Before winning the Heisman and being drafted No. 1 overall, Sam Bradford was only considered a 3-star recruit.
Each year, college football fans follow their team's attempts to woo the best high school players they can, interested to see which 5-star recruits the school can land. As skilled and talented as these blue-chippers are, history suggests that the number of high-caliber players needed to have a successful team relies heavily on 3-star and 4-star recruits.
Using rivals.com for recruit and recruiting class information from 2002-2009, here are a few examples of how important 3-star and 4-star recruits have been.
Heisman Trophy Winners
Only two of the previous seven Heisman winners were blue-chip recruits (Tim Tebow, 2007 & Cam Newton, 2010). In the same interval of time, two Heisman winners were 3-star recruits (Sam Bradford, 2008 & Johnny Manziel, 2012). The rest were 4-stars.
The average number of stars for the Heisman winner since 2002 is exactly 4-stars.
National Championship Teams
Comparing the recruiting classes of the last eight national championship teams (2005-2012), there is a clear manner in which they build their teams.
Knowing that a player has to stay in college for three years, including those seniors (or redshirt juniors) that stayed for four years, we can look at the makeup of the recruiting class three years prior to winning the title.
How important are 3 and 4-star recruits compared to blue-chippers?
Of the eight recruiting classes, two of them—Florida's 2005 recruiting class leading to the 2008 title and Auburn's 2007 recruiting class leading to its 2010 title—had no 5-star recruits.
If you look at only 3, 4 and 5-star recruits, each school averaged 25 recruits in this range three years before winning the title. On average 50 percent (approximately 12-13) of the 25 were 4-star recruits and 40 percent (10) were 3-star. That accounts for 90 percent of the recruiting class as a whole for the eight previous championship teams.
Typically, a championship team recruited two to three 5-star recruits three years before taking home the BCS title. (The outliers were Texas in 2005 and Florida in 2006, who had six and five blue-chip recruits, respectively.)
Balance Is The Key
Which group would you predict had the higher number of wins each year if you compare the teams who had the highest number of 5-star recruits to the teams with the highest number of 4-star recruits?
Not surprisingly, from 2005-2012, both groups averaged nine to 10 wins. I originally expected the winner to be the teams with the highest number of 4-star recruits; however, statistics prove that you need a healthy balance of 3, 4, and 5-star recruits to make a championship team.
Hopefully, as we are one week away from National Signing Day, you will root for your team to not only land those blue-chippers, but also to get a sizable quantity of the needed 3 and 4-star recruits to round out a possible contender for a national championship.