Re-Ranking The 2009 Classes: Alabama, LSU Top List

While ranking the current classes is always fun, perhaps the re-rank several years later is the more interesting. By taking a look at how the classes ranked from actual on the field production, we can really see how well a team has been recruiting over the years.

Andy Staples from SI recently re-ranked the 2009 classes and isn’t it interesting that the top two classes were the two teams that faced off in the BCS Championship this year?

1. Alabama

Original Rivals rank: 1
Record since 2009: 36-4
BCS bowl appearances: 2
Conference titles: 1
National titles: 2

2011 starters: OT D.J. Fluker, LB Nico Johnson, CB Dre Kirkpatrick, QB AJ McCarron, RB Trent Richardson, OG Anthony Steen, OG Chance Warmack

This class included a Heisman Trophy finalist (Richardson), the player who made the biggest difference in the BCS title game (McCarron), three members of college football’s best offensive line (Fluker, Steen, Warmack), an elite cornerback (Kirkpatrick) and a playmaking linebacker (Johnson). It also included a role-playing receiver who made a huge catch in the Superdome (Kevin Norwood) and a JUCO transfer offensive tackle who started for the 2009 national title team (James Carpenter).

2. LSU

Original Rivals rank: 2
Record since 2009: 33-7
BCS bowl appearances: 1
Conference titles: 1

2011 starters: DT Michael Brockers, CB Morris Claiborne, Chris Faulk, RB Michael Ford, DT Bennie Logan, DE Barkevious Mingo, DE Sam Montgomery, WR Reuben Randle, WR Russell Shepard, OG Josh Williford

Had LSU not gotten crushed by Alabama in the BCS title game, the Tigers would rank No. 1 and the Crimson Tide would rank No. 2 because of the sheer volume of LSU contributors this class produced. But this exercise is based on results, and one Trent Richardson equals two major contributors by himself. That said, this was a stunning haul for the Tigers, and it underscores just how terrifying that defensive line was this season. A line of Mingo, Logan, Brockers and Montgomery would start for almost any team in the country, but it speaks to LSU’s depth that Logan and Mingo are sometimes used as backups. (They’re listed as starters here because in LSU’s defensive line rotation, the backups can play as many snaps as the starters.)

Moving through the top ten, Staples has Stanford #3, USC #4, then Georgia at #5:

5. Georgia

Original Rivals rank: 6
Record since 2009: 24-16
BCS bowl appearances: 0
Conference titles: 0

2011 starters: WR Marlon Brown, TE Orson Charles, LB Mike Gilliard, DE Abry Jones, OG Dallas Lee, QB Aaron Murray, CB Branden Smith, S Shawn Williams

In 2011, this group helped yank the Bulldogs out of a two-year tailspin. Murray is one of the nation’s best quarterbacks heading into 2012, and Smith is a two-way threat. Charles had a nice career before heading off to the NFL. Jones, Williams and Smith all could have made the same decision. They all probably would have been drafted, but they elected to spend one more season in Athens.

Michigan came in at #6, then South Carolina:

7. South Carolina

Original Rivals rank: 12
Record since 2009: 27-13
BCS bowl appearances: 0
Conference titles: 0

2011 starters: TE Justice Cunningham, DT Aldrick Fordham, CB Stephon Gilmore, S DeVonte Holloman, WR Alshon Jeffery, S D.J. Swearinger, OG Rokevious Watkins

In 2011, the Gamecocks won 11 games for the first time in school history. While defensive ends Melvin Ingram and Jadeveon Clowney and tailback Marcus Lattimore deserve their share of credit, Jeffery was South Carolina’s best receiver, and Gilmore was the Gamecocks’ best corner. Even more importantly, Palmetto State natives Jeffery and Gilmore blazed a trail for the in-state recruits who came after them by refusing to cross the border. Jeffery was the closest, first committing to USC and then almost choosing Tennessee before theĀ “pumping gas” tempest in a teapot. The acquisition of Jeffery and Gilmore launched a period of in-state dominance for the Gamecocks. Lattimore, from Duncan, S.C., signed with South Carolina in 2010. Clowney, a one-time high school teammate of Gilmore’s in Rock Hill and the nation’s No. 1 recruit, signed with the Gamecocks in 2011.

West Virginia came in at #8, Clemson at #9 and Wisconsin at #10.

The Yahoo! blog, Dr Saturday, also has some good analysis on how accurate the rankings have been in recent years. He used an interesting approach to categorize all major division college football teams into “star” categories similar to how a prospect is categorized. He then looked at the winning percentage of the various star categories against others. For example, Florida Gators are a five-star team and the Missouri Tigers are a three-star team (again, based on the criteria used). Overall, the five-star winning percentage against three-star teams is very clear. The wider the expected talent gap based on recruiting rankings, the wider the winning percentage opens up. It’s not perfect analysis, but it does indicate accuracy of the recruiting rankings at least on a generalized level.

 

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