Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Michigan's Football Recruiting Yield Since 2005

In the history of college football, if we were to look up the most consistent and successful football programs, most of them have been true masters at recruiting top tier student athletes.

If you follow college football at all, you probably spend some amount of time looking at recruiting developments for your favorite team. While recruiting is not the most important factor to the success of a football program, it IS the FIRST most important step in terms of establishing winning consistency and long-term program success on the gridiron. The SECOND most important step, and one that that gets rather short shrift by and and other sports media outlets, is the retention and development of recruits.

What makes college football recruiting so damn interesting (and worrying) is that fans consider it to be some kind of compass for the direction in which their favorite college football program appears to be headed. But we all know that getting kids signed is only the prologue.

Signing great classes is not the "be all and end all" of college football success:

Scout.comMichiganCoachRecordOhio StateCoachRecord
200219Lloyd Carr10-3-03Jim Tressel14-0-0
20038Lloyd Carr10-3-025Jim Tressel11-2-0
20045Lloyd Carr9-3-011Jim Tressel8-4-0
20052Lloyd Carr7-5-07Jim Tressel10-2-0
20068Lloyd Carr11-2-011Jim Tressel12-1-0
200710Lloyd Carr9-4-016Jim Tressel11-2-0
20086RichRod3-9-04Jim Tressel10-3-0
200914RichRod 1Jim Tressel 
Average9  9.75 

Good coaching, creative offensive schemes and defensive strategy, superior team conditioning, and overall team chemistry are extremely important factors to consider as well.

But how many times have we witnessed college football fans high-fiving and backslapping each other in self-congratulation whenever their favorite college football team lands a Top 25, Top 10 or even Top 5 ranked recruiting class?
It's even worse when their favorite team somehow recruited a better class than their rivals.

Unfortunately, one or even two good recruiting classes does not a conference champion (or national champion) make.

Fans who celebrate prematurely like this really are “counting their chickens before they even hatch”.

In early May of this year, I explored just one of Lloyd Carr’s recruiting misadventures and it’s aftermath: The 2006 football class signees.

I decided to take a broader look at this issue since 2005. My question is whether we might be able learn something new from recent years Michigan football recruiting. Are we right to be doing cartwheels in the living room whenever Michigan manages to sign a Top 10 recruiting class? Are we right to hold head in hands whenever a recruit leaves or is dismissed from the team?

What I decided to do was capture Michigan’s recruiting classes, player position ranking and player rating from since 2005. I counted up the number of signees (scholarships) each year. I calculated the average player position ranking and average player rating for each class (according to I then factored in the impact of attrition, including career-ending injuries, departures, transfers and dismissals. This is fundamentally an exercise in player subtraction from each class. While the attrition losses themselves have been enlightening to view as they occur over extended periods of time (not always during the year signed), I wanted to see what the impact would be of such player losses in terms of Michigan’s “average player position ranking” and “average player rating” to uncover whether the remaining players strengthened or weakened the class recruiting scores. If anything, the main impact should be a negative one in terms of available players to stack the depth chart.

Here's a summary:

2005 Michigan Recruiting Class
Michigan signed 23 players in February 2006. Eleven (11) of these (50%) would eventually leave or be dismissed from the Michigan team under Lloyd Carr. This was one of the most disasterous recruiting classes in recent history for the Wolverines. Each departure had it’s own sad story. Some of the key casualties to Michigan’s future rosters included: DT Marques Slocum (academic), OL Cory Zirbel (injury), OL Justin Schifano, DT James McKinney, QB/WR Antonio Bass (injury), QB Jason Forcier (transfer to UCLA), Chris LB McLaurin, DB Chris Richards, TB Mister Simpson, DE Eugene Germany and DB Johnny Sears. Many of these players signed in February 2006 and enrolled in September 2006 and, assuming no redshirt, might have been seniors this fall.
The average player position ranking for this class after attrition was 17th.
The average star rating per player after attrition was 3.7 stars.

2006 Michigan Recruiting Class
Michigan signed only 19 players this time. Overall UM roster casualties were lowered to only 4: OL Justin Boren (transfer to OSU), LB Cobrani Mixon (transfer to Kent State), LB Quintin Patilla (transfer to GVSU), DE Quintin Woods (transfer to Kansas). Assuming no redshirt, these players would have been juniors in 2009. The total class yield (so far) is 15 players.
The average player position ranking for this class after attrition was 27th.
The average star rating per player after attrition was 3.5 stars.

2007 Michigan Recruiting Class
Coming off an 11-2 season, Michigan landed 20 signees and the 10th best recruiting class in the land. However, 20% of them would go eventually go bye-bye, including the No. 1 QB recruit in the country Ryan Mallett (transfer to Arkansas), Toney Clemons (transfer to Colorado), Zion Babb, Artis Chambers and Avery Horn. Once again UM’s recruiting yield would be 15 players. A good number of these remaining players are now sophomores on the 2009 Michigan roster.
The average player position ranking for this class after attrition was 20th.
The average star rating per player after attrition was 3.7 stars.

