(To view the charts with this report, subscribe to Point Spread Weekly)
Championships are often won off the field or court. Recruiting plays such a huge role in college sports, and football is at the top of the list. It is one of the most important factors in building a college football program. However, being versed in the recruiting game shouldn’t be considered essential only for coaches; those betting should have a good handle on it as well. There is naturally a direct relationship between the success a team has on the recruiting trail and what it has on the field.
Fortunately for us bettors, there are now numerous sources that help us to better understand how well a team is faring in the process, not only qualitatively but quantitatively. Perhaps the leader in the arena, and a well-trusted service, 247Sports (247sports.com) logs all of the recruits for every team each season and generates a numerical grade based on the combined scores of the players a team signs. I started a process last year during the COVID-19 downturn in looking hard at these numerical recruiting rankings of the FBS programs over the last decade and more, and as usual, anything numerically rated can be turned into useful foundational betting analysis.
It’s well known that schools like Alabama, Georgia, LSU and Ohio State are wildly successful in the recruiting game, and their consistent on-field success can be attributed accordingly. In fact, Alabama has scored the highest national rating on 247Sports in nine of the last 11 seasons, with Georgia filling in the gaps in the other two years, including 2020. The Tide regained the top spot for 2021. Again, none of this is earth-shattering news, but with all of that said, finding other lower-radar teams that might be ready to surprise because of unusually good or bad recent recruiting classes can be crucial to success in betting on college football. Similarly, knowing which teams are trending in the right or wrong direction in terms of recruiting success can also prove to be beneficial for the handicapper.
Of course, there’s also the matter of taking recruits and making a team out of them, otherwise known as coaching. Knowing which programs make the most or least out of their recruiting classes should be a fundamental part of your college football knowledge base.
I am going to address all of those subjects in this article, including projecting this year’s standings by conference based solely on the recruiting rankings from 247Sports and a predictive formula that I was able to uncover using regression analysis.
2021 Projected Standings using Last 3 Years Recruiting Rankings
After compiling all of the year-by-year recruiting rankings for the FBS teams since 2007, and comparing them to the teams’ actual records and my final power ratings in a given season, I was able to determine that the most predictive time frame of a team’s success on the field came when considering its last three recruiting classes. It was greater than one year, two years, four years, and any special combined formulas I derived using the one- to four-year window. As is the case with any statistical study, there are exceptions to the rule, but knowing what I know from 20-plus years in this industry on both sides of the counter, I am comfortable with using this three-year time window analyzing teams’ prospects for a season. That said, we could see some change to the grades for each window after this coming season because of the extra year of eligibility granted to players (super seniors) following the COVID-19 season.
Here are the would-be projected standings for the 2021 season for each conference using their combined average rank for their last three recruiting classes (2021, 2020, 2019). Remember that these projections include no other factor than the perceived talent level of the players when they signed into each team’s recruiting class.
You will see there are literally no major surprises projected at the top of any of the conference standings. The MAC could see some change from last year based on these numbers, as well as Conference USA. Also, win-starved fans of UNLV could be in for a better than usual season based upon the No. 2 projection in the Mountain West. Surely you can find plenty of more useful tidbits as you study the recruiting rankings chart by conference.
Teams that do the most/least with their recruiting classes
Signing a quality recruiting class is only the start of the story. Coaches need to develop the individual talent they acquire and mold it into a functioning unit in order to be successful. Some programs have demonstrated this ability far better than others. While some programs take a modestly rated recruiting class and make a winning program out of it, there are others that take a highly rated class and underachieve on the field. Let’s take a look at some of the programs that have distinctly demonstrated the opposite ends of this spectrum.
The teams below are sorted by the difference between their average national recruiting rankings over the last five years as compared with their end-of-year power rating on my scale. As you analyze the merits of why each of these teams appears on the list, be sure to consider which programs have made coaching changes in recent years and as a result, how relevant this info might be for 2021.
