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Auburn Recruiting Update: A Progress Report.

By on April 1st, 2014 in Member Post 14 Comments »
BfvP0d4IAAAsUTu - 2014 board

                                                                                                                                       (photo:Lauren Barnard,auburntigers.com)
Do you recall after Gus Malzahn came on board as Auburn’s head coach that I mentioned in an article / blog entry that Auburn had made a tactical if not strategic turn in recruiting. Do you remember that? I want to reiterate its relevance to this progress report.

To recap, I reported that Auburn was building its program to be similar to Alabama’s. Specifically, that there is a whole other staff that is assisting Malzahn and his field generals with the tricky task of picking the next Auburn superstars. Now, as far as I am concerned it’s nothing to brag about – but I think it’s time for a status report. In order to illustrate Auburn’s progress, I am going to use the ESPN 300 2014 tool you can find at the ESPN NCAA football homepage.

The facts: Does anyone deny that Nick Saban knows how to recruit a football team? Some would argue he has the best football team money can buy. Regardless how you view it, you can’t get past the fact he knows how to compete. Since his initial season at bama, he has been able to consistently compete for the SEC championship directly every year, if not the National Championship. Now, I don’t want to lose you here. Stay focused. I am not debating if he is dominating the college football landscape with his coaching style or his player’s ability. No. I am simply picking up the spot light of truth and focusing it on what I think is the obvious. The man knows talent. Or at least he has built a machine that knows talent.

In the 2014 recruiting year bama had another great showing. Rivals had them at #1 with a total of 26 recruits. Out of those 26 players… want to guess how many showed up in the ESPN 300 recruiting tool as the benchmark? Well. As you are formulating your guess let me ask a second, probably more intriguing question: Using that tool, if you came up with the top ten players recruited last year, want to guess how many bama got?? Bama had three. Said another way, three out of the top ten players in the nation and they all went to bama. I don’t care who you are – that’s impressive.

Taking a closer look at the initial question, it won’t come as a surprise to any that follows recruiting to know that bama had nineteen players out of the total twenty seven that they recruited that were in the top 300 players in the nation according to ESPN. And if you count JUCO top 50 players in the mix that would mean bama secured twenty two out of twenty seven players being some of the most talented in the nation. As far as I am concerned that’s the standard. Now, that doesn’t mean anything other than these kids come from good pedigree and have some skills. Doesn’t mean they will stay in school or contribute one bit. They still need to be coached.

But wow! I am not sure how one couldn’t be impressed by that statistic. It lends credence to what you hear announcers say during the season that bama has superstars stacked on superstars. Or said another way, bama doesn’t rebuild, they simply reload.

But who else in the SEC comes close to bama?

Using that top ten list as a guide – the next team that had players in that category was Texas A&M. Coach Sumlin and his Aggies came in at # 6 in rivals recruiting in 2014 after they landed a class consisting of 21 commitments. Comparing apples to apples Texas A&M had two positions in the top 10 players of the country. And when looking at how they did over all they landed a total of 10 out of 21 players on the ESPN 300 list. Add to that an additional two people who were JUCO top 50 and you have a total of 12 people on the list. By any standard… that is impressive. But it’s well short of bama’s showing.

The only other team from the SEC that landed on the top ten player list using ESPN’s 300 was LSU. That’s right. The mad hatter strikes again! It’s no secret that LSU had the biggest losses to fill after the season was over replacing folks who left early for the NFL. Accordingly LSU was #2 in rivals recruiting in 2014. They had a total of twenty three commitments. LSU and Miles had only one player make the top ten list. However, they had a total of 16 players make the ESPN 300 list out of the twenty three commitments signed. That average is slightly behind bama’s.

Tennessee’s recruiting class came in at #5 in rivals recruiting ranking. Coach Davis signed 35 players but using the ESPN 300 list… only 11 made the cut. That should cause every Auburn fan pause. Why? Because remember at one time 25 years ago Tennessee was considered to be in the top tier of the SEC. Isn’t it amazing how far a program can fall? But the good news for Vols fans is that they are starting to trend up. Now, while they could fill 35 positions (something I still don’t understand) Coach Davis could only attract 11 of the top players in the country? Add to the 11 another two JUCO top 50 and you can see that things are looking up. Let’s just say… that Volunteer football is a long, long way from where it was when it had Manning and Martin as quarterbacks in the mid 1990s but it’s obvious it’s on a rebound and coming back strong.

Georgia came in with a recruiting class at #7 in rivals. Coach Richt was able to sign 21 commitments. Not bad to be there with that few kids… but out of that number Georgia only attracted 11 ESPN 300 commitments. Add one JUCO 50 player and you have a complete statistic. Still, that is pretty mediocre considering Richt is the dean of SEC football coaches. And depending on who you talk to seems to be just inches outside the firing zone due to under-performing football teams. I have always thought Georgia matched AU man for man or better. At least in the last 20 plus years it seems that way. Will the trend continue? It’s a fair question. Maybe AU is starting to see the equation invert in its favor. Let’s hope so.

