.6
12 Michigan 17 11 26 29 7 4 5 2 20 27 27.0
13 3 2 Oregon 14 13 11 13 16 15 19 17 21 22 30.8
14 16 15 Clemson 28 23 10 12 14 17 14 12 18 28 32.2
15 Tennessee 9 16 14 10 17 22 24 36 7 4 35.2
16 9 South Carolina 21 33 17 11 17 13 20 24 16 24 37.4
17 21 Texas A&M 19 25 35 31 15 21 9 6 5 7 37.9
18 Miami 15 12 33 41 9 9 20 21 12 11 39.1
19 25 Washington 13 10 24 22 21 23 18 14 37 35 40.9
20 17 10 UCLA 8 14 45 56 13 12 8 3 19 20 41.6
21 11 Stanford 27 24 22 23 5 7 51 57 13 16 49.6
22 18 17 Ole Miss 24 15 20 20 40 58 7 10 15 18 50.0
23 Oklahoma St. 32 18 25 18 32 24 32 25 28 14 50.8
24 Arkansas 21 37 21 17 34 19 23 33 30 33 51.6
25 22 Nebraska 29 28 16 19 25 49 22 11 36 34 51.9
26 California 16 35 15 16 23 39 40 31 48 44 57.2
27 23 UNC 26 30 19 21 44 41 28 29 29 31 60.6
28 Virginia Tech 33 39 36 36 22 26 21 34 27 36 60.8
29 11 Mississippi St. 34 40 34 45 30 18 25 20 35 39 61.6
30 Texas Tech 38 36 18 14 26 25 46 56 42 37 63.9
31 8 5 Michigan St. 25 31 32 27 41 37 37 47 25 19 68.0
32 Penn St. 11 9 31 34 51 51 30 44 24 25 68.5
33 Virginia 60 67 23 24 27 28 29 39 32 51 70.0
34 Rutgers 49 49 27 30 24 31 50 31 60 55 73.6
35 West Virginia 20 29 49 54 48 27 31 28 38 40 74.5
36 24 14 Missouri 23 27 57 47 31 34 43 35 39 32 75.8
37 3 TCU 46 64 26 28 37 38 30 43 50 38 76.1
38 10 7 Baylor 39 51 46 52 45 30 31 26 35 23 77.6
39 Kentucky 48 47 37 32 63 31 34 37 22 21 78.2
40 Pittsburgh 33 17 59 48 47 40 35 22 44 42 79.2
41 21 Utah 32 34 37 39 28 33 44 53 67 69 80.3
42 19 12 Arizona St. 37 26 65 64 38 43 39 30 23 17 83.8
43 24 Louisville 48 45 29 33 42 42 52 50 40 43 83.9
44 Maryland 36 38 43 55 35 36 33 48 53 61 84.3
45 Vanderbilt 61 54 71 50 29 45 19 19 49 50 86.5
46 19 Arizona 37 43 56 70 46 46 37 27 28 30 89.3
47 Oregon St. 44 68 56 44 39 44 39 40 54 48 92.7
48 14 13 Wisconsin 88 32 40 38 57 69 57 37 33 29 100.2
49 Cinncinati 59 62 49 42 50 35 71 52 69 60 104.7
50 Illinois 70 57 42 40 65 68 47 41 75 71 110.3
51 8 Georgia Tech 43 42 41 46 57 59 85 72 47 47 111.0
52 N.C. St. 34 48 87 75 53 61 47 54 30 26 112.8
53 South Florida 62 52 64 60 49 67 49 59 39 46 113.1
54 BYU 40 22 63 66 62 60 71 63 71 62 117.8
55 Boston College 47 44 38 35 64 71 88 92 42 57 119.3
56 Northwestern 77 59 88 59 61 48 53 46 68 59 122.2
57 16 Boise St. 82 96 53 65 54 56 62 42 65 66 123.5
58 Syracuse 78 53 76 51 66 54 74 73 51 53 128.2
59 23 Marshall 71 74 55 43 68 88 58 71 63 65 131.2
60 Duke 72 71 77 63 52 63 68 70 58 67 131.8
61 Wake Forest 69 63 70 73 70 73 58 61 59 64 134.1
62 Southern Methodist 76 69 50 49 90 64 71 75 99 75 138.8
63 20 18 Kansas St. 63 99 69 61 59 106 66 68 47 54 143.1
64 UCF 56 56 39 53 91 119 74 90 74 73 148.8
65 25 Memphis 57 75 66 71 72 84 90 102 89 82 156.8
66 Colorado St. 58 89 65 85 122 114 83 82 77 79 177.1

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.

by Clemsonman on Aug 23, 2014 | 10:37 AM rec flag actions

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.