Top 20 teams whose on-field performance consistently exceeds its recruiting rating
As you look at the teams on the “overachieving” list, you’ll see a common trend in that these schools typically have either stable coaching situations or undergo changes that involve a coach leaving willingly because he was hired away by another program. Such is the case for No. 1 on the list, a program (Appalachian State) that is heading into 2021 with Shawn Clark coaching in his second year, the first time the Mountaineers have had the same coach as the prior season since 2018. Interestingly, the three armed forces teams find themselves in the Nos. 2-3 spots, a credit to the quality character of kids those teams recruit.
Another thing to note here is that the top six teams are all the same as a year ago when I conducted this study, only shuffled a bit differently in the Nos. 3-6 spots.
You’ll find that most of the teams on this list, 15 in fact, are from Group of 5 conferences. Only Kansas State (No. 12), Wisconsin (No. 15), Iowa (No. 17), Oklahoma State (No. 18), and Iowa State (No. 19) represent the Power 5 leagues. The Big Ten teams are particularly interesting cases in that both the Badgers (No. 15) and Iowa (No. 24) have just signed their highest-rated classes (2021 class) in any of the years of my study, which dates to 2007. Perhaps these programs are poised to join the elite class of college football in the coming years?
1. APPALACHIAN STATE: Recruiting Ranking: 102.2, EOY SM Power Rating: 47.2 — Difference: 55
2. AIR FORCE: Recruiting Ranking: 111.2, EOY SM Power Rating: 68 — Difference: 43.2
3. ARMY: Recruiting Ranking: 113.6, EOY SM Power Rating: 73.6 — Difference: 40
4. OHIO: Recruiting Ranking: 113.2, EOY SM Power Rating: 73.4 — Difference: 39.8
5. NAVY: Recruiting Ranking: 106.4, EOY SM Power Rating: 67.4 — Difference: 39
6. WYOMING: Recruiting Ranking: 110, EOY SM Power Rating: 71.6 — Difference: 38.4
7. BUFFALO: Recruiting Ranking: 118.8, EOY SM Power Rating: 83.2 — Difference: 35.6
8. UCF: Recruiting Ranking: 62.6, EOY SM Power Rating: 29.2 — Difference: 33.4
9. TULSA: Recruiting Ranking: 99.2, EOY SM Power Rating: 71.2 — Difference: 28
10. SAN DIEGO STATE: Recruiting Ranking: 86.4, EOY SM Power Rating: 60.6 — Difference: 25.8
11. BOISE STATE: Recruiting Ranking: 61.6, EOY SM Power Rating: 37.6 — Difference: 24
12. KANSAS STATE: Recruiting Ranking: 62.6, EOY SM Power Rating: 39 — Difference: 23.6
13. TEMPLE: Recruiting Ranking: 92.4, EOY SM Power Rating: 70.8 — Difference: 21.6
14. MEMPHIS: Recruiting Ranking: 66.4, EOY SM Power Rating: 45.4 — Difference: 21
15. WISCONSIN: Recruiting Ranking: 34.8, EOY SM Power Rating: 14 — Difference: 20.8
16. BYU: Recruiting Ranking: 70.4, EOY SM Power Rating: 50 — Difference: 20.4
17. IOWA: Recruiting Ranking: 40.6, EOY SM Power Rating: 20.4 — Difference: 20.2
18. OKLAHOMA STATE: Recruiting Ranking: 40, EOY SM Power Rating: 19.8 — Difference: 20.2
19. IOWA STATE: Recruiting Ranking: 50.8, EOY SM Power Rating: 31.2 — Difference: 19.6
20. EASTERN MICHIGAN: Recruiting Ranking: 117.8, EOY SM Power Rating: 98.2 — Difference: 19.6
Top 20 teams whose recruiting ratings have exceeded their on-field performance
The programs on this “underachieving” list are those that more often than not are forced to fire their coaches because of lack of success. At the top of the list is a school (Rutgers) that rehired its most successful coach in program history before last season and enjoyed a renaissance 2020 campaign. In fact, the Scarlet Knights’ “difference” improved by 6.2 since this study last year, meaning another decent won-lost record in 2021 should take them off the top of this underachieving list by next spring.
