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USC tops, SEC dominates recruiting past 10 years

Signing Day

As part of their celebration of “Rivals at 10”, has compiled a list of the top schools in the recruiting game over the past decade.

And, in what should come as no surprise at all, a plethora of schools from the SEC litter the Top 25 list, while a Left Coast school is the paper recruiting champion.

Thanks in large part to four No. 1 recruiting classes during that span, USC sits atop Rivals’ Top 25 rankings for individual schools from 2002-11.  Perhaps more impressive than the top classes is the Trojans’ “worst” recruiting showing: 13th in 2002, the year after Pete Carroll‘s first full season at the Los Angeles school.  All told, those recruiting class rankings translated into on-field success for Carroll’s program as the Trojans compiled the third-best winning percentage in the country during the past decade.

Interestingly, the next two schools in the rankings — Georgia at No. 2, Florida at No. 3 — tied for 10th in the country in winning percentage.  Florida, however, has two national titles during that span while Georgia has none, which could explain in part why Mark Richt‘s backside may be inching closer to the proverbial hot seat.

Others, however, fared far “worse” record-wise when compared to their recruiting rankings than did the cocktail partygoers.

Florida State is arguably the most striking example, finishing No. 6 in the recruiting rankings but just 36th in winning percentage.  Other examples of the “coaching matters” principle include Notre Dame (14th in rankings, 46th in winning percentage), South Carolina (15th, 55th), Texas A&M (16th, 59th), UCLA (T17th, 61st), Ole Miss (21st, 70th) and North Carolina (23rd, 80th).

On the flip side, there were other schools that made more than most out of the on-paper rankings, especially Boise State and TCU.

The Broncos had the highest winning percentage of any Div. 1-A school the past decade, but just the 76th-best recruiting ranking.  The Horned Frogs weren’t far behind their (for now) Mountain West Conference colleague with the fifth-best winning percentage while compiling an overall No. 61 in recruiting rankings.

Inside the Top 25, Virginia Tech had the 25th-best recruiting effort over the past 10 years but managed to finish eighth in winning percentage.  Ohio State was 12th in recruiting but No. 2 overall in percentage of wins.

There were just three of the 12 SEC schools that did not make the Top 25, with Georgia, Florida, South Carolina and Ole Miss being joined by LSU (4th), Auburn (8th), Tennessee (T9th), Alabama (13th) and Arkansas (24th).

Here’s Rivals’ complete Top 10 list, but you can view the entire Top 25 by clicking HERE:

1. USC  (nine Top 10 classes)
2. Georgia (10)
3. Florida (six)
4. LSU (seven)
5. Texas (seven)
6. Florida State (eight)
7. Oklahoma (seven)
8. Auburn (six)
T9. Michigan (four)
T9. Tennessee (five)

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30 Responses to “USC tops, SEC dominates recruiting past 10 years”
  1. southernpatriots says: Jul 11, 2011 11:11 AM

    And just to think that most of LSU’s scholarship recruits come from in-state. Recruiting great talent is certainly important, but helping that talent realize their greatest potential and get an education which will help them throughout their lives is important.

    We are glad to see the academic standards being raised in the SEC, over the past couple of decades, with several other universities, along with perennial Vanderbilt, equal to or better than the best around the country.

    We commend our great former coach and now Alabama coach Nick Saban, Coach Steve Spurrier, and our now great coach Les Miles along with most, if not all, the great coaches in the SEC and around the country in helping to mature young men, demanding excellence of them in academics as well as athletics.

    May all have a great upcoming season with no serious injuries and great entertainment!

  2. edgy says: Jul 11, 2011 11:51 AM

    Not surprising, given the talent in the LA *AREA* and a big reason why the Northern schools wanted to keep going to Northern AND Southern California year year.

    Virginia Tech is one of those programs that goes for players that fit their SYSTEM and ratings be damned. They’ve got the kind of name recognition to get higher rated recruits but they spend a lot more time plugging the holes in their roster with guys that wouldn’t play well in other systems. Very smart recruiting strategy because it allows them to keep from bumping heads with the big boys and wasting their time on recruiting a player that they won’t ever get.

