Does This Class Get a Pass?

On Signing Day, Colorado received the commitments from 17 prospects, with (at least) two players expected to pledge their collegiate loyalty to the Buffs in February.

In the national rankings, Colorado settled in at No. 54 at Rivals (8th in the Pac-12) and at No. 59 at 247 Sports (No. 9 in the Pac-12). There was only one four-star recruit in the Class, tight end Erik Olsen from Heritage high school in Littleton (and that was only at Rivals; 247 Sports had Olsen as a three-star prospect).

Compare … The CU Recruiting Class of 2020, which was signed by Mel Tucker just days before he bolted for Michigan State, was ranked 33rd nationally by Rivals (6th in the Pac-12); 35th by 247 Sports (7th in the Pac-12). There were three four-star recruits in the Class – running back Ashaad Clayton; defensive back Christian Gonzalez; and wide receiver Brenden Rice.

Is the drop off from the mid-30’s nationally back to the mid-50’s nationally in the rankings cause for concern?

Arguments can be made both pro and con … 

Not worried … The Class was relatively small, owing largely to CU’s small senior Class. While its true that teams will be allowed to have more than 85 scholarships next fall – as the 2020 season isn’t counting against any player’s eligibility – there will be a day of reckoning down the road, when teams will be required to get back down to 85 scholarship players. As a result, keeping within shouting distance of the historical allowance makes sense (both practically and financially). But, as we know, a smaller class = less total “points” given by the recruiting services towards the Class overall grade = lower grade nationally.

Worried … The thing is … very few schools went overboard on Signing Day, at least in terms of the number of prospects signed. Oregon, which had a Top 5 Class nationally (the best in school history) had 21 members in its Class. Washington State and USC had 20 apiece … CU, with 19 commitments, was actually fourth in the Pac-12 in signees (Oregon State only signed nine).

So, considering CU was in the top half of the Pac-12 in number of commitments this cycle, the “smaller” sized Class can’t be used as an explanation/excuse for the low ranking.

Not worried … This coaching staff was completely hamstrung by the unique circumstances related to the 2021 Class. Coaching staffs do much of their evaluations and legwork for the next Class when you are allowed to go on the road and recruit in December and January. If you wait until late March or April – as this coaching staff was required to do this year – to extend an offer and begin to cultivate a relationship with a recruit, it could be too late.

Dorrell’s staff has already put out around 200 offers to 2022 recruits … and it is mid-December. After the coaching change, Dorrell wasn’t able to put out his first offer to a 2021 recruit until mid-spring, which again, is too late in most cases for a program that has had CU’s recent history in terms of wins and losses.

Worried … While admittedly not comparing apples to apples here, Mel Tucker got a similarly late start for the Recruiting Class of 2021 at Michigan State. Like Dorrell, Tucker and his staff didn’t get to evaluate in December and January. They didn’t get to put out offers until the spring, and they didn’t get home visits.

But … Tucker’s first Class in East Lansing (which, like CU’s, had 19 signees) is ranked 23rd nationally by Rivals. And it’s not as if Michigan State historically signs great Classes. MSU’s 2020 Class, which was signed while Mel Tucker was putting together the No. 33 Class nationally in Boulder, was ranked 36th.


Plus … It’s not as if Karl Dorrell’s coaching staff was starting from ground zero. Four coaches were retained from the previous staff, including both coordinators. Oh, and the recruiting coordinator, Darrin Chiaverini, was here throughout, presumably getting offers out last December. While there was certainly some lack of continuity in recruiting contacts from the Tucker staff to the Dorrell staff, it shouldn’t have been debilitating.

Not worried … Every coach since Bill McCartney, and likely for decades before, have subscribed to the mantra – “If we can get them to Boulder, we can sign them”. The argument has always been that it was difficult to get four-star prospects to take official visits to Boulder, but that, if you could get them to campus (and, especially now, with all of the bells and whistles associated with the Champions Center), you could get them to come to play for Colorado.

Of course, there were no official visits by the Class of 2021. Some of the local prospects, certainly, could have found their way to Boulder, and may have participated in summer camps in year’s past. But, the majority of signees were only able to take virtual tours, and signed with Colorado sight unseen.

The lack of official visits hurt the Buffs’ chances at any number of potential prospects, a disadvantage which – hopefully – will not hamper this coaching staff going forward.

Worried … We’ve heard that mantra/excuse for decades.

Let’s face it. If the beauty of the campus and surrounding area were the most significant selling points, then Colorado would have dominated the Big Eight. Boulder, Colorado v. Norman, Oklahoma … no contest. Boulder, Colorado v. Lincoln, Nebraska … you’re kidding, right?

Ames, Iowa … Manhattan, Kansas … Stillwater, Oklahoma … Lawrence, Kansas … stop me when you hear about a campus nicer than CU-Boulder.

Sorry, but there has to be more to CU’s below average Class than just the lack of official visits.

Finally, let’s look at a metric which I believe is more indicative of the quality of a Class than star-ratings … number of Power Five offers.

Granted, reported offers are reported by the players themselves, so there is always a chance that a prospect is exaggerating his offer sheet, but not likely by a statistically significant amount.

So, how does the Class of 2021 rate?

Not so good.

CU’s recruits received a grand total of 45 Power Five conference offers, an average of 2.37 per prospect.

Last year’s Class – which apparently will become the standard by which we judge near future Classes – had a whopping 184 Power Five offers, or an average of 8.00 per prospect.

When compared to the first half of the last decade, the 2021 Class holds its own … but do we really want to go back to those days?

The 2010 to 2015 Classes were terrible when it came to Power Five offers. Only one Class relatively strong (2012, with a 3.30 average per commit), with the remainder of the Classes hovering in the 1.00/prospect range.

Since then, however, the CU coaching staffs have been doing better, ranging from 3.00 offers/prospect to the aforementioned 2020 Class, with 8.00 offers/prospect.

If we’re being fair, the second-highest rated Class, in terms of Power Five offers, was the 2017 Class, which was just over four Power Five offers per recruit, so the 2020 Class may be – unfortunately – an anomaly.

But it is certainly something Buff fans will hope future Classes came emulate.

The 2020 Buffs will finish with a winning record, only the second winning record in the past 15 seasons.

The 2020 Buffs should be bowl bound, something which has only happened once in the past 13 seasons.

Will the Buffs’ unlikely “Rise” in 2020 lead to a better-rated Recruiting Class of 2022?

To be determined.

But, at least for now, I’m inclined to give this Class a pass. There are too many variables to the 2020 Recruiting cycle to be view this Class with too skeptical an eye.

Now, as for the Class of 2022 …