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Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Fun with Numbers: The Best Talent is Home Grown

If the world of coaching college football came down to just, well, coaching, it would be hard to offer much criticism of Georgia's two most recent hires. Both have distinguished resumes, impressive pedigrees and a history of success. But what Todd Grantham and Scott Lakatos both lack is a track record of recruiting the SEC, and therein lies the obvious criticism of Mark Richt's choices.

Now... does having not recruited the South mean they can't recruit the South? Absolutely not. And given that they'll be recruiting for UGA and Mark Richt, a lot of doors will be opened for them regardless of their track record.

(Think of it this way -- I've never interviewed President Obama, but if I worked for the New York Times and they sent me to the White House, I'm pretty sure I can think up a few good questions to ask.)

Still, there's no doubt that recruiting is at the core of success. To paraphrase Bill Parcells, it's one thing to be a great cook, but you also have to have someone who knows how to buy the groceries.

So with that, I want to offer a huge (HUGE!) hat tip to our pal Jim F., a Bulldogs Blog MVP candidate* who I'm fairly certain spends more time thinking about college football than I do. Jim has done some exhaustive research on recruiting going back to 2002, and has graciously allowed me to sift through the results for the blog.

(*Side note: As reader Kathleen pointed out to me last week, I think we need "Bulldogs Blog MVP" t-shirts made up. Kathleen, of course, will get one for suggesting the idea.)

Given the sheer volume of work Jim has done, this just isn't going to fit into one post. So what I'm thinking we'll do here is go through it one dose at a time and see how long we can stretch it out.

(BTW... Jim has started his own blog which you can find HERE. Given the amount of info he's provided me with over the past year, you can rest assured he'll have lots of good stuff on his own site, too.)

Since we're on the subject of Georgia's new coaching staff, however, and the questions remain about how well they'll be able to recruit, I figured a good starting point might be to ask how well Georgia's coaches have already been recruiting.

So... here's what we've got: Jim has collected information on the Rivals Top 100 recruits each year dating back to 2002 (in other words, the top 800 recruits of the past eight years) and sorted them by where they came from and where they went. Let's take a look...

States producing the most top high school recruits:

Pop Rank
Florida 120 4
Texas 107 2
California 101 1
Georgia 47 10
Ohio 34 7
Louisiana 33 22
Pennsylvania 33 6
Alabama 28 23
North Carolina
28 11
Illinois 21 5
Virginia 21 12

*Of note: Next up on the list is Maryland, Michigan and South Carolina with 20, then Mississippi and New Jersey with 19.

So, what do we notice right off the bat from these numbers?

First off, it should be no surprise that the three most consistent winners in the past decade have been Texas, Florida and USC. Those top three states combined to produce 41 percent of the Rivals Top 100 recruits since 2002, and have each produced more than double the No. 4 state on the list.

In fact, more than anything else, you could make a pretty valid argument that the biggest key to success for a college program is proximity to the top recruits. Take a look at the teams with the most wins in the 2000s (*BCS teams only):

Decade W-L
State Recruit Rank
110-18 2
Oklahoma 110-24 17
Ohio State
102-25 5
USC 102-26 3
Florida 100-30 1
LSU 99-31 6
Georgia 98-31 4
Virginia Tech
99-32 10 (t)

Of the eight winningest BCS conference teams in the 2000s, all but Oklahoma pulls from a state that ranks in the top 10 in top-100 recruits produced. (And it's fair to say Oklahoma gets quite a few recruits from Texas, to even out that disparity. In fact, of Texas' 107 top recruits, 18 signed with Oklahoma.)

Add to it that Texas, USC, Ohio State and LSU don't really have an in-state rival that offers anything near the same level of success and you get a situation in which those teams not only have access to the largest number of top recruits, but also have a distinct advantage in getting them. Which leads us to the next question...

Who does the best job of keeping its local talent close to home?

Let's just look at those top producers of talent first:

Top Recruits
Florida 120 80 67%
California 107 61 57%
Texas 101 70 69%
Georgia 47 25 53%
Ohio 34 23 68%
Louisiana 33 26 79%
Penns. 33 11 33%
Alabama 28 21 75%
North Carolina
28 9 32%
Illinois 21 5 24%
Virginia 21 14 67%

("In-State" = players who stayed in state for college, "Percentage" is the percent of overall top-100 players from that state who went to an in-state school.)

Given that Florida has three (and maybe four depending on how you quantify South Florida) teams who can legitimately contend for a BCS title berth, it's not surprising that a large quantity of its best players remain in state. There are plenty of options.

As we mentioned, Ohio State, Texas, USC and LSU lack a truly competitive in-state rival, but all have done a nice job of keeping talent in-state (as has Virginia/Virginia Tech and Alabama/Auburn).

