recruiting is legit yo
Practice video. From Maize and Blue News:
Jane previews Michigan! Oh man this is just so dead on:
We long for a past that we hated while it was happening, in which Michigan would go 9-3 or 10-2 and people would complain like Michigan was a waiter who we couldn't find when we just wanted the goddamn check. If a Michigan fan tells you that they liked Tom Brady when he was playing at Michigan, they are lying because no Michigan fan ever liked whomever was starting at quarterback until Denard Robinson. We hated Elvis Grbac. We hated Brian Griese. We hated John Navarre. We hated Drew Henson. We hated - HATED - sad robot Chad Henne*.
I tended to like Michigan's quarterbacks who were not underclassman Drew Henson, and I knew the one guy who really really liked John Navarre. Like, he was super-enthused about John Navarre. And eventually correct!
More insider business. A gentleman who is probably too identifiable for his own good comes back with a very legit-seeming practice report that he's posted on a couple of different boards. The 247 version, all errors sic:
DL looked great, really great. all the hype is backed up. Pipkins looks the part, even coming off the injury. on friday he was easily the most impressive NT that they had, that by no means is discounting mone, hurst, or henry. Their depth and talent at the position although young, is very, very good. Even pallante looked good!! yes, he is small, but ive spoken to a few players who say he is as strong as a senior and one of the quickest most technically sound players there.
I imagine that if that's true we'll see at least one of those four guys (Pipkins, Mone, Hurst, Henry) at three-tech, which currently has Wormley and no one else who's gotten much hype.
That's not good. Nebraska lost three defenders for the season a couple days back, including two starters: Michael Rose and LeRoy Alexander. That'll help when Michigan… uh… we don't play them this year, or until all those guys graduate. CARRY ON.
That's not… uh… relevant. Reporting from media day!
“The job that he does and the job that he’s done since the day he got here, has been unbelievable,” Mattison said with a sweaty upper lip. “Me personally, there is no way I would have come here if it wasn’t for Brady Hoke.”
That typed itself, I bet. I bet Brendan F Quinn was mesmerized by the lip and when it came time to write the article that phrase slipped itself in there and if you ask Brendan F Quinn about that passage he will be shocked that it exists. You see, I've been there, down on ol' Lip Mesmerization Farm. It's a strange, sweaty place, but you get used to it.
No age gap now. Another article on how the offensive line is going to be better because they all like each other:
"There was an age gap last year, and it was just there," Bosch said. "It was just something that was obviously noticeable. You could tell 'these were the seniors, you were a freshmen.' That's how it was."
No chance of that this year, because there are no seniors. For the record I think the line will be better this year because they will be trying to do one thing instead of all things and not necessarily because they are more together. Or that they are Galvanized By Criticism:
Those stats and the barrage of negative press regarding Michigan’s offensive line have helped galvanize the linemen. Jack Miller, a redshirt junior who started the first four games at center last season, said they are more than aware of the doubters.
No doubt they will Shock The World and Not Listen To The Haters. I mean, Miller's following quote is twisted pretty hard to get into that narrative:
“Between last year and this offseason, you’d be hard-pressed to miss that if you pay attention to anything,” Miller said. “You run into fans who say stuff — ‘What’s going on with that offensive line?’ But that’s the way it goes with any program of this caliber. We know that. We know that’s part of the gig here, and that’s OK. Some of it is rightly so. We need to live up the expectations that people have here.”
A good rule of thumb: when someone cites chemistry as a reason for something it's because they don't know. Chalking it up to the undefinable cannot be disproved or really even argued.
Getting on the the WJC team. College Hockey News profiles Downing and Motte as they try to avoid being late cuts this time around. USA coach mark Osiecki on Downing:
“We’re still trying to identify what (Downing’s) strengths and weaknesses will be,” Osiecki said. “He has a bomb from the blue line, that’s for sure, there’s no doubt about that. His awareness from the red line back has continued to show improvement. It’s hard for a defenseman to jump into summer hockey. You haven’t done much defending at all, and he likes to get into the offense when he can, but he’s getting back to it on the defensive side of things.”
Downing says he's put on 25 pounds; hopefully he'll be more of a physical presence than he was last year, when he was more lanky than intimidating. Motte dumped in a hat trick in the USA's 9-1 thumping of Finland, playing with uber-prospect Jack Eichel.
For his part, JT Compher is not so much fighting to make the team as fighting to be named king:
While a few players have stepped up, it's obvious Compher has emerged as the frontrunner to be captain of the team.
