Editor’s Note: This article was penned by our own Richard Hefner (Pitt-Cocks Fan), who you may remember also contributed the data for our weekly “QB Corner” piece during the season. Recruiting is always a relevant topic when it comes to college football, and right now it’s a welcome distraction from the world around us. I personally believe the Pitt’s recruiting has been adequate to keep us at the current win level (7-8 wins), and I also believe that generally this staff does a good job of coaching up low star recruits, especially on the defensive line. Of course offensive line recruiting continues to be a concern, although it’s becoming clear that Borbely is a step up from Peterson, both in recruiting and development. The problem is that he just doesn’t reel in enough guys, and the jury is still out on how well he can teach pass blocking. Offensive skill position recruiting has been a concern as well. For example, Pitt currently has two four-star upperclassmen running backs on its roster. Neither looks like the four star backs that the Pitt faithful is used to seeing…or even the three star backs for that matter. On the brigher side, the addition of Chris Beatty at WR coach has already paid dividends at the Wide Receiver position…if you believe the spring hype. And well, you’d like to think Whipple will be able to reel in some upgraded QB talent. Transfer Joey Yellen is a start, but I’d like to see him actually recruit a kid out of high school. With all that all being said, lets take a look at how Pitt stacks up against the rest of the Power 5.
2020 Power 5 Recruiting and Pitt
by Richard Hefner (Pitt-Cocks fan)
The 2020 recruiting season is now over, and for the last 3 or 4 years I have been gathering recruiting data for the 65 P5 teams. I have been using Rivals data. (Yes, Ike there are some other ratings…24/7, 24/7 composite & ESPN), but I like to be consistent and I consider Rivals to be the easiest to understand & duplicate.
For those of you who are not steeped in the intricacies of Rivals ranking here is this explanation from Rivals: https://n.rivals.com/news/rivals-com-football-team-recruiting-rankings-formula
Basically, Rivals classifies a recruit with a numerical “Rivals Rating (RR)” classification. The best 30 to 35 recruits are assigned a numerical Rivals Ranking of 6.1 or a 5 star. The next lower level of recruits, who are then considered 4 stars, can have a RR of 6.0, 5.9 or a 5.8. A 3 star can be a 5.7, a 5.6 or a 5.5. A 2 star can be a 5.4, a 5.3 or a 5.2. NR are nothing (just like my inelegant explanations…haha)
Rivals with their legions of analysts “somehow” can identify the top 250 recruits. They then assign “bonus points” to these recruits starting with 100 points for the top ranked recruits down to 3 points for numbers 246 – 250. These “bonus points” get added into the recruiting rankings for the teams that sign these players.
Another wrinkle in the Rivals Rankings is that a teams total recruting points is limited to the top 20 recruits. Editor’s Note: I suppose this is to keep a level playing field but if you are weighting the top 250 recruits like richard described above, the rankings are already skewed.
So how does Rivals come up with their overall team rankings? I hope you are good at match becasue it’s complicated. Points are assigned to each Rivals Ranking. The baseline is 15 points for a 5.2 – 2 star. The points increase by 15 for each RR up to 120 points for a 6.1 – 5 star. Rivals then multiplies twenty highest rated recruits by their Rivals Ranking. Then they add in the bonus points & voila, there are your team Rivals Ranking points. For example, I’ve reverse-engineered the RR rankings for Pitt & Clemson:
As you can see from the above chart, Pitt had 18 total recruits & was ranked # 44. Clemson had 23 recruits and was ranked #2. The rest is just math & following Rivals formulas after you count the number of recruits by RR’s. You can see that Pitt got 3 bonus points (Jahvante Royal- #250). Clemson got 636 bonus points.
I have added my own little twist to the chart, Normally, Rivals only publishes Rankings by points & average Star ratings. In Pitt’s case they are 44th with an average star rating of 3.06. Clemson is 2nd with a star average of 3.91. But…star ranking does not tell the whole story, so I calculated each team’s average Rivals Ranking. For exampole a team with twenty 5.5’s woulds still have a 3.0 avg star raking. A team with twenty 5.7’s would also have a 3.0 avg star ranking. Which team do you think recruited better? In Pitt’s case their average rivals rank is 5.61. That equals a 5.6 3 star. Clemson’s average rivals rank is 5.86. That rounds up a 5.9 4 star.
I have done this analysis for all ACC teams, and I am thinking of publishing a series of articles discussing all the ACC teams recruiting, transfer portal activities, NFL early entries and teams graduating ALL ACC losses. It may be a tough read but it could give Mike a break on writing articles…although not on editing them!
One other chart for you to review. The chart contains a total of all 65 Rivals P5 team ranking data by year for the last 8 years. I thought there was some unusual numbers compared to past years.
First: Did you know that Rivals only covers 100 of the 130 FBS teams? They cover all 65 P5 but only 35 of the G5 teams. That’s why they only publish a top 100 teams. But it does present an opportunity for a go getter to become the Chris Peak of Eastern Michigan or Georgia State or San Jose State or Liberty … amongst other openings. Editor’s note: I live in Atlanta. Maybe I should start the Georgia State site, see ya later guys! Kidding, Kidding.
Second: The 2020 class was an unusual class compared to the 8 year average. There were 101 less recruits then average, and this was the lowest number of recruits in the last eight years. However, the 2020 class had the highest average stars. Overall the number of 5, 4, and 3 stars were near normal levels, but the number of 2 & NR were much lower, which explains the jump in overall avg. stars.
The question this also poses the question of if the “Transfer Portal” is influencing High School recruiting. Transfers both graduate & undergraduates have been around for a while. But the centralized portal allows any team to know when any player enters the transfer portal. It is my belief that in the past, a team may not know that a TE from Stanford or an OT from Notre Dame was looking for a new home. Now they definitely do.
Does it look better for a HC to take a transfer instead of a 2-star reach? It does make his avg star ranking higher, and it is probalby less risky, even if it is just a short term solution.
In summary, Pitt’s recruiting while technically only .3 points below Clemson (on average) is certainly a step or two below an elite program. The transfer portal also seems to have had an impact on classes, and certainly it has had an impact on Pitt, but not enough to close the gap. The data says that Pitt’s going to need to continue to coach ’em up if they want to maintain the status quo, and they are going to need to get more high RR players if they want to make the jump to the next level.