Matthew Stafford (Rivals #6 overall, 2006) and Mitch Mustain (Rivals #10 overall, 2006)
With the ESPN150 hot off of the presses yesterday, all four major sites now have an updated Top 150/247/250/300 list available for the 2013 class. I wanted to dive in and look at how each service has performed over the years. Would any site stand out as doing a better job of predicting success? Do allegations of regional bias play out for any specific services?
Typically considered the gold standard (unless another site has the player you like rated higher), Rivals online archives are available back to 2002. They have produced a ranked Top 250 since 2008 (Terrelle Pryor was the original #1 recruit) and an unranked Top 250 list in 2006-2007. Since 2002 they have classified between 25 and 33 players as five stars and typically have about 300 four-stars per class.
Like Rivals, online archives go back to 2002. They're a bit more generous on the five-stars, extending the honor to exactly 50 high school seniors per class since 2008. The larger group of five-stars is offset by smaller group of four-stars that round out the rest of the Scout 300 ranking that has been available since 2005.
The Worldwide Leader joined the recruiting party in 2006. No one is stingier with the fifth star than ESPN, offering up between 11 and 18 each season since they went crazy with 42 in their first year. The ESPN four-star threshold is also a bit tougher. Last year the number peaked at 238 but prior to that the total was closer to 200 per class.
The newest service is 247 Sports, which did a barebones review of the 2010 class before jumping in head first for the last two completed classes. Their best-of list ranks the top 247 players (just like their name, get it?) and is in line with Rivals in terms of number of five- and four-star rated players. Their later entry into the group has allowed them to provide what is, in my opinion, the best website in terms of navigation and ease of use. For the most part they are excluded from these evaluations since the first class they fully rated were only freshman last season.
This is where it gets tricky. Do you evaluate on hits or misses or both? Based on available, accessible information I decided that hits would be easier to quantify and really what you want to know about a service. Who does a better job of predicting future stars? By stars I defined them as players who earned all-conference or AP All-American status for a BCS conference school. First team all-conference honors were weighted double and AP All-Americans were weighted triple. If a player earned awards for multiple years, their value was weighted for each season depending on their level.
Each recruit was given an overall ranking for each service in each season. If there was a formal ranking, I used my method to complete the rankings behind them. I used star values and position rankings to approximate a ranking. All five-stars were ranked first, then four-stars and finally three-stars. Each player was ranked in position order and the positions were allocated based on total quantity in each group. This way the #4 fullback wasn’t rated the same way as the #4 wide receiver. Kickers and punters were excluded.
The square root of the rank was then used to further accentuate the differences at the top end of the rankings. Ratings were capped at 1000 and any unranked player was given that value. ESPN was evaluated solely based on the 2006 and later classes.
Who Rates the Best (at Rating)
Overall, Rivals gave the highest average rating to a future star. The weighted average ranking of a player to earn post-season honors from Rivals was #268. Scout wasn’t far behind at 281 and ESPN lagged further back at 329. Here is how each service did by recruiting class (lower is better):
Rivals dominated from 2002-2006 before Scout picked up a couple seasons in 2007 and 2008. With plenty of eligibility left for the 2009 class it’s still anyone’s game. Rivals has jumped out to an early lead for the 2010 class and the 2011 class is 60% comprised of Sammy Watkins and generally pointless at this point in its lifecycle. ESPN has failed to come close for any completed classes, although the 2009 class to date has been neck-and-neck between all three services with probably two-thirds of the results still outstanding.
Offensive Ratings-Weighted Average National Rank of Post-Season Honorees
ESPN finally picks up a win in the tightly contested quarterback evaluations. As you can see by the lower numbers, picking future all-conference quarterbacks has proved to be one of the easier tasks among rating services. ESPN’s average rank of 135 puts them ahead of both Rivals and Scout.