  3. southernpatriots says: Jul 11, 2011 12:04 PM

    edgy: Some dear friends who live in the LA area and the members of our family who visited a dear friend’s young daughter undergoing a double lung transplant at Cedars-Sinai all noted the huge number of scouts at every high school football game. Scouts especially from the upper mid-West, and North East. You could tell the scouts who had good reputations with the coaches and staffs and those who did not. Several tussles developed and school security escorted several of these less than desirable characters out to the parking lot. Don’t know what they were told but they did not come back to the game.

    Texas has the best high school football support we have ever seen. On Friday nights, many towns are emptied with everyone at the game or serving those who are going to the game (restaurants, gas stations, etc.)

    Charles, a member of our family, who has posts here from time to time, knows a great high school coach in northeastern Georgia and the whole county there comes to the games. Most of his great players go to Georgia, a few to South Carolina, and a few less to Florida. As with most SEC member university towns, as you have posted before, the players grow up with dreams of playing for their home town team so recruiters from the Big 10, etc. have a hard time getting the 4 star or 5 star athletes.

  4. 78lion says: Jul 11, 2011 12:04 PM

    Shame they don’t do these rankings after enrollment instead of just signing day. I would expect some changes once those signed for the purposes of planting them in junior college because they never were going to qualify are removed from the list.

  5. burntorangehorn says: Jul 11, 2011 12:28 PM

    78lion–absolutely agree. The rankings should remove anyone who never actually enrolls. Just as interesting would be to see what things would look like if they removed anyone who left prior to completing two full years.

  6. tr975 says: Jul 11, 2011 4:37 PM

    Let me get this straight. All through this Jim Tressel/Ohio State ordeal, it has been said over and over (and over and over…) that Tressel, the AD, the compliance department, and the president (let’s see if I remember the term, “the bow-tied under the table paymaster”?) were “cheating” in order to get better recruits to come to Ohio State, covering up what they did when they got them there, etc. Am I correct so far?

    OK, now this list comes out and the Buckeyes are at #12 in recruiting (and #2 in winning percentage, but no one really points that out). If Tressel and the Buckeye athletics department was cheating to get to #12, what were the other 11 schools doing during that time to be ranked higher?

    NCAA, this here is the list you should follow when doing your investigations into programs. Start at the top and just work your way down. And no skipping certain schools in certain conferences (*cough*SEC*cough*).

  7. Deb says: Jul 11, 2011 5:23 PM

    Re your comment about coaching vs. recruiting. You pointed out that South Carolina was 15th in recruiting but 55th in results … so presumably their recruiting is much better than their coaching. Then you point out that Boise and TCU seem to suck at recruiting but have much better results. So they must have superior coaches.

    You left scheduling out of that formula.

    Can’t believe I’m here defending Steve Spurrier of all people, but he has one of the finest college coaching minds in the country. However, look who the guy has to play every year. If he were playing high school teams like Boise, maybe his winning percentage would be more in line with his excellent recruiting skills.

  8. Deb says: Jul 11, 2011 5:24 PM

    @tr975 …

    Just because you can’t beat a program doesn’t mean the other team cheated. At least try to take your lumps like a man.

  9. mdnittlion says: Jul 11, 2011 8:16 PM

    @ Deb

    While I agree with your assessment of Steve Spurrier college coach. There are thousands of Redskins fans that will tell you Spurrier can’t coach at the next level. As an Eagles fan I thank him for his services.

  10. gatorprof says: Jul 11, 2011 9:39 PM

    USC lots of talent, but the rest of their conference was weak and they cheated, so they have zero titles.

    The SEC is stacked with talent and this is largely why there have been the best conference and have made a mockery out of the BCS title game. For the last half decade, the national championship has been determined in Atlanta.

    Spurrier is one of the best offensive coach coaches ever, period. He transformed college football in the south with his fun and gun. Yup, didn’t work in the pros…different skill set required to coach up millionaires vs. kids wanting to get there (ask Carroll, Saban, Holtz, Davis, etc.)…but it doesn’t diminish what he has done as a college coach.

