Inside the Numbers: The Recruiting Class Ranking System
by Will Stewart,
TSL Extra, Issue #21

This guide describes how I made up the recruiting class ranking/rating system that we're going to use in the TSL Extra in this month and in the coming months. I created a large table of "accomplishments" that players and recruiting classes could achieve, and then awarded points to players and classes that achieved those objectives.

Individual players, for example, can earn letters, set records, become All-Americans, and get drafted by the NFL. Recruiting classes can win games, go to bowls, and win bowls.

This detailed guide explains the TSL Extra recruiting class rating and point system, which is used in this issue to rate the 1990 recruiting class and will be used in future issues to rate later classes.

General Comments

1.) The criteria I chose to use are objective, not subjective. This means that I didn't factor opinion in at all, just based the ratings on a stats-based formula.

2.) The statistics used to rate players and classes must be easy to find and consistent. For example, it's easy to research how many letters a VT player earned, whether or not they set any Hokie records, and whether or not they were All-Americans. It is NOT easy to determine whether or not a player graduated, particularly when researching, say, the 1990 recruiting class (because it was so long ago). I therefore used statistics and accomplishments that could be (and this is the key statement here) looked up in a VT media guide or a Big East media guide.

3.) Accomplishments after leaving school were not factored into our ratings. Bruce Smith, for example, is an outstanding professional player, but that shouldn't factor into whether or not he was a good recruit for Virginia Tech. All Bruce's pro career does is reflect nicely in some small way on Virginia Tech; it is of no direct value to VT, in terms of wins, losses, or statistics, during the time he was actually at Tech.

4.) Points were awarded for individual accomplishments and team accomplishments. Maurice DeShazo gets credit for the records he set and letters he earned while at VT, and his 1990 recruiting class as a whole gets credit for games won, bowls won, and rankings achieved.

5.) Team points for bowls, wins, etc. are awarded for the four seasons in which the class would have been redshirt freshmen, redshirt sophomores, redshirt juniors, and redshirt seniors. For example, the 1990 class is awarded points for accomplishments in the 1991-1994 seasons, but not for the 1990 season. We feel this is fair. True freshmen rarely have an impact (1990 Jim Pyne, 1993 Cornell Brown, and 2001 Kevin Jones are exceptions), but redshirt freshmen can (see Michael Vick).

A recruiting class must be five football seasons old before this rating and points system can be applied to them. At the conclusion of the upcoming 2002 football season, for example, the 1998 recruiting class of Vick-Suggs-Houseright can be evaluated, but not any class from 1999 onward.

We thought of weighting the accomplishments of a class from years 1-4, since a class has a bigger effect in year 4 than in year 1, but we decided not to further complicate an already complicated formula.

6.) More points are awarded for accomplishments that are more difficult to achieve. For example, VT has hundreds of lettermen, so lettering for a season only earned one point. An equal number of points (10) is awarded for being a VT career record holder, an All-American, or a Big East Player of the Year, since all three accomplishments are roughly equal. Having your jersey retired by VT (25 points, achieved by four VT players) is roughly equal to being a unanimous All-American (25 points, achieved by two VT players; some could even argue that it's easier to get your jersey retired by VT than to be a unanimous AA). Etc., etc.

7.) The system is, not surprisingly, biased towards skill players and against linemen, particularly offensive linemen. Points are awarded for leading VT in a statistical category and for holding VT records, neither of which is possible for an offensive lineman to ever achieve. On the other side of the coin, VT's passing leader for a year is usually also their total offense leader for a year, making it easy for the starting QB to rack up points, even if he's only half as good as the best offensive lineman.

8.) The system is also biased towards recent recruiting classes. For example, Antonio Freeman held the Big East record for punt return yards in a game from 1994-1997, before it was broken by Nate Terry of WVU in 1997. Had I done this analysis in 1995, Freeman would have gotten credit for a Big East record. Today, he does not. In much the same fashion, Lee Suggs set a Big East record for rushing TD's in a game (5) and will get credit for it. But someone may break that record in, for example, 2003 or 2004. I recognize this as a shortcoming of the system and make no effort to correct for it, because it's very labor-intensive to do so. Of course, you can always adjust the rankings over time to account for records that are broken.

Point Scoring Summary

Individual points are awarded for: lettering; starting for a season; VT statistical leader for a season; holding a VT game, season, or career record; being selected as an All-American; having a jersey retired; winning a national award (Lombardi, Outland, etc.); making All-Big East; winning Big East player of the year; BE statistical leader for a season; holding a BE game, season, or career record; making the BE academic honor roll; and getting drafted by the NFL.

Points are awarded to the class as a whole for: wins; conference wins; wins over UVa and Miami; Big East conference championships; finishing the season in the top 25 or top 10; going to and/or winning a non-BCS bowl; going to and/or winning a BCS bowl; playing in the national championship game.