With Illinois and North Carolina, the low number of players who remained in state makes some sense, too. After all, the Tar Heels, Duke, NC State and the Fightin' Ron Zooks are hardly programs that traditionally lure five-star talent on a regular basis. There are far superior out-of-state options for those kids.

The two states that really stand out on this list then are Georgia and Pennsylvania.

To address the latter, Penn State is really the only legitimate football school in Pennsylvania -- and really, one of the few in the Northeast, sad to say. So on one hand, it looks bad that the Nittany Lions aren't keeping talent in state. On the other hand, Joe Paterno can pull recruits nationally and, more improtantly, has a big edge throughout the entire region. He doesn't need to worry as much about closing ranks within the state because he really doesn't have to worry about competitors from neighboring states (aside from maybe Ohio State).

That leaves us with Georgia, which despite having two programs routinely ranked in the top 25, secures just 53 percent of its in-state talent.

Clearly we've seen the Bulldogs make some splashes nationally of late (Stafford, Moreno, Lynch to name a few) and they've gotten some steals in Florida, too (Charles, Murray) but how many are they letting get away from their own backyard?

Here are some numbers:

-- Nine "top" recruits, including three five-star players, have left the state of Georgia to go to a school in Florida since 2002 (six to FSU including one five-star, two to UF, both five stars, and one to Miami).

-- On the other hand, UGA has swiped just three "top" players from the state of Florida, none of which have been five-star guys.

-- Considering that Florida has produced nearly three times as many "top" players since 2002 as Georgia has, but has taken three times as many "top" recruits from the state of Georgia than UGA has from Florida, that's a problem.

(*And as a side note, here are the three UGA stole from Florida: Orson Charles, Aaron Murray and... wait for it... Bryan Evans!)

(*And if you're interested, here's who was stolen from Georgia: Cameron Newton (QB-Fla), Omar Hunter (DT, Fla), Jae Thaxton (LB, FSU), Justin Mincey (DE, FSU), Marcus Ball (LB, FSU), Antwane Greenlee (OL, FSU), Jarmon Fortson (Ath, FSU), Greg Reid (DB, FSU), Allen Bailey (DE, Miami)... not the most impressive list, so perhaps UGA didn't "lose" these guys as much as they "passed" on these guys.)

Anyway, the bottom line, of course, is how many players do you have? Here are the final results in terms of who got the top recruits (remember, there were 800 total)...

Top 100 Signees
USC 72
Texas 49
Florida 47
Fla State
LSU 43
Oklahoma 42
Miami 39
Michigan 36
UGA 35
Ohio State

A couple quick notes from this list:

-- Holy smokes! USC has landed nearly one out of every 10 top-100 recruit since 2002.

-- Miami, Michigan and Florida State have all been "down" during this time... and all rank in the top 10 in most high-end recruits.

-- Georgia ranks pretty high on this list (tied for ninth) and I'd saying calling Georgia the eighth or ninth best program in the country during this span might be a pretty fair analysis. (Although, to be even more fair, some of these recruits have yet to see the field for UGA and the wins earned in 2002 and 2003, for example, had little to do with the recruiting classes those years.)

-- But while Georgia is successful on the recruiting trail, what always seems to get overlooked is that their competition is successful, too. Twenty-one teams have landed at least 10 top-100 recruits since 2002, and of those 21, seven (or 33%) are SEC schools.


OK, that's about all I can read into this without going bug-eyed today. But I'm interested in your thoughts. What jumps out to you from these numbers? Are you concerned about Todd Grantham and Scott Lakatos' ability to keep UGA competitve on the recruiting trail? What happens if Rodney Garner leaves?

Again, this is just the tip of the iceberg on Jim's fine research, so we'll have some more on all this later in the week.


nemov said...

Why should we be afraid if Garner leaves if we're only pulling 53% of the top recruits in state? Florida faces much more stiff competition in the state of Florida and is doing a better job.

If UGA is ever going to reach the top we've got to do a better job of keeping kids in state.

hinesacl said...

I wonder how many times the teams on that list have had to play the other teams on that list in the Richt era?

We know UGA plays UF every year=9 and has played LSU 6 times (four regular season games and two SECCG) and FSU one time. That means UGA has played 16 games against these quality opponents. Also played Bama twice since they've "been back".

UF will be head and shoulders above because they play three teams on that list every year.

Question many do teams like USC play? They had a home and home with Ohio State, but other than that and when they got in the MNC they really have to play anyone? USC's record isn't what is amazing, it's that it's not better with the talent they have + the weak schedule they play.

dawgjammin said...

I think it'd be interesting to see what the ratio on the 2002 and 2005 SEC championship rosters of "in-state" guys vs "out-of-state" guys was.

Then compare that to the last 2 years when we've "under achieved" to see how it stacks up.

