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Recruiting Rankings Rant

With less than a week to go before Signing Day (“The Ticker” returns next Wednesday at 6:30 a.m., MT), the University of Colorado sits at No. 28 in the Rivals national rankings; at No. 32 at 247 Sports.

Those national rankings are likely to dip as four- and five-star prospects make their Signing Day announcements, but CU’s Recruiting Class of 2020 is still likely to be either the highest or the second-highest for the program in a decade, right up there with the Class of 2017 (32nd at Rivals; 35th at 247 Sports), which was the Class signed in the wake of the 10-4 season in 2016.

Pretty heady stuff, right?

Still, Buff fans have to take the Recruiting Rankings with a spoonful of sugar (or a shot of whiskey), as Colorado – along with many other schools – is playing against a stacked deck when it comes to national rankings.

A case in point came up recently when New Orleans running back Ashaad Clayton, a CU commit since November 11th, was down-graded by Rivals. Still a four-star recruit, Clayton, who once was ranked as the second-best player in the state of Louisiana, was moved down to No. 11 on the list. Clayton had also been ranked as one of the top 50 players in the nation, but in the “revised” rankings, didn’t even make the list of the Top 250.

That’s quite a drop for a player who had a 246-yard, four touchdown performance in one playoff game a few weeks ago, then went for 238 yards and five touchdowns the following week. In three playoff games, Clayton rushed for 670 yards and 12 touchdowns.

And yet Clayton fell from the top 50 to outside the Top 250 in the national rankings …

Justin Guerriero, publisher for the CU Rivals site, CUSportsNation.com, took a swing at trying to explain why the recruiting analysts had down-graded Clayton:

What I have been told is that a combination of off the field worries contributed to Clayton’s steep fall. There are concerns about his continuous recovery from injury (he tore a meniscus late his junior year I believe).

“Now, again, let me add here that personally, I am fully aware of the stud playoff performances he’s put together recently . Sure seems like that meniscus is fine to me, but alas, what I happen to think in this given situation is far from important.

“I’ve also heard grades are part of the mix here. Needless to say, I would be very surprised if Clayton signs a Dec. 18 NLI.”

First, I give Justin all the credit in the world for even taking on the topic.

Guerriero has no control over the Rivals recruiting analysts, and has done a very good job in his first season covering the Buffs. He, along with Adam Munstertieger at BuffStampede.com, the 247Sports website, perform an invaluable service for the Buff Nation.

But Justin also knew he was sticking his head into the lion’s mouth, and the responses to his report on the Clayton down-grade were predictable. Dropping Clayton like a stone in the rankings a year after he was injured, or dropping him over concerns about grades (anyone want to spend a little time going through the list of five-star SEC recruits, and seeing how many of them have academic issues?) are pretty lame excuses offered up by the Rivals analysts.

The real explanation is too obvious to refute. Clayton was dropped … because he committed to CU.

We all know that recruiting sites are fan driven. The teams with the most fans get the most coverage. When teams get positive coverage, the website covering those teams gets more traffic.

It’s a simple – and understandable – business model.

Fans get excited when their team receives a commitment from a four-star recruit, so it’s not hard to draw a straight line to a profitable website for the recruiting services … teams with more fans will get more traffic on their websites when those teams have higher-rated recruits.

The services can’t rate every recruit as a four-star prospect, though. So, in order to make room for more four- and five-star prospects in the Classes of the more popular teams, some other players – players committed to less popular schools – will have to be dropped.

Welcome to the Buff Nation, Mr. Clayton.

(Another quick example … CU offensive tackle commit Jake Wray was considered by Rivals to be the No. 29 prospect out of the state of Georgia last spring. He is currently rated as the No. 98 state prospect. At 247 Sports, Wray went from a .9643 rating to a .8643 rating. On both sites, Wray was a four-star prospect before he committed to Colorado, but is now considered a three-star prospect).

An example of the other extreme was posted this week on the Rivals site.

