There are certain people out there who would rather faceplant off the Star City Bridge than admit recruiting rankings are predictors of future success.
Geno Smith was the No. 3 Dual-Threat QB in the 247Composite, while Tavon Austin was the No. 21 WR.
If you are one of those people, I’d suggest closing your browser now – I’m going to talk numbers, statistics, recruiting rankings and wins and losses for the next 1,000 words.
Now then.....when it comes to wins and losses, there are few things more correlated with success than how well a team recruits. Take a look at the most recent National Champions – Alabama, LSU, Florida, Auburn, USC, Oklahoma, Texas, Ohio State and Miami. They’re all regularly in the top ten or top twenty-five of annual team rankings.
However, getting into the Top 25 of team rankings can be a little misleading.Sign one or two five-star players and add in a bunch of filler recruits and you can still sneak in there because of the premium placed on those elite prospects.
Yes, those aforementioned teams do snare their fair share of five stars. What they also do, though, is stock the cupboard with solid, high-end players at every position.
With that in mind, I set a line at the Top 50 prospects in the nation for each position (high school only) and looked to see how much of each team’s class was made up of these players. The first place I looked was the current BCS Top 10.
For seven of those teams, 80% of their last four classes (2009 through 2012) were players that were ranked in the Top 50 at their position in the 247Composite (or equivalent, see thread), an industry generated ranking from all the major media recruiting services. An eighth (Oregon) comes in at a 70% rate over that same time frame.
The only two that do not are Kansas State (who fills half their roster with Junior College players) and Oregon State, the true exception - and a team I think we can all agree would be two or more touchdown underdogs to every other team in the top ten.
So, since this is a Mountaineer fan site, it begs the question: where does West Virginia fall in this experiment?
Copeland, another Top 50 position recruit, has forced his way into the starting lineup as a true freshman.
Well, it might actually answer why the team has struggled some this season. From 2009 through 2012, only 36 of the 97 players to commit/sign with West Virginia – a rate of 37% - were ranked in the Top 50 of their respective positions.
As you can imagine, that’s not Top 10 material… or even Top 25. The team currently ranked 25th, Wisconsin, has 42% of their last four classes in the Top 50 at their positions.
Of those 36 top positional players for West Virginia, thirteen of them have started games for the Mountaineers under Dana Holgorsen – Josh Jenkins (who was actually ’08), Geno Smith, Tavon Austin, Stedman Bailey, Ivan McCartney, Quinton Spain, Jewone Snow, Doug Rigg, Travis Bell, Jared Barber, Andrew Buie, Karl Joseph and Travares Copeland.
However, with such low numbers overall, the next question lingers – are things getting any better?
The answer? Yes.
For the 2011 class, the final recruiting class under Bill Stewart, only 27% of the prospects were in the Top 50 of their respective positions. Three of them were gone within a year – Vernard Roberts, Vance Roberts and Brian Athey. Terrell Chestnut redshirted last year after a shoulder surgery and has been slow to come back from a concussion suffered this spring. Barber (No. 42 ILB) and Buie (No. 10 APB) are the only two to have done anything.
That number jumped from 27% to over 41% for 2012, the first year under Dana Holgorsen, even though four of them – Sam Lebbie, Deontay McManus, Roshard Burney and Torry Clayton – are already gone or never showed up. Karl Joseph (No. 31 S) and Travares Copeland (No. 32 ATH) have already found their way into the starting lineup, while Ford Childress (No. 14 QB), Will Johnson (No. 19 TE), Tony Matteo (No. 9 C), Tyler Orlosky (No. 23 OG), Josh Lambert (No. 35 K) and Brandon Napoleon (No. 43 CB) are all redshirting to get ready for next year.
And speaking of 2013, that’s when things are really taking off. Despite the fact that the class is only about halfway done, West Virginia already has eleven prospects ranked in the Top 50 at their position. That rate of 73.3% (11 out of 15, not counting Tyler Edwards, a JUCO) is far better than any rate WVU has had in the internet recruiting era, and it’s almost exactly double the average rate of the last four years.
Elijah Wellman – No. 6 Fullback
De’Asian Richardson – No. 17 Strongside Defensive End
Chavas Rawlins – No. 23 Dual-Threat Quarterback
Jacky Marcellus – No. 26 All-Purpose Back
Al-Rasheed Benton – No. 28 Inside Linebacker
Tyler Tezeno – No. 29 Offensive guard
Darrien Howard – No. 30 Inside linebacker
Zaire Williams – No. 34 Running back
DeShawn Coleman – No. 37 Running back
Marcell Lazard – No. 43 Offensive tackle
Wendell Smallwood – No. 47 Running back
It seems like someone says it every year, but the numbers really back it up this time: the 2013 class could be the most highly-regarded group of recruits to ever make their way into Morgantown.
And we’re only halfway.