no, YOU'RE off topic
The most irritating refrain I hear constantly on this board is that ESPN does horrible recruiting rankings. As I have maintained time and again, that just simply isn't the case. There are objective ways you can evaluate the accuracy of the various sites' player evaluations (all-conference, NFL draft position, etc.). Those analyses are useful but I think the most in-depth way I can look at rankings is to study, in retrospect, the evaluations of players with which I am very familiar. Under that theory, below I am going to provide data on the evaluation of Michigan players from the classes of 2009 and 2008. Why 2008 and 2009? In most cases enough time has passed that you can make a judgment about how good a player turned out to be. I think this data shows that ESPN does often zig when Rivals/Scout zag, but ESPN is hardly inferior to the other two.
I am going to present tables that show the rankings for the 2009 recruiting class broken down two ways.
First, star rating and position rating. With regard to "star rating": for Rivals, I am using the more detailed point system, and for ESPN the more detailed numerical rating. For positional ranking, note that Rivals breaks out players into more categories so sometimes their ranking will look lower as a number.
|2009||Rivals||Scout||ESPN||Rivals (pos)||Scout (pos)||ESPN (pos)|
Second, overall ranking (complication here is Rivals goes to 250, Scout to 300, and ESPN only to 150 -- so a guy that doesn't make ESPN's list could be #151...that is why I included the above data too):
|2009||Rivals 250||Scout 300||ESPN 150|
FYI: for that set I only included the guys who made the "top whatever" list for one of the three sites.
Takeaways from 2009
- ESPN - Will Campbell (he was a top 40 overall to the others, a good-not-great player to ESPN)
- ESPN - Justin Turner (same deal)
- Scout - Vlad Emilien (Rivals and ESPN thought he was a top 20-ish DB -- Scout was far more bearish)
- Scout - Isaiah Bell (had him a sane 46 at his position, rather than 26 (rivals) or 11 (ESPN))
Could also make an argument for: ESPN - Denard (101 overall vs. 159 and 188); Scout -J. Stokes (had him too high at 169 overall, but much better than Rivals (104) and ESPN (67); ESPN - Lewan (148 overall vs. 194 and 274); Scout - Q. Washington (had him 19 at his position, while the others overrated at 8 and 6).
- ESPN - Q. Washington (had him 81 overall - not a top 100 player)
- ESPN - I. Bell (had him 94 overall - way off)
- Scout - Fitz Toussaint (had him too low at #49 back -- jury is still out on whethe Rivals (#8) or ESPN (#28) had him pegged best, but as an optimist I would say it may be Rivals)
- Rivals - Mike Jones (had him #25 at his position -- other sites much better ranking him 49 and 54)
Could also make an argument for: ESPN - Stokes (had him #67 overall compared to #104 or #169 -- didn't include above only because position rankings are pretty close across the sites (14-17-8); Scout - LaLota (had him #116 overall which was less off-base than Rivals (#215) and ESPN (something above 150), but again positional rankings pretty close); Scout - Lewan (had him #274 when the other sites were much better at 194 (rivals) and 148 (ESPN).
There are many other conclusions you could draw from this data, and those conclusions will depend greatly on your opinion of a particular player. For example, Rivals was much higher on Gallon. But I'm not sure yet who was right or wrong -- depends what you think of Gallon.
But based on my own analysis ESPN and Scout did pretty well this year. Rivals not so much.
On to 2008...
|2008||Rivals||Scout||ESPN||Rivals (pos)||Scout (pos)||ESPN (pos)|
I have put emphasis on the obvious outliers above. Sadly, the way a site looked smart this year was to doubt one of our recruits.
