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Recruiting: How top 25 teams fared in past 5 years

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Ohio State's Urban Meyer has proved to be top-notch as a recruiter as well as a coach.

Truthfully, National Signing Day should be called "National Crapshoot Day," because no matter what anyone tells you, there is no science to player evaluation.

If it is a science, then how come every five-star athlete doesn't pan out? And if it's a science, why do teams in the NFL, NBA, NHL and Major League Baseball spend so much money on early-round picks who never become stars -- or, in some cases, never do anything?

You can't truly measure intangibles, and that often is the biggest factor in an athlete's development.


» Where first-round picks of last five years rated out of high school


Keep that in mind when you're looking over the list of recruits your favorite school signed Wednesday (or when you're looking over the final results after the 2015 NFL Draft). Getting big-time recruits on campus is one thing. Developing those players is another, and some schools (i.e., coaches) do a better job of that than others.

We took a look at the final College Football 24/7 Top 25 Power Rankings from the 2014 season and looked at how well each school recruited in the past five recruiting cycles (2010-14); that takes into account true freshmen through fifth-year seniors for each school. (We used 247Sports.com's consensus class rankings as our guide.)

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Three teams in the four-team playoff were among the top four recruiting schools in that five-year span, and the other was 15th. That fits nicely into the "elite talent means great results" line of thinking.

At the same time, of the remaining teams in the final top 10, five had an average recruiting ranking of 20th or worse, and three were 33rd or worse. And of the teams in the final top 25, 12 of them had an average recruiting ranking of 30th or lower in the five-year span. Eight -- or almost a third -- had an average ranking of 40th or lower. Heck, three ranked 62nd or lower.

We also put together a list of six schools that most underachieved last season relative to their recruiting ranking; that's at the bottom of the story. (Those six ranked in the top 12 overall in that five-year span.)

We didn't take injuries into account, nor did we worry about players who went pro early. We simply added up a school's recruiting ranking in each of the five years to come up with a "recruiting number." We then divided that by five to come up with an average national ranking over the five-year span. Within each team's write-up, we also figured out where it would've ranked in the season-ending top 25 relative only to the other teams in the poll with its recruiting ranking.

1. Ohio State

Recruiting numbers: 33 (average rank of 7th)
Finish by recruiting rank: 3rd
Buzz: The Buckeyes ranked outside the top 10 just once in the five-year span, and that was in 2010 under a beleaguered Jim Tressel, when they finished 16th. Each of the past three classes have ranked in the top five (be very afraid, Big Ten foes, as long as Urban Meyer is fully invested in coaching and recruiting), and the Buckeyes' recruiting classes were fourth-best overall in that five-year span.

2. Oregon

Recruiting numbers: 77 (average rank of 15th)
Finish by recruiting rank: 7th
Buzz: The Ducks had zero top-10 classes in the five years, and they also had one outside the top 20 (it was 21st). The others ranged from 11th to 19th. Oregon was one of five teams in the final top 10 that had zero top-10 recruiting classes.

3. TCU

Recruiting numbers: 191 (average rank of 38th)
Finish by recruiting rank: 15th
Buzz: Gary Patterson and his staff did a lot with a lot of recruits who weren't perceived to be all that good. TCU's highest-ranked class in our five-year span was 29th; it also had a class that ranked 55th.

4. Alabama

Recruiting numbers: 9 (average rank of 2nd)
Finish by recruiting rank: 1st
Buzz: The Tide finished first in the recruiting rankings four times in our five-year stretch; the other finish was fifth. Alabama is the only school in the nation that finished in the top five in each of the last five recruiting cycles.

5. Florida State

Recruiting numbers: 26 (average rank of 5th)
Finish by recruiting rank: 2nd
Buzz: FSU is the only school in the nation other than Alabama to rank in the top 10 in each of the last five recruiting classes. The Seminoles' worst class in the five-year span was 10th in 2013; three other classes ranked in the top five.