Scout does the best at wide receiver with Rivals a bit back. ESPN is not very close to the leaders at any offensive positions other than quarterback. Their results for both offensive linemen and running backs are particularly lacking.
Defensive Ratings-Weighted Average National Rank of Post-Season Honorees
It’s a clean sweep for Rivals on the defensive side of the ball. Scout is never far from, but still consistently behind, Rivals. ESPN is a distant third across all position groups, at least 20% higher than Rivals in every category and nearly 25% overall.
Conference Ratings-Weighted Average National Rank of Post-Season Honorees
The criticism of ESPN having an SEC bias and west coast neglect certainly shows up in the evaluations. SEC is the conference ESPN clearly wins and the ACC is a narrow win. All the other conferences are just carnage for ESPN while Rivals again takes a majority of wins. Scout is virtually tied for the Big Ten, Big XII and Pac-12 while lapping the field for the always crucial Big East rankings. It is difficult to tell whether the ESPN success is due to better rankings on players ultimately landing at ACC and SEC schools or if they are just giving a flat lift to those conferences. The fact that 1 in 3 players on the 2013 Top 150 are from Florida or Georgia probably indicates that at least some of the success comes from allocating preferential spots to players from the SEC footprint.
Here is how each service allocated their ranking slots to geographies. Higher rankings are weighted heavier and each player’s home state was allocated to one of the five major conferences (sorry Big East) based on their geography.
Players from ACC territory were the most consistently allocated across all four services. ESPN and 247 allocate fewer prime slots to the Big Ten versus Rivals and Scout. ESPN is a major outlier out west as the Pac-12 footprint garners much lower rankings there than at any of the other three. The SEC evaluations pick up about 40% from 247 and ESPN versus 35% and below from Rivals and Scout. This gap has narrowed some in more recent years, but there is still a strong bias from 247 and ESPN towards players from the SEC footprint.
In terms of ability to predict future success, Rivals stands out as the clear winner among all of the services. Scout is not significantly behind and has closed the gap in recent seasons. Rivals predictions proved more accurate at five of the seven position groups and overall for both sides of the ball. ESPN is a distant third in almost every sub-category with the exception being quarterback where they lead the most closely contested position group.
The services appear to be mirrored in their regional biases. ESPN and 247 slant to the Southeast and Mid-Atlantic regions with a clear sub valuation of the West Coast. Rivals and Scout don’t have dramatic swings to any one region but do give less value to the Southeast with the extra spread across the rest of the country.
While Michigan’s 11 [players in the...] Top 150 showing is absolutely a good thing, ESPN has proven to be the least reliable of the three established services. Historically, 30.5% of the weighted post-season honorees originally appeared in the ESPN 150 while Scout and Rivals have each had at least 34% in their Top 150’s. The differences aren’t massive and all sites have had their misses, but overall there is clear evidence that Rivals is the most consistently correct and that Scout is a strong #2. Although the individual players fluctuate, the overall ratings for Michigan’s class to date are essentially identical between Rivals, Scout and ESPN with 247 being lower on it than any other service.
Bonus: Protecting Conference Turf
Not looking at recruiting services but conferences now, I wanted to see which conferences did the best job of keeping the best players from their region in-house. Each state was split between conferences based on number of schools in a given state. States without BCS conference teams were excluded. This isn’t perfect because there is no way Cincinnati and the Big East have the same share of Ohio as the Big Ten and its school in Ohio. But it makes each school among the Big Six theoretically even and provides a good starting point.
|Conference||Total FP Pts||Split FP Pts||Signed FP Pts||Signed/ Total||Signed/ Split|
The Pts are an estimate of the total value of the recruits within a footprint. The total includes points for all players to any conference with a school in that region. The split is an allocation based on number of BCS conference schools in that state in each conference. Not surprisingly, the conferences with the smallest geographic competition, the Big XII and the Pac-12 signed the highest percentages of their available recruits. After splitting up the states, the SEC actually signs more than their allocation of the footprint. The Big Ten is close behind but work from a much smaller pool. If the SEC is able to make make gains in Texas (they currently have a 12% “share”) with the addition of A&M, the talent gap between the SEC and the rest of the conferences could widen.
