Gary Doran

Recruiting in the Pac-12: The Haves and Have Nots

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In 2011, the Pac-10 Conference expanded to twelve teams, since then, seven recruiting cycles have taken place including that of this past Wednesday. Now that the 2017 cycle has ended, we at ASU Devils Den thought we’d take a quick look at how recruiting has played out over the seven season from an ASU and conference standpoint. All the recruiting information came from Scout.com.

Total Recruits

Over the seven-year period, a total of 1,647 high school and 247 junior college athletes were signed by Pac-12 during the seven recruiting cycles, thus the average number of signees over this period was 19.6 from high school and 2.9 from junior college for a total of 22.5 signed recruits per year, per team. As a note, ASU averaged only 16.1 high school recruits per year and 6.3 junior college athletes per recruiting cycle, or 22.5 per year with both Dennis Erickson (2011) and Todd Graham (2012-current) as head coach.

High School Signees vs. Junior College Signees

In the past seven years, ASU signed a total of 44 junior college athletes (a whopping 28-percent of all signings during this time), the highest number and highest percentage in the conference. Utah was the next highest percentage (23.4-percent), followed by Oregon State (18.8-percent). The lowest percentage of junior college signees was by the Washington Huskies, only signing seven (4.5-percent). By contrast, over the past seven years, ASU has signed 34 fewer high school recruits than the Washington Huskies, who signed the most high schoolers in the conference during that time.

The difference in the recruiting approaches between ASU and the Arizona Wildcats can be seen in the fact that 28-percent of the ASU recruits have been from the junior college ranks, while only 13-percent of JC recruits have been signed by the Wildcats. Over the seven years, Arizona has signed 28 more high school recruits than ASU and 23 fewer junior college recruits.

It’s also interesting that this past recruiting year was the first time in the Pac-12 era that fewer than 30 junior college recruits were signed by the twelve schools. It really helped that one of the conference’s biggest signers of junior college athletes, ASU, signed the fewest ammount of junior college recruits since Graham took over.

Star Ratings

Less than three-percent of all the conference signees were rated as five-star recruits (54). In the seven years of rankings, Scout.com classified 288 high school and 21 junior college athletes as five-star recruits, thus the conference signed 17.5-percent of all possible athletes in this group.

The leaders securing the most five-star talent was USC and UCLA, who signed 33 of such players, or 61-percent of all the five-star signed in-conference. If Stanford were added to this group, then almost 75-percent of all the five-star recruits signed by the conference went to those three schools. Six schools, Arizona, ASU, Colorado, Oregon State, Utah and Washington State combined have signed a total of three five-star recruits in the last seven years. ASU signed one of the five-star athlete in junior college recruit Davon Durant who never played a down for the Sun Devils due to off the field issues.

Each recruiting year, Scout.com ranks its Top-100 recruits for that cycle. In the seven years of Pac-12 recruiting, 126 signees have been from the Top-100, or roughly 18-percent of possible Top-100 recruits. In the conference, five teams have signed 116 of the Top-100 recruits (92-percent). The remaining seven conference teams have signed a total of ten Top-100 recruits over a seven-year period. Clearly there is a large gulf between the elite and non-elite programs within the conference. Over the seven years, ASU signed one Top 100 recruit, defensive lineman Joseph Wicker, at #93 in 2015.

When it comes to four-star recruits, ASU ranks sixth in the conference in the number of signees with 33 over the seven years; that’s over 20-percent of all the signed recruits during the period for the Devils. On the other hand, Arizona has only signed 15 four-star recruits which represents less than ten-percent of its seven recruiting classes.

Over the seven-year period, the conference averaged roughly 18-percent of the signees being rated as less than three-stars. This type of rated athletes can work out if recruited correctly, but overall, their fail rate is greater than those ranked higher. It would make sense to limit the number of this level of athlete. On a percentage basis, Stanford has taken the smallest percentage of athletes ranked lower than three-stars (3.7-percent). ASU is right in the middle of the conference (15.3-percent), meaning that on average out of every 6.5 recruits signed, 5.5 are rated as three-star or higher.

On the other hand, roughly a third of all the signed recruits to Washington State were ranked less than three-stars (32.6-percent), the is the highest in the conference. The Cougars were followed by Colorado which signed (31.8-percent) of it classes with less than three-star athletes. Oregon State signed the next most recruits that were rated less than three-stars (30.1-percent).

National Rankings

We determined an average national ranking over the seven years for each school on a fairly simplistic basis in adding all seven years of ranking and then dividing by seven to get an average. That’s not precise, by representational. Based on the calculation, USC averaged a top ten ranking nationally with a 10.1 average. Oregon and UCLA were next at 18.1 and 18.4 respectfully. Stanford and Washington tied at 24.1, while ASU was next at 35.0, followed closely by Cal at 36.9. Arizona was eighth at 43.1, with Utah right behind at 44.7. The Cougars and Beavers tied at 48.1, while Colorado finished last in the conference with an average national ranking of 57.4. Taken as a whole, the conference averaged 34.0 in national ranking.

Offense vs. Defense

The team that recruited the greatest percentage of offensive recruits during this time was Utah with 56.3-percent. Stanford was the next highest percentage at 56-percent. On the defensive side, only two teams signed more defensive players than offensive; Oregon State (52.8%) and Arizona (50.6%). Strangely enough, over this seven year period, ASU signed exactly the same number of offensive as defensive recruits.

What the Numbers Mean

For ASU, the past six cycles of recruiting in the Pac-12 era come on Graham’s watch, and even though he has elevated the program in the number of high-level recruits signing with ASU, the program is just in the middle of the conference in the quality of recruits being signed. It’s hard to wake a sleeping giant consistently with an average level of talent coming in compared to the rest of your conference.

Another glaring area that the numbers point out is the wide gap between the few elite programs in the conference in terms of recruiting and those that are not. Even though elite programs may change coaches, they still are able to attract top-level recruits far beyond other conference foes. That doesn’t look to be something that will change anytime soon either.

The junior college route is a very slippery slope to tread, and ASU has been the leader in the conference on going along this path. It’s tough to break away from in terms of need, as the Devils have brought in roughly 24 fewer high school recruits over the past seven years compared to the average of one of its conference teams.   And those numbers could have been much worse had the Devils not broken that trend in the 2017 class.  That’s rough on long-term depth compared to that of ASU’s peers.

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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