Recruiting: Don't believe the hype

January, 30, 2012
1/30/12
1:15
PM ET
Recruiting rankings generally look a lot like the AP Top-25 poll, but a fundamental reality about recruiting hasn't changed, even with the increased scrutiny of this high-tech age.

Recruiting evaluations are an inexact science. Insider

From ESPN Magazine's Peter Keating:
But getting any of them to sign a letter of intent doesn't guarantee much. Winthrop Intelligence, a college sports research outfit, recently analyzed every recruiting class from 2006 to 2010, tracking how more than 11,000 prep stars affected their college programs' success. Winthrop found no correlation between the number of recruits with three or more stars on an FBS team and its subsequent winning percentages. "We checked more than 100 performance statistics, including points, yards and touchdowns," the company writes in a report. "We found no significant relationship between higher-ranked recruiting classes and better performance statistics."

Know how the conventional wisdom is that prospects coming out of Texas are more fully evolved because of the state's prep football culture? Well, it's mostly bunk.

Mitch Sherman of ESPN RecruitingNation researched the success rate of prospects from Texas, California, Florida and the rest of the nation.
The results showed no discernible difference in level of success between any of the regions. Players from Texas scored a decade-long average of 3.06. California and Florida players averaged 3.16, and the national average was 3.10.

Despite the intense and unmatched environment of Texas high school football, a top-tier prospect from Texas, statistically, fares no better or worse in college and the NFL than a player of equal acclaim from Arkansas or Massachusetts or Hawaii. Texas serves as a microcosm of the nation as a whole in generating bona fide football stars. What happens before college makes no more difference to elite recruits in Texas than in the rest of the country.

That said: The South does rule recruiting. Just consider the numbers.
Great recruits come from every part of the country, and the NFL has had players from every state. But in the past decade, more than 50 percent of the top high school recruits have come from one region -- the South, according to an "Outside the Lines" analysis of data from the PARADE All-America High School Football Team and SuperPrep recruiting magazine.

Although that finding won't surprise football die-hards, what stands out in the analysis is by how much the South has steadily grown to dominate the recruiting landscape -- a trend that also shows up in the NFL, where 55 percent of the league's rookies who played in at least one game in 2010 were from high schools in the South. The shift even outpaces the South's population growth -- in 2010, census data show about 37 percent of people in the United States lived in the South, but in the same year, about 53 percent of the top recruits came from there.

Lots of great stuff from ESPN.com's pre-signing day package.

As for signing day, here's the schedule. Insider

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