Individual Points





VT letter earned

1 point per letter earned


VT starter

2 points per season started


VT statistical leader for a season

2 points per statistical category led


VT game record holder

5 points per game record held


VT season record holder

7 points per season record held


VT career record holder

10 point s per career record held



10 points


First team AA

15 points


Consensus AA

20 points


Unanimous AA

25 points


Retired jersey

25 points


National award

20 points


Heisman finalist

30 points


All-Big East Second Team

3 points


All-Big East First Team

5 points


Big East Player of the Year

10 points


Big East statistical leader for a season

5 points per statistical category led


Big East game record holder

6 points per game record held


Big East season record holder

8 points per season record held


Big East career record holder

11 points per career record held


Big East academic honor roll

2 points


Drafted by the NFL

10 points for 1st round, 9 for 2nd, 8 for 3rd, etc.; 5 bonus points for being #1 pick overall

Class Points



2 points per win


Conference Win

2 points per conference win


Win over Virginia

5 points per win


Win over Miami

5 points per win


Big East Championship

25 points per championship


Finishing in Top 25 for season

10 points


Finishing in Top 10 for season

15 points


Go to non-BCS (minor) bowl

15 points per bowl


Win non-BCS bowl

10 points per bowl


Go to BCS bowl

25 points per bowl


Win BCS bowl

25 points per bowl


Go to championship game

50 points per championship game

Detailed Notes and Explanations on Some of the Categories

VTS (VT Starter): This data is very hard to research and probably contains many errors. To compile this data, I researched old media guides and their depth charts, and looked through old Hokie Huddlers for their preseason depth charts. But those depth charts don't necessarily represent what occurred during the season. Jim Pyne, for example, was not listed as a starter in the preseason of his true freshman season (1990), but he started most of the season. When I know this information, I use it, but I don't always know this information and am forced to rely on old depth charts that may be inaccurate.

VTSL (VT Statistical leader for a season): Info taken from the year-by-year stats leaders listed in the VT media guide.

VTGR, VTSR, VTCR (VT game, season, and career records): Info from VT media guide.

AA and 1AA (All-American and 1st team AA): info taken from the VT media guide, which covers the full spectrum of AA teams (AP, UPI, Sporting News, Football News, etc.), not just AP and UPI. If a player was named first-team by any organization, they get 15 points; if they were second-team or third-team but not first-team, they get 10 points.

CAA and UAA (Consensus All-American, and Unanimous AA): a player is one or the other, not both. CAA gets 20 points, UAA gets 25. This is in addition to first-team AA points (10).

NA (National Award): these points (20) are awarded if a player wins the Lombardi Trophy, the Outland Trophy, the Butkus Award, etc., as noted in the VT media guide. Only two players have ever won such an honor for VT: Bruce Smith (Outland, 1984) and Corey Moore (Lombardi and Nagurski, 1999).

BESL (Big East statistical leader for a season): Info taken from the year-by-year stats leaders listed in the Big East media guide.

BEGR, BESR, BECR (Big East game, season, and career records): Info from Big East media guide.

BEAC (Big East Academic Honor Roll): Info from Big East media guide. This is our one nod to academics in our ratings, mainly because the information is easy to research and consistent. The only caveat is that the Big East didn't start naming its honor roll until 1992, which means that the 1990 and 1991 recruiting classes did not get the chance to score points for having players on the honor roll in 1991, the first year the Big East Football Conference was in existence.

W, CW, WOV, and WOM (wins, conference wins, wins over Virginia, and wins over Miami): these points are cumulative. In other words, a win over Virginia gets 7 points (2 for being a W and 5 for being a WOV), while a win over Miami gets 9 points (2 for being a W, 2 for being a CW, and 5 for being a WOM).

T25 and T10 (finishing the season in the Top 25 and Top 10): rankings referred to are the AP and/or the coaches' poll, post-bowl-game rankings, and points are cumulative. If a VT team finishes from 11-25 in either poll, they get 10 points; if a VT team finishes from 1-10 in either poll, they get 25 points (10 points for being Top 25, plus 15 more points for being Top 10).

MB, WMB, BCS, and WBCS (minor bowl bid, minor bowl win, BCS bowl bid, BCS bowl win): "minor" bowl refers to a non-BCS bowl, be it the Gator Bowl or the Independence Bowl. Points are cumulative. If a VT team wins a minor bowl, they get 25 points (15 for being invited, plus 10 for winning). If a VT team wins a BCS bowl, they get 50 points (25 for being invited, 25 for winning). The recruiting classes that comprised the 1999 team will get 75 points for the 2000 Sugar Bowl (25 points for a BCS bowl invitation, 50 more points because it was the national championship game).



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