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February 4, 2015

Another Signing Day That's Great, But Will It Eventually Translate?

Later today, there should be lots of smiles because
of yet another great Signing Day, but will the
smiles still abound in subsequent football seasons?
It's Signing Day! And, at least as of late last night, it appeared Coach Richt and his crew were going to ink another top-10 class by the end of this afternoon. A top-tier class would notably be Georgia's 12th class in a row (2004-2015) of ranking in the nation's top 12, which ironically followed four consecutive years (2000-2003) when the Bulldogs' recruiting class ranked 13th or lower in the country (and, as I've mentioned here before, I prefer using Phil Steele's recruiting rankings because he combines the ratings of roughly a dozen reputable recruiting services into one).

Georgia's Signing Day prowess is widely recognized, like by the SEC Network's Paul Finebaum, who said on his show last week that the Bulldogs were "amazing when it comes to recruiting." He then added, "exactly how that translates on the field...could be why we have so much conversation about Mark Richt." Finebaum indicated the success Nick Saban, for example, had in recruiting "translates" to on-field success, whereas for Richt, not so much.

I wanted to see exactly what Richt's high-ranking recruiting classes had translated towas Finebaum correct in his assertion? I've done something similar at this blog before, comparing annual team recruiting rankings with the final on-field polls during the Richt era staggered by two seasons, assuming it takes about two seasons for your average recruiting class on the whole to make a significant impact, while for what it's worth, it also took two seasons (2001 to 2003) before most of Georgia's starters under Richt were his own recruits, and not Donnan's. 

Calculating the top-25 team recruiting rankings from 2001 through 2012 (where 25 points were given to the team with the annual No. 1 recruiting class, 24 points to the annual No. 2, etc.) and the last 12 final top-25 AP Polls from 2003 through 2014 (where 25 points were given to the team with a final No. 1 AP ranking, 24 points to a No. 2, etc.), I discovered the following, where Georgia's 182 recruiting points ranked 10th in the nation, while its 139 poll points ranked 8th: 

Combined Recruiting Rankings, 2001-2012
Southern Cal, 270
Texas, 253
Ohio State, 230
Florida, 222
Notre Dame, 211
Florida State, 205
Michigan, 205
LSU, 200
Oklahoma, 199
#10: GEORGIA, 182
Tennessee, 166
Miami, 151
Alabama, 147
Penn St, 131
UCLA, 103

Combined AP Poll, 2003-2014
Ohio State, 216
Southern Cal, 179
LSU, 177
Alabama, 170
Oregon, 158
Oklahoma, 145
Texas, 142
#8: GEORGIA, 139
Boise State, 135
Florida, 119
TCU, 118
Auburn, 117
Florida State, 108
Wisconsin, 103
Virginia Tech, 101

I first noticed that of the AP Poll teams ranked 13th or higher, No. 8 Georgia was the only program not to at least play for a national championship from 2003 to 2014 and/or finish an entire season undefeated (as in the cases of Boise State and TCU).

Regardless, I then calculated the correlation coefficient between the recruiting rankings and the AP Polls for all FBS teams, resulting in 0.741Now, I had never even heard of such calculation before last April, but with +1 being a perfect positive correlation, 0.741 is considered "very strong." In other words, there is undoubtedly a relationship between the 2001 through 2012 recruiting rankings and the final AP Poll rankings staggered two years later. Therefore, if a team consistently lands top-10 talent, then it should be reflected on the field with top-10 poll finishes, or what appears to have resulted at Georgia during the Richt regime.

However, although the Bulldogs' national ranking in regards to poll points is two slots higher than that of their recruiting points, the latter is 43 points less than the former, which is the 14th worst, or most underachieving, in the FBS (just below No. 13 Texas A&M, and right above No. 15 Washington). The top-5 overachieving teams and underachieving programs in terms of difference between 2003-2014 poll points and 2001-2012 recruiting points:  
Overachievers, 2003-2014
Boise State, 135
TCU, 118
Oregon, 104
Wisconsin, 87
Louisville, 73

Underachievers, 2003-2014
Notre Dame, -158
Michigan, -131
Tennessee, -128
Texas, -111
Florida, -103
#14: GEORGIA, -43 

Having the 14th-lowest difference in the FBSis it really all that significant? Probably not. Any "underachieving" during the entirety of the Richt era actually pales in comparison to that of Notre Dame, Michigan, Tennessee, Texas, and Florida during the same time frame.

Notwithstanding, Finebaum did say "why we have so much conversation about Mark Richt," and from what I recall, the "conversation" really started to heat up around 2009 when clearly the program's lofty recruiting did not translate in on-field performance. For a smaller sample size, measuring from 2007 through 2012, Georgia had the 7th-most recruiting points in the nation, yet only the 16th-most poll points from 2009 through last season, for a difference of minus-62, or the 7th-most underachieving team in the FBS: 

Underachievers, 2009-2014
Southern California, -101
Texas, -95
Notre Dame, -86
Florida, -85
Michigan, -64
Tennessee, -64
#7: GEORGIA, -62
Miami (Fla), -52
North Carolina, -48
Oklahoma, -45

On the contrary to the first half of Richt's tenure, beginning in 2009, Georgia's underachievement in the polls compared to its recruiting is very much comparable to that of, as mentioned before, Notre Dame, Michigan, Tennessee, Texas, Florida, and you can add USC to the top of the underachieving list.

In summary, the Bulldogs are shaping up to have yet another stellar recruiting class in 2015, but will it eventually translate to stellar seasons? For the past six seasons it hasn't; instead, top-tier recruiting at UGA has translated to top-notch underachieving. 


Jim said...

Sorry Patrick , there are too many other variables to strictly link recruiting polls to success for a school. For every 5 star, 4 star etc., too many things impact a player after they put on the pads in college. Everybody they face in college is as good or better than those in their high school days. Changes occur, compare the emphasis on school work, graduation rates, tolerance of misbehavior at schools.

Otto said...

Agree that there is more to it than stars but the article does make than point that the problem isn't getting talent on campus. It is coaching players up or identifying talent which both fall on the same group of people.

Patrick Garbin said...

Sorry Jim, you must have misunderstood, or not read the entire post. My point is there is undoubtedly a relationship between recruiting rankings and poll rankings; that's evident with a "very strong" correlation. And, with that being said, Georgia has underachieved based on the recruits it has signed, especially the last several years, which I hope even the most apologetic Georgia fan could recognize. That's it. Changes, misbehavior, school work, whatever--they happen everywhere, but the Alabamas, Ohio States, LSUs, etc., recruit well and it translates on the field. But then there's Georgia, Tennessee, Michigan, Texas, and others, who recruit well, but have underachieved.