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BTI’s Rants and Ramblings: Recruiting Rankings and UK Football, Why There Still Is a Chance…..

cobb breaks a tackle ukathletics

How does a school like Kentucky end up with Randall Cobb?  An NFL pro bowler who was equipped to play the college game at a high level from Day 1 somehow gets out of the South and ends up at Kentucky.  How does that happen?  Can you ever imagine that happening in college basketball?  The reason is not all that difficult.  The fact of the matter is that talent evaluation of high school football players is much more inexact than in college basketball.  There are camps that schools hold and some elite level camps as well that have expanded over the years, but nothing like the AAU circuit.  And because of that, you get the following stats.  Take a look at the TOP 5 players in each football and basketball class from 2007-2010.  And next to each player is where they ended up being drafted in the NFL or NBA Draft.  Those in red fell out of the first round:

2007
Football
Jimmy Clausen: 48th
Joe McKnight: 112th
Eric Berry: 5th
Ryan Mallett: 74th
Carlos Dunlap: 54th

Basketball
Michael Beasley: 2nd
Eric Gordon: 7th
Derrick Rose: 1st
OJ Mayo: 3rd
Kyle Singler: 33rd

2008
Football
Terrelle Pryor: Supplemental Draft
Daquan Bowers: 51st
Mike Adams: 56th
Julio Jones: 6th
Patrick Peterson: 5th

Basketball
BJ Mullens: 24th
Jrue Holliday: 17th
Demar Derozan: 9th
Brandon Jennings: 10th
Scotty Hopson: Undrafted

2009
Football
Bryce Brown: 229th
Rueben Randle: 63rd
D.J. Fluker: 11th
Sheldon Richardson: 13th
Matt Barkley: 98th

Basketball
John Wall: 1st
Demarcus Cousins: 5th
Derrick Favors: 3rd
Avery Bradley: 19th
John Henson: 14th

2010
Football
Ronald Powell: 169th
Seantrel Henderson: 237th
Kyle Prater: Undrafted
Sharrif Floyd: 23rd
Keenan Allen: 76th

Basketball
Josh Selby: 49th
Harrison Barnes: 7th
Enes Kanter: 3rd
Kyrie Irving: 1st
Jared Sullinger: 21st

So, what is the point of all this?  The point is to say that in basketball it is clear that you MUST get the top talent and the recruiting rankings are usually pretty good at picking out that talent.  In football, not so much.  Of the 20 football guys listed above, all 5-star players, only 6 ended up as 1st round NFL Draft picks.  Of the 20 basketball guys, 17 ended up in the 1st round.  If your school is not getting the players at the top of the rankings in basketball, you are going to be at a talent disadvantage.

With that said, it doesn’t mean you can build a football power out of 2 and 3 star guys.  What I like about Mark Stoops is he is building the team out of 3 and 4 star guys and hoping they pan out to be 5-stars.  Boom Williams for instance.  He has 5-star talent and UK was able to land him.  What Alabama and LSU do so well is they accumulate so much 5-star talent that some of them pan out and some don’t.  UK has to HIT on many of it’s 4-star talent.  It’s margin for error in these classes is much thinner. 

But at least in football you have a chance.  In basketball, if you load up with 3-stars in a class and they all hit, you still won’t compete with the big boys.  The talent evaluation is so much better in basketball that the teams like Duke, Kentucky, and Kansas hit on most of their big star guys.  The reason teams like Boise State, TCU, Northwestern, and Iowa can still succeed is their talent evaluation can be better than the Scouts and Rivals of the world.  At this point Mark Stoops has found some diamonds in the rough but still has flopped on too many guys.  He margin for error is thin and getting thinner by the season.  Here is to hoping some of those 3 and 4 star guys turn out to be 5-stars in the future.

Article written by Bryan the Intern

16 Comments for BTI’s Rants and Ramblings: Recruiting Rankings and UK Football, Why There Still Is a Chance…..



  1. Wildcat_love
    8:32 am February 5, 2016 Permalink

    Interesting article BTI. Never considered the comparison between basketball and football recruiting, beyond the camps and AAU circuit.



  2. za
    8:37 am February 5, 2016 Permalink

    Pretty interesting write up, although there are some factors you didn’t mention. One reason that top college football recruits out of high school don’t always translate to top draft picks is because the NFL has a premium on certain positions (i.e.: no running backs go early anymore, despite raw talent alone. NBA take guys early based on potential, and in a lot of cases, the best player available because one guy can change a franchise (LeBron James).