  11. Deb says: Jul 11, 2011 10:31 PM

    @mdnittlion …

    ROFL … so true!! He’s definitely a college guy–although he did well in the USFL with that Bandit Ball offense. As gatorprof says, he’s an offensive guru.

    Thinking of the Redskins probably still makes you smile because either John Elway was 85 percent of the Shanahan/Elway combo … or Shanahan has simply lost his mind since leaving the thin air. I mean … look at his eyes … scary. Unless his decision-making improves, you won’t have to worry about them anytime soon.

  12. tr975 says: Jul 11, 2011 10:50 PM

    Deb says:

    @tr975 …

    Just because you can’t beat a program doesn’t mean the other team cheated. At least try to take your lumps like a man.
    I never said anyone cheated. I was merely going by the fact that all these people were screaming and yelling and pissing and moaning that Tressel and Ohio State were cheating (how selling stuff and getting tattoos is cheating, I will never know, but anyway) in order to get better recruits to start going to Columbus, etc. Now, these rankings come out, showing that 11 other schools were better at recruiting than OSU was, so if OSU was cheating to get better recruits, what were the other 11 schools doing to get better recruits?

  13. southernpatriots says: Jul 11, 2011 11:01 PM

    Deb: Now you are being funny again! ha.

    Knowing Spurrier is one of the best offensive minds in football today, we were so impressed when he heard that Les Miles called the same play against him when he coached at Florida a few years before that. Coach Spurrier watched the whole game on video and came out of his seat when Miles once again called the play and the setter tossed the ball behind his back blindly and it bounced on one bounce (it did not do that when called v. Florida) into the hands of the receiver for a first down, one of the 11 of 12 fourth down conversions for LSU last year. That called play when run v. Florida resulted in an LSU touchdown and eventual win.

  14. Deb says: Jul 11, 2011 11:11 PM

    @tr975 …

    Well, those people are idiots. I’m an SEC diehard and never could stand Ohio State, but I’ve somehow wound up spending my summer defending OSU. I love football, but some days (like today) the fans make me fear for the future of humanity. I can’t imagine why people rejoice so much in others’ misfortunes. Or why they want to claim teams cheated when they didn’t cheat. Or why they need to call Southerners stupid to make themselves feel better about losing to the SEC. It’s just aggravating … and sad.

    No, a group of kids deciding to sell autographs and merchandise for tats and cash doesn’t have anything to do with what happens on the field. And so far I haven’t seen any proof to support the other allegations. Just try and remember the idiots wouldn’t whine that you’re cheating if OSU didn’t have such a great football history.

  15. tr975 says: Jul 11, 2011 11:22 PM

    I just want some consistency. I want these same blowhards who are crying that OSU is a cheater to scream at the same level about all the teams that do something. If that were to happen, I wouldn’t say a word about another conference or another school, because I would see “fairness”.

    It’s like that one person, florida-something (some numbers) saying he was laughing at OSU for their self-imposed punishment yet he/she ignored the fact that West Virginia did they exact same thing. That nothing short of hypocritical.

    The reason I bag on the SEC above all other conferences is simple: I live near the campus of the University of Tennessee and hear nothing but SEC homers go on and on and on about how their teams are the best. I almost got into a fistfight at a gas station because I was reading a newspaper headline before the season about the Vols’ chances in the SEC, the guy behind me started talking about it with me, and I said that I didn’t think their chances were that great. He balled his fist and actually seemed that he was going to throw it based on that simple comment. Plus, seeing the whole Cam Newton thing (with the NCAA’s seemingly 15 second investigation of that), a group of Volunteer football players who were in a bar fight and seriously injured one man and two police officers (no NCAA investigation into that, even though it was admitted that they were let in free because they were players – shouldn’t that qualify as an impermissible benefit?), the overwhelming amount of arrests at Florida while Urban Meyer was coach, among other things, and the NCAA just doesn’t really seem to care. Yet, if it’s a school in another conference, they are right on the case.

    Just want to see some consistency.

