By now we are all familiar with what Kentucky football has been doing on the recruiting trail. The fact that they are #3 in the nation according to rivals speaks volumes for what Mark Stoops and his staff have been able to accomplish in a short time at the helm. Sure, there’s a world of difference between being #3 on August 2nd, and being #3 on signing day, but it’s a start. And it’s a start that will likely have Kentucky finishing with one of their best recruiting classes in the history of the program.
But what does that mean?
If you have been following the Stoops Troops, you already know this, but it bears repeating. Football recruiting is not like basketball recruiting. When it comes to football, to succeed it takes depth. It takes talent, sure, but one stud doesn’t make a team. Just look at Randall Cobb. He is being lauded as one of the most versatile players in the NFL heading in to next season, but his Kentucky teams struggled to be relevant – at no fault of his own. It’s just a different game.
That being said, one recruiting class can mean a lot off the field – but how does it translate to the gridiron? Let’s look at a few examples of what ‘one recruiting class’ has meant for a variety of schools over the past 8 years.
For the purpose of this experiment, I looked at rivals top twenty classes, found schools that made a big jump in one year, and examined how they fared before and after the arrival of that class.
-In 2004, Iowa’s four classes averaged out at 53 nationally. That team went 10-2, and with that momentum added the #11 recruiting class in the nation. In 2005, the Hawkeyes went 7-5 for a net total of -3 wins.
-In 2005, Ole Miss’s four classes averaged out at 37 nationally. That team went 3-8, and with the addition of the #15 recruiting class, improved to 4-8 for the 2006 season. Nothing impressive, but a total change of +1 wins.
-In 2006, Georgia Tech entered the season with a collective average of 62 in recruiting classes. Georgia Tech finished 9-5 and added the #18 recruiting class in the nation. They fell to 7-6 the next season, for a net total of -2 wins.
-In 2007 Minnesota put a team on the field that had an average recruiting class of #64. They limped from start to finish (Rick Pitino joke anyone?) with an 1-11 record. Despite that, they added the #17 recruiting class and improved to 7-5 the next season – a net total of +6 wins.
-In 2010, with an average recruiting class of 55, Louisville went 7-6. Despite adding the #29th rated recruiting class, they fared no better in 2011, finishing 7-6 once again. However, with a year to mature and the #42nd rated recruiting class, they finished 11-2 in 2012. A net total of +0 wins in the first year, but +4 in year 2.
-In one of the more appropriate comparisons due to opponents played, Vanderbilt went in to the 2011 season with a composite class of 73. They finished 6-7 . After adding the #29th rated recruiting class, they went 9-4 the next year. A net total of +3 wins (and+4 respectability in the SEC.)
-For comparisons sake, Kentucky will have a composite class of 50.5 heading in to the 2013 season.
All of this is to say – one recruiting class can make a difference, but it doesn’t make the whole difference. It’s a spark that lights a fire. What really matters is what that class (and the coaches) do with the momentum that comes with a great off season. Can they build off the excitement? By all accounts, it looks like Drew Barker can. Can they follow it up with another stellar class? It’d be great – but not entirely necessary, just look at Louisville. But most importantly, can those players grow and develop while they are here? One great recruiting class means a possibility of a few more wins their freshman year – but it makes all the difference in the world when they are Juniors and Seniors.
So slow your roll, Kentucky fans. Appreciate, love, and get excited for the Stoops Troops. Encourage, support, and cheer for them. But don’t weight them with the world just yet.
Save that for their Sophomore year.