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6. Michigan State

Recruiting numbers: 147 (average rank of 29th)
Finish by recruiting rank: 13th
Buzz: Mark Dantonio's staff gets extremely high marks as developers of talents; it doesn't get such high marks for signing talent. What matters, of course, is development. Michigan State's classes during the five-year span ranged from 21st to 36th, and three were in the 30s.

7. Georgia Tech

Recruiting numbers: 269 (average rank of 54th)
Finish by recruiting rank: 22nd
Buzz: Tech had just two top-50 classes during the five years -- and those classes were ranked in the 40s. The others ranged from 52nd to 76th.

8. UCLA

Recruiting numbers: 100 (average rank of 20th)
Finish by recruiting rank: 9th
Buzz: The Bruins had two top-10 classes and four in the top 20 in the five years. The other was an outlier -- UCLA was 45th in 2011, which was the last class signed by Rick Neuheisel.

9. Baylor

Recruiting numbers: 165 (average rank of 33rd)
Finish by recruiting rank: 14th
Buzz: The Bears are another team that far surpassed its recruiting rankings. Baylor had zero top-25 classes during the five years, and one was outside the top 40. The best was 26th.

10. Georgia

Recruiting numbers: 45 (average rank of 9th)
Finish by recruiting rank: 6th
Buzz: The Bulldogs' rankings were remarkably consistent, with each coming in between sixth and 12th.

11. Mississippi State

Recruiting numbers: 117 (average rank of 23rd)
Finish by recruiting rank: 11th
Buzz: The Bulldogs had two top-25 classes, and all five ranked at least 35th. Interestingly, while they were second in the SEC West this season, their overall recruiting ranking in the five-year span was sixth-best in that seven-team division, ahead of only Arkansas.

12. Clemson

Recruiting numbers: 87 (average rank of 17th)
Finish by recruiting rank: 8th
Buzz: The Tigers had one top-10 class (the 2011 group, which featured Sammy Watkins, was 10th) and four in the top 20. The lowest was 29th in 2010, which came after Dabo Swinney's first full season as coach.

13. Missouri

Recruiting numbers: 192 (average rank of 38th)
Finish by recruiting rank: 16th
Buzz: Missouri had two outlier classes -- one that ranked 22nd in 2010 and one that ranked 57th in 2011. The other three were between 31st and 43rd.

14. Wisconsin

Recruiting numbers: 220 (average rank of 44th)
Finish by recruiting rank: 20th
Buzz: The Badgers never wow anyone with their recruiting classes; then the games are played, and they roll over almost everybody. Four of the five classes were between 33rd and 45th; the other ranked 65th (in 2012, which was the last one for Bret Bielema).

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15. Boise State

Recruiting numbers: 346 (average rank of 69th)
Finish by recruiting rank: 25th
Buzz: Is anyone surprised that Boise State coaches turned recruiting "leftovers" into winners? The Broncos' highest-ranked class in the five-year span was 53rd in 2011. The worst? Believe it or not, Boise ranked 110th in 2010. Three of the five were 60th or worse.

16. Arizona State

Recruiting numbers: 199 (average rank of 40th)
Finish by recruiting rank: 17th
Buzz: Four of the five classes were ranked in the 20s or 30s (three were in the 30s). But the 2011 class was 65th, which drags down the average ranking.

17. USC

Recruiting numbers: 37 (average rank of 7th)
Finish by recruiting rank: 4th
Buzz: USC recruited as well as anybody under Pete Carroll and Lane Kiffin, though Kiffin's magic seemed to be wearing off at the end. The Trojans had four top-10 classes during the five-year span, and the other ranked 12th. In that span, USC's recruiting classes were fifth-best overall nationally.

18. Kansas State

Recruiting numbers: 309 (average rank of 62nd)
Finish by recruiting rank: 23rd
Buzz: Bill Snyder is known for turning JC players into solid college players, and he rarely signs touted JC players. K-State's best class in the five-year span was 49th, and two ranked in the 70s.

