Gap is the new cannon shot.

I can’t help but take one last trip to that SDS piece on how Florida “closed the gap” on Georgia with its ninth-ranked 2019 recruiting class.  Here’s the author’s rationale for the language:

Screenshot_2019-02-08 How Florida closed the gap on Georgia and Alabama with a strong Signing Day finish

It’s stuff like this that gives statistical analysis a bad rep.  An 80 percent blue chip rate is almost impossible to improve upon, certainly so year after year.  So, yeah, if you’re looking up from 41 to 58 percent, the horizon looks closer.  By that same reasoning, a ranking gap framed on one end by number one Alabama will shrink when Florida improves because you can’t go any higher than first.  Context matters, in other words.

Skip the math for a sec, though.  The bigger fallacy is pretending that recruiting gaps are things that can be dramatically overcome in a year.  There are two reasons for that.  First, it’s only one year.  At any given time, rosters are built on four/five years of recruiting.  In the SEC East, this is the country where Florida has to gain ground.

Georgia’s five-star lead over the rest of the East is 15-4 since Smart has gotten it rolling. This type of recruiting dominance is slightly different from Alabama when you compare the Tide to the SEC West. Alabama never lapped its division this way. Bama’s best three-year stretch since Texas A&M joined the league was from 2013-2015 when they signed 18 five stars. The rest of the West signed 24. That obviously includes teams like LSU and Auburn.

Alabama has dominated the West on the field even though the West has at least kept within range as far as recruiting goes with those strong recruiters. But what do you think the Dawgs are gonna do with their advantage?

Georgia’s just vacuuming up Dudes year after year compared to its division and we’ve thrown in a couple direct rivals (Georgia Tech and Auburn) just to show that.

Blue-chip counts of Georgia vs. rivals (SEC East and otherwise)

School Three-year blue-chip count 2017 2018 2019
Alabama 64 24 15 25
Georgia 62 20 22 20
Florida 41 11 13 17
Auburn 40 11 15 14
Tennessee 24 5 8 11
South Carolina 21 6 9 6
Kentucky 11 5 3 3
Georgia Tech 4 1 2 1
Missouri 4 1 0 3
Vanderbilt 3 0 3 0

And if you’re wondering, here were Georgia’s tallies for the four years before Smart had his first non-transitional recruiting class.

2016: 14
2015: 14
2014: 13
2013: 15

Smart’s added an entire extra class’ worth of blue-chips over the course of the last three years to what was already strong recruiting. That’s a whole extra group of top athletes who won’t be playing for teams trying to beat Georgia.

The last two paragraphs are stunning.  The numbers show Mark Richt was a good recruiter by SEC East standards.  It’s just that Kirby has taken Georgia’s recruiting to an entirely different level from every other program in the division.  But I digress.

That is an enormous talent differential between Florida and Georgia.  In terms of raw numbers of blue chips, instead of Blackmon’s program percentage levels, you can see that with this last signing class, Smart actually increased the spread against Mullen.  That isn’t how you close a gap.  Especially one that was already +18 from the previous two classes.

There’s another significant factor that the SDS analysis glosses over.  Here’s something that Jake Rowe noted about Georgia’s 2019 class:

It was extremely important that the Bulldogs sign a full crop of talented players and that they get guys to fill specific needs. It did exactly what it had to do. [Emphasis added.]

As I noted yesterday, the most impressive thing about yesterday’s results were that Smart neatly pivoted after the early signing date to make sure he filled a hole on the roster at receiver that resulted from the departures of key players.  When you’ve built your roster over three or four years and stacked the talent as Smart has done, it’s easier to maneuver like that.

Compare that with what David Wunderlich says about Florida in a piece that’s complimentary about Mullen’s 2019 class.

So while Mullen is getting the program back up where it needs to be while focusing on the details, the next step is to end up with a balanced roster. I don’t just mean in numbers at each position but also age-wise from freshmen to seniors..

The goal is to get to a place of consistency in numbers across classes: one quarterback per year, one running back, two or three receivers, three to five offensive linemen, etc.

That’s never going to be possible indefinitely because of unplanned attrition, but even acknowledging that reality, you don’t want to be in a place where you’re having to go heavy on multiple positions a year like offensive line and linebacker in 2019 and wide receiver, defensive tackle, and maybe safety in 2020. Being forced to take a lot at one place in one year will at best set a roster time bomb for four years in the future at at worst will have a program load up on ineffective players.

