NCAA Football Recruiting: Does It Really Matter?

Tim CroleySenior Analyst IJanuary 31, 2008

With this year’s signing day less than week away, the question comes to mind: Will it be much of the same, or are we in for something else?

I have broken down the past six years of recruiting, according to, noting the top ten recruiting classes and the final poll for the respective year in order to see the impact of recruiting in college football.

Is recruiting that important? Well, let us just allow the results to tell us the impact and outcome of recruiting. 

The following shows the recruiting, final position for those teams, and the final Associated Press (AP) top 10 polls following the National Championship game for the past six years:      

Recruiting                           Final Position                AP Final Top 10            


  1. Texas                           6                                  Ohio State
  2. Tennessee                    NR                                Miami
  3. Georgia                        3                                  Georgia
  4. Florida State                 21                                 USC
  5. Ohio State                    1                                  Oklahoma
  6. Auburn                        14                                 Texas
  7. Oklahoma                     5                                  Kansas
  8. Miami                           2                                  Iowa
  9. UCLA                           NR                                Michigan
  10. Colorado                      NR                                Washington State


  1. LSU                              2                                  USC
  2. Florida                          24                                 LSU
  3. USC                             1                                  Oklahoma
  4. Oklahoma                     3                                  Ohio State
  5. Miami                           5                                  Miami
  6. Georgia                         7                                  Michigan
  7. NC State                       NR                                Georgia
  8. South Carolina               NR                                Iowa
  9. Mississippi State           NR                                Washington State
  10. Texas A&M                   NR                                Miami (Ohio)


  1. USC                             1                                  USC
  2. LSU                              16                                 Auburn
  3. Florida State                  15                                 Oklahoma
  4. Miami                           11                                 Utah
  5. Michigan                       14                                 Texas
  6. Georgia                         7                                  Louisville
  7. Florida                          NR                                Georgia
  8. Oklahoma                     3                                  Iowa
  9. Ohio State                     20                                 California
  10. Texas                           5                                  Virginia Tech


  1. USC                             2                                  Texas
  2. Florida State                  23                                 USC
  3. Oklahoma                     22                                 Penn State
  4. Tennessee                    NR                                Ohio State
  5. Nebraska                      24                                 West Virginia
  6. Michigan                       NR                                LSU
  7. Miami                           17                                 Virginia Tech
  8. Texas A&M                   NR                                Alabama
  9. California                       25                                 Notre Dame
  10. Georgia                         10                                 Georgia


  1. USC                             4                                  Florida
  2. Florida                          1                                  Ohio State
  3. Florida State                  NR                                LSU
  4. Georgia                         23                                 USC
  5. Texas                           13                                 Boise State
  6. Penn State                    24                                 Louisville
  7. LSU                              3                                  Wisconsin
  8. Notre Dame                   17                                 Michigan
  9. Oklahoma                     11                                 Auburn
  10. Auburn                          9                                  West Virginia


  1. Florida                          13                                 LSU     
  2. USC                             3                                  Georgia
  3. Tennessee                    12                                 USC
  4. LSU                              1                                  Missouri
  5. Texas                           10                                 Ohio State
  6. South Carolina               NR                                West Virginia
  7. Auburn                          15                                 Kansas
  8. Notre Dame                   NR                                Oklahoma
  9. Georgia                         2                                  Virginia Tech
  10. Alabama                       NR                                Boston College & Texas (tied)

Just a note, if you rely heavily upon recruiting stats, seven of the top ten 2007 classes were from the SEC, so watch out for the SEC in ’09 and ’10! 

Do you see any trend here?

Well, it may be hard if you are just looking at the top ten classes and final rankings from each year, but there are a few things that stood out to me that I would like to share with you.

In 2002, Texas had the number one recruiting class. Those seniors, in 2005, were National Champions.

If you look at LSU they had the number one class in 2003 and the number two class in 2004. If you factor in the fact that some of those recruited in 2003 were red-shirted, that number one recruiting class became National Champions in 2007.

Just for the sake of argument though, if no seniors were left from that class (and there were), then the number two recruited class of ’04 went on to become National Champions. 

The same was true for Florida, the number two recruiting class of 2003, who became champions in that class’ junior/senior year of 2006.

Southern Cal, who had three consecutive number one recruiting classes from 2004-2006, also had consecutive years finishing in the top five.

So if the streak continues with top recruiting classes finishing at the top, the 2008 season may very well be the year for USC to add another notch to their National Championship belt.

Consequently, Georgia, who has finished strong in recruiting the past few years, has done the same during their seasons as well. The only problem with UGA is the fact that they are just right in the middle of the pack—better than mediocre, but not strong enough to finish the job and bring home the biggest glory of college football.

Oklahoma has had similar results, with great recruiting classes and great seasons, yet not quite strong enough to win it all. 

A point of irony lies with the Florida State program, which had three consecutive top three classes, but has yet to end the season in the top ten. Miami and Ohio State have both landed outstanding classes, but have yielded disappointment also. (Although the Buckeyes only have themselves to blame for their distress; losing back-to-back championship games.)

Others have had great finishes out of nowhere in the recruiting process, but nothing to show. Some have had great finishes to the year, with “unknown” players and “poor” recruiting according to the experts. These however have been far and few between, such as Boise State in ’06 and Kansas in ’07. 

One more note of irony is the fact that West Virginia has finished strong the past three years, all top ten finishes, without top ten recruiting classes. Kudos goes to coaching, underrated player talent, or whatever it was, but the facts remain in the results shown above. Those who recruit strong have positive results.

Over time, given that players do not bolt for the NFL early, great recruiting ultimately results in championships. With all of that being said, the question comes forth: Where will this year’s recruiting classes, with the likes of Florida, Notre Dame, and Alabama at the top, be in three to four years?


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