2008 Michigan Recruiting Class
Michigan finished 9-4 in what would be Lloyd Carr’s final year. Michigan embarrassed Gary Danielson, Kirk Herbstreit and Florida by winning a bowl game over a great SEC team. Michigan had just named Rich Rodriguez as the new head coach of the team. Rodriguez secured most of Carr’s commits and nabbed a few more for a big class of 24 players. Michigan’s 2008 class was ranked 6th in the land by Soon we would see attrition rear it’s ugly head yet again as 4 high rated players would depart the Michigan team: 5-star tailback Sam McGuffie (transfer to Rice), OL Kurt Wermers (left team), OL Dann O’Neill (left team), Marcus Witherspoon (transfer to Rutgers). This leaves a total yield of 20 players.
The average player position ranking for this class after attrition was 36th.
The average star rating per player after attrition was 3.6 stars.

2009 Michigan Recruiting Class
This would be the first full class brought in by Rodriguez. It followed UM’s first losing in football season since 1967. gave Rodriguez's solo recruiting endeavors a lashing in the rankings ranking Michigan's haul 14th in the country. was more generous ranking it 8th. Rodriguez signed another big class of 22 players. The attrition numbers for this class are not yet known.
The average player position ranking for this class is 34th.
The average star rating per player is 3.4 stars.

Overall, the impact of class attrition does not always negatively impact the average player position ranking or average player rating (# of stars)for the remaining players of the class after the attrition takes place.

The main damage that attrition causes(aside from shaming the coach and the school's reputation through lazy journalism and media sensationalism) is as we expected. It completely screws up a football team’s future depth chart. Michigan has unfortunately served as a textbook example of this, but other schools must surely suffer under the same phenomenon.

Just look at the total loss of recruits since 2005 and then consider what this might mean for the 2009 team, particularly given the defensive positions of need like DE, DT, LB and the secondary:

No.NamePosNational RankNational RatingResultClass of
1Marques SlocumDT55Academics2005
1Cory ZirbelOL204Career ending injury prior to 2008 season2005
1Justin SchifanoOL164Gave up football, left team2005
1James McKinneyDT114Medical Release, Transferred to Louisville2005
1Antonio BassWR94Career ending knee injury2005
1Jason ForcierQB84Transferred to Stanford/UCLA2005
1Chris McLaurinLB583Left team, medical reasons2005
1Chris RichardsCB563Kicked off team2005
1Mister SimpsonRB533Transferred to Cincinatti2005
1Eugene GermanyDE333Left team, transferred to Ariz. State2005
1Johnny SearsCB313Kicked off team in 20072005
1Justin BorenOL75Transfer to OSU2006
1Cobrani MixonLB304Kent State2006
1Quintin PatillaLB583GVSU2006
1Quintin WoodsDENR2Left team. Plays for Kansas2006
1Ryan MallettQB52Transfer to Arkansas 20082007
1Toney ClemonsWR410Transfer to Colorado 20092007
1Zion BabbWR455Left team 20092007
1Artis ChambersFS334Left team 20092007
1Avery HornTB377Lef team 20092007
1Steve ThreetQB49Transfer to Arizona State 20092007
1Sam McGuffieRB57Transfer to Rice2008
1Kurt WermersOL411Left team Spring 20092008
1Dann O'NeillOL414Left Spring 20092008
1Marcus WitherspoonLB414Transfer to Rutgers2008

Assuming fewer recruit losses over this period, Michigan would almost certainly have far fewer worries than it currently does in the 2 and 3 deep for a number of key positions. Between 2005 and 2008 (so far) for ever 4 players Michigan successfully recruited, 1 player would "escape". This is about 6 players per year during this period.

This can only leave fans wondering all that could have been had Michigan just managed to retain even a few of these highly rated recruits.

Nevertheless, celebrating a strong, Top 10 recruiting class appears to be a rational response despite eventual player departures, as long as no consistent pattern develops that would resemble the train wreck that was Michigan’s 2005 recruiting class.


Brian said...

I think that there is one thing missing from your analysis and that is whether any of the players who left or were kicked off ever became anything anywhere else. It's too soon for McGuffie and the most recent ones, but none of the other guys jump off the page as "my God, we had him and he got away."

Markusr2007 said...

I agree with you completely. I think that aspect is deserving of further research.
Thank you for commenting on my blog.

mjv said...

I somewhat disagree with the concept behind this additional level of proposed analysis. When a player leaves, it is highly likely that they have lost their interest in the game, and as such never fulfill the potential they displayed in HS.

The blame for this lack of interest lies squarely at the feet of the head coach. Thus what the player does after leaving isn't really important to the analysis.

I think that Trevor Pryce is an outlier, not the norm.

Anonymous said...

Johnny Sears was kicked off the team in 2007 and was not "starting CB in 2008"... you may want to correct that because it makes the rest of your data look skewed.

throw46 said...

Actually Jason Forcier transferred to Stanford. Your reference to UCLA is ?
His brother Chris Forcier went to UCLA, abit, briefly, now to Furman. (Cut & Run Forciers')

BobbyDizzle said...

You left Taylor Hill off the list too.

Markusr2007 said...

Thanks for your comments and corrections. I'll amend the post shortly to include them.
Thank you again