A poster going by the name of Elihue Smails noted the meteoric rise of a junior college prospect by the name of Eteva Mauga.

A 6’2″, 210-pound outside linebacker at Diablo Valley Community College, Mr. Mauga was an unrated prospect by Rivals … zero stars. Maugu had offers from four schools: New Mexico; San Diego State; South Alabama; and Southern Mississippi.

On December 6th; Mr. Mauga took an official visit to Nebraska. On December 11th, he committed to Nebraska.

He is now listed as a four-star prospect.

You read that correctly … a prospect who, less than two weeks before Signing Day, was unrated by either Rivals or 247 Sports, is now considered by Rivals to be a four-star recruit (high three-stars by 247 Sports).

While it’s impossible for the recruiting services to keep tabs on the tens of thousands of prospects out there every fall, you would think that a potential four-star prospect would have caught someone’s eye before December … right?? Would have been offered by at least one other Power-Five conference school … right??

Now, you know – you just know – that had CU received a commitment from Eteva Mauga, an unrated player, two weeks before Signing Day, the services would have given him two stars and moved on.

That’s the world we live in.

CU commit Ashaad Clayton, with offers from the likes of Alabama, Auburn, LSU, Georgia, Texas and yes, Nebraska, gets down-graded on the eve of Signing Day (even in the face of a dominating performance in playoff games), while an unrated prospect with offers from the likes of South Alabama and Southern Mississippi is an instant four-star prospect as soon as he commits to Nebraska.

Q.E.D.

This is why, when I post a new CU commit, I post their offer sheet. To me, that is a much better reflection of how a prospect should actually be rated.

Put Clayton’s and Mauga’s offer sheets up against one another in a blind test – one with over a dozen Power-Five conference offers, including almost half of the SEC, vs. one with a total of five offers, with only one of those offers coming from a Power-Five conference school – and there is no question as to which player fans would prefer.

Now, it is important to note that the offer sheets are an imperfect source of information as well.

In my interview with Assistant head coach/recruiting coordinator Darrin Chiaverini this past summer, we talked about offer sheets:

“There’s a numbers game,  as we can only sign a maximum of 25 players per year. So, once those positions are filled in a Class, those offers go away. You see schools offering more than they can take, because they know that not every kid is coming to their school. I think for every school it is going to be different, but for us, under Mel Tucker, we are going to be aggressive in offering kids, so our offer sheet is going to be long.

So, when you offer a prospect, you tell them, ‘We are only taking three defensive linemen, and once we have them, we’re done”?

Yes, we do. We’re very open about that. For example, we are only taking two wide receivers in this Class. We have one commitment right now, so that number goes to one. We’re only going to take one more, so if that spot gets filled, we’re done. I’ve obviously offered a lot more than one guy out there, and they have to understand that once that number gets filled, we’re out of that game. It’s good for us to be transparent with that with the guys that we are recruiting.

Still, while a prospect’s offer sheet may contain offers from schools which may not still be actively recruiting them, they do tend to reflect how many schools – and how many Power-Five schools – thought enough of the prospect to make the offer in the first place.

The CU Recruiting Class of 2020 will be considered one of the best for the school in years.

As noted above, the Class is currently rated as the No. 28 Class by Rivals; the No. 32 Class by 247 Sports.

When comparing apples to apples – how the Recruiting Classes stack up against prior years as rated by the same services – the Class of 2020 is shaping up to be an exceptional Class:

  • 2010 CU Recruiting Class ranking … Rivals: 66 … 247 Sports: 57 … four-star prospects: 1 (Paul Richardson)
  • 2011 CU Recruiting Class ranking … Rivals: 74 … 247 Sports: 64 … four-star prospects: 0
  • 2012 CU Recruiting Class ranking … Rivals: 36 247 Sports: 39 … four-star prospects: 2 (Ken Crawley; Yuri Wright)
  • 2013 CU Recruiting Class ranking … Rivals: 67 … 247 Sports: 68 … four-star prospects: 0
  • 2014 CU Recruiting Class ranking … Rivals: 63 … 247 Sports: 74 … four-star prospects: 1 (Shay Fields)
  • 2015 CU Recruiting Class ranking … Rivals: 70 … 247 Sports: 69 … four-star prospects: 0
  • 2016 CU Recruiting Class ranking … Rivals: 65 … 247 Sports: 69 … four-star prospects: 2 (Beau Bisharat; Juwann Winfree)
  • 2017 CU Recruiting Class ranking … Rivals: 32 247 Sports: 35 … four-star prospects: 2 (K.D. Nixon; Jake Moretti)
  • 2018 CU Recruiting Class ranking … Rivals: 51 … 247 Sports: 53 … four-star prospects: 0
  • 2019 CU Recruiting Class ranking … Rivals: 45 … 247 Sports: 44 … four-star prospects: 2 (Jaren Mangham; La’Vontae Shenault)

Compared to …

  • 2020 CU Recruiting Class ranking … Rivals: 28 … 247 Sports: 32 … four-star prospects: 3 (Brendan Rice; Ashaad Clayton; Christian Gonzalez)

Even by the (skewed) ratings from the biased services, Mel Tucker will have brought in five four-star prospects in his first two Signing Classes. This, for a program which had brought in a total of six four-star prospects over the previous eight seasons (and that’s not even giving credit to Tucker & Co. for graduate transfers – and full season starters – like offensive tackle Arlington Hambright and safety Mikial Onu, or the five-star defensive line prospect, Antonio Alfano, who is transferring in from Alabama).

Signing Day is a fun day for college football fans, and next Wednesday will be no exception.

From the looks of it … even from the services who have a habit of down-grading CU prospects – the CU Recruiting Class of 2020 will be a good one.

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8 Replies to “Recruiting Rankings Rant”

  1. The ratings drops over the years are BS. But the way to correct it is to have winning seasons. I feel Tucker will get us there in year 3 or 4 of his tenure.

  2. I FREAKING KNEW IT!!!!!! I’ve been ranting about the bias and the whys for years!!!! Now the Nebraska committal going from zero to FOUR proves what I have long feared….. but I like the part about listing the offer sheet, that is very telling and honestly where I jump straight to when we get new commits .

  3. Well written! Thank you for pointing this bogus system out. It will take coach Tuck a few years to stop getting his guys downgraded hopefully with some respect.

  4. Thanks for expounding on what most have suspected for a while Stuart. There is so much money and money at stake in college football now it falls into every crack and niche. Money under the table is common place in almost every high dollar business and I am willing to bet it isnt confined to better subscription rates form high profile schools. I wouldn’t be surprised if some one like a Nebraska booster left a bundle of cash in a star giver’s bus station locker to downgrade some one like the Buff’s recruit…..and upgrade theirs.
    I could see that making a recruit think twice either way on his commitment.

  5. Oh yes! When it comes to discussing the complete B.S. that is recruiting class rankings, I always point to the 2009/10 Texas Longhorn signing class. It was ranked in the top 5 by each of the services… because, well, it’s Texas these players are committing to, so obviously they are good, right!? Right!?

    In 2014, Texas was shut out of the NFL draft for the first time since 1937. How’d that top 5 recruiting class ranking work out for you, Longhorns?

    So never forget — as this article above brilliantly points out — the recruitment rankings are about assessing Team Logos on the offer sheets, and not about actually assessing the individual player’s potential talent.

  6. Stuart, isn’t it amazing how much influence the Buffs have on recruiting ratings ?

    I don’t give a rat’s a$$ how much Ashaad Clayton’s ratings fall just because he committed to the Buffs….. the kid is a load for 190 lbs. (with room to grow and put on weight) and, he seems to have good speed.

    Just imagine he and Mister Williams rotating at RB…….by the 4th quarter, opposing LB’s will get tired of seeing either one of them with fresh wheels. Clayton on 1st and 2nd -3rd down and Williams on 3rd or 4th down.

    I’m intrigued by the prospect. SKO BUFFS

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