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2010 Talent Analysis Part II- Conference Overview

Sorry for the delay in posting the last few days. I was a little tied up shoveling snow and camping out with the team in front of the fireplace. In a weird way it has been a pretty good time. I also want to submit a patent for a new exercise machine that simulates shoveling snow. I thought I was in pretty good shape before all the snow started pounding the D.C. area this year.


Now back to the 2010 talent analysis. As I said in Part I these charts bring up several discussion points for me and I will make an honest effort to hit all of it. As a disclaimer this is a subject that I rather enjoy talking about and I could go on for quite some time so I will try and stay on point and not skip around too much. I am going to go through this series of posts in a slightly different manner than I did last year.

In this installment I’ll talk about the overall talent level in the conferences, a little bit about what these numbers mean and also touch on what I like to call the "Three Part Equation." Last year that was three different posts. I don’t want to be too repetitive so if you want the longer version on what I think the numbers mean and the three part equation follow THIS LINK and scroll down to parts II-IV. Last year I followed those posts up with separate posts looking at all of the teams in each conference. That was a bit cumbersome so I am going to change that up this year by just talking about the 28 teams with Elite talent, Great Talent, Good Talent as defined in Part I.

I will also have another installment on the over achievers and programs with big trends either up or down before finishing up with a dedicated post on Notre Dame. Now that you know where I’m going with this here it goes.

I broke the class rankings down in two separate spreadsheets in Part I but going forward I will only refer to the spreadsheet that is NOT weighted. The reason being, there is not much of a difference between the two and for the purposes of this discussion I am just talking about gross talent anyway.

The links to both versions of the spreadsheet are in Part I so scroll down if you want to look at those. The one I am using for reference today and going forward is also HERE. Now onto the conferences themselves. This is how the last five recruiting class rankings average out for each conference.

SEC 23.68
Pac 10 33.94
Big XII 34.85
ACC 36.12
Big Ten 46.16
Big East 53.68
CUSA 80.5
Mountain West 81.11
Sun Belt 88.38
WAC 90.02
MAC 92.2

Let's look at this from the bottom up.

The MAC, WAC and Sun Belt are all bringing up the rear. There is no way to sugarcoat it those conferences have what they have but I will discuss a few of those teams when I get to the over achievers. They obviously have a few of those primarily Boise State. There is a slight step up to the Mountain West and CUSA but it is not huge and those two conferences still come out almost 30 places behind the Big East which is the bottom feeder of the BCS conferences in terms of raw talent. The Big East does have a couple of teams that recruit pretty decent in Pittsburgh and West Virginia.

Despite this the Big East has been dominated by Cincinnati the last couple of years and the Bearcats boast the LEAST talent of any team in the Big East! More on the Bearcats in a later installment but in short Brian Kelly obviously has a track record of doing more with less which is good news for ND fans. The Big Ten jumps up another few places with a less than impressive 46.16. More on that in a minute. The Pac 10, Big XII and ACC are all pretty much even. They all have 1-2 elite teams and a grand total of 4-5 in the Top 28 that I mentioned in Part I. At the top of the heap is the SEC. An average class ranking for the conference over 5 years of 23.68 is pretty phenomenal considering that you are talking about 12 teams.

How is that possible? I’m getting there, hang with me for a minute.

So what does it all mean? Recruiting rankings are tricky, and we can all sit around and argue all day about what the real difference is between a 3 star and a 5 star player and why one class is rated higher than another. In short it is probability. The higher a recruit is ranked the greater the probability he pans out. The higher the class ranking the greater the probability that group makes a solid contribution to a program. The higher the overall level of talent in a given program the greater the probability that they will win football games.

Is it a coincidence that the SEC Champion has won the last four BCS Championship Games? Is it a coincidence that Ohio State is the only program that has played in the last seven BCS Championship Games that does NOT have "elite" talent on the 2010 spreadsheet? By the way the Bucks grade out as having "great" talent and sit at #10 overall. It isn’t a coincidence. I’m a big believer in what I call the three part equation of talent, coaching and program health but talent is paramount. The better your talent level the greater the odds that you will win a lot of football games and ultimately a BCS Championship.

But seriously what’s up with the SEC? How do they recruit so well? Is it legit? I think it is, but I also think it is slightly inflated. If you go back and read the long version on the numbers from last year that I linked above I talk about oversigning which is an art mastered by the SEC schools. They use green shirts, gray shirts and red shirts like nobody else. They also have a tendency to straight drop kids along the way for a litany of reasons which frees up more roster spots for the next signing class. Despite the slight inflation that results from those practices I still believe they still legitimately pull down the most talent overall. Why is that? I actually went back and forth with regular commenter Longhorn Mike about this topic a few days ago. It started with him asking me if kids from the North
are fleeing to Southern schools? His point was the SEC, Texas, Oklahoma and the California Schools had big recruiting hauls again this year. The short version of my answer is as follows.

The biggest factor in individual star ratings is speed. Of all the "measurables" it carries the most weight. If a kid runs a 4.4 he runs a 4.4 and chances are he probably is not going to get slower. Size and strength require some prognostication. That’s why you hear the "experts" on the recruiting sites say things like "his frame can carry another 40 pounds." It is a bit of a guess as to where each prospect is in terms of physical maturity. Remember the guy in your Little League that had a mustache and hit 20 dingers? Chances are by the time you were in high school he couldn’t make the team because he was still the same size he was when he was 12 and everyone else caught up and passed him. The same thing happens with some of these football prospects. Some 2-3 stars get to college and grow into beasts while some 5 stars show up already having physically peaked.

But speed is speed and kids that can run are more prevalent in warm weather climates. Why? Because they literally run more. There are no snow days in Florida, those kids are outside running around 12 months a year their entire lives and as a result develop their speed. To a degree it is inadvertent and simply just a product of their environment. So those schools in the SEC, Texas and Southern California are sitting on a larger pool of speed and as a result there is a larger pool of highly rated recruits in their back yards.

The game has also evolved in the last decade in a way that has made that speed more important. With the prevalence of the spread speed has become increasingly important on both sides of the ball so the southern schools have seen an increase in on field success. That coupled with the nicer climates, and the coeds that come with it has made it easier for those schools to not only pull the top talent in their region but also pluck some of the better athletes out of the Midwest and other cold weather climates.

So the Big Ten and Big East end up on the outside looking in. They have less total speed in their local talent pools and they are working like hell to hang on to the speed they do have in the area. The monster has begun feeding itself and that trend is very difficult to reverse. Without some unforeseen seismic shift I don't think that the stranglehold the southern schools seem to have on top recruiting classes will end any time soon. Programs like Ohio State, Michigan and Penn State have the ability to hold their own when they are winning games but I would argue they have to work a little bit harder at it. Notre Dame also has the ability to bring in top flight recruiting classes due to a true national recruiting base. But in the simplest of terms I think the modern day recruiting monster lives off of the speed in warm weather climates. In the next installment I will start digging into the Top 28 individual programs.