It seems there has been a shift of going after players out of the state vs getting in state players. It could be just a percieved disparity and not an actual disparity of late.

If its not an actual disparity, then I challenge this. Look at the Playmakers and Leaders from 2002 and 2005 vs the play makers and leaders from the past 2 years.
Green, Pollack, Moses, C. Johnson, DJ Shockley, R. Brown, F.Gibson, O. Thurman, T. Davis all "In-State" Guys.
Stafford, Moreno, Mo Mass, J.Cox, J.Owens, G.Atkins, are all "out-of-state" guys.

Maybe the instate guys are more dedicated to the success of UGA, the image they portray on and off the field, the discipline the play with the swagger they play with. The guys that were the leaders and play makers of the 2002/2005 teams were lifelong dawgs from the state of GA that grew up with a lot of passion and pride in the team.
The guys from the past few years have been out of state guys with no deep thread of passion for the institution, no knowledge of the history. Maybe they just saw UGA as a launching pad to the NFL...

Thats the vibe this team gives off vs the 2002/2005 teams from this fan point of view.

Chuck said...

Well, that's a little discouraging to read.

I guess we've got no indication that Lakatos and Grantham can recruit, but their not being from the South doesn't mean anything.

Familiarity gets your foot in the door. You've already said they have that due to the brand of flag they will be flying. Salesmanship closes the deal.

Having recruiting ties in the South is a familiarity issue. The question is can these guys sell.

I imagine Grantham is an upgrade over Jancek in that department. Martinez was a good recruiter, so we'll see about Lakatos. And we still have another guy yet to be hired who may be a recruiting stud, but I imagine they'll be better than Fabris was at the least.

kwame said...

Are you hearing anything about the last hire? I haven't heard any names other that Travis Jones, and don't know whether or not he is a realistic candidate.


Sam said...

As the "top" out-of-staters demonstrate, we didn't miss out on much leaving to FL, save Reid.

It would be interesting to see how the programs developed this high-end talent. Bryan Evans and Reshad Jones were both highly touted out of high school. However, they won't be picked during the first day of the draft.

What about a comparison of "top" players (4 or 5 stars) and their eventual draft position? For example, 'Percy Harvey' was a five star player and I think he went in the first round. Spikes and Tebow were both top players and both are likely to go in the first or second round.

I don't care how many five star players a school can get, though it's important for morale. I'd rather see a program turn three start kids into All Americans.

Anonymous said...

I think another thing to look at is that of the top 4 states, Georgia has more states surrounding it with top programs than any of the other states. South Carolina & Clemson are only a coupe hours from Athens. Auburn is so close to the west Georgia border that they routinely go there simply because Auburn is closer than Athens is. Then you have FSU & UF only a couple hours from the towns of south Georgia. I'd say that Georgia and Georgia Tech are keeping more than half of their recruits in-state is a big accomplishment.

Anonymous said...

You could put me down for a "Bulldogs Blog" T-shirt. A hat or bumper sticker would be even better. Time to start thinking franchise.

Anonymous said...

Your comment about "passing" on the nine guys that left GA rings true to me. I don't put much stock in how many stars any recruit has, that's just not always accurate. But the talent escaping our state borders was a shock to me on a post you made before this past season.
When you posted the pre-season All-SEC teams, I was amazed how many members were guys from GA playing for other schools. That is a much more accurate sign of talent than recruiting stars, guys that have actually accomplished something in college (along with NFL draft stats, which is probably even more accurate).
I would think if someone wanted to do some research, a comparison of All-SEC, All-American lists and where they came from and where they played would be more telling than recruiting rankings.
The numbers for in state recruiting don't bother me in the slightest, because the most important aspect of recruiting is not closing the sale, but choosing the right guy to give the pitch to. That's why the new coaches don't bother me, hopefully Grantham's comments about talent evaluation are reason enough for us to be optimistic.
But, Sam, above makes a great point. I would rather have a less talented kid that bleeds red and black, than a superstar just working on his game for the next level.

David Hale said...

Good input guys, and some of this is work that's already done that I'll be posting in the next few days.

Like I said... I've got A LOT planned for the next two weeks or so.

Ant123 said...

David, If you just look at the last 4 years does that change anything? The reason I ask is that Alabama is not on the list and they seem to be doing alright. Besides, Georgia minus Coach Martinez from 2007-2009 might have had numbers comparable to the leaders. I may be wrong but I bet if you looked at just the defensive and especially the offensive lines we look alot worse. We seem to do a better job with the skill guys. What are your thoughts?

Irwin R. Flecther said...


Love the blog...but I'd like to interject that I think the percentages got everyone off track.

Here is where you started off well:

"In fact, more than anything else, you could make a pretty valid argument that the biggest key to success for a college program is proximity to the top recruits."

