Monday, February 16, 2015

Recapping National Signing Day 2015

There you have it folks, another National Signing Day come and gone. The one time of year where adults obsess about teenagers and it isn't deemed totally creepy. Each year brings about tons of surprises as recruits go against what the experts believe or make last second flips to a rival school. There are some people who detest this day as people think it is completely ridiculous to pay this much attention to kids who are just 18 years old. But many others, like myself, find this day totally fascinating. It is tough to know what goes through someone's head as they make their selection. You never know what a recruit values most in a university: the coach and staff, the university itself, the promise of development into a pro prospect, etc. Recruiting is the backbone of any great team and it's importance can never be underestimated if you're trying to build a championship team. Below is a recap of how the day went. I combined the statistics of three major recruiting websites: Rivals, 24/7, and Scout. Note that rankings are not a prediction of success. Some kids may not live up to their potential while others who garner lower rankings can turn into stars. The system isn't perfect, but it is a good place to start.

Top 10 Recruiting Classes

         Team              Rivals Ranking          Scout Ranking          24/7 Ranking           Total
              USC                           1                                 1                               2                             1

              Alabama                    2                                 2                               1                             2

              Tennessee                  5                                 5                               4                             3

              Florida State             3                                 11                              3                            4

              Auburn                      6                                 3                               9                             5

              Ohio State                 9                                 9                                6                            6

              UCLA                       13                                4                                7                            7

              LSU                           8                                 13                              5                            8

              Clemson                    4                                 15                              8                             9

              Texas A&M             10                                10                             12                           10

Now, I want to bring one thing up before we continue. Rankings are biased. That is just a straight up fact. And they are biased in favor of players in the south, southeast, and west coast. It isn't some massive conspiracy in order to promote the SEC or anything like that. Rather, kids from these areas have more exposure year round and have more camps that they can attend where scouts can rank them. Players from the northern states don't have quite that luxury, but that does not mean that they are necessarily worse players. That is why you have seen teams like Florida, FSU, Alabama, Texas, and USC get some of the highest rated recruits year in and year out. They have such an advantage from their geographic location that it pushes their rankings even higher.

Big Winners

The City of L.A.: One of the fiercest rivalries in college football has begun to heat up over the past couple of years with UCLA regaining the upper hand. Jim Mora has coached the Bruins for the past three years and beaten the Trojans each time they have faced off. Both teams finished in the top ten of my aggregate rankings and brought in some five star talent that should be able to compete right away. USC loaded up on defense which has been their Achilles heel the past couple of years while UCLA went the opposite route with two offensive players who achieved five star rankings on Rivals. I think that the bigger question is going to be how Sarkisian improves as a head coach from here on out. He was able to bring in the talent at Washington and is doing it at USC, but the results haven't reached the potential. UCLA, meanwhile, is on the verge of being a perennial PAC12 powerhouse if Mora is able to keep developing the talent he is bringing in. Either way, it is great to see this rivalry becoming more competitive again after USC essentially owned the 2000s.

Florida Gators: The Gators had an aggregate recruiting ranking of 24 which doesn't seem that great for such a prestigious football school. However, considering that Florida was ranked close to 100th before the day before signing day, they should be relieved to have advanced so far up the rankings. New head coach Jim McElwain was able to pull in talent on both sides, but he definitely got better recruits offensively which is what the Gators need to spark a stagnant offense. They were able to pick up two huge five star commits on either line. Defensive lineman Cece Jefferson added a little bit of drama to the day by holding out on sending in his letter of intent, but he is now officially a Gator. Once McElwain is able to establish himself in Gainesville, it should be no surprise to see them consistently pulling in top ten recruiting classes.

Ohio State Buckeyes: It may seem a bit strange to say that the reigning national champs were big winners on signing day, but they managed to land a couple of kids who were in the mix with several other schools. Offensive lineman Isaiah Prince and wide receiver KJ Wright both committed to the Buckeyes over Alabama and could make an immediate impact on the team. But the biggest victory was keeping Cass Tech (Detroit) running back Mike Weber away from Michigan. Weber had been committed to the Wolverines, but ended up decommitting during the Ohio State-Michigan game. Once Harbaugh was hired as their new head coach, there was a lot of speculation that he could actually recommit to the Wolverines. Apparently, he was 50/50 the night before he had to send in his letter of intent. With Ezekiel Elliott likely off to the pros after this season, Urban scored a huge victory by being able to keep Weber committed to the Buckeyes.

Biggest Loser

Michigan Wolverines: The Wolverines were behind the eight ball a bit considering they hired Harbaugh rather late into recruiting season, but even Florida was able to pull out a solid class. He was only able to get fourteen kids to commit and they really missed out on some players who would have boosted their rankings by a ton. Tight end Chris Clark decided to stay home and play for UCLA while Iman Marshall took the same route and decided to play UCS. Marshall was a long shot for Michigan, but there was always speculation that he could in fact head north. But as mentioned, the biggest loss was failing to get Mike Weber back from their hated rival. Harbaugh even took to Twitter to complain about it, making it that much sweeter. I don't think that Michigan will have this problem over the next couple of years, but it could be a while before they start seeing some on the field results with a weak and small recruiting class in Harbaugh's inaugural season.

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