For the underachieving list, the top four teams remain the same, with a bit of a shuffle. UCLA at No. 9 falls back a bit from its No. 5 ranking last year.
Overall, this list is dominated by Power 5 conference schools, who use the lure of playing in big-time college football games to sign good athletes but haven’t transferred that success to the field.
The only Group of 5 schools you’ll find among this collection of underachievers are East Carolina (No. 9), Texas State (No. 17), San Jose State (No. 18) and Marshall (No. 19). Texas State could find itself off of the list next season, but not for a good reason. The Bobcats scored the lowest-rated 2021 class in the country by far, and thus continued struggles on the field won’t hurt nearly as badly in this form of analysis.
In all honesty, it’s somewhat surprising to see Marshall on this list, as the Herd have had a good run of success. However, Doc Holliday’s recruiting classes were on par with very low-level Power 5 programs, so it could easily be argued that Marshall didn’t achieve anywhere near the level of success it should have recently.
A total of seven teams from this group have welcomed new head coaches for 2021, including Kansas, Tennessee, South Carolina and Illinois among the top eight, so they will be interesting cases to follow.
1. RUTGERS: Recruit Ranking: 54.8, EOY SM Power Rating: 105 - Difference: -50.2
2. MARYLAND: Recruit Ranking: 36.2, EOY SM Power Rating: 76.6 - Difference: -40.4
3. KANSAS: Recruit Ranking: 66.6, EOY SM Power Rating: 104.4 - Difference: -37.8
4. ARKANSAS: Recruit Ranking: 26.6, EOY SM Power Rating: 64 - Difference: -37.4
5. UCLA: Recruit Ranking: 17.2, EOY SM Power Rating: 52.4 - Difference: -35.2
6. TENNESSEE: Recruit Ranking: 12.4, EOY SM Power Rating: 46 - Difference: -33.6
7. SOUTH CAROLINA: Recruit Ranking: 20.2, EOY SM Power Rating: 52 - Difference: -31.8
8. ILLINOIS: Recruit Ranking: 56.4, EOY SM Power Rating: 84.2 - Difference: -27.8
9. EAST CAROLINA: Recruit Ranking: 79.6, EOY SM Power Rating: 106.6 - Difference: -27
10. OREGON STATE: Recruit Ranking: 58.2, EOY SM Power Rating: 84.6 - Difference: -26.4
11. NEBRASKA: Recruit Ranking: 26, EOY SM Power Rating: 51.6 - Difference: -25.6
12. TEXAS: Recruit Ranking: 11.2, EOY SM Power Rating: 36.6 - Difference: -25.4
13. FLORIDA STATE: Recruit Ranking: 5.6, EOY SM Power Rating: 30.8 - Difference: -25.2
14. VANDERBILT: Recruit Ranking: 51, EOY SM Power Rating: 74.4 - Difference: -23.4
15. OLE MISS: Recruit Ranking: 18.8, EOY SM Power Rating: 42 - Difference: -23.2
16. ARIZONA STATE: Recruit Ranking: 26.8, EOY SM Power Rating: 49.6 - Difference: -22.8
17. TEXAS STATE: Recruit Ranking: 102.6, EOY SM Power Rating: 123.6 - Difference: -21
18. SAN JOSE STATE: Recruit Ranking: 87.8, EOY SM Power Rating: 106.2 - Difference: -18.4
19. MARSHALL: Recruit Ranking: 69.4, EOY SM Power Rating: 86.8 - Difference: -17.4
20. NORTH CAROLINA: Recruit Ranking: 27.4, EOY SM Power Rating: 44.2 - Difference: -16.8
Teams whose recruiting appears to be trending in one direction or the other
The recent success, or lack thereof, on the recruiting trail for teams figures to have a direct relationship with how they fare on the field in the coming years. Teams whose classes are improving consistently are likely to become more prominent on the national/conference stage, while those whose class strengths are declining could be experiencing downturns in the near future. Let’s take a look at teams on both ends.