I think that makes a lot of sense. The problem then is that you then diverge into thinking that state boundaries somehow indicate proximity. Just look at FSU. It is almost the same distance to drive to UGA from Perry, GA as it is to drive to FSU. Proximity isn't accurately defined by state lines.

Anyway, I think the percentages are a red herring. You can only take so many kids no matter how big your state is. The fact is that since there are fewer BCS schools in GA, the percentages are going to look worse. Texas has how many BCS schools? 7? Bama produces about half as many top 100 recruits but has 3 BCS schools...of course their percentage will be higher. It also explains why PA and GA have lower percentages...fewer choices for kids to stay in-state. (It also becomes an interesting thought when you think about how big a state like Texas and California are and how far these kids have to travel to stay 'in state.')

When you have states like Alabama producing half as many top 100 kids as Georgia, Bama and Auburn are going to have to 'get theirs' from Ga, too.

I think as long as you are pulling a high number of top 100 recruits based upon the fact that you can only have X number of scholarship players each year, that is the real measure of recruiting success...and then you can see how other measures such as geography affect that percentage.

I'd be interested seeing a breakdown based upon mileage from the school. That could really tell us something. I think the real issue for UGA isn't 'in state' but it is how often we get beat on players in the Atlanta gut is that is what killed us in the late 90s and that is what keeps us from getting over the hump now.

Andy said...

A point about Florida getting "top recruits" from Georgia-

I think you overstate how much the state of Florida has taken talent from UGA. As you point out, Florida has 3 (almost 4) schools that can recruit big talent. Even with both schools spending the decade in mediocrity, FSU easily trumps Tech in recruiting. The same can be said for Miami trumping Tech.

This leaves Georgia defending the home state against 3 recruiting powerhouses, and I think UGA's 3 to the state of Florida' 9 is pretty good, considering FSU got 6 of those 9. David, I don't know how much time you have spent below Cordele, but FSU fans are very common. This is because Tallahassee is only 30 minutes away from the high school athlete mecca of Thomasville (home of Charlie Ward) and an hour from Valdosta. Down there, FSU is as much a Georgia school as UGA.

Regardless, this is another great post with lots of info. Thanks, David.

Anonymous said...

I have a few Ideas about this also when it comes to recruits. If you look at other states in the sec such as Georgia has more border states than any of the other programs and very little support for the instate school from the AJC. I would like for you to name one State who gives as much print to out of state schools as AJC. ACC and SEC schools spent more time in Ga than any other in the Southeast. The Atlanta area is a hub for the southeast job market with many people moving in from other area.

ernest said...

Great comments about srounding states and schools that are close to our state line. Most are big football schools that we have to defend against. FSU, FLA, ala., aubun, tenn., clemson and s.c.. Richt has done better than his predissors.

I am very confident that our new coaches will improve those numbers.

Omar Hunter wanted to come to UGA, but waited to late to commit.

Anonymous said...

david, hurt locker = great.

Anonymous said...

That list of players from Georgia is actually a pretty impressive list. If you look a little closer at the kind of production that almost all of them have contributed already in college then you'll see quite a few of them are very solid/above average college football players. Some of them are still young so they're not household names yet but there are several studs in that bunch.

My2cents said...

I think we will do fine in state and around the southeast. What I would hope from Coach Lak and Coach Grantham is to get some of the big lineman that come from up north and out in the midwest. There are also usually some good linebackers and skill players from those areas. The way we play next year will open the doors and tweak a lot on interest. We need to be better at which of the best of the best we pick.

Lord Braz said...

This data just tells me that our problem hasn't been recruiting, it's been coaching.

bamadawg said...

Grantham will be able to tell recruits, I've been coaching defense in the NFL for 11 years and I know what it will take for you to get to the next level. How many other DC's in the league can say that. I expect recruiting to improve in the future. Not that it's been so bad in the past, just not coached up to the talent level.

Anonymous said...

Urban Meyer had no ties to the South and has done just fine recruiting since coming from Utah. Also, while your chances of winning do seem to be better with better athletes, much can also be attributed to where these athletes are coached. Defensively, UGA just hasn't done a good job of coaching lately.

Travis said...

i have a problem with calling Penn State the only 'legitimate' football presence in Pennsylvania. What about the fighting mustacios from the University of Pittsburgh?

PTC DAWG said...

I don't care where the recruits come from...just win the East.

Although I would say, all things being equal, give the nod to the local kid...which I'm sure they do.

Anonymous said...

PTC Dawg, +1. I love keeping local talent home to a degree, but feel many UGA fans get too hung up on us taking everyone they see play on Friday nights. I agree that OL and LB talent in the Midwest is something I would like more of. OSU, Nebraska, Wisky, etc., do very well with linemen and LBs from that area.