Guerry Clegg commentary: Pay attention to team rankings on national signing day

February 4, 2014 

Think those recruiting rankings are meaningless? Consider this:

During the 2012 football season, I did a little informal study of college football recruiting. I wondered if there was any correlation between the ratings of signing classes and on-field performance.

Using Rivals.com's rankings, I looked at the five signing classes that comprised the current rosters for every SEC team. More weight given to the three middle classes to account for attrition for the oldest class and inexperience for the freshmen.

The cummulative ratings were nearly an exact match of the national rankings at the time. The top four programs based on ratings were Alabama, followed by LSU, with Georgia and Florida almost in a dead-heat behind LSU. The only aberration was Auburn coming in at No. 5 based on the rankings but dead last in the standings.

Individually, those star-ratings mean nothing. They would tell that Richard Samuel should have been a better running back than Todd Gurley.

Even an entire signing class could fail to live up to its billing. Georgia's famed Dream Team class of 2011 has produced some solid starters -- center David Andrews, defensive end Ray Drew, cornerback Damian Swann, receivers Malcolm Mitchell and Chris Conley, and linebackers Ramik Wilson and Amarlo Herrera -- but very likely not a single first-round NFL draft pick.

Collectively, the ratings have proved to be a reliable indicator of a team's overall talent.

Translation: Alabama remains the premier program in the toughest conference in college football. Yet Auburn remains within striking distance. And Georgia? The Bulldogs could be losing ground.

By about noon today, the 2014 signing class will be in the books except for a few stragglers here and there.

The Crimson Tide is set to lock up the No. 1 signing class in the country for the fourth consecutive year. Auburn expects to finish in the top 10 for the fifth consecutive year. Meanwhile, barring a strong finish, Georgia could fall short of the top 10 for the third consecutive year. The Bulldogs finished in the top 10 all but once (2010) in Mark Richt's first 11 years as Georgia's head coach.

Team rankings fall short in some areas. They don't measure how teams have addressed needs. Signing three great running backs and four wide receivers means very little if a team doesn't have a good line and a strong defense.

And quarterbacks almost merit their own rating system because a supremely talented team without a quarterback cannot excel.

That explains, at least in part, the disparity in Auburn's cumulative rating and performance. The Tigers didn't have a quarterback, with all due respect to Jonathan Wallace.

As great as Alabama has been in recent years, it's highly unlikely the Crimson Tide would have won a national championship without quarterback AJ McCarron.

That is one thing Georgia has done better than any team in the SEC, including Alabama, under Richt. He has always made signing a quarterback a priority. He inherited David Greene. Then he signed D.J. Shockley, Matthew Stafford and Aaron Murray. He also signed some highly rated quarterbacks who didn't pan out. Joe Tereshinski, Blake Barnes, Logan Gray and now Christian LeMay. He also signed Zach Mettenberger and Nick Marshall, giving him the odd distinction of being the only coach to have signed three quarterbacks who were starters in 2013.

The point is Richt has almost never found himself short-handed at quarterback. The only exception was 2009. Matthew Stafford left a year early for the NFL draft. Cox, signed the year before Stafford, struggled as a starter. Gray, the Missouri high school player of the year, never asserted himself.

Now Richt has Hutson Mason to replace Murray for this year, with Faton Bauta, Brice Ramsey and now Jacob Park competing to be the Dogs' quarterback after Mason is gone.

-- Guerry Clegg is an independent correspondent. You can write to him at sports@ledger-enquirer.com

Ledger-Enquirer is pleased to provide this opportunity to share information, experiences and observations about what's in the news. Some of the comments may be reprinted elsewhere in the site or in the newspaper. We encourage lively, open debate on the issues of the day, and ask that you refrain from profanity, hate speech, personal comments and remarks that are off point. Thank you for taking the time to offer your thoughts.

Commenting FAQs | Terms of Service