"He's done a really nice job," Osiecki said. "There's a group of those kids that are similar, but you talk to any of the support staff, the trainers, the equipment personnel, and they say he's very vocal and takes charge of the group. We have to start that now and develop that relationship between him and the coaching staff."
I am looking forward to the Copp/Compher axis truly owning the team this year. Jack Eichel:
"He does everything on the ice so well," Eichel, a teammate on the USNTDP U-18 team in 2012-13. "He's a guy that you can just try to model your game after. He just so good wherever he is, in the faceoff circle, in the [defensive] zone, he's great killing penalties, great on the power play. He's a role model to me and I really look up to him. He's a great kid and a great leader. He works so hard everywhere. Everyone else tries to match him. A guy like that on your team, it's really good. Everyone tries to work as hard as him, and if everyone works as hard as J.T., you know you have a good team."
How do two stars get drafted? By adding half a person.
Ra'Shede Hageman, No. 35 overall, gained 60 pounds
Hageman was a well-regarded but raw tight end recruit who grew from a listed 6'6, 250 to 310 pounds while at Minnesota, moving to defensive tackle. He's expected to make an instant impact for the Atlanta Falcons.
Jimmy Staten, No. 172 overall, gained 86
Staten was a 6'3, 217-pound two-star defensive end in high school when he signed with Middle Tennessee State. The Seahawks drafted him at 6'4, 303.
At least nine other drafted two-stars increased their body weight by 20 percent between high school and the Combine.
You really shouldn't criticize recruiting services for missing on guys like Staten or Buffalo first-rounder Khalil Mack—everyone else did. There are always going to be guys who blow up in college.
Etc.: In news that you take for granted these days, all of Michigan's freshmen are enrolled and full go. A look at what Loeffler wants to do at VT. Autonomy details. Annual Michigan drill thingy. Gasaway on the O'Bannon ruling.
On my signal, unleash dollars. It is time for the annual EDSBS charity drive. This is your opportunity to annoy other college football fanbases by giving more money than they do, thus preserving the cycle of college football life:
- Michigan doesn't do too well in football
- LOL Michigan
- Michigan wins EDSBS charity drive
- Who does Michigan think they are
This year Spencer promises a full road trip to the winner, and since LSU-Florida is the same day as Michigan's only decent home game that means we can get him to see The Horror II. Sounds like a deal, man. I'll give him my ticket, even.
Suggested donations this year include $114 (TFLs allowed), $43.42 (fairyland score of OSU game), $13.73 (Jeremy Gallon receiving yards), and $–48 (rushing yards against MSU). Because self-trolling or Gallon appreciation is the appropriate response to last year.
As always, all donations go to the Refugee Resettlement Services of Atlanta, which does very important work for refugees. Give here.
Play the right way, just not quite as right as Michigan. SMU and Michigan have agreed to a two-year home-and-home officially, with the home game coming immediately and the return next year. SMU barely missed the NCAA tournament last year thanks in large part to a miserable nonconference schedule but did go 12-6 in the AAC. After their snub they ran to the NIT final, where they lost to Minnesota.
They lose a middling shooting guard and a decent four from their lineup; they add a Very Big Deal in TX PG Emmanuel Mudiay, the guy who decided to play for Larry Brown instead of Kentucky, which may have been a deciding factor for Devin Booker. Now Michigan has its chance for revenge(!). They're probably a tourney team, and since they're playing in a newly Louisville-deprived AAC they're likely to have a shiny record. It's a smart move for RPI purposes and hey-look-a-home-game purposes.
Khalil Mack didn't play in the MAC because he thought it had a cool name
Sometimes unexpected things happen. These days it seems like everyone recognizes that the recruiting rankings dog-and-pony show is borne out as useful by the NFL draft. This is not necessarily the best thing in the world. There are a lot of differences between college and the NFL and when the main metric is what the NFL thinks, rankings can start answering a different question than "which college football teams are most likely to be successful in the near future?"
But it's still football and close enough. So when someone objects to the recruiting service folks pointing out that there's a pretty steep slope from five stars to two stars, they should have a good reason. Husker Mike's attempt from Corn Nation:
….what's a bigger surprise is that only four of the NFL's top 32 picks were considered in the top 30 coming out of high school. What's more, three of the NFL's top 32 picks were players that the services didn't feel could contribute at the BCS level. In other words, the number of complete misses (two star recruits that went in the first round) were about the same as the rankings they actually got right (five star, first round recruits).