The Gators came in at #8 in rivals in terms of a recruiting class. Coach “Boom” Muschamp signed 24 kids this season. It’s no secret that Muschamp is a horse hair away from being shown the door in Gainesville after last season’s pitiful performance. Anyone who watched him pick fat boy Charlie as his O-Coordinator several years ago knew that was a marriage that wouldn’t end well. I don’t think he has ever recovered from that error. This season out of the 24 kids he signed Muschamp was able to bring in 13 of the ESPN 300 kids. Still, with that ratio he is on is well below his rival’s glide path at Georgia. Will Muschamp make it through the year? If we see the offense stutter… no. I don’t think so.

The next team we will quickly cover is South Carolina. The ole’ Ball Coach knows a thing or three about running a football program and coaching a game. He’s a winner. I have always had great respect for Steve Spurrier. This season the game cocks were able to come in at # 16 in rivals. Coach Spurrier signed 21 commitments but only 10 of these made the ESPN 300 list. Add an additional two people to the JUCO 50 list and you can see why people gravitate to him. Still, I suspect Spurrier has hovered around this ratio in the past yet he still wins. Can he do it in the future?? Who knows?

Rounding out the top 20 teams in recruiting for the SEC would leave Kentucky at #17 and Ole Miss at #19. Kentucky got a new head coach last year and pulled in 28 commitments but still only was able to pull in six players off the ESPN 300 list and one from the JUCO 50 list. For now, I think it’s safe to say Kentucky will have to win the long jump in order to find a way out of last place in the SEC. Suffice it to say I think they will give Vandy a run for their money this year! And in Oxford, if you haven’t seen the change in Ole Miss since Hugh Freeze came to town… you haven’t been paying attention. The Rebels are a bit more competitive of late. This season in recruiting Ole Miss signed 25 kids. Out of that number only four were on the ESPN 300 list. Add to those numbers, five players in the JUCO top fifty and now you’re talking. Regardless, for a program that appeared to be trending up, something doesn’t past the smell test in Oxford. Considering the offense – this team should be higher… maybe it is the State’s racial past that keeps holding it back? It’s hard to explain.

Rounding out the SEC would leave teams like Arkansas, Missouri, Mississippi State, and Vanderbilt. It’s hard to believe the Bret Bielema was able to pull it out like he did but he and the razorbacks finished at #29 in rivals signing twenty four and out of that number securing only three from the ESPN 300 list. And how Mizzou was able to compete for the SEC Championship last year finishing like they did in recruiting… it’s a bit easier to understand how that program goes up and down like it does with Gary Pinkel. This year Mizzou finished at #34 signing 28 players yet only signing two from the ESPN 300 list. Then, talk about your backward coaches… for all the talent he brings… Dan Mullens… the SEC’s most hated coach after the incident with Cam Newton in 2010 – was able to bring the bull dogs in at #40 in rivals recruiting. However, he was only able to secure two from the ESPN 300 list. And rounding out the SEC with a brand new coach is Vanderbilt at #49 in rivals but let’s face it the school sells itself. Still Vandy was able to get 22 signees but only two on the ESPN 300 list.

So I bet right about now you are really wondering about how Auburn did when using this meaningless comparison, right? Well, this is what I wanted to bring to your attention. After his first season at the prettiest village on the Plains… Gus Malzahn was able to turn Auburn around and compete for and win the SEC Championship when most thought we wouldn’t win 7 games. Auburn came 13 seconds away from winning its second national championship in four years. So how did we do in recruiting? Auburn reported in at #9 in recruiting last season signing 24 kids. We had twelve ESPN 300 players and two JUCO 50 folks. That ain’t bad considering.

So how does the SEC look when compared top to bottom?

School

Class   Ranking

Number   of commits

Number   of ESPN 300

Ratio   of Talent

bama

#1

27

22

0.814814815

LSU

#2

23

16

0.695652174

Auburn

#9

24

14

0.583333333

UGA

#7

21

12

0.571428571

Texas   A&M

#6

21

12

0.571428571

USC

#16

21

12

0.571428571

UF

#8

24

13

0.541666667

Tennessee

#5

35

13

0.371428571

Ole   Miss

#19

25

9

0.36

UK

#17

28

7

0.25

Arkansas

#29

24

3

0.125

Vandy

#49

22

2

0.090909091

MSU

#40

23

2

0.086956522

Mizzou

#34

28

2

0.071428571

I realize this means nothing in the overall scheme of things. However it should be enlightening to some. Why? While AU has pulled in a steady stable of top #10 classes… yet AU has continued to lag behind bama in terms of raw talent. I think what this goes to show is that gap is closing. AU, regardless of its position in the poll is getting, according to ESPN’s 300 list more talent than most of the other schools in SEC. Considering our competition that is saying something. Looking at the top three schools alone you could account for at least five national championships and one runner up in the last six years. That’s pretty impressive regardless of my butchering of the time line if I do say so myself. One could make an argument that AU is also in top tier of the SEC now. Again, considering 2012,  that’s saying a whole bunch. But I won’t make that claim until the end of next season.