Teams whose recruiting rankings are trending in a POSITIVE direction
Air Force (Last 4 years recruiting ranks: 118, 109, 106, 104)
The Falcons signed a better class than the prior year for the fourth straight season this spring, a good sign considering Air Force has consistently been one of the best “overachieving” teams in the country.
Appalachian State (Last 4 years recruiting ranks: 113, 99, 83, 73)
The Mountaineers classes keep getting better & better despite what has been a flurry of coaching changes in recent years. This program is becoming a legitimate brand name and should continue to have great Sun Belt success in 2021 and beyond.
Boston College (2021 recruiting rank: 37, prior 9-year average 67.7)
Jeff Hatley enters his second season at Boston College riding some great offseason news, as his program signed its best class in any of the last 15 seasons. The results might not show up in 2021, but the future looks bright.
California (Last 5 recruiting ranks: 70, 42, 43, 39, 29)
California’s recruiting is showing a good pattern under fifth-year coach Justin Wilcox. In fact, the 2021 ranking of No. 29 is the school’s highest in 10 years.
Cincinnati (Last 2 average recruiting rank: 41, 2010-19: 61.2)
Cincinnati has put together its best two recruiting classes since before my study (2007). With QB Desmond Ridder back in 2021, Luke Fickell’s success should continue.
Iowa (Last 3 recruiting ranks: 41, 35, 24 – prior 9-year average 44.7)
Coach Kirk Ferentz is the longest-tenured coach in college football, but clearly his recruiting message isn’t getting stale. He just scored his best class in over a decade, and his team could be on the cusp on taking another step forward.
Louisiana (Last 3 recruiting ranks: 76, 79, 68 – prior 8-year average 110.7)
The Ragin Cajuns are making it quite fashionable to play football in Lafayette. The program could make a big jump forward after three straight solid classes, including a decade-best No. 68 ranking in 2021.
Maryland (Last 5 years average recruiting rank: 28.4, prior 6 years: 41.8)
A solid uptick in recent recruiting classes should have Maryland in position to achieve some greater success in the coming years in the Big Ten. To put the 13.4 improvement in perspective over the last five seasons, it is the difference of being a mid-tier Big Ten team or a bottom feeder.
Minnesota (Last 3 years average recruiting rank: 39.8, prior 7 years: 58.3)
Three of the last four P.J. Fleck recruiting classes have ranked No. 38 in the country. From 2010 to 2017, Minnesota football did not have a class ranked better than No. 46. Fleck is having a great impact in the Twin Cities, on and off the field.
North Carolina (Last 2 recruiting ranks: 19, 14 — prior 10 years, just once sub-20)
Mack Brown is having a huge impact on recruiting at North Carolina, so much that this program should be dreaming much bigger on a national scale in the coming seasons.
North Texas (Last 3 years average recruiting rank: 73.7 — prior 9-year average: 106.7)
Coach Seth Littrell and North Texas should be due for a huge rebound after three straight banner recruiting classes by UNT standards.
Oregon (Last 3 years recruiting rank: 7, 12, 6 — prior 9 years, no sub-12 rankings)
Coach Mario Cristobal’s last three classes have been stellar, and the best in recent memory at Oregon, a school that most bettors feel recruits better than it really does. Perhaps the recent uptick is noticed on the field this fall.
Pittsburgh (Last 2 recruiting ranks: 44, 27 — prior 10-year best: 30)
Coach Pat Narduzzi is making Pittsburgh a college football town once again, and in 2021 welcomes the program’s best recruiting class in over a decade.
Texas A&M (Last 3 recruiting ranks: 4, 6, 8 — prior 9-year average: 15.4)
Texas A&M has always had good recruiting classes. Under Head Coach Jimbo Fisher, they have become great. The Aggies have gotten the talent over the last three seasons that have them poised to compete with the elite in the SEC.