All-Americans and presidents: the future of ALL our recruits.
Every year during Spring Practice, because I'm exactly that kind of geek, I start trying to predict what the jersey numbers will be of incoming freshmen. This probably started back when I was still buying annual versions of the EA Sports game that they're still labeling a year off, which meant my virtual freshmen needed to be in iconic jerseys while real freshmen were in prom suits/coed naked t-shirts/whatever they're wearing these days.
This is an exercise fraught with danger, and likely to be 80% to 90% incorrect given all of the variables like current players changing numbers, walk-ons getting shoved out of the way, numbers with special meaning, and the randomness of the universe, etc. What we have to go on are the traditions of the coaching staff (for example Rodriguez was much higher on repeating digits between units; Hoke seems more like Carr in limiting these), high school numbers, birthdays, actuary tables, and the general availability of digits.
Let's start with what's not available. I'm guessing it's unlikely that a freshman is going to receive a "Michigan Football Legend" number (so far that is just 21). I'm also giving walk-ons the benefit of the doubt if someone from another unit is already wearing their number. (Right: from SI's best college player for each number)
Numbers they can't have: 1 (Edwards scholarship goes to current players), 4 (Steve Wilson and Cam Gordon), 5 (Justice Hayes and Courtney Avery), 7 (Gardner and Hawthorne), 8 (Bellomy and J.T. Floyd), 11 (retired for Wisterts), 14 (Jack Kennedy and Josh Furman), 27 (Jon Keizer and Mike Jones), 38 (Thomas Rawls and Al Backey), 40 (Nate Allspach and Antonio Poole), 47 (retired), 48 (retired), 57 (Elliott Mealer and Frank Clark), 87 (retired), 98 (retired).
Special Teamers' numbers: You can't have two players with the same number on the field at the same time, so very rarely will you see a special teams starter's number shared with another player, else that player might not be able to play on special teams if needed. The exception here is quarterbacks (e.g. former KOS Troy Nienberg shared 10 with Clayton Richard in 2003 and '04). Special teamers who don't start don't count (e.g. Nienberg shared 6 with Victor Hobson and Alijah Bradley in '01 and '02). This year those numbers are 34 (Gibbons), 43 (Hagerup), 45 (Wile), 46 (Broekhuizen), and 54 (Jareth Glanda, long snapper and sometime immaculate receiver).
How Do the Football Legends Work Now? 21 is open on both sides of the ball.
Available on Defense Only: These are the numbers already held by scholarship players on offense. They are unlikely to be used because Hoke doesn't seem to like repeating numbers across units: 2, 10, 12, 16, 17, 26, 28, 33, 36, 52, 56, 58, 60, 65, 75, 77, 80, 83, 89, 94.
Available on Offense Only: 3, 6, 18, 20, 22, 24, 25, 30, 32, 35, 37, 41, 44, 49, 55, 67, 73, 76, 88, 90, 92, 95, 97
Just a Walk-On in the way: Walk-ons who make the two deep often change their numbers; those who don't often have a scholarship player take their numbers. There are exceptions; for example Mike Kwiatkowski is working his way into the tight end rotation and it's not like anyone desires 81 that much. I left out Burzynski who's on the projected two-deep already. The rest: 13 (Alex Swieca), 19 (Charlie Zeller) 23 (Floyd Simmons), 42 (Dylan Esterline), 61 (Graham Glasgow), 69 (Erik Gunderson), 70 (Kristian Mateus), 81 (Mike Kwiatkowski), 85 (Joe Reynolds), 93 (Chris Eddins), 96 (Baquer Sayed), 99 (Paul Gyarmati).