19. Mississippi

Recruiting numbers: 113 (average rank of 23rd)
Finish by recruiting rank: 10th
Buzz: The Rebels' recruiting has picked up of late, with each of the last two classes ranking in the top 15. Ole Miss' worst class in our span was 47th, and the other two were in the 20s.

20. Arizona

Recruiting numbers: 212 (average rank of 42nd)
Finish by recruiting rank: 19th
Buzz: The Wildcats had four classes in the 40s in our five-year span. The best was 31st, and that came in 2014.


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21. Utah

Recruiting numbers: 234 (average rank of 47th)
Finish by recruiting rank: 21st
Buzz: Four of the Utes' classes in the five-year span were between 37th and 47th. The worst was 2014's class, when Utah was 67th.

22. Auburn

Recruiting numbers: 41 (average rank of 8th)
Finish by recruiting rank: 5th
Buzz: Even when the Tigers were struggling on the field, they were cleaning up off it. Auburn's lowest-ranked class during our time span was 13th, and the Tigers also had three top-10 classes. Overall, they ranked seventh nationally during the five-year span.

23. Louisville

Recruiting numbers: 200 (average rank of 40th)
Finish by recruiting rank: 18th
Buzz: All five classes were between 29th and 45th. Three were in the 40s.

24. Marshall

Recruiting numbers: 331 (average rank of 66th)
Finish by recruiting rank: 24th
Buzz: The Herd had no top-50 classes in our time span; they had two that ranked 77th, and the best was 57th.

25. Stanford

Recruiting numbers: 118 (average rank of 24th)
Finish by recruiting rank: 12th
Buzz: The Cardinal enjoyed a recruiting renaissance under Jim Harbaugh and had four top-25 classes in our time span. But there also was a class ranked 51st, in 2013.

There were numerous teams in the final top 25 who overachieved in terms of its recruiting rankings; that means there also had to be some underachievers. And there were some big ones.

Consider: Of the 10 best recruiting programs over the five-year period we examined, four did not finish in the top 25 this season. Further, half of the top 12 did not.

Here's a look at the biggest underachievers. The "overall recruiting rank in span" refers to where the program ranked nationally among all schools in the past five recruiting cycles.

1. Florida

Recruiting numbers: 29 (average rank of 6th)
Overall recruiting rank in span: 3rd
Buzz: The Gators had four top-10 classes in our time span, and three were in the top five. The worst in the span was 12th, in 2011, which was the first class for Will Muschamp. Muschamp could recruit; he and his staff just did a poor job once the players were on campus.

2. LSU

Recruiting numbers: 38 (average rank of 8th)
Overall recruiting rank in span: 6th
Buzz: The Tigers also had four top-10 classes, with the worst being 14th. The 2014 class ranked second.

3. Texas

Recruiting numbers: 42 (average rank of 8th)
Overall recruiting rank in span: 8th
Buzz: Under Mack Brown, February always was a great month. But eventually, September, October, and November rolled around, and the Longhorns would struggle. Texas had three top-five classes in our five-year span, with the other two ranking 17th (those would be Brown's final class and Charlie Strong's first).

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4. Oklahoma

Recruiting numbers: 59 (average rank of 12th)
Overall recruiting rank in span: 10th
Buzz: OU had four top-15 classes, including a No. 4 finish in 2010. The worst class was 16th, in 2013. There's no question OU's recruiting momentum has stalled just a bit from where it was from 2000-09.

5. Notre Dame

Recruiting numbers: 60 (average rank of 12th)
Overall recruiting rank in span: 11th
Buzz: The Irish always are going to have national appeal, and they had two top-10 classes in our five-year span. The other three were from 11th through 18th.

6. Tennessee

Recruiting numbers: 74 (average rank of 15th)
Overall recruiting rank in span: 12th
Buzz: All five classes were in the top 25; four were in the top 20, three in the top 15, and two in the top 10. The best was the 2014 class, which ranked seventh. The worst was the 2013 class, which ranked 24th; that was Butch Jones' first class.

Mike Huguenin can be reached at mike.huguenin@nfl.com. You also can follow him on Twitter @MikeHuguenin.

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