Recruiting Analysis: The Truth About Rankings and a Full Class Prediction

Chris article2featuredpic

Kevin Cline

If you’re expecting Oregon to finish high in the recruiting rankings this year, then prepare to be disappointed.  Last week, I went against popular opinion and explained why I thought Oregon would be taking a relatively small 2014 recruiting class.  Now it looks like they might take an even smaller class than I suspected.

On Tuesday, Justin Hopkins of Duck Territory made a bold prediction that Oregon would accept only 16 commitments this cycle, and no more than 18.  Hopkins, one of the top recruiting analysts on the West Coast, isn’t one to throw out speculative nonsense.

Relatively speaking, a class of 16-18 players is quite small.  Thus, due to how team recruiting rankings are compiled, don’t expect the Ducks to finish higher than 20th on any of the major sites.  Quality matters, but quantity often overrides quality – at least in the eyes of some ranking services.

If you’re new to recruiting, or even a veteran of the process, it’s easy to get frustrated by rankings.  Here are the Ducks, who’ve had an elite on-field product for five years, have the best facilities in college football, best-in-the-nation coaching stability and a brand whose sex appeal isn’t even matched by Victoria’s Secret, yet they still can’t land a top-10 recruiting class.  That’s an understandable and reasonable frustration.

Quality or Quantity?

Craig Strobeck

Quality or Quantity?

This is why it’s important to take a step back and look at the whole picture.  Why are recruiting rankings important?  What do they mean?  Why should anyone care about anything other than wins and losses?

As I’ve written about ad nauseam, talent wins.  There are exceptions, but in general, to win at the highest levels of college football, a team needs talent; a lot of it.  And while recruiting rankings aren’t perfect, they do a great job of identifying talent, especially when looked at collectively (using something like, oh, I don’t know, my tier system described below).  Thus, recruiting rankings only matter insofar as they easily allow you to identify how much talent teams are adding to the roster each year.

This says nothing to how that talent is used, how it’s developed, how it’s harnessed, what scheme is employed and whether the talent acquired fits that specific scheme.  I’m not talking about how good a team might be on the field, though, only how much talent the team fields.  As basic arithmetic tells us, there is a strong positive correlation between talent and winning.  Talent matters.

Recruiting rankings, then, only matter because they provide a snapshot of that talent.  For a team such as Oregon, a team that is, by all accounts, incredibly talented, recruiting rankings don’t tell the whole story.  Some of the intangible things that make Oregon so good are the very things that contribute to a lower recruiting ranking than many fans would hope for.  Let me explain.

Bralon Addison

Amazing Moments

Bralon Addison

Each year, the recruiting rankings reward big classes.  Instead of average star rating, classes are ranked based on cumulative point totals, meaning the bigger the class the better.  What this does is reward high attrition.  The kind of attrition that allows a program to take a full 25-player class is the same kind that hurts a program on the field.  It is not good to have a boatload of players leave the program prematurely unless they’re going to the NFL, which is exceedingly rare (see: Alabama).  Oregon experiences very little attrition.

The Oregon coaching staff does a great job of recruiting players that fit their system.  They’re known for further developing the talent they bring in.  They do exhaustive background checks to make sure they’re bringing in good kids who’ll fit the culture.  Their strength and conditioning program is one of the most respected in the nation and focuses on injury prevention.  All this, along with the large number of players getting minutes during any given game, combine to keep guys from leaving the program early from injury or general dissatisfaction.

Due to the lack of attrition, Oregon usually doesn’t take large classes.  This, in turn, hurts their recruiting rankings.  It doesn’t, however, hurt their talent profile.  This summer, I completed a detailed objective talent evaluation of each Pac-12 football roster and Oregon came in at No. 2, behind only USC.

Talent - Talent - Talent

Kevin Cline

Talent – Talent – Talent

So remember, recruiting rankings provide only a snapshot of a school’s incoming roster.  A full talent profile is much more effective for analyzing how competitive a team is likely to be on the field.  And, while the Ducks might not finish high in the rankings, they’re plenty talented.