In closing – whether this is truly indicative of the SEC –  I must say I find the numbers to be staggering. The SEC took a total of 139 kids out of list of 300. And when you divide that number by the total commitments it gives us a ratio that is .40. Amazingly that falls right in the center of the SEC around Tennessee and Florida. The good news is that Auburn is well above that number. The thing to remember is that’s one conference.  To me, that’s mind blowing.  And it completely changes my outlook on the game and how it’s played. It’s truly the game between those that have and those that don’t.

It’s like I said over a year ago… Auburn must continue to Adapt, Improvise, and Overcome if it wants to win championships. It all starts with recruiting. From what I am seeing… I think we are moving in the right direction.

War Eagle!

 

14 Comments

  1. wpleagle says:

    A really interesting analysis, and I for one believe that the more talent is available to a team, given strong coaching, the better it will perform. Without question, it takes the coaching, and Auburn is no stranger to that.
    In 1993, an energized Terry Bowden won big with Pat Dye’s players. (no slam on Coach Dye, but he was ill his last couple of years and badly dragged down by the Eric Ramsey situation.) However, Bowden couldn’t keep the pipeline full, and we know what happened. Coach TT went up and down, mainly down once the recruiting quality declined. Chiz won with Tuberville players and a great JUCO quarterback, but the quality of coaching wasn’t there in 2012. And, of course, Malzahn won big with primarily Chizik players – same crew, better coaching, more emphasis on discipline and togetherness.

  2. Pine Mt Tiger Pine Mt Tiger says:

    Wow WDE, That’s a lot of work. All the SEC recruiting stats is very eye opening. Agree Auburn is moving in the right direction. Enjoyed the read.

    • wde1988 wde1988 says:

      Thanks for the read.

      WDE

    • AubTigerman AubTigerman says:

      Agree PMT, You have to be wowed by the time it took to put this together. And I didn’t realize SEC got close to half of top 300 recruits. That plus good coaching is the reason the conference stays on top.
      Good stuff WDE’88.

      • wde1988 wde1988 says:

        I think that’s what the data shows as well. It’s funny, I always assumed this before I ever looked at the data – I just didn’t realize how much it was true.

        Of course – as someone points out after you get the kid to campus… then it’s all about polishing those physical attributes and coaching them up and putting them on the field with a plan. And then having contingencies ready once the ball is kicked and the first possession begins.

        I guess that’s the reason I love the game of football so (talking College and below). It’s such a dichotomy.

        On the one hand – you can’t say that the raw materials don’t count any more than you can say that the strategy in which they are employed make no difference.

        And for folks reading – I am taking nothing away from lower graded (or less physically endowed) players. There was a time that the recruiting mechanism of the day couldn’t provide the type of insight to a player that coaches have today. Then coaches made basic assessments and recruited them anyway. They felt it was their jobs getting them ready to win on the field.

        Ultimately, I think that a highly endowed player with physical attributes with no plan or strategy to support can offset a player with a low level of physical attributes and a great plan or strategy to support. That’s when it comes down to heart and who wants it more. But can you imagine what you could do if you had both qualities?

        It boggles the mind.

        WDE

  3. Third Generation Tiger Third Generation Tiger says:

    To say the least, it will be very interesting to see how the AU football staff builds on the momentum that they worked so very hard to create. One change that I see that will help them is the emergence of our athletic department as a true TEAM. Jay Jacobs looks to be growing into his position, and then some.

    • wde1988 wde1988 says:

      Completely agree. Jay Jacobs seems to have found his muse. Or backbone. I am not sure which. Regardless, I am grateful for his assertiveness and doing what’s right for Auburn instead of the occasional and somewhat random pick of thirty one flavors… what would have been the most distasteful thing he could have done was to make a vanilia decision. He knew what he wanted. And it proved correct.

      WDE

  4. win4au says:

    Wow! 139 commitments from ESPN’s 300 list came to the SEC. That’s almost half! I wonder where/how the remaining 161 were distributed? Wde1988, get right on that!
    I enjoyed the read.
    WDE

    • wde1988 wde1988 says:

      I think you have hit upon a potential follow on story: I would like to know the same. Specifically about the “most competitive” confrences: ACC, Big twelve, Big ten, and PAC 30.

      Thanks for the read.

      WDE

  5. mvhcpa says:

    I just wanted to sick my head in here, Wde1988, and say great analysis and write-up. Numbers can be lied with, but don’t lie themselves. The SEC is where the kids want to be to play the best football in the nation! MVH

  6. KoolBell KoolBell says:

    This is just great! Now you have to go back and dig up the numbers on the past 8 seasons to show why the SEC is truly the best conference in America. Good luck with that!

    Did I push hard enough?
    A truly remarkable piece you did here. Thoroughly enjoyed your insight on it as well.

  7. wde1988 wde1988 says:

    Thanks KB.

    WDE