    • ukcamel
      9:08 am February 5, 2016 Permalink

      Yeah I noticed a few of those football players who “fell out of the first round” are pretty good NFL players, while most guys not drafted in the first round in the NBA don’t go anywhere.



  3. satcheluk
    8:44 am February 5, 2016 Permalink

    It’d be interesting to calculate the ratio of 4-5 star athletes that pan out at the 2nd/3rd tier schools vs the top schools, since the top schools don’t have to be as patient. If a 4 star guy goes to a UK, or the like, they are going to get more time to develop (you would think).

    BTI-you might see if you can analyze that.



  4. Bomb Grade
    8:44 am February 5, 2016 Permalink

    Rich Brooks had an uncanny way of finding under the radar talent. The good folks in Blount county always knew that Randall Cobb was way under undervalued. The Vols tried to get in way late and Cobb stood true with his commitment. Brooks had an ace in the hole with Randy Sanders. At no time was UK taking a chance with the 2 star phenom. Yes it is very easy to underscore elite football talent. Nice article.



  5. kycats13
    8:44 am February 5, 2016 Permalink

    Great article, very interesting comparison. Coaching and development is SOOOOOO important for football, because of the above. This is where I think we have been weak.



  6. msnthrop
    8:53 am February 5, 2016 Permalink

    I would ask how many of the basketball players only stayed in school for one year…didn’t some in these lists stay for more than one year of college? If your a top basketball recruit your primary goal during your 8 months of college is to not fail…or to at least not drop in ranking. The analysts that rank high school players are doing so based on what they think the players potential will be in the NBA…college is simply something they are required to do before they can start their real jobs. I might venture the main discrepancy between the football and basketball recruits is time…the football guys have to stay in college for 3 years thus they have much more time in which they have the opportunity to fail. Another possibility is that success in football requires more variables than success in basketball. Rankings often seem to me to be based on body type and demonstration of basic skills, but maybe success in football also needs other factors…say pain tolerance or speed of learning/memorization.



    • satcheluk
      9:18 am February 5, 2016 Permalink

      Semantics really. Many great high school basketball players are basically ready physically for the NBA. football players, not even close. Many top HS football players aren’t even ready for the SEC. It would probably be better to compare the success rate of top Jr High basketball talent to college vs top HS football talent to the NFL. Those development cycles would be more similar.



  7. pithuahua
    9:02 am February 5, 2016 Permalink

    Way to go BTI..! Your analytical mind finally spit out something that made sense. Very nice piece.



  8. pithuahua
    9:05 am February 5, 2016 Permalink

    Way to go BTI.! Your analytical and statistical mind finally spit out something that makes sense. Very nice piece..



    • pithuahua
      9:07 am February 5, 2016 Permalink

      Sorry for double post this page is giving me fits this morning?



  9. Sentient Third Eye
    9:41 am February 5, 2016 Permalink

    The recruiting services rely heavily on summer camps, and that creates another distinction between football and basketball. The best kids are more likely to participate in basketball camps than football. Some of that is because they are two-sport kids and they might play AAU basketball instead of going to a football camp. Some players skip football camps to avoid injury or heal up from the previous season (as they are more likely to be banged up from football season than basketball). And certain hotbed areas tend to dominate the camps so that kids from other parts of the country are not always included. That means that there are a lot of 5-star and 4-star level kids who never get evaluated as such. Maybe as many as half of them in some cases. In basketball, it happens also, but the odds are much less that such a kid will slip through the cracks.



  10. The Rest of the story
    10:20 am February 5, 2016 Permalink

    The long and only hope in UK football is that a 3 star will be a 5 some day. Such is the dreams of the SEC bottom feeders.



  11. Flyrock
    10:46 am February 5, 2016 Permalink

    And UK told Cobb he could play QB while other SEC schools told him he would have to be a receiver.



  12. Biglaw Dawgin'
    10:47 am February 5, 2016 Permalink

    The article suggests that we need our recruits to play better than they are ranked. I disagree. All we need is our recruiting classes to live up to expectations. We had the #29 ranked recruiting class. I’ll take our football team being ranked #29 all day. And our average the last 4 years is the #27 recruiting class. If we merely live up to our recruiting rankings and end the season just outside the top 25, then I’m sure every football fan in the state will be ecstatic. No need to get lucky, we just to actually match the recruiting.



  13. CPACAT
    11:25 am February 5, 2016 Permalink

    Keep writing articles like this and your general level of “suckitude” will definitely decrease:) I think that was a compliment….