UTSA (Last 5 recruiting average: 86.8 — prior 6-year average: 113.7)
While recruiting ranking averages of 86.8 don’t scream of great success, the Roadrunners’ recent five classes are on par with the top teams in Conference USA.
UNLV (Last 2 recruiting ranks: 77, 67 — prior 10-year average: 103.3)
Marcus Arroyo is just in his second year at UNLV, but his impact on the football program should start being felt in the next year or two. The last two classes are the best the Runnin’ Rebels have signed in at least a decade. We’ll see if this team can start turning the corner in 2021.
Wisconsin (Last 3 recruiting ranks: 29, 25, 16 — prior 9-year average: 43.1)
Wisconsin has had a reputation for producing a better product on the field than its talent level indicates. The latter part of that equation could be changing as Paul Chryst has scored landmark classes in three straight years by Badgers standard, topping out at No. 16 for 2021. Are the Badgers ready to join the CFP elite?
Teams whose recruiting rankings are trending in a NEGATIVE direction
Arizona (Last 8 years’ recruiting ranks: 31, 48, 48, 45, 61, 55, 62, 77)
The Wildcats’ classes have dropped from the top 24% in the country to the top 59% in eight years. The shine of playing Arizona football has worn off for top recruits. New coach Jedd Fisch is going to have trouble finding success unless this pattern changes.
Arizona State (2021 recruiting rank: 52, worst since 2011)
The COVID-19 pandemic seems to have had an impact on the 2021 signings in Tempe. Perhaps not enough recruits got to do the in-person visit to see all the wonderful things ASU has to offer. It shouldn’t affect much in 2021, but it could in future seasons.
Connecticut (Last 5 average recruiting ranks: 109.2; 2010-16: 86.3)
Connecticut not only missed an entire football season last fall, but its recent recruiting classes suggest that this program may struggle for a while.
Florida Atlantic (Last 3 recruiting ranks: 61, 73, 82)
Lane Kiffin was a natural when it came to recruiting, and his efforts had a huge impact on FAU’s success in his tenure. It’s obvious that current coach Willie Taggart doesn’t match Kiffin in recruiting or on-field coaching.
Florida State (Last 6 years’ recruiting ranks: 3, 6, 11, 18, 22, 23)
After consistently signing top-5 classes in the early part of the decade, FSU has slipped in five straight years. The fact that the Seminoles haven’t won 10 or more games since 2016 is no accident.
Hawaii (2010-18 average recruiting rank: 94.1, 2019-21: 121.3)
Hawaii is another program that probably suffered from lack of in-person visits last year, as second-year coach Todd Graham’s most recent recruiting class ranked just 124th in the country. That followed a No. 125 in 2020. Recent classes suggest things will get worse before getting better.
Houston (5 straight recruiting ranks of 69 or worse after 36 in 2016)
Houston signed a program-best 36th-ranked recruiting class in 2016 after a 13-1 campaign. Since then it’s been 69, 73, 72, 82 and most recently 83. This won’t help coach Dana Holgorsen recapture that magic anytime soon.
Marshall (2010-19 average recruiting rank: 69.4, last two: 95, 119)
Despite a prolonged run of success, top recruits never seemed to want to turn to Marshall and former coach Doc Holliday. We saw the Thundering Herd on the underachieving list earlier. Two bad classes in a row could drop this team dramatically under new coach Charles Huff.
Michigan State (Last 2 years’ recruiting ranks: 43, 44; prior 10 years, none higher than 37)
East Lansing doesn’t seem to be the football destination it was under former coach Mark Dantonio, as this program has fallen behind almost every Big Ten East Division team in that regard in the last two years. The downward spiral could continue in 2021.
Penn State (Last 4 years’ recruiting ranks: 6, 12, 15, 21)
Most programs would love to have recruiting classes ranked 21st in the country, but for Penn State, the 2021 class was the third straight that didn’t meet the previous year’s standard. That trend is headed the wrong way.