Takeaways from 2008
- ESPN - Cissoko (others had him a top 5 CB...not so much)
- ESPN - Mike Shaw (hurts to say, but I think they were right)
- ESPN - Brandon Smith (elite to Rivals and Scout, ESPN had it right)
- Scout - Ricky Barnum (I love Barnum but Scout had a more realistic take on him)
- ESPN - Taylor Hill (see Smith, Cissoko)
(I am skipping McGuffie and Mealer because I think both ran into some horrible luck and may have turned out differently if that was not the case -- but based on an objective look at production ESPN had them right too)
- Scout - Brandon Moore (Still hoping Scout is proven wrong, but....looks they were right and Rivals and ESPN were wrong to call him a positional top 10)
- Rivals - Roy Roundtree (Finally Rivals gets one! They had Roundtree much higher than the others (#44 WR vs. 89 or 104)
- Rivals - Kurt Wermers (another case of Rivals getting it right; Scout's #11 positional ranking looks especially bad here)
- ESPN - Dann O'Neill (I am faulting ESPN here for pegging O'Neill as a super-duper star (#4 OT); the others thought he was good, but not that good)
- ESPN - Kevin Koger (he may not have produced like a #4 or #6 TE, but I think Scout and Rivals were much closer to the mark than ESPN who had him as the #113 DE)
- Rivals - Mike Shaw (talented guy, but not a #7 back)
ESPN has the biggest hits and misses here, but I think overall does the best in 2008. Scout comes in second. Rivals last again.
The track record from these two classes does not support the notion that ESPN is out to lunch or does not know what they're talking about. Personally? I think they're wrong about Pipkins. But I can't say that ESPN's track record shows I can discount their view.
By my count, here is the tally on major outlier picks that seem to have a definitive right/wrong result from 2008 and 2009:
ESPN: +6, -4 (net 2)
Scout: +4, -1 (net 3)
Rivals: +2, -2 (net 0)
Obviously my quantitative measures are subjective; I offer this as food for thought. Please discuss and improve on what I did here. But let's not dismiss sites out of hand. As the above shows, there is no basis for that. Certainly not with respect to ESPN.
Canton (MI) guard Cameron Dillard is drawing national attention—along with interest from home-state schools Michigan and MSU—and has already garnered offers from Buffalo, Central Michigan, Eastern Michigan, and Western Michigan. The 6'3", 280-pound junior is a member of the ESPNU 150 and recently showed his skills with the nation's best underclassmen at the Army All-American Combine. I spoke to Cameron yesterday after he worked out with the one and only Mike Barwis, and we discussed his recruitment, his junior year, and working out with a man who owns pet wolves. Here's the full transcript:
ACE: How is your recruitment going, and which schools are going after you the hardest right now?
CAMERON: My recruitment is going real well, everything's turning out to be real optimistic with a bunch of schools. I think I should have a big spring coming up. Some schools that have come on real strong and are very close to offering, I believe, are Michigan State, Michigan, Clemson, and West Virginia, as well as some other schools.
ACE: Out of the schools that have been recruiting you so far, are there any early favorites right now, or is it too soon to make that distinction?
CAMERON: No, not really. I'm kinda keeping everything level. No favorites right now, at this point.
ACE: Looking back at your junior year, how did that go for you, and how do you think you performed and improved throughout the season?
CAMERON: I thought I did real well. Considering that I worked with Mike [Barwis], I thought he made me more athletic, more explosive, able to move better on the field, and get up the field better. I also worked with Lomas Brown on pass protections, which was a blessing. I've come a long way, I believe, from last year to this year in my pass blocking. I just continue to improve on that. Actually a couple coaches asked me how many IHOPs I'd opened in Canton this season, a little joke. But yeah, I think I had a real good season. I've got to continue to work with Mike and his staff and continue to get better.
ACE: In working with Mike Barwis, how long have you been doing that, and how does it help you in terms of—I don't know how many other athletes have that kind of resource, so how does it help you to work out with a guy who was the Michigan strength coach just a couple years ago?
CAMERON: You know, it's great. I definitely can't thank my parents enough for giving me the support to let me go there and train. I think it's continued to help me—I'm becoming faster, quicker, stronger. I just think it's improved my strength and my conditioning as well. Actually, a bunch of Michigan guys are there now: Molk, Van Bergen, Watson, Koger, Mike Martin, a bunch of those guys are training with him now, getting themselves prepared for the NFL Combine. It's definitely helped me push myself and take my training to another level.
ACE: I know you're working hard over there, but do you interact at all with the Michigan guys? Do they talk to you at all, or is it mostly business?
CAMERON: I talk to them a lot, actually. I talk to Molk and Watson the most. I haven't really got to meet Koger and Mike Martin that much, but Watson and Molk are always giving me a hard time.
