Monday, January 22, 2007

Where does the talent come from?

I made an admittedly somewhat snide comment in one of my prior posts that “northern football died two decades ago”. After further reflection, I decided to see if my comment had any truth to it, outside the fact that that only Ohio State has represented any northern team in the BCS Championship game since 1998.

I decided to examine where college football talent currently comes from on a national basis. In doing so, I used “Hot 100” list for the years 2005-2006. On the list, Scouts lists the “top 100” high school prospects each year. I choose 2005-2006 as the years that best represent the heart of the rosters for the upcoming season.

Now, as my fellow blogger has posted in his recent articles on coaching and talent, a list of the “top 100” high school prospects involves a great deal of speculation, as many of the “hottest” prospects do not pan out. However, in looking at the list from recent years, the majority of the names do make an impact in college football. Thus, with this disclaimer, here is a numerical list, by state, of the “top 200” players for 2005-2006

California 28
Texas 22
Florida 18
Georgia 11
Ohio 11
Pennsylvania 10
New Jersey 9
North Carolina 7
Virginia 7
Louisiana 6
South Carolina 6
Maryland 5
Mississippi 5
Washington 5
Alabama 4
Illinois 4
Indiana 4
Oklahoma 4
Tennessee 4
Arkansas 3
Kentucky 3
Michigan 3
New York 3
Minnesota 2
Utah 2
Wisconsin 2
Arizona 1
Colorado 1
Hawaii 1
Missouri 1
Nevada 1
Oregon 1
Alaska 0
Connecticut 0
Delaware 0
Idaho 0
Iowa 0
Kansas 0
Maine 0
Massachusetts 0
Montana 0
Nebraska 0
New Hampshire 0
New Mexico 0
North Dakota 0
Rhode Island 0
South Dakota 0
Vermont 0
West Virginia 0
Wyoming 0

The top 2 are perhaps not surprising, as they are the two most populous states. However, the 3rd largest state – New York, has had only 3 top prospects in the past 2 years. Florida, as the 4th largest state, is 3rd.

Of the 11 states with more than 6 prospects, 7 are southern or former Confederate states (though one might consider Texas “western”). Pennsylvania, Ohio and New Jersey are “northern”, while California is well, just California.

While the overwhelming majority of college football talent comes from the south, Pennsylvania, Ohio and certainly New Jersey have their fair share. Somewhat shocking is the lack of talent from Michigan (3), and absolutely none from Nebraska and West Virginia.

Next, let’s look at the list on a per-capita basis. Based on 2005 population figures, the number of prospects per million state residents is (ranked for states with a least 1 prospect)-

Mississippi 1.71
South Carolina 1.41
Louisiana 1.33
Georgia 1.21
Oklahoma 1.13
Arkansas 1.08
New Jersey 1.03
Florida 1.01
Texas 0.96
Ohio 0.96
Virginia 0.93
Maryland 0.89
Alabama 0.88
Utah 0.81
North Carolina 0.81
Pennsylvania 0.80
Washington 0.80
Hawaii 0.78
California 0.77
Kentucky 0.72
Tennessee 0.67
Indiana 0.64
Nevada 0.41
Minnesota 0.39
Wisconsin 0.36
Illinois 0.31
Michigan 0.30
Oregon 0.27
Colorado 0.21
Missouri 0.17
Arizona 0.17
New York 0.16

On a per capita basis, California produces fewer top high school prospects than 18 other states. And, once again, southern states dominate, with the exception of New Jersey (perhaps Greg Schiano knows something the rest of the country doesn’t?)

While recruiting has become a nationwide process, this analysis is still very important because the majority of high school prospects choose to play at schools in their own state. Of California’s 16 top prospects for 2006, 11 stayed in-state (8 went to USC, 2 to Cal, and one to UCLA). Likewise, of Florida’s 18 prospects for 2005-2006, 12 stayed in state, with 5 to UF, 4 to FSU and 3 to UM.

As you can see from our per-capita list, the south, and the SEC states in particular, is the greatest producer of football talent in the nation.

The “Top 100” is shaping up similarly this year. States with 5 or more top recruits include (along with their current commits) –

California 12 (7 to USC, 2 to UCLA, 1 to Michigan, 1 to Notre Dame, 1 not committed)

Texas 12 (5 to Texas, 1 Texas A&M, 1 Oklahoma St, 1 LSU, 1 Michigan, 3 not committed)

Florida 10 (5 to UF, 2 to Illinois, 3 not committed)

Louisiana 7 (2 to LSU, 5 not committed)

Pennsylvania 6 (2 to Penn St, 2 Pitt, 1 Michigan, 1 Arizona)

Georgia 5 (2 GA Tech, 1 UGA, 1 Tennessee, 1 not committed)

Ohio 5 (4 Ohio State, 1 Tennessee)

South Carolina 5 (2 South Carolina, 1 Clemson, 1 Notre Dame, 1 not committed)

Some schools have become very skilled at recruiting out of their home states, whether through necessity or desire. Michigan, currently ranked 15th overall by for their 2007 class, does so out of necessity, as the state has few top ranked recruits. Of their current 18 commits, only 5 are from Michigan, and none of the them are “five-star”. Michigan’s only “five-star” recruit, in fact, is quarterback Ryan Mallett from Texas.

Florida does it’s out of state recruiting based on desire. In the Gator’s currently 1st ranked class, 16 of the 23 commitments come from Florida, including 4 of the 5 “five-star” recruits. The other five-star guy comes from Connecticut in tight end Aaron Hernandez. Florida also has commitments from recruits in Alabama, California (2), Georgia (2) and Maryland.