  16. Deb says: Jul 12, 2011 12:01 AM

    @southernpatriots …

    It’s been a long, long day, but just thinking about the ol’ ball coach makes me smile. :)

  17. Deb says: Jul 12, 2011 12:23 AM

    @tr975 …

    I know what you mean about consistency. I’m a diehard Steelers fan and extremely disappointed in Hines Ward’s DUI. But when you read the comments from fans of other teams … gee, you’d think all their players came straight from the Mormon Tabernacle Choir.

    This may get me in trouble with fellow SECers, but watch yourself around those Vols fans. I was there during the season once and they were on the radio talking about chasing the opposing bus. I’ve never heard of anything like that in Tuscaloosa. My family went to a game there and the local McDonald’s refused to serve anyone wearing Bama gear. I’ve been served in Gainesville wearing Bama gear. Then they saw Vols fans trying to turn over cars with Alabama plates and the cops weren’t doing anything. They’ve never gone back for a game. So just be careful because it’s not worth getting hurt dealing with crazy people.

    As for WVU, it’s like I told someone the other day about Oregon … I know all OSU’s troubles and almost nothing about the Ducks or WVU. That’s because they’re Oregon and WVU and you’re Ohio State. That’s the price of being in the big time. It’s the same being a fan of the Steelers and Alabama. If one of our players or our program gets in trouble, we are a BIG target. You just have to figure it’s worth it to be a Buckeye.

    I love the SEC and do believe it’s the best conference in football today. But I appreciate football history, so I respect the Big 10 because they’ve been a mighty force in college ball for a long long time. Things change and we don’t know who will be up there five years from now. That’s why no one should ever get too cocky. 😉

  18. florida727 says: Jul 12, 2011 8:42 AM

    Deb says:
    Jul 11, 2011 5:24 PM
    Just because you can’t beat a program doesn’t mean the other team cheated. At least try to take your lumps like a man.
    Deb, you mean except for Auburn, right? :) (Yeah, yeah, I know, Alabama is 40-34-1 overall in the Iron Bowl. Google is a wonderful thing.)

    You brought up a very key point: scheduling wasn’t factored into the equation. I’d be interested to see the comparisons include one more factor… strength of schedule. For example, if Boise had the best win percentage, was 76th in recruiting, and played the 4th toughest schedule, then it tells me Chris Petersen is very UNDERRATED as a head coach. Conversely, if their SOS is, like, 2,014th, then he’s a heck of a recruiter and his AD better take that remedial class in schedule making.

    “tr975”, might want to look up the definition of hypocritical. Laughing at Ohio State has nothing to do with West Virginia. Two separate scenarios, and the discussion was about Ohio State, NOT West Virginia. Let me save you some trouble… the definition of “hypocrite” reads: “a person who pretends to be what he is not”. Now, go ahead, draw some correlation. Good luck. I would encourage you to stick to smaller words, you know, the ones you actually know the meaning of.

  19. Deb says: Jul 12, 2011 11:58 AM

    @florida727 …

    Actually, I’ve posted several times that even though I believe Auburn paid Newton, it doesn’t mean they cheated during a game. They beat us in the Iron Bowl with superior play–even if one day the money trail is uncovered and that win is vacated. No one monkeyed with the scoreboard, spiked our Gatorade, or deliberately sabotaged our performance. We lost to guys who outplayed us. Changing the record books wouldn’t change that.

    Even Auburn gets a pass from me. :)

  20. southernpatriots says: Jul 12, 2011 12:11 PM

    Auburn beat us also. We did not lose by much. We tried hard, but Auburn beat us. Cam Newton led the Auburn team to beat LSU. That is a fact. Auburn went undefeated in the SEC West, SEC and then for the BCS championship. That is not easy to do for anyone, much less a SEC West team. We have great respect for Cam Newton’s athletic ability and the team he lead. This year we hope to avenge that loss and maybe accomplish what Auburn did last year, but that is doubtful, but it is a goal. We hope the truth, the whole truth comes out, but even if the Auburn win would be “vacated” against LSU, we still lost the game on the playing field where it counts. Sadly, “vacated” is now in our vocabulary.