ACE: You also mentioned working with Lomas Brown. He's obviously a pretty legendary NFL offensive lineman. How has he helped your game?
CAMERON: He's helped me improve my pass blocking and becoming that all-around player that schools are looking for, because I'm in a run-dominant offense [at Canton].
ACE: If you had to scout yourself, what would you say are your biggest strengths as a player, and what are you continuing to work on for your senior year and the next level?
CAMERON: I'd say that my aggression on the field, my physicality, you just can't teach toughness. Also, run blocking is a big thing of mine that I believe I'm doing real well at. I'd say my weakness—which isn't really a weakness, it's becoming more my strength now—is my pass protection. I've got to keep working on that and getting better at it.
ACE: You went to the Army Combine recently. How did that go for you?
CAMERON: Good. I performed pretty well. I had a 28.5-inch vertical and a 5.25 40-yard dash. They didn't tell us our shuttle so I'll have to check online for that, and then the pass protection, like I said, working with Lomas helped me improve, so I definitely improved while I was down there. I've taken big strides from last year to this year on my pass protection.
ACE: Do you have any plans in terms of any more camps, junior days, or summer visits, do you know what schools you'd like to see before next year?
CAMERON: Not really. I'm going to junior days right now, I'll actually be at Indiana this weekend, and then I was already at Michigan State in December. Michigan hopefully I'll be able to get up there in the spring for spring ball.
ACE: You visited Michigan for the Notre Dame game. What was your impression of Michigan from your visit?
CAMERON: I thought it was great, the atmosphere there—you know, that's part of my 'three A's' for a school, the athletics, atmosphere, and academics. I think Coach Hoke and the rest of the staff have done a fantastic job this season. I've got to talk to Coach Hoke a few times while I was in San Antonio and when I was at the All-State Dream Team banquet, and he's a real down-to-earth, humble guy. I like him, and I love being able to talk to Coach Jackson, Coach Mattison, and they've been real positive to me.
ACE: You mentioned those three A's. Specifically, what are you looking for in a school, what are the factors that are going to make you commit to a school?
CAMERON: Fan base, I would say, is one. Having the support of my family. Distance isn't a big factor for me. Academics, because I'd like to study criminal justice or sports management or history, something like that, so if they're real strong in that. Then athletics, if I have a real chance at playing early, if I feel like I'm at home, and if I can see myself best in that offense.
ACE: Do you have any idea in terms of a timeline, when you'd like to wrap up your recruitment?
CAMERON: Not at this moment, not right now. I guess whenever I get that gut feeling and I know whatever school is for me, I'll know.
Torrent: Michigan - MSU 720p MP4 (2.90 GB)
Last 30 seconds:
Courtney Love (no, not that Courtney Love) is a 6'2", 222-pound linebacker from Youngstown (OH) Cardinal Mooney who currently holds offers from Indiana, Michigan State, and Nebraska to go along with interest from several big-name schools including Michigan, Ohio State, and Notre Dame. As a junior, he helped lead Cardinal Mooney to a state title while putting up some pretty impressive numbers. I caught up with Courtney this evening to discuss his recruitment, his junior year, and his interest in Michigan.
ACE: How is your recruitment going so far, and which schools are showing the most interest in you?
COURTNEY: Right now everything is going great. I've got Nebraska, they're showing a lot of interest, West Virginia, Indiana, Michigan State, and Michigan—those are the top ones so far.
ACE: Do you have any early favorites out of the teams that have been recruiting you?
COURTNEY: Not really. I'm just keeping an open mind with all of them.
ACE: Who's your recruiting contact from Michigan?
COURTNEY: Coach Montgomery.
ACE: Looking at your junior year, obviously you guys won the state championship. What was that like for you, and how do you feel you performed in your junior year?
COURTNEY: Bringing home the state title was great, because ever since we were little we all wanted to do that ourselves. The team that I played with this year, the juniors and seniors and sophomores, we were all basically on the same team as seventh- and eighth-graders, and we've been playing together since seventh grade through now. It's been great with them, the chemistry is great. This year I think I did okay. This was my first year really starting, because I didn't get a chance to start when I was a sophomore until around the playoffs.
ACE: Do you know your stats off the top of your head?
COURTNEY: I'm not too sure but I know I had 160-plus tackles, seven forced fumbles, and a fumble recovery for a touchdown.
