To the surprise of nobody, the SEC once again dominated National Signing Day in 2012. According to Rivals.com, Alabama secured the top ranked recruiting class, followed by Texas, Florida, Ohio State, and Stanford. 8 of the top 19 recruiting classes (including new member, Texas A&M) came from the SEC, which has become par for the course. Everyone’s favorite whipping boy – the Big Ten – took another beating on Signing Day. Michigan and Ohio State did finish among the Top 10 ranked recruiting classes, but the next highest ranked class was Nebraska – at #25.
Why the Big Ten struggled in recruiting this year
As 2012 National Signing Day has shown, the Big Ten just doesn’t seem to recruit at the level the conference used to. Sure, Michigan and Ohio State pulled in big classes. That’s to be expected, especially with Urban Meyer taking over in Columbus. But the rest of the conference did a mediocre job attracting the top players. Part of that reason was Penn State going through a major "scandal" and their first coaching change since the 1960’s. They are a school that almost always pulls in a Top 25 class. Thanks to Urban Meyer poaching many of the Nittany Lions’ top recruits, Penn State checks in at #50 on Rivals.com’s list.
Another reason the Big Ten struggled was perennial contender, Wisconsin, only had 16 commits. They had a small senior class in 2011. Kirk Ferentz pulled in a respectable class at Iowa (ranked #41), but he has never been known to be a great recruiter. The biggest disappointment was Michigan State. Mark Dantonio failed to cash in on the success his program has had these past two seasons by signing a not-so-great recruiting class. His class ranked #39 and he only signed 3 4-star recruits.
Recruiting rankings can be overrated
Loading up on 4 and 5 star recruits is the ticket to becoming a successful College Football program. There isn’t an elite program that doesn’t regularly pull in Top 15 recruiting classes. With that said, it’s more of a numbers game than anything. The more 4 and 5 star recruits a program gets, the better off they will be. However, many of these 4 and 5 star recruits never pan out. And many of the 2 and 3 star recruits turn into All-Americans.
I have gone through recruiting rankings for over the past decade and here are the conclusions I have made:
- Of the Top 25 recruits, on average, approximately 15 become good or great players at the college level. 10 will barely even sniff the field.
- Of the remaining 75 Top 100 players, on average, approximately 20 become good or great. The rest end up average at best.
- 75% of the teams that finish in the Top 10 of the BCS standings in most seasons are programs that had recruiting classes that averaged in the Top 20 over the previous 3 seasons.
So, as you can tell, recruiting rankings do mean something. They just don’t mean everything. If only I had a nickel for every time I heard a scout say "he’ll win a Heisman Trophy before he graduates" about a player that never saw meaningful action, I’d be a wealthy man. 2012’s recruiting class will be no different than every other year. There will be players every expert thinks is destined for greatness that will go on to ride the pine throughout their career. And there will be players no one is talking about that will turn into All-Americans. We just won’t know who those players are until they start seeing the field.