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2009 Talent Analysis Part II- So what do these numbers mean?

There are a handful of recruiting services out there most notably Rivals, Scout and ESPN. Each one ranks the classes and each one uses a fairly complicated formula to do so. The reason I use Rivals for my data is that once the players are evaluated and ranked it is strictly an algorithm that spits out the point totals that determine their class rankings. Determined need fulfillment or any other "opinions" about the class are not present in the formula. In my opinion that gives you data that is more likely to be consistent over time. The individual player rankings could definitely be debated but the bottom line is this. A highly ranked recruit is more likely to pan out than a recruit that is not highly ranked. The odds are simply better.
The NCAA limits the number of players that can sign letters of intent and enter fall camp at 25 for a given year. Despite this it is common for teams to sign over 25 players. This "over signing" happens quite often and when it does it exposes the one flaw in the class ranking system. Each player signed to a given class brings additional points to the total that determine the overall class rankings. So one school might sign 17 high quality players and have an overall class ranking lower than a school that signed 30 players with considerably lower individual rankings. Quantity over quality wins out. With that said every school is limited to 85 scholarship players so for the most part this evens itself out over a 5 year period.
So how exactly can teams get away with signing more than 25 players? If you like college football enough to be reading this posting on my unknown blog you probably already know what a "Redshirt" is. But you may not be familiar with the terms "Greenshirt" and "Grayshirt". It has become more common for some players to graduate high school early and enroll for the spring semester to participate in spring practice. These players can be counted against the previous signing class and are dubbed "Greenshirts". Some schools also tell kids to wait and start school the following January. Its sort of like a "Redshirt" except they just aren't on campus at all until the next winter. These players can be counted against the next signing class and are dubbed "Grayshirts". In addition some schools over sign banking on the fact that a few of the kids won't qualify academically in which case the school will set them up at a postgraduate academy where they can take a year to get their grades in order and then pick them up a year later. In Part III we'll break down the conferences.