Recr
Rank
PreS
Rank
Final
Rank
Recruiting Composite
Weighted Scale
2010 2011 2012 2013 2014
Team Rivals Scout Rivals Scout Rivals Scout Rivals Scout Rivals Scout Score
2 5 1 Ohio St. 22 20 7 6 4 3 2 1 3 5 13.3
13 3 2 Oregon 14 13 11 13 16 15 19 17 21 22 30.8
37 3 TCU 46 64 26 28 37 38 30 43 50 38 76.1
1 2 4 Alabama 5 4 1 7 1 2 1 4 1 1 5.6
4 1 5 Florida St. 10 8 2 1 6 11 10 16 4 3 14.8
31 8 5 Michigan St. 25 31 32 27 41 37 37 47 25 19 68.0
38 10 7 Baylor 39 51 46 52 45 30 31 26 35 23 77.6
51 8 Georgia Tech 43 42 41 46 57 59 85 72 47 47 111.0
9 12 9 Georgia 12 21 6 4 12 14 11 8 8 12 21.0
20 17 10 UCLA 8 14 45 56 13 12 8 3 19 20 41.6
29 11 Mississippi St. 34 40 34 45 30 18 25 20 35 39 61.6
42 19 12 Arizona St. 37 26 65 64 38 43 39 30 23 17 83.8
48 14 13 Wisconsin 88 32 40 38 57 69 57 37 33 29 100.2
36 24 14 Missouri 23 27 57 47 31 34 43 35 39 32 75.8
14 16 15 Clemson 28 23 10 12 14 17 14 12 18 28 32.2
57 16 Boise St. 82 96 53 65 54 56 62 42 65 66 123.5
22 18 17 Ole Miss 24 15 20 20 40 58 7 10 15 18 50.0
63 20 18 Kansas St. 63 99 69 61 59 106 66 68 47 54 143.1
46 19 Arizona 37 43 56 70 46 46 37 27 28 30 89.3
8 15 20 USC 1 6 3 5 8 20 12 18 11 10 19.4
41 21 Utah 32 34 37 39 28 33 44 53 67 69 80.3
3 6 22 Auburn 4 5 5 2 10 8 8 13 6 8 14.1
59 23 Marshall 71 74 55 43 68 88 58 71 63 65 131.2
43 24 Louisville 48 45 29 33 42 42 52 50 40 43 83.9
65 25 Memphis 57 75 66 71 72 84 90 102 89 82 156.8
5 Texas 3 3 4 3 2 1 17 23 17 15 15.4
6 Florida 2 1 12 25 3 5 4 7 9 9 16.0
7 13 LSU 6 7 8 8 18 6 6 9 2 2 16.4
10 17 Notre Dame 18 19 9 8 20 16 3 5 10 6 23.3
11 4 Oklahoma 7 2 13 15 11 10 16 15 14 13 23.6
12 Michigan 17 11 26 29 7 4 5 2 20 27 27.0
15 Tennessee 9 16 14 10 17 22 24 36 7 4 35.2
16 9 South Carolina 21 33 17 11 17 13 20 24 16 24 37.4
17 21 Texas A&M 19 25 35 31 15 21 9 6 5 7 37.9
18 Miami 15 12 33 41 9 9 20 21 12 11 39.1
19 25 Washington 13 10 24 22 21 23 18 14 37 35 40.9
21 11 Stanford 27 24 22 23 5 7 51 57 13 16 49.6
23 Oklahoma St. 32 18 25 18 32 24 32 25 28 14 50.8
24 Arkansas 21 37 21 17 34 19 23 33 30 33 51.6
25 22 Nebraska 29 28 16 19 25 49 22 11 36 34 51.9
26 California 16 35 15 16 23 39 40 31 48 44 57.2
27 23 UNC 26 30 19 21 44 41 28 29 29 31 60.6
28 Virginia Tech 33 39 36 36 22 26 21 34 27 36 60.8
30 Texas Tech 38 36 18 14 26 25 46 56 42 37 63.9
32 Penn St. 11 9 31 34 51 51 30 44 24 25 68.5
33 Virginia 60 67 23 24 27 28 29 39 32 51 70.0
34 Rutgers 49 49 27 30 24 31 50 31 60 55 73.6
35 West Virginia 20 29 49 54 48 27 31 28 38 40 74.5
39 Kentucky 48 47 37 32 63 31 34 37 22 21 78.2
40 Pittsburgh 33 17 59 48 47 40 35 22 44 42 79.2
44 Maryland 36 38 43 55 35 36 33 48 53 61 84.3
45 Vanderbilt 61 54 71 50 29 45 19 19 49 50 86.5
47 Oregon St. 44 68 56 44 39 44 39 40 54 48 92.7
49 Cinncinati 59 62 49 42 50 35 71 52 69 60 104.7
50 Illinois 70 57 42 40 65 68 47 41 75 71 110.3
52 N.C. St. 34 48 87 75 53 61 47 54 30 26 112.8
53 South Florida 62 52 64 60 49 67 49 59 39 46 113.1
54 BYU 40 22 63 66 62 60 71 63 71 62 117.8
55 Boston College 47 44 38 35 64 71 88 92 42 57 119.3
56 Northwestern 77 59 88 59 61 48 53 46 68 59 122.2
58 Syracuse 78 53 76 51 66 54 74 73 51 53 128.2
60 Duke 72 71 77 63 52 63 68 70 58 67 131.8
61 Wake Forest 69 63 70 73 70 73 58 61 59 64 134.1
62 Southern Methodist 76 69 50 49 90 64 71 75 99 75 138.8
64 UCF 56 56 39 53 91 119 74 90 74 73 148.8
66 Colorado St. 58 89 65 85 122 114 83 82 77 79 177.1

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.