By Brad Hubbard @bradhubbard
Over the last decade the college football world has become consumed with National Signing Day. It’s the first day that a high school football player can sign a letter of intent with the University he wishes to play football at. Before this day it there can be only ‘verbal’ commitments.
Many moons ago National Signing Day wasn’t a big deal accept to the Universities and the players. Now it’s an all day special on ESPNU. There are supposed “experts” from San Antonio to Connecticut. 17 and 18 year old young men sit at tables with every member of their family behind them and try to keep every one guessing as to which school they will choose by having several hats laid out on a table. It’s the months, and sometimes years, of built up into a few fleeting moments for a young man and his family. All broadcast live on cable television and plastered online.
(Above is a look at ESPN.com’s homepage during the frenzy known as signing day)
But what does all this spectacle actually mean? Does the team with the best recruiting ranking win? Do these highly touted players become superstars and difference makers at their schools? Do they do well in the NFL?
We went back and look at scout.com’s team rankings for the last 5 years (2008-2012) to see if recruiting rankings actually mean. (Please note that there are several recruiting sites out there. A list is at the bottom of this post.) At first glance one could say yes. Alabama is ranked in the Top 10 every year with their lowest ranking being 7th and they’ve proceded to win 3 out of the last 4 BCS National Championships.
Alabama’s cross state rivals at Auburn have been in the Top 10 the last 3 years. In that time they’ve won the BCS National Title game and this year fired their coach after a 3-8 season with no wins in the SEC. They’ve seen both sides of the pendulum.
UCLA has been in the Top 10 3 times in the last 5 years. During that time they have a 30-35 record, changed coaches, managed only 2 winning seasons, didn’t have a single player taken in last years NFL Draft and are 1-4 against cross town rivals USC.
Texas has been in the Top 10 in the last 4 years and was even ranked #1 last year. During this time they’ve played for a BCS National Title (they ended up losing to Alabama) and 3 other bowl games. The year after their loss to Alabama they finished 5-7.
The overall point here is that a top ranked recruiting class by ESPN, Rivals, Scout, or Tom Lemming does not guarantee a team anything except for maybe higher expectations. But if you go to Alabama, Texas or Auburn the expectations are pretty high as it is. A top ranked recruiting class does improve your chances to winning but how a staff takes these recruits and molds them into a team is what really wins games.