Gary Doran

Keeping Elite Recruits Home


How many times have you checked your favorite recruiting website, only to find that an elite local recruit just committed to a school outside the state of Arizona? You wonder, “What is wrong with these elite Arizona kids?” Well we here at the ASU Devils Den were wondering the same thing, so we decided to do some digging on the subject.

We recently researched the recruiting database of looking at what we categorized as “elite” high school recruits (those of the four and five star rating) from 35 different states that have at least one school in the Power Five conferences. The analysis looked over the elite recruits from the 2011 through 2015 recruiting years. There was a total of 1,634 elite recruits categorized by state and region in these 35 states out of a total of 1,713 for the entire country. No junior college recruits were considered in the analysis.

First, let take a look at the results for the state of Arizona. There were a total of 28 elite recruits over the past five years from the state. Here is where they ended up:


It’s bad news when the SEC signs as many of the elite Arizona recruits as does Arizona State. It’s very interesting that from a distance perspective, 50-percent of the elite Arizona recruits signed with a team that was 1,000 miles or more from home. Additionally, about two out of every three of the elite Arizona recruits signed with a Pac-12 team.

The Top Ten States Producing the Most Elite Recruits (2011-2015)


The states of Florida, California, and Texas represented nearly 40-percent of all the nation’s elite recruits for the period analyzed, while the top ten states represented over two-thirds of all elite high school recruits. The Southeast as a whole has been a talent-rich region.  When you combine the four SEC states of Florida, Georgia, Louisiana and Alabama, there were more than 500 elite recruits in that area. Those four states alone just about doubled the amount of all the elite recruits in the western U.S., which is the primary recruiting ground for the Pac-12.

Elite Recruits in the Western States


Based on the number of total recruits in the database for each state, California by far had the greatest percentage of “elite” rated recruits of the top ten generating states, and the western states too. Additionally, Arizona had the lowest percentage of “elite” rated recruits in the western states. The state of Florida alone had more than double the total number of recruits in the database for all of the western states, minus California.

States with the Highest Percentage of Elite Recruits Signing with an In-State School


It’s really no surprise that about 80-percent of the elite recruits in the state of Alabama end up signing with either the Crimson Tide or Auburn. What is a little surprising is that in the competitive world of SEC football, 24 of the 29 elite recruits from the state of Mississippi ended up signing with one of the two in-state Mississippi schools. Additionally, four of the top eight states were ones that had SEC schools within their borders. Although there were no Pac-12 states in the top twelve, California was next up at 13th, with 56.1-percent of its elite recruits signing with one of the four in-state Pac-12 schools.

States with the Lowest Percentage of Elite Recruits Signing with an In-State School


Yes, Arizona is one of the ten states with the lowest percentage in keeping its elite recruits home. Bet that didn’t surprise anyone. Notice that many of the states with low percentages have only one Power Five conference team within its borders. You got to feel sorry for the teams in Colorado and New York, as neither the Buffaloes nor the Orangemen have been able to convince 27 local elite high school recruits to sign with them over the past five years. Look at the poor Mountaineers, their state hasn’t generated one elite high school recruit in the past five years, even South Dakota had one this past year.

Notice that even though Illinois has two Power Five conference teams within its borders, 38 of it elite recruits signed with out-of-state teams. Maryland and New Jersey also let over 70 elite recruits combined sign with out-of-state teams. Also, although Georgia is a hotbed of elite talent in the middle of SEC country, over 70-percent of the elite Georgia recruits signed with a team outside the state, that’s something new head coach Kirby Smart should aim to fix quickly.

One very important issue to realize is that most of the ten states above had teams playing within their borders that had not had a lot of continued success on the football field over the period analyzed, with Arizona and Georgia being the two exceptions.

States with the Highest Average Number of Elite Recruits per In-State School


The table above shows that LSU head coach Les Miles signed an average of 7.5 elite high school recruits per year just from within its own state over the past five years, with the three Florida schools averaging over seven per year. That’s roughly a third of your starting offense and defense each year.  That speaks to being talent rich in your own backyard.

The state of Ohio averaged over 6.5 elite recruits per year for The Ohio State University. That’s good news for the Buckeyes; however, on the downside, better than three out-of-every five of those elite Ohio recruits ended up signing with an out-of-state team.

States with the Lowest Average Number of Elite Recruits per In-State School


The zero elite recruits for the state of West Virginia is just sad. Something not shown on the table, but is a bit of a head scratcher is that the state of Oregon generated eleven elite recruits over the past five years, but only four of them signed with a team in the state. That’s surprising, because it’s at a time when the Oregon Ducks have been a very hot commodity.

Elite Recruits Signing by Region

The 35 states have been categorized into five regions in the US to see if there are any trends in keeping the elite recruits in-state on a regional basis. As a note, the six western states with Pac-12 teams playing within their borders is the only region that has no other Power Five conference team or teams in their borders.


Even though individual states vary quite a bit, most of the regions are somewhat similar in the percentage of elite recruits they keep home. The outlier is the east coast states, where a contributing factor may be that over 60-percent of those states have just one Power Five conference team in the state.  The Mid-American region led by Nebraska, Oklahoma and Texas keeps the greatest percentage of elite recruits in-state.

Who the Elite Recruits from the Top Five States Signed With


If you’re a supporter of the Pac-12 Conference, it’s nice to see that only three-percent of the elite recruits from California end up signing with an SEC team. That’s a big distance and culture away from the Golden State. It’s also interesting to see that most of these top hotbed states for elite recruits have roughly 80-percent of their recruits sign with a conference team playing within the state.  Also, the Pac-12 pulls the second highest percentage of elite recruits from the top-five producing states.

What it All Means
Over the period analyzed, a large percentage of the elite Arizona recruits have been willing to go far and wide to sign with a college program. Also, not many of the elite Arizona recruits have been willing to stay home and play for an in-state school, even though both school have won Pac-12 South Division titles and one had back-to-back ten win seasons.

Based on the numbers, the states with SEC schools playing within their borders averaged almost twice as many elite recruits per school than those states with Pac-12 schools. Additionally, the number would be even higher if the state of Texas was included, since Texas A&M in the SEC. Clearly, the SEC region of the country possesses an abundance of elite high school recruits.

From a conference standpoint, the Pac-12 is the only conference in which none of their associated states have schools from another conference competing within their borders. However, those western states, as a whole, have not been more successful in keeping their elite recruits home compared to the other regions.

The analysis also points out that although winning appears to help in keeping elite recruits signing with their in-state schools, long periods of mediocre to bad football seems to influence elite recruits to go to an out-of-state school. This seems to happen no matter what region of the country the state is located. Long-term winning and long-term losing seems to affects local loyalty among elite recruits.

One final point to be drawn from the analysis is that, although there are a few pockets of in-state loyalty, competition for elite recruits is strong enough to lure a big chunk of them away to teams outside their own state.

About Gary Doran

Gary Doran

Gary graduated from ASU many years ago. After careers working in banking, finance and the financial administration of academic research funding, he is now interested in utilizing his passion for numbers towards two things he thoroughly loves; Arizona State University and college football. He is looking forward to finding the “stories” buried within the numbers on a football stat sheet. He has gone to ASU football games all the way back to the days of Frank Kush and the WAC. He has been married to an amazing ASU graduate for almost forty years, and they currently live in Ventura, CA. Although this may disqualify him from talking football, he and his wife enjoy the practice of yoga and dancing the Argentine Tango. Ole!

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