Do Recruiting Rankings Equal Success in College Football?

Justin Goar@@tigertangentsSenior Writer IOctober 2, 2008

First off, I want to give credit where credit is due. The research below was posted on in the recruiting section and was compiled using ratings from It was posted by a user whose screen name is “sugarlsu” so a big thanks to him for giving me his blessing to use his findings.


We all know college football doesn’t just live from September to January. There’s spring and summer practices, and Strength and Conditioning coaches kick into high gear when your mind usually turns to basketball season.

Along with that, there’s the virtual year-round battle for talent in college football: recruiting.

Ah yes, the “lifeblood” of a college football program. Now it’s not enough to just follow your favorite college football team on the field every Saturday in the fall. You’ll have to follow their quest for new talent as well.

You can’t really downplay the importance of recruiting, but it’s amazing and sometimes a little scary to see grown adults following every movement of a 17-year-old kid—and on top of that, seeing the elation or disappointment of grown adults that stems from a 17-year-old kid’s decision on where he will attend college.

The importance is not lost on LSU—plus down here we take just about every opportunity we can to throw a party. Every year the LSU Gridiron Club throws the “Bayou Recruiting Bash.”

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It’s an event going for more than 10 years now that features food, drink (beer and more beer), special appearances by ex-players and coaches, silent auctions, highlights from last year’s games, high school highlight videos, and a performance by the Golden Band from Tiger Land.

It's all topped off by a speech by Les Miles, who introduces his entire coaching staff and talks about the new class. It starts early in the morning and ends when the sun is going down. A year ago it changed venues in order to hold a larger capacity.

Of course, all this is happening while high school kids send in their National Letters of Intent and are displayed on a board for all to see and cheer.

This takes place on a Wednesday, by the way, and more than 4,000 people show up. It seems like 10,000 though. I’ve been going for a while now. Drinking beer, eating good food, and talking football seems to be a perfectly acceptable way to spend a February Wednesday in Baton Rouge.

But does all this ballyhoo over recruiting equal success?

For an LSU fan, the answer comes in two names: Ryan Perrilloux and Jacob Hester. No need to expound on the Perrilloux situation here at LSU, but let’s just say for this five-star quarterback, things didn’t work out.

Jacob Hester, on the other hand, was a signing day afterthought—a two-star rated recruit thought to be buried on the depth chart for his college football career. I think most know how important Hester was to LSU’s success last year. The San Diego Chargers made it known how important they thought this two-star recruit was by drafting him.

I saw this list and found it intriguing, and I thought I’d share it with you.

The following findings are from 2005-08, so it spans the last four recruiting classes. Since most fans seem to be content with four-star players and ecstatic about five-star players, this is a list of four- and five-star recruits for the past four recruiting classes.

If I did not include your school, I apologize—feel free to look up your school’s recruit totals and post them in the comment section. Also attrition is not accounted for, so if your team’s players like the drugs, can’t hack it with the books, transfer, get injured, or fancy a liquor store holdup, these numbers may be a little off.

This is the top 14.

Florida: 65 (12 five stars and 53 four stars)

USC: 61 (15 five stars, 46 four stars)

Florida State: 57 (6 five stars, 51 four stars)

LSU: 56 (7 five stars, 49 four stars)

Oklahoma: 55 (7 five stars, 48 four stars)

Georgia: 52 (4 five stars, 48 four stars)

Texas: 51 (4 five Stars, 47 four stars)

Alabama: 50 (5 five stars, 45 four stars)

Miami: 47 (5 five stars, 42 four stars)

Michigan: 46 (5 five stars, 41 four stars)

Notre Dame: 46 (6 five Stars, 40 four stars)

Ohio State: 45 (7 five Stars, 38 four stars)

Auburn: 42 (4 five stars, 38 four stars)

Tennessee: 42 (7 five stars, 35 four stars)

Looking at this list, a few things jump out. I would think USC would be first, but Florida is by a relatively high margin. Don’t think Florida is a talent rich state? Then look where the Noles and the “U” appear along with the Gators.

Wow, FSU at No. 3!!!??? Is that jumping off anyone else’s page? Is this an indictment of the coaching staff?

When was the last time Florida State was in the top three in the actual rankings? Was Ace of Base big back then? Maybe it was more of the tech stock era—I'm not sure.

As “sugarlsu” points out, “Alabama (eighth on the list) didn’t come from out of nowhere.”

But he also says, “22 of those 50 are true freshmen”—a sign of things to come in Tuscaloosa?

Either way, the cupboard wasn’t exactly bare when Saban arrived.

Oh, and by the way, LSU’s 56, which is good enough for fourth on this list, were all recruited by Les Miles. His ’09 class has a chance to be his best yet.

Miami’s stock looks to be on the rise as it has always been a place for players that want to play on Sundays.

Above all, I think it’s telling just how wonderful college football is when teams like Oregon State and Ole Miss (by the way, the Rebs have 20 total, including three five stars) knock off the top two teams on this list this past week.

South Carolina has 32 four stars and no five-star recruits since ’05 but lost this year to Vanderbilt.

Don’t look now, but that’s the same Vandy team that sits atop the SEC East Standings this week. This is the same Vanderbilt that welcomes ESPN’s College GameDay to their campus this weekend in Nashville. That same Commodore squad since ’05 has one four-star player and no five-star players.

If you’re keeping score up top, that’s USC 65, Vandy one.

How’s that for wacky?

Auburn brings their 42 to take on Vandy’s one this Saturday night. Is Auburn going to be 42 times better than the Commodores Saturday night?

If they were, you wouldn’t be watching.

I’m not trying to minimize the relevance of recruiting. If you go down the list of National Champions in the past 10 years, most are represented on the above list. But how many Jacob Hesters you have on a team counts for so much. How many two and three-stars you turn into four and five-star guys on the field says a lot about a coach and a program.

Recruiting is getting to be bigger and more of a spectacle than ever for the fans, but for teams and coaches they know that these highly talented high school prospects must pan out on the field in order for a program to have success.

So as we enjoy the season that’s already underway, fear not—when January arrives, you can still follow your team’s success on the recruiting trail.

After all, it’s the reason I’ll be drinking beer and eating jambalaya and hot freshly made cracklins at 8 am on some random Wednesday in February.

Ain’t college football great?