Inside the Numbers: Ranking the Recruits
by Will Stewart
TSL Extra, Issue #4

Okay, so we've all seen what Rivals.com, SuperPrep, and PrepStar think of Virginia Tech's recruits. They've all got their own ranking systems, of one kind or another. But they're maddeningly inconsistent from recruiting service to recruiting service.

Rivals.com, for example, rates Andrew Fleck as the #62 tight end in the country, but PrepStar and SuperPrep don't seem to know that he exists. SuperPrep and Rivals.com rate Kevin Jones as the #1 player in the country overall, but PrepStar doesn't even call him the #1 running back (they rate him as the #2 RB, behind Tennessee Jabari Davis).

So the question arises, what do you get when you throw the Rivals, SuperPrep, and PrepStar rankings into a pot and mix them up? Can you come up with a rating system that combines all three of those systems into a composite ranking?

Of course you can -- that's why I wrote this article. Im about to take all 21 of Tech's signees and throw them and their rankings into a formula that will chew them up and spit them out into a TSL composite recruiting ranking that will list them from top to bottom, from #1 to #21.

First, a disclaimer: if you're into this stuff, you may think that the formula and methodology that I use stinks. So let me warn you not to take this too seriously. I'm always under time constraints here at TSL, so when I came up with my ranking system, I probably put a grand total of 30 minutes of thought into it, tops. The remaining hours and hours were spent coming up with a spreadsheet full of formulas and entering everyone's rankings into it, and then wrapping this wordy article around it.

If you're not a detail oriented person, and you like to bite the Tootsie Pop and immediately get to the chewy center, then you can skip to the end of this article and see the final TSL recruiting rankings, which list all 21 players from the highest-rated to the lowest-rated.

If, on the other hand, you like to eat a Tootsie Pop one lick at a time and take your sweet time getting to that chewy Tootsie Roll center, or if you're just the type of person who likes to see numbers discussed in mind-numbing detail, then pull up a chair.

I will first describe all three ranking systems (Rivals, SuperPrep, and PrepStar), and then I'll describe how they're integrated into a TSL composite ranking. Then I'll present the final rankings for your perusal. And if you're really insane, I'll even give you a link so you can download the spreadsheet I used, which is totally incomprehensible and may even be chock full of errors.

Remember, this is supposed to be fun. Let's go.


SuperPrep Rankings

SuperPrep can give up to three honors to a player, depending upon how highly he is ranked. They are as follows:

Elite 50: the top 50 players in the country, ranked from #1 to #50, without regards to position.

All-American: the top 285 players in the country, split up and ranked by position. Among the 285 AA's, SP ranks 25 quarterbacks from #1 to #25, 40 running backs, 9 tight ends, 35 wide receivers, 3 fullbacks, 37 offensive linemen, 37 defensive linemen, 40 defensive backs, 34 linebackers, 20 skill athletes, and 5 jumbo athletes.

All-State: the top 1037 players in the country, ranked in their state, without regards to position. For smaller states, SP will combine them into a region. Some examples: Florida has a Top 91 ranked from #1 to #91, Texas has a Top 118, Virginia has a Top 28, and there is a Mid-Atlantic Top 34 that is taken from Delaware, DC, Maryland, and West Virginia.

Note that a player in SuperPrep's system who is in the Elite 50 is also, by default, All-American and All-State. Likewise, every All-American is an All-State player.


PrepStar Rankings

I don't like PrepStar's ranking system. It's sort of like SuperPrep's, but not really, and it is impossible to fit it properly into a mathematical formula. Like SuperPrep, PrepStar can honor players in up to three ways:

Dream Team: the top 120 players in the country, split up and ranked by position. Among the 120 Dream-Teamers, PS ranks 14 quarterbacks from #1 to #14, 20 running backs, 3 tight ends, 18 wide receivers, 18 offensive linemen, 20 defensive linemen, 8 defensive backs, 11 linebackers, 6 athletes, and 2 kickers.

All-American: the top ??? players in the country (PS doesn't explicitly say how many All-Americans they have, and I'm not going to flip through their magazine and count them), ranked in their region, by position. PS has six regions: Western, Midlands, Southeast, Midwest, Atlantic, and Eastern. So, for example, if a player is ranked as the #6 running back in the Southeast region, that means he is an All-American.

All-Region: this ranking is a little confusing and annoying. In their regional rankings, beneath the AA level, PS lists players as All-Region, but there is no effort made to "rank" them -- they're just listed. For example, in the Atlantic Region, PS ranks 7 running backs #1 to #7, which means that they're All-Americans. Then they list 6 more running backs in alphabetical order, without rankings. The second 6 guys are All-Region. The first 7 guys, with ranking numbers, are AA's and All-Region.

Similar to SuperPrep, a PrepStar Dream Teamer is also an All-American and All-Region player. Every All-American is All-Region.