Currently Unused (Most Likely to be taken): 9, 15, 29, 31, 39, 50, 51, 53, 59, 62, 63, 64, 66, 68, 71, 72, 74, 78, 79, 82, 84, 86, 91
So here's the dudes who need numbers:
|Name||Pos.||# in HS||Tea Leaves||Best Guess|
|A.J. Williams||TE||88||n/a||88 – Open on offense; Roh will be gone next year.|
|Allen Gant||S||7 and 14||Father Tony wore 14||14 – Not filled with confidence re: Furman (I don't know any more than you do)|
|Amara Darboh||WR||15||Wore 415 at Nike Camp, favorite athlete is Carmelo Anthony who wore 15 in Denver||15 - book it.|
|Ben Braden||OL||51||Wants to play right away||51 - it's open now so why not|
|Blake Bars||OL||67||Wore 542 at Army game||72 - Honestly I'm just assigning OT numbers.|
|Chris Wormley||DE||47||Wore 842 at Nike camp, 44 in hoops||84 or 68 – This one has me stumped.|
|Dennis Norfleet||RB/KR||21||Wears 2 for hoops team, wore 80 at BoMW camp. Received his Michigan offer on 2/1. Born on 2/8||21 if available, or 31 - I don't know how they'll use Legends numbers now. If freshmen can have them it's an easy pick.|
|Devin Funchess||TE||5 and 15||No. 5 TE according to ESPN||85 - Move over Joe Reynolds.|
|Drake Johnson||RB||2 and 18||Was a QB at first and chose 18 for Peyton Manning, then 2 for Woodson. His college # will be someone good||32 or 6 or 23 - Drake is well versed in M RB lore|
|Erik Magnuson||OL||77||77 in US Army game, 714 at NFTC, 74 at Nike camp, 31 in hoops||78 - See Bars|
|James Ross||LB||6||Born 6/26. Wore 34 at Intl Bowl||36 – Going out on a limb with this one.|
|Jehu Chesson||WR||5||Wants the 1. Wore 357 at Army Bowl, 164 at NFTC||82 - with an eye on changing one day?|
|Jeremy Clark||S||2||Born 6/29||29 - Woolfolk-ish player, birthday, open, fits.|
|Kyle Kalis||OL||67||67 here, 67 there, 67 everywhre.||67 - Brink has it on D so no problem|
|Mario Ojemudia||DE||53||Twitter (when he had it) was @akaRio53||53 - Another easy fit.|
|Matthew Godin||DT||62||Was 774 at Nike, 408 at Army Combine||62 - it's available|
|Ondre Pipkins||NT||71||Publicly says he will wear 56 for Woodley||56 - book it|
|Royce Jenkins-Stone||LB||10||Wore 10 at Army Game. Twitter handle has 10 in it. Wore 54 at Intl Bowl||10 - seems special to him for some reason.|
|Sione Houma||FB||35||Is a fullback.||41 or 32 or some fullbackian number|
|Terry Richardson||CB||3 and 6 and 9||Wore 28 in Intl Bowl., #1 at UA Bowl. One of 9 kids.||9 – pretty good guess.|
|Tom Strobel||DE||36||40 and 52 in Basektball.||63 or 93 or 86.|
|Willie Henry||DT||74||Not much out there on him.||74 or 68 - (YMRMFSPA Mike Martin) so why not.|
Guess away. If we can be 50% correct when these things are announced in late July/early August, well, we'll be really special nerds.
ESPN unveiled their top 150, as well as rankings for many other prospects, this afternoon. Since I was updating my handy rankings spreadsheet anyway, I figured I'd post a rankings update to see how they stack up with a fourth recruiting service in the mix. Brian's instincts appear to be correct; going through the rankings, it looks like ESPN is handing out more four-star ratings than the other sites at this point. The notable exception is for Michigan State commits, as you'll see below. Here are the changes since, er, yesterday:
4-16-12: Michigan State picks up Shane Jones and Damion Terry. Nebraska picks up A.J. Natter.
