LITTLE ROCK — Extrapolating a team’s record exclusively from the ranking of recruiting classes, you can cherry pick results to support a conclusion of infallible or meaningless.
This year, fans sold on the star system can hold up Florida State and Alabama while fans on the other side can cite Florida and Texas. To me, schools where four- and five-star athletes are being “coached up” have a better chance of success than schools where equally capable coaches are working with what is perceived to be lesser talent.
That said, simple math was used to look at ESPN’s ranking of recruiting classes 2010-2013 and match that against 2013 season records to determine if there is a correlation. A No. 1 class was worth 25 points, a No. 2 received 24, all the way through a point for No. 25.
Alabama scored 97 out of a possible 100 with recruiting classes ranked 3-2-1-1. Florida State is second at 86 with classes ranked 6-1-2-9. One is the national champion and the other would have been in the BCS title game if not for loss of confidence in the field goal kicker.
Point made; counter point time.
Florida’s four-year point total of 85 is third best and Texas’ 79 is fourth. Florida, with classes ranked 1-12-4-2, was 4-8 and Texas, with three top five classes, was 8-5. Good recruiting classes come with high expectations. In Gainesville, Will Muschamp fired his offensive coordinator and his offensive line coach. In Austin, head coach Mack Brown stepped down.
So far, the arguments result in a hung jury.
Generally, the next half-dozen teams or so landed a couple of top 10 recruiting classes and a couple of others in the top 15. Ohio State scored 72, followed by Auburn with 69, Georgia with 67, LSU with 66, USC with 65, Notre Dame with 61, and Oklahoma with 60.
Six of the seven were in the top 25 of the final BCS rankings, including three in the top 11, and those three participated in BCS bowls.
On the other hand, the Dec. 8 BCS rankings include Stanford, Baylor, Missouri, South Carolina, and Oregon in the top 10. From 2010-2013, I did not find a top 25 class for Baylor or Missouri.
Stanford had one top 12 class and two others in the top 25. South Carolina had four classes in the top 25, but none better than No. 16. Oregon had three in the top 25, none better than No. 14. Each of those three teams won 11 games.
After doing the research, I wonder if the athletes recruited by West Coast teams other than USC are a bit underrated and if other athletes get extra credit when recruited by Texas. Watching Stanford and Oregon, I thought the Cardinal and the Ducks were well stocked with athletes. Watching Texas, not so much.
Arkansas fans who believe Bret Bielema is the right man for the job can cite the counter points when the recruiting classes are confirmed on Wednesday.
I was surprised that Arkansas’ current class was only No. 32 after recent commitments from three Florida athletes. Five teams from the SEC’s Western Division have classes ranked in the top 15. From 2010-13, Arkansas’ only top 25 class was 19th in 2011.
Impressive is that Arkansas-bound wide receiver Kendrick Edwards had scholarship offers from Auburn and South Carolina, among others. For Razorback fans, preferred also-rans should include Alabama, LSU, and Texas A&M.
Arkansas’ class did get a late bump on Friday when four-star offensive lineman Frank Ragnow of Minnesota picked the Razorbacks over the Gophers and Florida State.
Another couple of players will sign on by Wednesday, possibly improving Arkansas’ ranking a smidge. Three years from now, the class can be assessed accurately.
Harry King is sports columnist for Stephens Media’s Arkansas News Bureau.