National Signing Day shows which teams should be winning a lot of games over the next few years but it doesn’t always show who will.
It really does matter who is doing the coaching.
Alabama, for instance, has no excuse if the championships don’t come rolling in. Starting in 2012, Nick Saban has been judged by the Rivals recruiting site to have the nation’s top class of signees three times out of four years. That adds up.
Look at USC, though. The Trojans had Rivals’ No. 1 recruiting class in 2015 and averaged out at No. 8 from 2012-15. The turmoil of numerous coaching changes really did its damage, however. Twice in the last four years USC was unranked in the final AP poll. Never during that period did USC finish in the AP Top Ten.
Let’s figure out, based on the rankings of the last four recruiting classes, which coaches are getting the most out of their talent in terms of development.
You already know about Al Golden, fired by Miami. His recruiting was decent, averaging out around No. 17 on the last four Rivals’ charts of his tenure. There were no bowl games in there, however, and no finishes in the AP’s final Top 25.
Will Muschamp had three top-10 recruiting classes at Florida beginning in 2012 but only one top-10 finish. That explains why he, too, lost his job and why Jim McElwain, a better coach, had the makings of an SEC East title team when he arrived as Gators coach.
Jimbo Fisher ranks high in both recruiting and production, as expected. Three top-10 recruiting classes according to Rivals between 2012-15. Three top-10 finishes and one national championship over the same stretch.
Nationally, I’d tag Gary Patterson as the coach who does the most with what he’s got.
Starting in 2012, TCU ranked 37th, 30th, 50th and 34th on the Rivals recruiting charts. That averages out to 37.25, nothing special. Still, over that same period, the Horned Frogs have two Top-10 finishes in the AP poll and two bowl wins.
Dabo Swinney gets high marks, too, for developing his team. Clemson had the nation’s No. 4 recruiting class in 2015 but nothing higher than No. 13 in the three previous years. Somehow Swinney has gotten four bowls wins out of that, including two in the Orange Bowl, and just last month the Tigers were in the national championship game against Alabama.
On the list of underachievers I’ll put Brian Kelly. Notre Dame, with its monster brand name and its own major television network, has appeared in one national championship game over the last four years but that’s the only top-10 finish over that stretch. The Fighting Irish should be getting more out of an overall average of No. 11 in the 2012-15 recruiting ranks.
Coaches to watch? Well, everyone’s had an eye on Butch Jones at Tennessee because the Vols’ recruiting ranks have been better in each of his years there, including No. 5 in 2015. So far, though, it’s a lot of smoke without really burning the house down.
As for Mark Richt, the new boss at Miami, his results at Georgia are about what you would expect. Three bowl wins and two Top-10 finishes over the last four years and a couple of top-seven recruiting classes in 2014 and 2015. Looks like he left plenty in the cupboard for new Bulldogs coach Kirby Smart. Let’s see how Smart likes it when Georgia boosters start ripping on him for coming up short in the SEC.