College FB 2021 Recruiting – Part 1

Below is another outstanding article done by our in-the-weeds specialist “PITT-Cocks Fan” Richard. As we have seen before he goes beyond the norm in teaching us the intricacies of college football. This piece is Part One of a two part series he did.

The 2020 recruiting season is basically over . There will still be a Power 5 (P5) signing or two over the next month or so, but so few signings will not significantly change the data.

For the last four or five years I have been gathering recruiting data for the 65 P5 teams. I have been using Rivals data. Yes, Ike there are some other sites (24/7, 24/7 composite and ESPN. Does Scout still exist?) but to be consistent and because I consider Rivals to be the easiest to understand and duplicate; I am using Rivals.

For those of you who are not steeped in the intricacies of Rivals ranking here is this explanation from Rivals:

The chart (Pitt’s) below shows the basic Rivals formula at work. All the key points are covered –  Rivals Rank (#22), Average Stars (3.09*), Points Calculation including bonus points (34 points for #93 Elliot Donald and 35 points combined for #169 and #185 Nahki Johnson and NaQuan Brown).

On to the ACC… I must include some disclaimers here. Rivals includes committed but not signed recruits in their data. Pitt (Honorable), NC State and Syracuse each have one verbal not signed. Virginia Tech has two (I believe they are twins). Also, NC State’s verbal is an unranked JUCO transfer. That does not mean they will not sign. There is still a Rivals 5-star and two top 250 4*s that have not signed. Usually, it is high school grades or SAT/ACT problems. The 5*s want to physically visit the schools they is interested in attending. Good luck to them in these Covid times.

To be honest, I basically ignore the Rival’s points and star ranking. Even though I showed the calculation in the above chart, I had to manually adjust it and look up the bonus points. Too much work for 14 teams. What I really look at is NRR (Numerical Rivals Ranking)  to get an idea of the recruiting class as a whole. In Pitt’s case, it works out to 5.596  or rounded to 5.6 3*-star class.

Remember the angst we all felt with Pitt’s unranked Trey Anderson? Really hurt Pitt’s ranking, and then the relief we felt when he finally was ranked. I do not know if the NC State JUCO transfer recruit will ever get ranked but making him just a 5.2 2* would change NC States star ranking from 2.80* to 2.95* and NRR from  5.29 to 5.55.  Oh, the magic of improvement from non-ranked means to a team’s ranking.

If you read the Rivals link, I provided above, you will read this:

“At the end of National Signing Day, any prospect that signs with an FBS program, and we have not evaluated, will be assigned a 5.2 Rivals Rating (RR)”

The operative word is “signs”. It pays to read the methodology of how a set of numbers or data is presented. That is why I sometimes get wordy when explaining data. I do not have a webpage to explain my data. I did not make a change in his rating for this exercise.

I believe the above chart is self-explanatory. What is interesting is that Pitt recruiting is the ACC average in star rank (3.09* – 6th) and NRR (5.60* – 6th). Maybe I should make a modification to remove “play-for-a-loss” Clemson.

Speaking of Pitt’s recruiting; there has been some questioning if the 2021 class is Pat Narduzzi best. It is only if you consider Rivals Ranking or average star ranking. It is not if you look at the NRR. Chris Peak in one of his recent 3-2-1 articles discussed the question of Narduzzi’s best class. If I remember correctly, he agreed that the 2021 class was the best for rankings, but he has a soft spot for the 2018 class. The below chart gives him a reason to back up his fondness.

I am done with ACC recruiting but I promised “More” in the heading so on to the Rivals top 100 rankings.

Some interesting tidbits.  The first was a problem in finding one Power 5 team. My normal course of action is to copy and paste the Rivals top 100 into an excel spread sheet. I add a column for P5 conferences and do a sort. Imagine my surprise when I was missing one Pac-12 team. Checked my non P5 teams. Was not there. Went back to Rivals and checked line for line for the missing team.

Finally I found the team – Oregon State in the Pac-12 conference rankings. Why were the Beavers not in the top 100? Because the Beavers 2021 class of 11 (8 3*s and 3 2*s) checks in as #101 with 690 points. 15 points below tied for #99 East Carolina and Ohio with 705. Scott Barnes should be so proud! (Editor’s linkage).

The early signing period can be a be both a curse and a blessing for a school’s program. South Carolina 2021 class was shaping up to be another top 20 class before the South Carolina Gamecocks fired Will Muschamp in November. They ended up #78 (tied with Texas Tech) the lowest P5 ranked teams not named Oregon State. Arizona and Illinois also fired their coach prior to or right after the end of the season but in past years they were normally low, so no harm – no foul.

Compare South Carolina with Tennessee who fired their head coach in January. Tennessee has another top 20 class (#17). But probably there are some recruits who would not have signed if HC Pruitt left before the early signing period. But then again, a recruit should sign for the school itself and not the coach.

A first for me, and probably the Rivals top 100, was the first D1-FCS ranked team. Coming in at #78 (tied with App State) from the SWAC conference was Jackson State. Lead by new HC Neon Deon Sanders, they pulled in three 4* and five 3* in his initial recruiting class of 15. I just realized they tied with the Gamecocks. I am almost ashamed as Scott Barnes should be.

By now you are thinking to yourself “Where are the charts?” There is just one. It is a summary by year and by stars for the last nine recruiting classes of the 65 Power 5 teams.

Last year, when I wrote a similar article to this one, I wrote the following:

“The 2020 class was an unusual class compared to the eight year average. 101 less recruits then average. Lowest number of recruits in total. Highest average stars. Overall, 5*, 4* and 3*s are near normal levels. The number of 2* and non-ranked recruits are the main contributors which would explain the jump in overall avg. stars.

That trend continues. Across the board, all 2021 “star” sizes are down. The 5* and 4* groups may be down to the disjointed H.S. season in 2020. Virginia high schools did not have a fall season. I think the Mississippi JUCO teams are playing this spring. What were the other states doing? IMO, Rivals may not have had the data to evaluate an assign more recruits to the 4* and 5* groups.

But, again in my opinion, the main reason for the 2021 drop in total recruits and class size by P5 teams is the transfer portal. That discussion is for another article.