So what can we expect for college football for the remainder of this decade?

Likely, more of the same.

Since recruits more often than not stay in their home state, or at least home region, to play their college ball, we can expect the areas that produce the most talent to likewise produce the most winners. So, don’t be surprised if USC, Texas and various SEC schools continue to compete for the BCS title in coming years – it is from these regions the talent comes.

And, it is in these regions the talent stays.


shoeboy said...

Interesting approach, but your data set is more or less worthless. A better idea would be to look at NFL draft picks. More kids, better relative ranking and more years to pick from.

Mergz said...

Shoeboy - The data set is imperfect, yes, but far from worthless.

The top names of 2004 include Adrian Peterson, Ted Ginn Jr, Early Doucet, Derrrick Harvey, Glenn Dorsey and Chad Henne, to name a few. Many of the others are or were team starters.

Sure, there were a couple of Willie Williams bust types.

I thought about going the NFL route, but so many great college players do not turn into great NFL players. Most Heisman winners fit this category.

I think if you look at any of the top 100 in Scouts, you see a great number of impact names for college football.

Mergz said...

Moreover to what I said above - if you look at the top rated QB's for 2003 on Scouts (the "5 stars"), it looks pretty darn good in retrospect.

They were

John David Booty
Kyle Wright
Chris Leak
JaMarcus Russell

All 4 were/are starters at major schools, and only Wright could be considered anything approaching a bust. Leak likely won't be a big time NFL prospect, but he is a BCS title holder, so I think using the Scout data is better than using who got drafted to the NFL for college talent purposes.

Anonymous said...

Your intriging study pointing out the superiority of the "former confederate states" in producing top FB talent, got me talking with my history professor this afternoon and he's saying amazing how those top per-capita states with the exception of Bama had the largest slave population per total population also. He went on to say your study is not surprising given the opportunities for the black athlete expanding dramatically over the last two decades with the old southern culture disappearing to a degree that it's no longer just a coon huntin' redneck paradise.

Gator Duck said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Gator Duck said...

Here's some more data...

I setup a spreadsheet by state (rows) and conferences (columns) and tabulated how many Div IA schools there are in each state drawing on the Top 200. The next obvious step was to determine how many in-state Top 200 players are available to each Div IA school in the state.

9 States have no Div IA schools and no students from the Top 200: Alaska, Delaware, Maine, Montana, New Hampshire, North Dakota, Rhode Island, South Dakota and Vermont.

Only 9 states have a pool of 2.5 or more players per school from the Top 200:

New Jersey 9
Georgia 5.5
California 4
Virginia 3.5
Pennsylvania 3.333333333
South Carolina 3
Florida 2.571428571
Maryland 2.5
Washington 2.5

Only 6 have 1.5 to less than 2.5 - not great pickins.

Texas 2.2
Minnesota 2
Wisconsin 2
Mississippi 1.666666667
Arkansas 1.5
Kentucky 1.5

11 have at least 1 but less than 1.5 per school - definitely slim pickins.

North Carolina 1.4
Ohio 1.375
Illinois 1.333333333
Oklahoma 1.333333333
Louisiana 1.2
Alabama 1
Hawaii 1
Indiana 1
Missouri 1
New York 1
Tennessee 1

15 schools are have little chance of signing a Top 200 player from within state - they have to try and steal from elsewhere. Note also, those from Connecticut on down have a Div IA school in state but no Top 200 players.

Utah 0.666666667
Michigan 0.6
Arizona 0.5
Nevada 0.5
Oregon 0.5
Colorado 0.333333333
Connecticut 0
Idaho 0
Iowa 0
Kansas 0
Massachusetts 0
Nebraska 0
New Mexico 0
West Virginia 0
Wyoming 0


Now, just for the heck of it, let's slight the minor conferences (of course this is worth an argument as to which are minor and which are major. The next set assumes that the schools in Conf USA, the Mid-America Conf, Mountain West, Sun Belt, Western Athletic conferences are out of the picture. They are too weak to snag Top 200 recruits from the big dogs. I've also left out 3 of the 4 independents. One of them, for some reason, once in awhile gets some of the Top 200 (Notre Dame).

Hawaii, Utah and Nevada have 4 Top 200 recruits in their states but none of the big dog conferences.

Added to the previous list of no schools, no recruits - add three states: Idaho, New Mexico, and Wyoming.

All of a sudden there are 15 states whose top dog schools have a shot at getting, on the average, 2.5 or more Top 200 recruits!

New Jersey 9
California 7
Louisiana 6
Georgia 5.5
Texas 5.5
Ohio 5.5
Pennsylvania 5
Maryland 5
Florida 4.5
Virginia 3.5
South Carolina 3
Arkansas 3
New York 3
Washington 2.5
Mississippi 2.5

Ten states in the 1.5 to 2.0 range

Minnesota 2
Wisconsin 2
Illinois 2
Oklahoma 2
Alabama 2
Indiana 2
Tennessee 2
North Carolina 1.75
Kentucky 1.5
Michigan 1.5

and the rest...

Missouri 1
Colorado 1
Arizona 0.5
Oregon 0.5
Connecticut 0
Iowa 0
Kansas 0
Massachusetts 0
Nebraska 0
West Virginia 0

Mergz said...

Duck -
That is a great and very well put together analysis. Coupled with the fact that most athletes do stay near home, you can see why certain state's schools are often near the top.

It also shows something else - watch out for Rutgers! For a state with a lot of talent, they don't have many schools to choose from. Give them a reason to stay home and that team could be a powerhouse.