The question is not whether recruiting services are perfect but whether they are making something approximating the best guess that can be offered when these kids sign. The three guys the services didn't feel could contribute at the BCS level were Khalil Mack, Jimmie Ward, and Darqueze Dennard. Mack went to Buffalo, Ward Northern Illinois, and Dennard MSU. They had literally one BCS offer between them, and Dennard's was a chance thing:
He entered the final game of his senior year of high school with zero scholarship offers and dim collegiate prospects. … More than a month before Dennard's regular-season finale at Twiggs County High, Middle Tennessee State pulled his only college scholarship offer. … State assistant coach Dave Warner had no idea who Dennard was before kickoff, but he kept seeing Twiggs County's uniform number 3 making plays all over the field.
There were 200-ish opportunities for BCS coaches to offer any of these guys. One of those came to fruition. Nobody should look askance on recruiting services for not picking these guys out. Literally no one except MSU assistant Dave Warner did.
And that goes to my point. Talent is hard for the professionals to evaluate. The professionals in the NFL have a tough time with evaluating, as Matt McGuire's 2010 study of the NFL draft showed. It's tough for college head coaches, who's careers depend on it. So it shouldn't be a surprise that the part-time amateurs who analyze it for the services don't get it right either. No matter how hard they protest and proclaim their own importance.
That is not a point that anyone disputes, and picking out random anecdotes…
I mean, when a school whose recruiting rankings from 2009 through 2012 were ranked 77th, 48th, 29th, and 42nd lands three first round draft picks in the 2014 NFL Draft, you realize that coaching and development is as important, if not more important, than the raw talent.
…when the greater picture is clear is almost as pointless as complaining about posts like this.
Well, just pay attention. The ACC is set to join the SEC as conferences that play just eight conference games despite having a ludicrous number of teams. They're also leaning towards the mandatory actual nonconference game to prevent the most shameless bowl-scraping schedules.
This has implications for playoff selection, as does the fact the Big 12 does not have a championship game. And it's fine, as long as the football committee just replicates Matt Hinton's process for voting*, I don't care how many conference games other conferences play. That process is feeling out who teams have actually beaten versus who they've lost to; football is never going to be something that cleans itself up into neat buckets but the upside of having a committee is the ability to look beyond simple win-loss treadmilling. We'll see if they take advantage or not.
*[ED: SMQB seems to be down, unfortunately.]
Measuring on the LeVert scale. Michigan signed Aubrey Dawkins and duly sent out its press release about it. Usually these things are just boilerplate but this one has an interesting note on Dawkins's size:
"We feel very fortunate to have Aubrey join our basketball program," Beilein said in a statement. "He is very athletic, long, a full 6-6, and has a tremendous upside. We love his passion and diligence for skill development and know he possesses great understanding of the game of basketball. We anticipate his versatility as a player will prove valuable on our team."
Dawkins is coming in with two 6'8" guys who can play the 4, so that probably doesn't open up a new position for him but it is nice to continue getting those 6'6" guys who can shoot over zones and maybe play them.
Do want. 2016 NV PG Derryck Thornton has a naaaaasty crossover:
Are you an angel of the apocalypse girl because every time I see you you're surrounded by people clutching their extremities and weeping.
Etc.: Devin Funchess projected as a first rounder on highly reliable mock drafts that are highly reliable.
Penn State on the docket. Michigan goes to Happy Valley for their first-ever games against the nascent Nittany Lion program. As you might expect, Penn State is not particularly good. They're 4-17-1 on the season, 0-8 in the league, and have been outscored 35-13 in those eight games.
They've had some close outings, including one-goal losses to Minnesota and Boston College in January; they're still real bad. Not a huge surprise when they have zero seniors. Goaltending is a major issue, with both platoon-mates under .900; leading scorer Eric Scheid has a 10-5-15 line.
Michigan needs to sweep this series if they're going to maintain any hopes of winning the league. That door opened up a bit yesterday when Wisconsin beat Minnesota 2-1. Michigan can draw within six, or even three, points if they keep the Nittany Lions on the mat.
Hyman making a move. I'd pumped him up a bit earlier this year, but the points did not follow. Nowadays, though, Zach Hyman's centering a line that can be reasonably described as "his" and they are performing:
With Hyman centering the third line between freshman Tyler Motte and senior Luke Moffatt, the performance of all three players has quickly escalated. Hyman and his linemates combined for four goals in two games against Wisconsin last weekend and supplied high energy in the offensive zone.