Rivals.com Rankings

Rivals takes a lot of heat for the perceived accuracy of their rankings, but as a rating system, they're the simplest and easiest to understand. And, most importantly for this article, they're by far the easiest to cram into a mathematical formula. Rivals.com honors players in up to three ways (are you seeing a pattern here?):

Rivals 100: the top 100 players in the country, ranked from #1 to #100, without regards to position.

Rivals Position Ranking: Rivals ranks the top 100 QB's in the country, the top 100 running backs, wide receivers, tight ends, offensive linemen, defensive tackles, defensive ends, linebackers, cornerbacks, safeties, kickers, and punters.

Rivals Stars: every player listed in Rivals' system gets ranked from 1 to 5 stars, with 5 stars being the best. The 5 star ranking is very exclusive, so exclusive that there are players on the prestigious Rivals 100 list who are "only" four-star players. Only a few dozen kids out of thousands are given 5 stars.


TSL's Composite Rankings

Now that I've explained how SuperPrep, PrepStar, and Rivals.com rank the recruits, the idea is to take the nine different ranking levels of the three services listed above and compile them into one composite ranking.

For each of the nine ranking levels, I'm going to award a player 0 to 5 points, for a total maximum composite rank of 45. Here's how the points are going to be awarded (please see the "Important Note" after I talk about the points system):

SuperPrep Elite 50: 0 points if the player is not in the Elite 50, and 1 to 5 points if he is. The #50 player gets 1 point, the #1 player gets 5 points, and those in between are awarded points on a sliding scale.

SuperPrep All-American: 0 points if the player is not an AA, and 1 to 5 points if he is. The player gets 5 points if he is the top-rated All-American at his position, and 1 point if he is the bottom-rated All-American at his position. Players in between are awarded points on a sliding scale. Examples: the #1 running back gets 5 points, and so does the #1 QB, etc., but the #40 running back (out of 40) gets 1 point, and the #25 QB (out of 25) gets 1 point.

SuperPrep All-State: 0 points if the player is not ranked in the state, and 1 to 5 points if he is. The player gets 5 points if he is the top rated player in the state, 1 point if he is the bottom rated player in the state, and those in between are awarded points on a sliding scale. Example: Kevin Jones (#1 in PA out of 35 players) gets 5 points, while Fred Lee (#9) gets 4.09 points.

PrepStar Dream Team: 0 points if the player is not on the Dream Team, and 1 to 5 points if he is. The player gets 5 points if he is the top-rated Dream Teamer at his position, and 1 point if he is the bottom-rated Dream Teamer at his position. Players in between are awarded points on a sliding scale. Examples: the #1 running back gets 5 points, and so does the #1 QB, etc., but the #20 running back (out of 20) gets 1 point, and the #14 QB (out of 14) gets 1 point.

PrepStar All-American: 0 points if the player is not a PrepStar AA, and 1 to 5 points if he is. The player gets 5 points if he is the top rated player at his position in his region, 1 point if he is the bottom rated player at his position in the region, and those in between are awarded points on a sliding scale. Example: Curtis Bradley (#1 OL in the Atlantic region out of 10 players) gets 5 points, while Danny McGrath (#5) gets 3.40 points.

PrepStar All-Region: 0 points if a player is not All-Region, 5 points if he is. Remember, PS lists players who are All-Region alphabetically and does not rank them, so there's no way to split the ranking further. Therefore, I award a straight 5 points for being PS All-Region.

Rivals.com "Rivals 100": 0 points if the player is not in the Rivals 100, and 1 to 5 points if he is. The #1 player gets 5 points, the #100 player gets 1 point, and those in between are awarded points on a sliding scale.

Rivals.com Position Rank: 0 points if the player is not ranked at his position, and 1 to 5 points if he is. The #1 player at his position gets 5 points, the #100 player gets 1 point, and those in between are awarded points on a sliding scale.

Rivals.com Stars: 1 point for each star. One-star players get 1 point, two-star players get 2 points, etc.

Important Note!! The mathematical formula that I used is a little sloppy, and the sliding scale isn't perfect. For players ranked 1 to 50, for example, it will give 5 points to the #1 player, but it actually gives 1.02 points to the #50 player, not 1 point. I could have taken the time to iron out the formula perfectly, but it's pretty darn close, so I went with it, primarily due to schedule pressures.


And Without Further Ado

To summarize:

  • A player can get up to 5 points from 9 different ranking sources (three services, three categories for each service, 0 to 5 points in each category).
  • 45 is the highest possible composite rank. For a recruit to be ranked as a 45, he would have to be the top player in the SuperPrep Elite 50, be the top-ranked player at his position on the PrepStar Dream Team, and be the #1 player in the Rivals 100.
  • The lowest possible composite rank is 1 (every player in the Rivals.com system gets at least one star). For a recruit to receive a ranking of 1, he would have to be unranked in all services and earn just one star in his Rivals.com ranking.

