Part 1 of a 2 Part study on Recruiting in the SEC
Today is the official early signing period for junior college football players. Monday started the high school recruiting dead period in college football, and that means the only college football action is the crazy named bowl games. This dead period gives the recruits a break for the holidays as well as the coaches. It also gave us some time to study the recruiting history of the SEC. The phenomenon of the Honey Badger got us thinking about recruiting stars and the success of players that move from the SEC to the NFL.
Most people know that Tyrann Mathieu was only a four star recruit on Rivals.com out of St. Augustine High in New Orleans, LA. Other recruiting services had the Honey Badger as low as a three star recruit. Mathieu proved all those recruiting experts wrong on his ranking out of high school in just his sophomore year. He was an All-American and a Heisman Trophy finalist after his unbelievable season for the LSU Tigers. Two other Heisman Trophy Finalists Andrew Luck (Stanford) and Montee Ball (Wisconsin) were also 4 star recruits out of high school based on Rivals.com. The Heisman Trophy winner Robert Griffin III (Baylor) was a 4 star, and the last finalist Trent Richardson (Alabama) was the only 5 star recruit. These numbers led us to do some research on the history of the SEC football players’ recruiting stars that are currently playing in the NFL.
We took all the SEC players that signed with an SEC school after 2002 that are currently on an NFL roster, and determined what their recruiting stars were coming out of high school. There are currently 283 former SEC players in the NFL at the start of the season based on rosters at ESPN.com. After further narrowing the list, we found 188 players who signed to their university after 2002 and found their recruiting stars on Rivals.com. We then divided them up in to groups based on their respective university and as a whole for the SEC to determine the average recruiting stars.
From these 283 players, we were able to find the recruiting stars on Rivals.com for the players that signed to their university post 2002. That left us with 188 players on a NFL roster at the start of the season we were able to find their recruiting stars.
The numbers from this study will shock most college football fans, and message board junkies who follow every move a 5 star recruit makes. The average star ranking for an SEC player in the NFL is 3.5 coming out of High School. There was only one team in the conference that averaged over four stars for their current players in the NFL since 2002, and that was the University of Florida (4.16 stars). The other traditional power houses in the SEC finished just above average between 3.5- 4 stars, and they include; LSU (3.78 stars), Georgia (3.83 stars), Alabama (3.6 stars), Tennessee (3.65 stars), and Auburn (3.59 stars). The bottom half of the SEC came in below average, and that includes the following teams; Arkansas (3.18 stars), Kentucky (2.45 stars), Mississippi State (3.3 stars), Ole Miss (2.88 stars), South Carolina (3.33 stars), and Vanderbilt (2.6 stars).
Most people believe that the four and five star players out of high school are the ones playing in the NFL. Truthfully, the five star recruits coming into the SEC only make up 13.8% of the 188 that are currently playing in the NFL. Four Star recruits make up the biggest percentage at 37.8%, three stars a close second with 36.2%, and two stars and below make up 12.2%. The number is somewhat skewed by the number of athletes that achieve five stars which is usually between 25 to 30 athletes opposed to multiple four and three star athletes.
So, what does this mean for recruiting? It means do not put a whole lot of stock in 5 star athletes helping your program. The average star of a SEC player in the NFL is 3.5. The heart of your team is the 3 and 4 star recruits, who come in and have something to prove. There just are not enough five star recruits out there to focus your time on.
In part two of this two part special on recruiting in the SEC, we will break down the number of 5 star recruits in all of college football and how successful they have been in the NFL. It might just break the heart of the diehard message board guys that follow every move a five star recruit makes.