South Carolina (2021 recruiting rank: 79)
Coming off one of the worst seasons in program history, new South Carolina coach Justin Beamer signed what has been ranked as the nation’s 79th-best recruiting class. That is certainly not a good start for the Gamecocks, who never ranked worse than 25th in any of the previous 10 seasons.
Temple (Last 5 years’ average recruiting rank: 103.8; prior 5 years: 71.8)
In Matt Rhule’s tenure with Temple, the program was gaining a strong foothold in the Philadelphia/Pennsylvania recruiting market. A lot has changed since, as three of the last five classes have been ranked 100 or worse.
Texas Tech (Last 5 years’ average recruiting rank: 63.2; prior 8 years: 36.9)
A distinct drop-off in recruiting prowess finds Texas Tech in the midst of a downturn. This year’s class, ranked 72nd, actually dropped behind Kansas for the Big 12’s worst.
Tulsa (Last 5 recruiting ranks: 85, 97, 107, 112, 126)
Tulsa is another program that seems to have hit rock bottom in terms of recruiting, as only five teams ranked worse this season, according to 247sports. Clearly the emerging pattern will not be one of being able to compete in the American Athletic over the next few years.
UCLA (Last 3 years’ recruiting ranks: 40, 32, 31; prior 7-year average, 15.3)
Coach Chip Kelly was expected to have a big impact on recruiting at UCLA. He has, only the impact has been negative. His last three classes have ranked outside the top 30 in the country after regular top-15s in the seven years before. The difference is usually competing for conference championships or not.
Utah State (Last 2 recruiting ranks: 117, 128)
Coach Blake Anderson’s first recruiting class scored 128th in the country, meaning only two FBS schools did worse. This is an inauspicious start, and coming off a season in which the Aggies were one of the worst offenses in football, it doesn’t bode well for an immediate turnaround.
Potential 2021 surprise teams based on recent performance/recruiting
There are naturally teams that surprise each season, both positively and negatively, and many factors contribute to this. From analyzing the recruiting rankings against my power ratings, I came up with some potential teams that show signs of a rapid improvement or decline in 2021.
Teams that could improve significantly in 2020
California got just four games in last year and won only one. The pandemic was treated differently in California, and as such the 2020 season was a virtual throwaway for the Golden Bears. They bring back a solid group of 19 starters, including highly rated QB Chase Garbers, and coach Justin Wilcox just signed the best recruiting class in his five-year stay. The scores his classes have gotten have improved in four straight years. Cal was making good progress as a program before 2020. I look for them to put it together again this fall.
The 2017 and 2018 recruiting classes at Maryland were ranked 18th and 28th, respectively, in the country, and with super seniors now in play because of the extra year of eligibility, the players of those years will be the upperclassmen leading their teams this season. That bodes well for Mike Locksley and the Terps. What also helps is that Maryland played some very competitive football last season, finishing 2-3 and scoring a huge upset of Penn State, with QB Tualia Tagovailoa gaining some valuable experience and production.
The 2017-19 recruiting classes at Miami ranked 17th in the country for the three-year measurement. That has proven to be a key factor for projecting success. Most of those players will be upperclassmen for coach Manny Diaz this season, and that list does not include QB D’Eriq King, who started his career at Houston and had a big year for the Hurricanes in 2020. He surprised a lot of people when he decided to come back for another run. After a huge bowl game performance against Oklahoma State, I expect a big season from him. Miami should be right in the hunt for the ACC crown.
The height of USC’s recent recruiting success came in the 2017-18 seasons, when each class ranked fourth in the country. Those successes came on the heels of back-to-back double-digit-win seasons. The Trojans are just 18-13 since. However, after last year’s 5-1 campaign, combined with the return of stud QB Kedon Slovis and 15 other starters, this could be the season USC makes it back into the national spotlight. This team has a good chance to head to Notre Dame on Oct. 23 undefeated at 6-0, and that contest would certainly put this program back front and center.