Hyman scored one of those goals, a Kaleniecki special where he blasted in a rebound from the edge of the crease. He's been near-impossible to bump off the puck on the cycle all year and hopefully now he can maintain some scoring production over the rest of the season.
Firing, firing, firing. Via Five Key Plays, Zak Irvin making it rain:
Scouting Stauskas. NBA scouts, this video starts at 8:35. Before that it's just Golden Girls reruns.
It's time to eat (a low-carb diet high in protein). Derrick Green seems to have acquired the message about being smaller and nimbler, and is tweeting out pictures of how much he weighs.
my grind is never gone stop!! 220 by spring ball! Its time to eat 〽️ pic.twitter.com/qIghb24Ya6
— BaN€™〽️ (@DG2seven) February 5, 2014
May he reach 220 by spring and leave corpses in his wake in fall. But fun corpses!
Obligatory signing day articles. Did you know that not every highly-ranked recruit works out? Well, they don't. Also, sometimes low-ranked guys do. Now prepare for the parade of quotes from players and coaches saying they don't care about rankings. Are you prepared?
“I don’t put much stock in (the star-rating system),” Hoke said.
“I think it’s a joke,” Mueller said. “I believe there’s some talented guys, and it’s obvious to point out who the elite college football players are coming out of high school, but there are a lot of guys who get overlooked.
“I do not think it really does anything for any of the college coaches — the star system at least. The kids themselves and parents, it’s more of a headache."
Sorry. You cannot be prepared for that much quote. Anyway, annual article from newspaper about how recruiting rankings are not right every single time is matched by Matt Hinton's annual article in which he comes up with a new way to show that, yes, recruiting rankings are generally predictive.
It's a landslide. On the final count, the higher-ranked team according to the recruiting rankings won roughly two-thirds of the time, and every "class" as a whole had a winning record against every class ranked below it every single year. (The only exception came last year, when "three-star" teams came up short in head-to-head meetings with "one-star" teams. Otherwise, the hierarchy held across every line.) The gap on the field also widened with the gap in the recruiting scores: While "one-star" recruiting teams fared slightly better against blue-chip opponents than "two-star" teams, both groups combined managed a grand total of 19 wins over "five-star" opponents in 112 tries. Broadly speaking, the final results on the field broke along a straight line demarcated on signing day.
There are outliers, of course. Michigan is likely one in a bad direction, but Hinton only picked out those who are outperforming. They include most recent opponent Kansas State, which takes so many JUCOs they are near-impossible to rank reasonably, and Michigan State. Which sigh.
If you were really in charge you wouldn't have to keep saying you're in charge. This is, in fact, an article from this week:
Brady Hoke: I'm running Michigan football program, not Dave Brandon
This is from the press-conference-type substance. Speaking of that…
Usual PR debacles. The odd "press conference" that blew up into a bunch of finger-wagging once the Daily complained about not being there was less a press conference and more five requested one-on-one interviews crammed into a brief, mutual window:
“We did not hold a press conference (Monday),” Ablauf said Tuesday. “Five reporters requested to meet with Brady to discuss football topics, so we arranged this meeting about three weeks ago and set the meeting day and time over a week ago (prior to publication of the Daily story about Gibbons).”
But when five different reporters start tweeting out things Brady Hoke is saying, it looks like a press conference. And when you release the statement about the Gibbons thing that stands as the only thing you're going to say about that topic to five hand-picked reporters, that looks horrible.
Michigan actually did something about a sexual assault on campus that they didn't have to do—unlike, say, Florida State. That they managed to come out of that looking like they do is miraculously bad PR.
Unfortunately, it's not a surprise. This space has been sarcastically declaring "it's almost like the athletic department didn't think things through" jabs for the past year as one bad idea after another was rolled out and quickly rolled back. This is the culmination of the tiny debacles with noodles and seat cushions and the band going to Dallas and not preparing Mary Sue Coleman to speak in a situation with feedback. The same shitty attitude towards everyone outside of the Circle Of Trust from the past few years finally got applied to something important, and now Dave and company are receiving their just desserts.
Hopefully they'll learn something this time.
Uh-huh. The annual Detroit News Blue Chip list generally comes with at least one salty remark about Michigan or MSU, and this year's winner is MSU commit Nick Padla on Michigan:
They talked about tradition (but) I was thinking about the future.