4-17-12: Ohio State picks up Tracy Sprinkle.
|Big Ten+ Recruiting Class Rankings|
|Rank||School||# Commits||Rivals Avg||Scout Avg||24/7 Avg||ESPN Avg||Avg Avg^|
^The average of the average rankings of the three recruiting services (aka the previous three columns). The figure is calculated based on the raw numbers and then rounded, so the numbers above may not average out exactly.
NOTE: Unranked recruits are counted as one-star players. This may be a bit unfair this early in the process, considering there are many unevaluated recruits out there at this stage, but that's life.
On to the full data after the jump.
There will be no Lincoln-Douglass debates about who the starter should be but MGoVideo has helpfully boiled down each quarterback's performance into individual video clips.
Lost in the fretting about Gardner's passing is that he looked very dangerous as a runner. That pop outside on the inverted veer he kept on was worthy of Denard. Kid is a big-time athlete.
ESPN likes them some Gareon Conley
ESPN is the last major ranking service to deposit a top X on us, which they've done today. The name that jumps off the page is OH CB commit Gareon Conley, who's 63rd overall after getting mostly meh three-star reactions. (Scout does have him in their top 300 but at the tail end where they're still giving out three stars for now.) Ten other Michigan commits make their 150:
- #37 Shane Morris
- #63 Gareon Conley
- #75 Mike McCray
- #92 David Dawson
- #97 Logan Tuley-Tillman
- #98 Dymonte Thomas
- #105 Chris Fox
- #107 Jourdan Lewis
- #112 Kyle Bosch
- #115 Taco Charlton
- #121 Patrick Kugler
ESPN has also rated the rest of the class. All are four stars save Khalid Hill and Wyatt Shallman, and Shallman may be held back because he's rated at fullback (as the #1 FB) instead of on defense. The four stars:
- Jaron Dukes is the #29 WR; the last 150 guy is #18 and the first three star is #41, indicating that ESPN may have been generous with the stars this year.
- Jake Butt is the #4 "TE-Y"—ie, guy on the line instead of an H-back sort—and the first of those guys not in the 150. He's got the same rating as Marcus Baugh, the OSU commit who is, so he's probably just outside.
- Ben Gedeon is the #32 ATH, an odd place to stash a guy clearly destined for linebacker. He's nowhere near the 150 or the three star drop.
- Deveon Smith is the #28 RB, not near the 150 and about six slots from their three-star dropoff.
As for uncommitted players of note, with serious interest in bold:
- #15 Su'a Cravens
- #27 Kendall Fuller
- #42 LaQuon Treadwell
- #56 Eddie Vanderdoes
- #68 Ty Isaac
- #74 Demorea Stringfellow
- #120 Joe Mathis (yeah, yeah, nevermind)
- #149 Sebastian Larue
I was kind of hoping they'd throw a fourth star Hill's way so he wouldn't be lonely.
Today's recruiting roundup feels really, really awful for pushing chunkums's .gif off the top of the page, but the show must go on.
Special Teams Snake Oil
Michigan looks to bolster special teams depth with two walk-on long-snappers in the 2012 class, Taybor Pepper and Tyler Tokarsky, and... wait, what?
#MichiganState with another late 2012 commit. Saline (Mich.) long snapper Taybor Pepper. More to come shortly.
— Allen Trieu (@AllenTrieu) April 14, 2012
Yes, Mark Dantonio yoinked one of Michigan's walk-on long snappers by offering him a scholarship. I... um... okay.
You're My New Favorite! And You're My New Favorite! You're All Favorites!