ACE: If you had to scout yourself, what would you say are your biggest strengths as a player, and where are you looking to improve?
COURTNEY: My biggest strengths would be reading the play and reacting to it, getting downhill. The biggest thing I've got to work on is my pass coverage [and also] blitzing, getting the linemen off me.
ACE: Looking ahead to the offseason and the summer, do you have any plans in terms of going to camps or junior days and taking visits to certain schools? Do you have any visits in mind, or are you waiting to set those up?
COURTNEY: I have a few visits in mind, but I'm still really just waiting to set everything up. I'm dealing with taking the ACT right now, this is my first time taking that, so I'm going to get focused on that, and then after that's over with I'll get ready to see what I'm going to do in terms of taking visits and everything.
ACE: In terms of your recruitment in general, do you have an idea in terms of a timeline?
COURTNEY: It's kinda early, but most likely I want to get it done and chosen by the beginning of my [senior] season.
ACE: When you're looking at these schools right now, and I know it's pretty early, but when you're looking to commit to a program and a school, what are you looking for there?
COURTNEY: I'm looking for a great program as far as educationally as well as what's going to be best for my family to be able to come down and visit and come watch me wherever I go. Wherever best fits me, what can help me out as far as earning a scholarship, getting that education, and playing time, that's basically about it.
ACE: I know people would be curious to hear what your thoughts are about Michigan right now. What are your feelings about Michigan?
COURTNEY: I definitely like Michigan. It's a great program. I'm good friends with Fitzgerald Toussaint, I've been talking to my dad about how Michigan is, and one of my teachers on the staff at my school also talks to me a little bit about it and tells me he can give me some information whenever I need it. I'm really keeping an open mind to every program so far, because right now there's really the elite programs [recruiting me], and Michigan is right with them. They looked great this year, and the coaches they had this year did really amazing. They're starting to make a great program out of Michigan and [bringing it back to] what it has been before.
We all know it matters. Otherwise there wouldn’t be four major recruiting sites, countless team-specific recruiting blogs and grown men tweeting and facebooking 17 year old high school males, and breathlessly refreshing message boards for the next 14 days.
The question I want to answer is how much does it matter, and where do the numbers play out the most? How much of team success can be predicted based on recruiting profile of the present roster (not the JUCO-stuffed 38 member SEC class that the majority never shows)? Do recruiting services do a better job of predicting offense or defense? Which is more likely to win you conference and national championships, the 5 star running back or the 5 star linebacker?
I have created a complimentary recruiting database that links into my PBP database. For a source I picked Rivals because I wanted to keep it relatively straightforward and they have a full 10-year history online. I only looked at the players who were ranked at their position. Each year that is about 1,000 players and virtually every signee from a major program. Anyone not ranked for their position was omitted. I only have comprehensive rosters for all teams for the last three years, so for that time period I did my best to link the two DBs together. I am sure there are a few that I am missing but I think I got all the Dee Harts linked up with Demetrius Harts and all the other weird things that happen to a recruit's name between recruitment and the official roster.
Each recruit is given an initial value. The value is roughly
[Percentile within position] * [# of stars] ^ 2
So a 5 star #1 at his position recruit is worth about 25 points and a 50th percentile 3 star would be worth 4.5 pts. The initial value is then adjusted based on how long the player has been in the program.
The recruits are then matched up with the final rosters. Players are only counted if they are still on the roster. So any players that have transferred, left school or gone to the NFL are excluded from the totals. The only major gap is transfers. For ones I knew of right away like Cam Newton or Ryan Mallet, they only count at their final school. Most other transfers will only show up at the original school for their time there and then disappear from the grid. Players are then given a “bonus” multiplier based on their experience. Players' initial values are doubled from their first year to their second year and tripled for every year after that.
That’s a lot fewer words than hours put in but in a nutshell, that’s the background for what I will show you below. The magnitude of the points isn’t relevant, all you need to know is the more points the better.
Answer Your Question Already
When you start talking to yourself within an article on mgoblog, there is only one appropriate response, CHART
Lot’s of variation within the numbers but definitely a strong correlation between recruiting points and team PAN [ed: points above normal, the Mathlete's SOS- and situation-adjusted stat]. For all the charts I put up the data will be BCS schools from 2009-2011. Recruits prior to 2009 will be included, but only the actual seasons of play from 2009 on.