The previous sentence also might have something to do with it:
They were recruiting me my 10th grade then kind of stopped.
Etc.: Enormous piles of NBA data could lead to a holy grail stat to end all stats, but it'll take supercomputers to produce it. Stat updates on Michigan's hockey recruits. Everything you ever wanted to know about Derrick Walton's efficiency leap.
A reader asked for a screenshot from that movie where a bunch of kids are going through the process of applying to and selecting their college destination and the dad of one decides to don the only appropriate attire for accompanying said decision-makers. And the MGoBoard came through. Color this gunter embarrassed to have totally forgotten about this cheesy '80s flick. You know who didn't forget about it? Craig Barker of Hoover Street Rag (and HTTV Hoops/Hockey), who wrote the IMDB synopsis (nice job MGoShoe in spotting it).
Another Shot at Recruiting/Performance Charts. Trying to figure out how to rate the value of four recruiting classes ago versus the latest one etc. and come up with an expectation for that year's performance was all the rage in the diaries last year. We've got a new entry, and his methodology is seniors x4, juniors x3, sophomores x2, freshmen x1. He then took the conference and BCS championship games and ran down them all so we could see what level of recruiting (by 247 composite) was producing these victors. It's got a lolTyWillingham chart:
Lol Willingham, and lolWeiss for underperforming that graph so much. His conclusions are a bit wonky because he doesn't acknowledge the limits of recruiting to explain things like transfers and coaching changes and hiring GERG.
Wallpaper from FabFiver5 (we're from Five!):
Please make "Win the Game."
Best of the Board
The board has been doing a great job of collating and contextualizing the available information. That's Erik_in_Dayton's timeline of events which he has kept updating as info streams in. There has been an epic amount of helpful comments from people with relevant experiences that helps put these events into context. I'm still collecting them and will break that off into a separate post.
Best of the Board (not the Kicker)
LEGENDARY MICHIGAN COACH WHO STARTED IN 1969
Count the Wolverines on the wall. [Max Ortix/DetNews]
I grew up a long time ago in a house not far away from Brother Rice, one of the bigger D-II programs in-state. When I was in high school Rice had this legendary head coach who was celebrating his 30th season there. Understand, the guy was a massive Spartan, and I went to Groves and rooted for Seaholm (long story), so I'm supposed to despise Brother Rice. But Al Fracassa is just a guy anybody who cares about football in this state should know and respect.
He sent 20 kids to scholarships at BCS schools since 2002, including a parade of 4-stars to East Lansing, but nothing but walk-on's to Michigan for a long while now. When they named the field after Fracassa in Sept 2006, Bo came and spoke (one of his last engagements). He just retired THIS year, so I thought I'd use the announcement of his successor to pay him tribute.
HELLO: RAD MAGICIAN
Michigan's last Jack Weisenburger came for its baseball program and wound up one of the key members of its greatest football teams ever. UM recently inked another Jack Weisenburger (his grandson) to play baseball here. Grandpa says he's a fantastic kid, but would not guarantee this means football will go two years without a loss.
ETC. Help these kids get their wings. Dated, but MBB's remaining schedule side-by-side with the competition. Eighty-five percent of NFL players would risk higher brain functioning to play in Superbowl—not surprised; underlines the need for better controls. LolOSUlostlol. Sports myths. Happy Bend Over to Dave Brandon Day.
[Jump for the zen part cause it's really giffy.]
I Have To Praise You Like I Should
High School All-American week is officially over. Jabrill Peppers unofficially won the week. Just ask ESPN's Tom Luginbill, who wrote this in response to a question about the most impressive Under Armour practice performer [emphasis mine]:
[Peppers] is more than capable of playing both ways if needed, but as far as cover corners go, he is a more explosive version of Dee Milliner, and we love that he welcomes contact too. He is mature and knows that there are high expectations for him to perform.
Or ask his Team Nitro coach, former NFL head coach and defensive back Herm Edwards—and his friend, some guy named Deion:
"It’s not even close. He’s the best [UA All-American defensive back] I’ve coached. I called Deion [Sanders] over and said look at that guy, and Deion saw the same thing," Edwards said. "[Robert] Nkemdiche was really good last year, he was a big guy who could run and [Peppers] is comparable to that as far as skill level at the position he’s playing. I played that position and coached that position for a long time and he’s a special talent."
