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February 15, 2013

When Stars Align (Both of them)

Thomas Davis entered UGA as a recruit with only 2
stars, but would depart from school just a few
years later after leaving opponents seeing many.
More than one week after the close of Signing Day, Georgia's new recruits and their number of "stars" appear to remain a topic of conversation for some.
Yesterday at a restaurant, I overheard a man complain to another that the Bulldogs didn't sign any 5-star players; Alabama signs three or four 5 stars every year since Saban got there.  The other man agreed, but responded, that's okay... we signed a bunch of guys and they were all 3 and 4-star players; no 2 stars this year.
Like every year around this time, all the talk of Rivals' "stars" has my head a spinning...  However, I do accept that there is some significance to the Rivals system; the more stars, the better.  A correlation has been shown with the average recruit's star rating, and his chances of eventually being drafted into the NFL.  Likewise, the higher the number of stars the average team signs, usually, the higher the team's ranking in the final polls.
Therefore, I guess not landing a 5-star player could be a concern; however, as the other man indicated, at least Georgia didn't have to "settle" on any 2-star players.
The fact that Georgia signed just 3- and 4-star players in this past class, and no 2s or 5s, should be of little surprise.  In fact, during the Coach Richt era, or since an annual listing of Rivals' star-rated recruits first became readily available, 89 percent of Bulldog signees have been 3- or 4-star players. 
The Bulldogs' star breakdown of their 310 signees from 2001 through 2013:
5 star: 15 (4.8%)
4 star: 148 (47.7%)
3 star: 127 (41.0%)
2 star: 17 (5.5%)
0 star: 3 (1.0%)
Interestingly, of the 20 Georgia recruits that were rated as '2' or 'No' stars during the last 13 years, EIGHT of them were signed in Richt's initial season of 2001. 
Just for stars and giggles, I figured the same breakdown for Alabama since Saban's arrival in 2007:
5 star: 18 (9.8%)
4 star: 99 (54.1%)
3 star: 60 (32.8%)
2 star: 6 (3.3%)
0 star: 0 (0.0%)
Notably, 65 percent of Saban's signees were 4- or 5-star players, compared to 52.6 percent for Richt, or a difference of about 12½ percent.  I won't argue against that this difference in star talent has certainly translated to on-field performances.
Nonetheless, a team is not made up of 5-stars alone.  And, as we all know, there are plenty of newcomers who enter with high expectations but don't quite pan out.  For example, at Georgia under Richt, for every 5-star D.J. Shockley or Matthew Stafford, there seems to have been TWO 5-star Marquis Elmores or Isaiah Crowells.  
Although, for every Shockley or Stafford, there also seems to be a hidden gem a two-star recruit who is able to unexpectedly shine at Georgia.  The following are my top four "two-star treasures" under Coach Richt:   
4) MIKEY HENDERSON: A 2-star recruit in '03, Henderson would hardly play for three seasons before shining as a junior and senior.  In '06, he  returned a punt for a touchdown in the season opener against W. Kentucky after fumbling a sure-touchdown away on his previous return, and returned another punt for a score just over a month later vs. Tennessee.  In 2007, Henderson's touchdown reception in overtime defeated Alabama.  Currently, his 13.2 career punt-return average ranks second-highest all time at UGA of those with at least 40 returns.
3) DREW BUTLER: Granted, you'll never see a 4- or 5-star kicker/punter.  However, the fact that Andy Bailey, Brian Mimbs, and Marshall Morgan were all three-star kickers makes the greatest punter in UGA history and his two stars seem like a steal.  Butler's 45.4 career punting average is more than two yards better than the Bulldog with the second-best mark.
2) TIM JENNINGS: The knock on the two-star cornerback from South Carolina was his 5-8, 165-pound frame.  However, size mattered little for Jennings, who would see significant playing time immediately as a true freshman in 2002 and was starting as a sophomore.  He ended his career with All-SEC honors, the second-most passes broken up in team history, and 10 interceptions.  In 2012, Jennings was a Pro Bowler with the Bears.
1) THOMAS DAVIS: For three seasons from 2002 to 2004, Davis was a prime example of how sometimes the Rivals star system can fall short.  In becoming one of Georgia's greatest defenders of all time, he recorded 280 tackles, 31 quarterback hurries, and forced six fumbles.  A first-team All-SEC selection in both 2003 and 2004, and a first-team All-American as a junior, Davis was good enough to depart early for the pros, becoming the 14th overall pick of the 2005 NFL Draft.
Of the 17 two-star players signed by the Bulldogs, the aforementioned FOUR would all eventually earn All-SEC recognition.  That's rather remarkable, especially considering that of Georgia's 15 five-star recruits during the same period, the exact same number only FOUR received All-SEC honors.
There might be something to the Rivals star system; its hard to argue with its overall accuracy over the years.  However, when its comes to the highest-rated signee, or the lower-rated '2' star, each has evidently fared nearly as well as the other at Georgia. 


Anonymous said...

As usual, interesting article and probabbly one no other GA blog would go thru the trouble to research & write. One question-wasn't Odell Thurman also a 2-star?

AirForceDawg said...

Odell Thurman was a Rivals.com 3-star recruit in the Class of 2001. As a partial qualifier (like Greg Blue), he wasn't allowed to play his freshman season, but started as a sophomore and junior and earned 1st Team All-SEC honors in 2003-2004. Here are his stats in <2 years (he was suspended for the first 3 games of 2004): 184 tackles, 28.5 TFL, 9.5 sacks, 2 forced fumbles, & 2 INTs. After his junior season, he forwent his remaining eligibility to pursue an NFL career.

Recruiting Stars and Starts: UGA Football Edition

73.1% of UGA football enrollees (x223) started at least 1 game during their UGA careers (not including current players that haven’t started a game yet but still have time) since Coach Richt was hired on 26 December 2000.

5-stars: 11 of 12 [i.e., 91.7%] started at least 7 games during their UGA career [avg. 17.8 starts per player]; only Marquis Elmore didn’t start a game (he had surgery on 6 August 2002 shortly after arriving to repair a herniated disk in his back and that seemed to derail his career; however, he did play in 17 games and made 8 tackles)

4-stars: 86 of 110 [i.e., 78.2%] started at least 1 game during their UGA careers

3-stars: 57 of 82 [i.e., 69.5%] started at least 1 game during their UGA careers

2-stars: 9 of 16 [i.e., 56.3%] started at least 1 game during their UGA careers

Unranked: 0 of 3 [i.e., 0%] unranked signees started a game during their UGA careers

Patrick Garbin said...

Guys, Sorry I'm just now getting around to your comments. Anon, what AirForceDawg said regarding Odell... And AirForce, thanks for your comments/analysis.