  21. tr975 says: Jul 12, 2011 2:24 PM

    florida727 says:

    “tr975″, might want to look up the definition of hypocritical. Laughing at Ohio State has nothing to do with West Virginia. Two separate scenarios, and the discussion was about Ohio State, NOT West Virginia. Let me save you some trouble… the definition of “hypocrite” reads: “a person who pretends to be what he is not”. Now, go ahead, draw some correlation. Good luck. I would encourage you to stick to smaller words, you know, the ones you actually know the meaning of.
    Ah, an internet tough guy…

    Yes, they may be two separate scenarios as a whole, but the thing that links the issues of Ohio State and West Virginia is the fact of “self-imposed sanctions”, which is the portion of the Ohio State scenario that you were laughing at. Not the issue as a whole, just that part. So, in that regard, you should have maintained the public belief that self-imposed sanctions are a joke in regards to both Ohio State and West Virginia, not just Ohio State.

    There are other definitions of hypocrite, not just the one you picked so as to be vague and make it difficult to use in this situation.

    – a person who puts on a false appearance of virtue or religion
    – a person who acts in contradiction to his or her stated beliefs or feelings
    – a person who pretends to have virtues, moral or religious beliefs, principles, etc., that he or she does not actually possess, especially a person whose actions belie stated beliefs
    – a person who feigns some desirable or publicly approved attitude, especially one whose private life, opinions, or statements belie his or her public statements

    False appearance of virtue: Laughing about the use of self-imposed sanctions by OSU
    Contradiction to stated beliefs or feelings: Failure to do the same concerning use of self-imposed sanctions by WVU
    Feign some desirable or publicly approved attitude: The bashing of OSU using self-imposed sanctions
    Private life, opinions, or statements belie public statements: Failure to bash WVU for employing the same tactic

    Lesson’s over. Do try to keep up.

  22. florida727 says: Jul 12, 2011 5:18 PM

    Deb says:
    Jul 12, 2011 11:58 AM
    Even Auburn gets a pass from me.
    Say it ain’t so !!! :)

    tr975, I bet you spent the better part of your day on your rant. Congratulations. FYI, I WOULD bash WVU for committing the same offense… HAD THE DISCUSSION BEEN ABOUT THEM. Shouldn’t be that tough keeping up. One of those 2 thumbs-up belong to you BTW?

  23. tr975 says: Jul 12, 2011 7:08 PM

    florida727 says:

    tr975, I bet you spent the better part of your day on your rant. Congratulations. FYI, I WOULD bash WVU for committing the same offense… HAD THE DISCUSSION BEEN ABOUT THEM. Shouldn’t be that tough keeping up. One of those 2 thumbs-up belong to you BTW?
    If 10-12 minutes constitutes “the better part” of a day to you, then I guess you would be correct.

    You weren’t commenting about THE OFFENSE, you were commenting about THE SELF-IMPOSED SANCTIONS. You continue to attempt to divert the point of this by trying to change what your focus was. It’s not going to work.

    You took the time to open the article about Ohio State and self-imposed sanctions, yet directly above that article, right above it, the article directly before that one, was the one concerning West Virginia and self-imposed sanctions, so it’s not like it was difficult to miss. Simple truth is, you wanted to join in on the OSU bashing because it somehow makes you feel better about yourself. So, have at it. And, should Florida ever actually get into trouble for anything they may do, I hope you will be willing to “laugh” at them when they offer up self-imposed sanctions to the NCAA.

    As for the thumbs-up, I have no idea who those are from and frankly, I don’t care. I posted the thing and left, I didn’t wait around for it to be accepted by the moderators or whatever occurs, so how could I have given it a thumbs up? Now, as for yours, would that 1 thumbs-up happen to belong to you? ‘Cause one of the thumbs-down definitely belongs to me.

  24. edcolton says: Jul 13, 2011 2:50 AM

    I started playing organized football in the 3rd grade as did most of my Southern classmates around the South. It was wide-open also with option and passing plays taught from day ONE. Southern football tops as SEC wins 6 of last 7 National titles. Many schools top players around the nation are from Florida.