Or ask Scout, which named Peppers the top practice performer of the week on either team while noting that this year's crop of defensive backs was particularly strong.
Rivals stands as the least bullish outlet on Peppers after the UA game, and all they did was name him Sunday's #3 performer, Monday's #1 performer, and Tuesday's #5 performer, and the actual game's #9 performer for Team Nitro before giving him the third spot overall for Team Nitro on the week behind Da'Shawn Hand and Ermon Lane ($):
Playing in his first national-level event, Peppers was surrounded by intrigue from the moment he arrived in Florida. As it turned out, it didn't take him long to live up to his billing. Peppers, the No. 2 overall prospect in his class, was dominant in every practice and was as aggressive and spirited as any player on the field. He struggled a bit in Thursday's game but didn't allow a big play all week. Peppers also blocked a field goal that was ultimately negated because of an all-star-game specific rule.
In addition to the negated blocked field goal (above)—illegal because rushers on kicks weren't allowed to go inside their man in the UA Game, which... okay—Peppers had a couple passes defended, returned two kickoffs for 65 yards (one a 41-yard burst to midfield), and took a few snaps as a wildcat quarterback, though he couldn't break anything big offensively in a pretty ugly game overall, as high school all-star games tend to be.
Interestingly, Scout omitted both Hand and Lane from their top ten overall list, with neither cracking the top two of their respective position groups. It's safe to say Peppers made a strong argument that he deserves consideration for the top overall spot in the 2014 class.
[Hit THE JUMP for a whole lot of content from the All-American games, Michigan's latest 2014 offer, an update on George Campbell, a potential second quarterback in the '14 class, and more.]
Moe (1) and Jabrill (2), via.
In last week's roundtable on the state of the conference I pulled out this table grading the new Big Ten's teams on their 2013 seasons (by Fremeau Efficiency Index) and their futures (by composite 247 score for the 2012-'14 classes):
West | East School FEI Grade Rcrt | School FEI 2013 Rcrt Wisconsin 13th A C+ | OSU 8th A A+ Iowa 30th B C | MSU 9th A B Minnesota 49th C D+ | Michigan 29th B A+ Nebraska 51st C B | Indiana 62nd D+ C NW'ern 60th C- C | PSU 65th D+ B Illinois 75th D C- | Maryland 74th D C+ Purdue 114th F C- | Rutgers 98th E- B- AVG 56th 2.0 2.0 | AVG 49th 2.1 3.0
That's about how I feel: A conference baseline of "C" (ie ranked around 50th) teams with one division recruiting at a "B" level and the other "getting the most out of" C level recruiting.
This I pulled from a spreadsheet of FEI and recruiting data that I'd like to mine further, because if you're looking at a chart it still counts as doing work.
Recruiting = legit, yo/maybe not so legit. So here's a new look at the old stand-by: recruiting on the Y-axis, performance on the X-axis, and a nice, heavy trend line with an R-squared of 0.46 to show an inconvenient-for-narratives correlation. Performance is FEI expressed as a percentile. The composite ranking is a bit more complex: the 2009 (5th year seniors) is weighted at 0.5 the 2010 and 2011 classes at full, the 2012 class at 0.40 and the 2013 at 0.10, which are arbitrary values I assigned based on expectations of how much a class contributes to a given team.
Blicking on it makes it cig.
It says they're correlated, but doesn't necessarily mean one is causing the other. FWIW the r-squared of the Rivals composite determined the same way was .4135; I haven't done Scout or ESPN yet. Look at how the correlation of recruiting %-ile of each class and 2013 performance %-ile changes by year:
|Class||247 R-Squared||Rivals R-Squared|
|2009 (5th yrs)||0.3681||0.3204|
The highest correlation is to the freshman class, and the 3rd-highest is to the class that's not even on campus yet. There's a strong echo effect going on here, wherein the teams that are good today are getting the highest-ranked recruits. The diminishing returns from seniors, I would posit, are because they're the classes hit hardest by attrition, and most likely to have been recruited by a different coach or to a program in very different circumstances.
The other thing that immediately jumped out at me about that chart is look at all the color on top of the black trend line. Those gray dots are mid-major programs, who are largely outperforming expectations from recruiting, versus only one SEC team managing to do so. I bet that's a system bias in the recruiting rankings: there's little to parse between an under-the-radar guy who commits to Purdue versus one going to NIU except one of those is a Big Ten school.
[Jump for MEETING EXPECTATIONS and THE FUTURE]