On that note, here’s a look at how I think Oregon’s 2014 recruiting class is likely to end up:

  • Tier-E: 5-star rating by at least one service
  • Tier-1: 4-star rating by at least two services
  • Tier-2: 4-star rating by one service
  • Tier-3: 3-star rating by at least two services
  • Tier-4: 3-star rating by one service
  • Tier-5: No 3-star rating by any service

2014 Class Prediction

Tier E: RB Royce Freeman

Tier 1: RB Tony James

Tier 1: WR Braxton Berrios

Tier 1: WR Jalen Brown

Tier 1: DE Tui Talia

Tier 1: CB Aarion Springs

Tier 1: CB John Plattenburg

Tier 1: DB Budda Baker

Tier 1: DB Mattrell McGraw

Tier 2: QB Morgan Mahalak

Tier 2: OT Tyrell Crosby

Tier 2: OT Sam Jones

Tier 2: LB Vincent Jackson

Tier 3: DT Jalen Jelks

Tier 3: DE Henry Mondeaux

Tier 3: DE Justin Hollins

Tier 3: DB Dominique Harrison

Tier 5: LS Tanner Carew

= 18 Commits

Next week, I’ll take a closer look at each player listed above.  I’ll also compare expected results to previous classes to see how 2014 is stacking up.  It’s definitely fair to say that while the quantity might not be there, the quality will.  Oregon’s talent profile is going to remain attractive for the foreseeable future.

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Chris Charbonnier

Chris Charbonnier

Chris was born in Montevideo, Uruguay, but made his way to Oregon by the age of five, when he attended his first game at Autzen Stadium. A huge sports fan at a young age, Chris grew up playing football, basketball and golf. Although realizing he isn’t likely to play in the NFL or NBA, Chris still holds on to hopes of being a professional golfer should his unfortunate putting woes take a turn for the better. A bit of a platypus, he attended both Oregon State and Oregon during his collegiate days where he earned a business degree in Finance and Business Administration. Chris works for Daimler Trucks North America in Portland, and plans to get his MBA from the University of Oregon. Chris has been an active member in the recruiting community since 2005. He studies the intricacies of recruiting and is particularly intrigued by talent evaluation techniques. He is currently working on developing his own scouting reports for every scholarship player on the UO roster. Chris lives with his wife, Katrina, and his two-year-old son Lucas (a future dual-threat QB).

  • Randy Snauer

    Dominique Harrison?

    • Chris Charbonnier

      Good catch. It’s already been adjusted and article will reflect change next refresh.

  • Tom

    I had never considered the effect of attrition on rankings. Thanks, great article, Chris.

  • hokieduck

    Ironic that this post was made on the 3rd and Colt Lyerla quit the Ducks on the 6th. Just as Colt is relying on the NFL to ignore his character issues in lieu of his amazing athleticism, I think the Ducks took a gamble on Colt for those same reasons. It did not work out as well as it could have, unfortunately.

    I had really looked forward to Helf using Colt in the backfield in the 4th quarter in big games. But while we lost a great talent, it seems that we excised a cancer from the team. Even trade, I guess.

    Go Ducks.

    • MAITAIDUCK

      I didn’t see Colt so much as A cancer as much as Cliff Harris was, Colt from the things that He’s said and done on like Twitter, I think he has some deeper issues that a Dr would help, more than any Coach could. There’s an example of a 5 star that was a miss, who was a Monster Freak, but it never came on the field, I was sure hoping it was gonna happen this year, but it was apparent or obviously would of transpired on the field. His focus in that one Game where he dropped every pass that came his way certainly did not help his cause. The NFL, he will probably be invited and would probably test off the charts, doesn’t mean he would be a 1st rounder though. I just don’t see it with the way things have went down, but I’m sure I could be wrong, Some Team could go nuts, but If he couldn’t do it on the field here what makes anybody think he can do it at a higher level where everyone is better?

  • MAITAIDUCK

    Royce and Springs are both 5 stars right now, and I never liked Justins predictions anyways, most these people that talk about the Ducks are way to young to make any Logical Football sense answers anyways. I’ve been around my Ducks since Ogburn played opttion QB for the Ducks and watched this Team evolve into a generation that will compete for titles in the future, because of some peoples bright minds in the not to past, as for the Ducks not having a better class than 18 or 20 this next year I believe you are surely wrong. This will probably be the best class yet, especially after we win the NATTY. Besides look at what MAC Brown and his staff does with Top 5 classes every year. NOTHING, so what are we saying here, is this possible 1 of or maybe the best Coaching staff in America. That would be a unanimous YES!