Friday, February 02, 2007

Does recruiting equal success?

As we sit less than a week away from national signing day, we at Saurian Sagacity have decided to see if recruiting equals success, at least in the limited terms of the study described below.

For our study, we ranked the 115 NCAA division I-A schools that have recruiting class data on for the years 2003-2006. We then took the average class rankings for the 4 year period, and then ranked the schools from lowest average number to highest. For example, USC had the number 1 ranked class in 2003, number 1 in 2004, number 6 in 2005, and number 1 in 2006 for an average of 2.25 (the best in our study).

We choose the 4 years from 2003-2006 as representative of the talent that was playing on teams during the past season. Senior Chris Leak of Florida, for instance, was a member of the class of 2003, while Percy Harvin a member of the class of 2006. Both can said to have been substantial contributors to last year’s Gator successes.

As stated, the highest ranked school in our study was USC. The lowest ranked, at 115th, was Arkansas State.

The top 25 for the period 2003-2006 was as follows (with average class rank):

Now, to compare that to this year's final results.

The Top 25 per the Coach’s Poll Ranking for 2006 –

1 Florida
2 Ohio St.
3 Louisiana St.
4 Southern California
5 Wisconsin
6 Boise St. (ID)
7 Louisville (KY)
8 Auburn (AL)
9 Michigan
10 West Virginia
11 Oklahoma
12 Rutgers (NJ)
13 Texas
14 California
15 Brigham Young (UT)
16 Arkansas
17 Wake Forest (NC)
18 Virginia Tech
19 Notre Dame (IN)
20 Boston College (MA)
21 Texas Christian
22 Oregon St.
23 Tennessee
24 Hawaii
25 Penn St.
If talent alone were the basis for success, one might reasonably expect USC to have finished 1st last year, seeing as they had the top ranked average class for the past 4 years. USC did finish 4th, so in the world of statistics, they seem to be within an acceptable range of achievement for talent received.

Of the top 25 for 2006, the following is how much above or below their final poll ranking verses class ranking they were:

From this we can see that 13 of 25 of the top ranked average recruiting classes of the past 4 years made the top 25 final poll this year. If recruiting ranking by sources like were totally inaccurate (random), we would expect 4.6 of their top 25 classes to end up in the top 25 final poll with 115 total teams. In other words, 13 are too many to be random, at least in this sample, suggesting that talent does make a difference in results.

That said, we can see which teams were “busts” in the final poll results. Whether this is a result of inaccurate rankings by, poor coaching, poor effort, or just bad luck is for you to decide. Our biggest bust was Georgia, ending unranked at 9-4 after having the 5th best recruiting average over the past 4 years. FSU and Miami were also busts, followed by Texas A&M and the 3 ACC teams of Maryland, North Carolina and NC State.

It is also interesting to see that South Carolina, which ended the year unranked at 8-5, and Alabama, which ended 6-7, both have had top 25 average recruiting classes over the past 4 years, suggesting far better talent at those schools than anyone seems to want to credit them with. South Carolina’s 4 last classes have been ranked 15th, 28th, 30th and 33rd, while Alabama has had classes ranked 45th, 19th, 16th, and 18th. Having combined losses of 12 games with those classes seems unmerited.

Lastly, let’s look at the final poll ranked overachievers based on their average class rankings for the past 4 years.
5th ranked Wisconsin – average class ranked 36.25
6th ranked Boise State - average class ranked 74
7th ranked Louisville - average class ranked 42.75
10th West Virginia – average class ranked49.75
12 Rutgers – average class ranked 61
15th BYU – average class ranked 53.25
16th Arkansas – average class ranked 28
17th Wake Forest – average class ranked 57
20th Boston College – average class ranked 42.75
21st TCU – average class ranked 68th
22nd Oregon State – average class ranked 45.5
24th Hawaii – average class ranked 87.25
Making Boise State, ranked 68 places ahead of their average class rank, our 2006 Overachiever of the Year.

Next week, after the final class ranking are in, we will conduct another study that will average the classes of 2004-2007 with a predictive look as to what we can expect for the coming season.


Henry Gomez said...

More than the underachievers, I think the overachievers part of the analysis is telling. I think that falls into my general feeling on the subject that good coaching of average to below average talent (peterson at Boise) can beat bad coaching of above average talent (Zook at Florida). The potent combination of course being when you have a good coach that can bring in and develop top talent.

jimcaserta said...

You'd want to do a weighted average, as the 2003 class will have a bigger impact than the 2006 class did this year. You'd also have to factor in for transfers, non-qualifiers, and guys leaving early. Reggie Bush was one of USC's ***** guys in 2003 - he would have helped them in 2006.

Anonymous said...

jim ~good point, your right about the other factors, just think of how dominate overachievers like say Ohio State would have been over the past few years had not their top talent left for the NFL early. didn't they lose like an extraordinary amount of top junior defensive stars just last year like Bobby Carpenter and A J Hawk to name a few who became immediate NFL stars?
Great post by Mergz that stat on Wisconsin is mind blowing!

jimcaserta said...

Wisconsin was also unranked preseason. Polls based on subjective measures aren't nearly as useful as standings based on actual games. If pundits can't get a preseason ranking nearly right, there's no way they'll get it right 4 years in advance!

jimcaserta said...

Here's my take.

Mergz said...

I considered the weighting idea for exactly the reasons stated. However, that would either require going through each of the 115 schools class by class to see who stayed, or making some sort of subjective decision as to which class "weighed" more. In this case, since many of the 2003 guys are gone (like Bush), perhaps you would weight 2004 more? And how do you account for a 2006 like UF's that had impact players in Tebow and Harvin.

In the end, I decided I couldn't come up with a compelling enough way to weight each class, so I just equal weighted them. It is not perfect, but it gives you a pretty good idea.