Now, here are Tech's 21 signees, and their composite rankings:

Composite Rankings


Player

SuperPrep
Points

PrepStar
Points

Rivals
Points

Total
Points

Jones, Kevin

15.0

14.8

15.0

44.8

Randall, Bryan

13.7

14.1

8.3

36.1

Hall, DeAngelo

9.1

8.7

8.7

26.4

Lee, Fred

6.0

11.9

8.3

26.2

Hamilton, Justin

7.0

8.9

7.7

23.5

Humes, Cedric

6.3

9.4

5.0

20.7

Bradley, Curtis

1.8

13.7

4.9

20.4

Walton, D.J.

6.9

7.3

5.7

20.0

King, Jeff

3.4

8.9

6.8

19.1

Pannell, Chris

2.7

8.5

4.5

15.7

Hunt, Will

2.5

5.0

5.9

13.4

McGrath, Danny

1.7

8.4

2.0

12.1

Warren, Blake

2.9

5.0

4.2

12.0

Hilton, Kevin

2.1

6.6

3.2

11.9

Murphy, Jason

3.2

0.0

6.5

9.8

Anderson, James

1.4

6.9

1.0

9.3

Clifton, Chris

1.9

5.0

2.0

8.9

Fleck, Andrew

0.0

0.0

4.6

4.6

Sandidge, Tim

2.0

0.0

2.0

4.0

Butler, Reggie

0.0

0.0

2.0

2.0

Frye, Brandon

0.0

0.0

1.0

1.0

Average Player Ranking: 16.3

Top player: Kevin Jones (44.8 points out of 50) is the #1 rated recruit overall by SuperPrep and Rivals.com, so he gets 15 points from both of them. Kevin is the #2-rated running back by PrepStar, and that drops him to 14.8 points (out of a possible 15) from PrepStar. Obvious prediction: you will likely never see a higher-rated recruit than Kevin Jones sign with Virginia Tech.

Bottom player: Brandon Frye (1 point out of 50) was not ranked by SuperPrep, PrepStar, or Rivals.com, and was a Rivals 1-star player. But I'm not worried about Brandon. If the VT coaches want him, that means he's got potential.

Random example: Curtis Bradley (20.4 out of 50). Curtis is not a SuperPrep Elite 50 or a SuperPrep AA, but he is ranked as the #27 player out of 33 in South Carolina -- 1.85 SuperPrep points. Curtis is a PrepStar Dream Teamer (#7 OL out of 18 -- 3.67 points), All-American (#1 OL in his region -- 5.00 points), and All-Region (5.00 points) -- 13.67 PrepStar points. Curtis is not in the Rivals 100, but he is a 3-star Rivals player (3.00 points), and the #79 OL in the country (1.88 points) -- 4.88 Rivals.com points. Curtis's total is 1.85 + 13.67 + 4.88 = 20.4 points.


Rankings by Position

Just for fun, let's sort those composite rankings by position (the position is according to the flyer handed out at the Recruiting Rally on Feb. 11th in Roanoke -- note that Chris Clifton is listed as a QB/ATH on that flyer, but is included as a QB here):

Player

Posn

Ranking

Hall, DeAngelo

DB

26.4

Walton, D.J.

DB

20.0

Pannell, Chris

DL

15.7

Hilton, Kevin

DL

11.9

Murphy, Jason

DL

9.8

Sandidge, Tim

DL

4.0

Frye, Brandon

DL

1.0

Warren, Blake

LB

12.0

Anderson, James

LB

9.3

Bradley, Curtis

OL

20.4

McGrath, Danny

OL

12.1

Butler, Reggie

OL

2.0

Randall, Bryan

QB

36.1

Hunt, Will

QB

13.4

Clifton, Chris

QB

8.9

Jones, Kevin

RB

44.8

Hamilton, Justin

RB

23.5

Humes, Cedric

RB

20.7

King, Jeff

TE

19.1

Fleck, Andrew

TE

4.6

Lee, Fred

WR

26.2

And let's look at it another way:

Posn

# of Players

Avg. Rank

RB

3

29.7

WR

1

26.2

DB

2

23.2

QB

3

19.5

All

21

16.3

TE

2

11.9

OL

3

11.2

LB

2

10.7

DL

5

8.5

You can see that this class is very strong in tailbacks and defensive backs, with a nod to QB's (where Clifton is underrated), and the one wide receiver (Fred Lee) is a good one.

The tight ends, offensive linemen, and defensive linemen all have great potential in Mike Gentry's system. There is no question that Tech got what they wanted there, despite the "low" composite ranking. Jason Murphy (DL) in particular is underrated by the services, as is Reggie Butler (OL), due to academics (both players were shaky academically but qualified late).

Lastly, the two linebackers, Blake Warren and James Anderson, are both very smart kids who have great physical ability and will do well.

The conclusion is simple, folks: no matter what ranking criteria you apply, the Hokie coaches got what they wanted, and this is the greatest Virginia Tech football recruiting class ever.

The Data

This spreadsheet I used for analysis, is available for download at the following location (Microsoft Excel 97 compatible):

http://www.techsideline.com/tslextra/issue004/RecruitingRankings.xls

Warning: it is nearly incomprehensible, so download it and read it at your own risk. Hopefully, it contains no significant errors.

 

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