Wisconsin has been one of the best programs in the country in winning with modest recruiting classes. But recently the Badgers have picked up the recruiting efforts, scoring program-best classes in three straight seasons. Now we get to see what this program can do with higher-tier talent. One such player is back at quarterback in Graham Mertz, who looked Heisman-worthy in the first two games last season before losing many of his top weapons to injury. The team didn’t really recover until the final two games. With the momentum of a big bowl win and bigger recruiting efforts in tow, coach Paul Chryst might have his best chance at a playoff berth yet.
Teams that could decline significantly in 2021
Buffalo was one of the top teams in the country on my list above for “overachieving,” taking the talent it recruits and making it successful. The problem is that it was with the old coaching staff, and Lance Leipold has moved on to Kansas. Also, the groups that had success in recent years were more highly rated than the players currently on the roster. In fact, the 2018-20 recruiting classes for the Bulls were ranked No. 127 in the country, meaning 247sports found only three worse programs. That’s not a good sign for a new coaching staff that loses its bell-cow runner in Jaret Patterson and brings back 15 starters, a very low total for the MAC.
This might not be popular analysis, as Coastal Carolina was one of the feel-good stories of college football last year, but it seems this program caught lightning in a bottle, rallying around all the adversity that was part of the 2020 season. Sure, QB Grayson McCall had a big year and is back this fall, but the Chanticleers will no longer be under the radar and are still recovering from the season-ending loss to Liberty that derailed their undefeated season. They also allowed 400 yards in four of their last five games. Momentum isn’t on their side anymore. However, most importantly, the 2017-20 recruiting classes combined for 125th best in the country. I don’t see this team overachieving so greatly again in 2021.
The Huskies were one of only two teams not to play a single game last fall, and while returning a full coaching staff and 15 starters represents a stable situation, the program won just nine games over the previous four years. The last three recruiting classes have combined to rank 121st in the country, abysmal for an American Athletic Conference team. The Huskies have three very winnable games, and the other nine should be considered automatic losses.
I wrote about Hawaii in this same spot last year when it had a new coach, new quarterback and only 11 starters back. The Warriors also had the worst two recruiting classes in recent memory in 2019-20. The Warriors proved me wrong under coach Todd Graham, going 5-4. But ther recruiting got worse this spring, as Graham brought in the country’s 124th-ranked class. These poorly rated classes will be relied on this fall. The school is also facing some stadium drama, and one of its best former players, QB Colt Brennan, died last spring. Things aren’t looking up.
It was not a huge surprise that Houston scored its best recruiting class, ranked No. 36, after its 13-1 season of 2015 under Tom Herman. The talent brought in since has not reached that level, with 2017 ranking the best at No. 69 and bottoming out with 82nd and 83rd rankings the last two years under Dana Holgorsen. He is just 7-13 in two seasons with the Cougars, and the talent level doesn’t suggest a quick turnaround. Don’t confuse these Cougars with those of the past under Herman or Major Applewhite.
Not sure if it was just fatigue or something else, but Doc Holliday’s efforts in recruiting waned in recent years, and he was replaced after last year’s 7-3 finish. The problem was the three losses came at the end, when the Herd scored just 23 total points after averaging 37. The crumbs he left for new coach Charles Huff on the recruiting trail wound up in a 119th-ranked class this spring, easily the program’s worst in the last 15 years. That came just one year after a then-low 95th ranking. The lesser talent figures to catch up at some point, and with a new coach in place and the memories of a horrible finish to 2020 still fresh, it just might be this season.
Tulsa is a program whose recruiting classes have been ranked worse than the previous year in four consecutive seasons. This spring, 247sports felt that only four FBS programs signed less talent than the Golden Hurricane. Does this mean the program is headed for dark days? Possibly, as talent is obviously key in competing, and coach Philip Montgomery has been used to working with higher levels of it in recent years. But his last four teams are just 15-30. He also loses multiyear starting QB Zach Smith. Off a 6-3 campaign, this team will be very lucky to reach a bowl game.