There have been some really good seasons from teams with <1,000 pts like Oklahoma St this past season (896). There have also been some mediocre season from teams with 3,000+ points like Texas in 2010 (3,082 pts). But all in all more recruits is better, but we already knew that. So let’s dig a little deeper and see if recruiting rankings mean more for offense or defense and if any position groups are better indicators than others.
Who To Trust, Offense or Defense
Moving to specifics can become a bit more of a challenge. To ease that, I counted every recruit in the position they play, not the position that they are recruited for. They keep the same point total they would at the original position, it just counts in a different bucket. Whether its a WR moving to DB or an ATH finding a home, the points are set based on the initial group ranking, but they are allocated based on the roster position. On to the offense.
The correlation is still there, but it is much weaker for the offense as opposed to the team as a whole. In fact, most of the best offensive seasons were accomplished with relatively average recruiting talent. The ultimate loaded team, 2009 USC, only managed a 3.3 on offense with 10% pts more than any other team I have measured. Teams like the latest incarnations of Michigan and Oregon were able to achieve double digit offensive PAN without elite offensive recruiting classes.
Defensive recruiting is much more correlated with defensive success than offensive. The slope is nearly double and the R-Squared is much greater as well. There are still exceptions like 2009 Florida St who was almost –10 PAN despite over 1,000 defensive recruiting points. There is still success on the lower range but overall there are fewer failures at the top and less success at the bottom of defensive recruiting rankings.
Based on this data, system, player development and finding diamonds in the rough are more prevalent on offense than defense. On defense there is some variation but for the most part you are who you recruit. Unless you hire Greg Robinson and even your Never Forget roster still has 853 points to “earn” a –7 on the season.
The Best Position To Be In
Since the defense as a whole proved to be the most predictive, let’s look there first.
Being a good defense is all about your weakest link and based on that philosophy, you shouldn’t be surprised to see all positions play out relatively equal. None of the position groups is significantly better or worse than another at predicting defensive success.
Offense is where it really gets muddled. O-Line, tight ends and receivers all are moderate correlations between recruiting and offensive success and running backs (as I’ve stated elsewhere) are the most overrated position in football. Quarterback is far and away the highest correlation to offensive success of any position. Even with that QB, is still below all of the defensive positions when it comes to future success on that side of the ball.
How recruiting matches up with success varies greatly by conference. Rather than throw up six more charts, I just put the R^2 values in a table:
Recruiting has virtually no correlation to success over the last three years in the Big East and the PAC 12 but for the other four conferences it's anywhere from a little (Big 12, land of Red River and everyone else) to a lot (the ACC and the SEC).
The Big Ten is in the middle; Ohio St has dominated at the top of both recruiting and success but Michigan’s underachievement and Wisconsin and Nebraska having strong seasons without top tier recruiting classes have thrown in enough variance to disrupt the correlation.
Your 5 Star Takeaway
Recruiting rankings have a huge correlation to future team success, especially on defense. Great teams can come from average talent, but more talent typically means more success. On defense it is virtually impossible to build an elite defense without elite recruits, and its equally true across all defensive positions. On offense dreams of 5 star skill position players are fun, but coaching, player development, system and luck play a much bigger role in future success than they do on defense. With top 20 and higher recruits at nearly every position on defense, Michigan is poised for a very strong future if they can keep the talent around.
Desmond Blockham has returned to Ann Arbor for spring classes, and unbeknownst to him, there is a surprise waiting for him at the dorms...
(Click the image to view full size)
What sort of advice will father Glenn offer his youngest son? How will Desmond be able to relate to Yeshpremi? Who's the hot girl in the poster over by Desmond's desk? Will Glenn be able to win over Misopogon with his response?
(CUE THE CHEESY CLIFFHANGER MUSIC)
All of these questions and more will be answered in the follow-up to this strip, available tomorrow ONLY at the strip's official home page...
As stated before, THE BLOCKHAMS™ will run every Tuesday here at MGoBlog, and every Thursday on its official home page. And as we saw last week, don't be surprised if they make a few unannounced appearances from time to time as well.