  25. southernpatriots says: Jul 13, 2011 8:27 AM

    edcolton: Our family members began in the 3rd grade also.

    An interesting thing: great high school coaches (that win or come close to winning the state championship each year), go around to the elementary and middle schools, the peewee and other divisions of youth football and make sure the coaches are teaching the same offensive and defensive systems as they teach so when they get the players to high school they are already familiar with the systems, formations, keys, etc. and fit right in to have their skills refined, rather than unlearning and learning anew.

    Most of these high school coaches teach the same systems as do the SEC university football programs near them. We could state numerous examples of this, but it is true throughout the Southeast, we know for sure. We believe it to be the case also throughout the remainder of the South and in Texas.

    This is a well known (among those knowledgeable in football) secret of the excellence of SEC college football players. Some of the best raw athletes, coupled with learning systems that often are repeated over and over as they grow and by the time they reach college, it is second nature.

  26. 1historian says: Jul 13, 2011 10:43 AM

    All of the above points are well made, the arguments and name-calling range from silly to moronic with the occasional intelligent remark thrown in.

    Now let’s go to the other part of the phrase ‘student athlete’.

    Graduation rate?

    Year after year at the top or darn close to it not only in football players graduating but overall student athletes graduating is – The University of Notre Dame.

    Lord knows I’m not wild about the place but facts are facts.

  27. southernpatriots says: Jul 13, 2011 1:41 PM

    1historian: Some of the graduation rates (which are determined within a 6 year window are reflective of the race of student-athletes being studied. That is a shame but it is the case, otherwise why would Florida have such a great graduation rate with the African-American student-athletes in their athletic programs and a little north of Tallahassee in Athens, GA the graduation rate for Georgia is near the bottom?

    Inequities in graduation need to be addressed and great efforts need to be made to emphasize education for the athletes and non-athletes alike. Diplomas from Notre Dame, Northwestern, Stanford, as well as the traditional Ivy League schools are treasured so that may explain their lead in the graduation rates.

    Disparities between Caucasian and African-American student-athletes need to be addressed by universities and by their respective athletic programs. For the most part the “minor” sport athletes help pull up the graduation rates of football and basketball programs.

  28. mdnittlion says: Jul 13, 2011 9:26 PM

    @ 1historian

    Actually that’s not really a fair comparison and I’ll put a link at the bottom of this post. The schools with the best graduation rates are always private schools some of whom never really finish high in terms of wins or AP rankings & have really high academic standards. The truth is if you can go to Duke, Northwestern, a service academy, Notre Dame, Vanderbilt or Rice there’s a very good chance you could go to Harvard. There’s a reason why the Golden Domers get stepped on in BCS bowls, because their playing better athletes that might not be stupid, but don’t have to score high to get into a state school. Just want to say that again going to a state school doesn’t mean your stupid, but the process to get in isn’t anything like an elite private school.

  29. 1historian says: Jul 14, 2011 3:37 PM

    Southernpatriots: Your last paragraph – “Disparities need to be addressed.” Good point – they need to be addressed by the universities in question.

    mdnittlion: “The schools with the best graduation rates are always private schools some of whom never really finish high in terms of wins or AP rankings & have really high academic standards.” Very true, although I do think Notre Dame will be in the top 10 at the end of the upcoming season and Stanford kicked some serious butt last season including Notre Dame.

    But what about when their careers are over? Notre Dame last won the National Championship in 1988. I would be willing to bet good money that the members of that team whose last game was against West Virginia have done a heck of a lot better since then than the members of the team that won it all the next year. (I don’t remember who it was) That is the point I am trying to make.

    Remember Greg Oden the basketball player who played one season for Ohio State in the 2006-2007 season before he went to the draft? According to a story in Sports Illustrated that season his courses in the 2nd semester of his only year there were Sociology and the History of Rock and Roll.

  30. mdnittlion says: Jul 14, 2011 8:45 PM

    @ 1historian

    I can tell you Ricky Watters was on the 1988 Championship team and he won a Super Bowl with 49ers in 1994. The one thing about Notre Dame and Stanford I always like is you hear about former players doing things after they graduated that’s positive, but not always related to football.

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