CA DE Joe Mathis took a trip to Ann Arbor for the Adidas Invitational two weekends ago and left naming Michigan as his leader. Everybody got excited, especially since Mathis is the cousin of five-star CA S Su'a Cravens, but there was reason to exhibit caution. Brian's foreboding words of warning go here:
Usual disclaimers about a long way to go apply. Mathis might be one of those kids who gets excited about everybody—he's already committed to and decommitted from($) Washington. Mathis is likely to back off in a couple weeks when USC/whoever guys get ahold of him and maintain neutrality into the fall. He's already told GBW($) that he doesn't have a top five yet but that when he names one Michigan will be on it, which is a bit less thrilling.
Well, Mathis swung by Nebraska last weekend and—surprise!—left with a new favorite school ($, info in header). Given that the video embedded in that article features Mathis resplendent in Husker gear, you get zero guesses as to which school that may be. Until the ink is dry on Mathis's LOI, it's best to take his words with a rather gargantuan grain of salt.
Another DE getting a lot of attention this week is Florida four-star Joey Bosa, who followed up a great visit to Ohio State by checking out Michigan's spring game. Bosa tweeted out that he didn't want to leave Columbus, then set off a bit of a firestorm by saying he was headed to see "that place up north," a tweet he later deleted. According to Scout's Bill Greene ($), Bosa now lists Michigan in his top six with Ohio State, Alabama, Florida State, Florida, and Wisconsin, though Bosa also says his Buckeye visit "gave me a feeling like no other school I've been to." Bosa's now set to visit Ohio State again for their spring game, and here's another of his tweets that he later deleted:
Joey Bosa: RT @jbbigbear Might have a surprise this weekend
— Ace Anbender (@AceAnbender) April 17, 2012
Yeah, color me skeptical that Michigan is really in this one. Don't be surprised if Bosa is a Buckeye by this time next week.
Talking About Recruits Who Might End Up At Michigan
What about the guys who could actually end up blue, you ask? There were several on campus for Saturday's festivities, including VA LB E.J. Levenberry. GBW's Andre Barthwell has a two-part article on Levenberry's visit ($)—quote in the title: "I loved it!"—and it sounds like that mid-August decision timeline is a bit flexible:
“We are just taking our time," said E.J., "and seeing the schools that me and my family want to see ... and then a decision will be make [sic]."
And Mr. Levenberry [Ed: E.J.'s father] adds:
“As far as a decision we are just going to make sure he looks at every school so that we as a family can help him make the most informed decision that he can."
This still appears to be a race between Michigan and Florida State, and this time around E.J. brought his mother, the next step in the Levenberry process of vetting potential schools.
A prospect who appears closer to making a decision is TX DE Christian LaCouture, who narrowed his list to Michigan, LSU, and Nebraska after his visit, according to Tim Sullivan ($, info in header). LaCouture plans on taking another trip to both Ann Arbor and Lincoln and making his decision before his senior season; that's a great sign for the Wolverines in the immediate aftermath of a visit.
Five-star MD CB Kendall Fuller was also on campus for the spring game, and he tells 247's Clint Brewster that he thinks he'll take an official visit back to Ann Arbor in the fall ($). Virginia Tech is still the presumed—though not stated, at least by Fuller—leader, but an official would give Michigan a puncher's chance, especially with former Good Counsel teammate Blake Countess in their corner. Fuller plans to make his decision by the Army All-American game.
Also enjoying the trip was 2014 MI DE Malik McDowell, whose father told Sam Webb that Greg Mattison impressed both him and his son by saying Malik could be the next Terrell Suggs ($). That's high praise indeed, but Mattison coached Suggs, and McDowell has the potential to be one of the nation's top prospects.
Quickly: CA ATH Elijah Qualls names Michigan to his top eight ($, info in header). Four-star CA DE Kylie Fitts has USC and UCLA on top of his list,
but wants to earn offers from Michigan and Oregon. [Edit: Never mind. Fitts committed to USC over the weekend.] Happy trails to MD LB Dorian O'Daniel (Clemson) and VA S Tim Harris (Virginia). Chantel Jennings on the strong bonds being formed between the members of Michigan's 2013 class ($).