David notes roster time bombs at several positions:  receiver, defensive tackle and safety.  Even if you know what you’re doing — and you can count me in the camp who believes Mullen does — that you’re having to scramble to fill holes at offensive line and linebacker even at the risk of creating future imbalances at other positions is a sign that you have a roster that doesn’t match up with Georgia’s.

None of this is to say that Mullen won’t succeed eventually in reaching a stable point with a talented roster.  But that’s not 2019.



Filed under Gators, Gators..., Georgia Football, Recruiting

43 responses to “Gap is the new cannon shot.

  1. Greg

    This is turning into a recruiting blog……but HEY, I like it.


  2. JCDawg83

    I think Richt’s numbers show he was a good recruiter when viewed in a class ranking or number of blue chip players light. The difference between Kirby’s recruiting and Richt’s is that Kirby is making sure the roster is full at all positions and there aren’t the gaping holes we always seemed to have with Richt’s teams. It always seemed like we would have a loaded backfield and a great receiver corps and qb but no depth on the offensive line and the defense would have three great down linemen and a great linebacker but all freshman and sophomore defensive backs and no quality backups. The following year, we’d have a first year qb, all new defensive linemen, one veteran running back and no proven receiver.

    If we can’t get over the NC hump with the recruiting Kirby is doing, I’m not sure we will ever be able to.


    • The real difference in recruiting, even more than the poor roster management, is the all-out commitment to building the lines of scrimmage. Mark Richt failed at Georgia and he failed at Miami in refusing to pay mind to the lines of scrimmage in recruiting.


    • I always hoped for that special year when it all came together…but too many factors played against the roster management failures. There would always be players injured, suspended etc –and lack of push from backup players probably led to players not putting in the effort and thus our annual flop game happened.


      • Biggus Rickus

        It did come together in 2012. The defense was talented but thin and remained healthy. The offense also didn’t suffer any major injuries, especially Gurley and Marshall. Running back would have been a cluster if Gurley had gone down.

        The years after that, not so much. Though the 2014 team should have at least won the East.


        • The 13 team should have won the East … thanks, Kneeland. That team beats Missouri and Vandy senseless if healthy. Everyone forgets TG3II got hurt in the LSU game. JSW may have become an NFL talent at WR if he doesn’t get hurt with Marshall and Bennett at 10rc.

          The 14 team failed to show up in Jacksonville to blow it. Of course, giving up 38 to Spurrier earlier that season didn’t help. Don’t pooch kick and that team probably ends up in a NY6 bowl game with 2 losses instead of Charlotte.


  3. St. Johns Dawg

    I keep thinking with Dan Mullen … If he coulda, he woulda already at Miss St. I have no doubt UF will have a year 2 bump just like every other big time program with a coaching change, but the man does not scare me when it comes to having to win big games consistently. The gators are gonna plateau at a much lower level of wins per year than they expect under Mullen and I will savor every minute of it.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Highlands Dog

    Kirby is going to have to prove he can be a good game coach for everything to come together. Saban gets out-coached maybe once every two years and Kirby is getting out-coached twice a year. Hope his new coordinators and Kirby are getting better.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. jermainesdye

    On the question of recruiting, thought this was interesting from The Flats yesterday…

    “Coach Key Claims Recruiting Much Easier at Georgia Tech than Alabama”


  6. stoopnagle


    At this rate, it’s going to be a split opinion on who the favorite is for the SEC east. And I’ll love it.


  7. Dave

    To add to your correct assessment of the gap fallacy, Florida has to continue to improve upon its own success. In other words, it’s not like a general trend that can be predicted to continue, like “more and more people are using social media,” for example. To further close the gap, Florida will have to continue to recruit more and more blue chippers.


  8. Sides

    I have a question on the data. Is this blue chip count in recruiting or actually on the roster? I am not sure what the definition of a blue chip is in that chart but blue chip talent could be added/lost to rosters through transfers and juco. It doesn’t appear that 247 includes these players in their class rankings. For example, SC added a blue chip d-lineman (josh belk) last year as a transfer from Clemson. He counts in this years class but SC gets no 247 credit for it happening. Same with another blue chip transfer from Southern Cal that counts against this years class. Uga obviously lost a blue chip QB, is he counting in these stats?


  9. W Cobb Dawg

    So the gap continues to widen? That’s a relief! How I learned to stop worrying and love the gap…


  10. Uglydawg

    Increasing a lead at a slower rate is still increasing that lead.
    Blackmon is optimistic because he thinks CKS is up against the ceiling.
    I think CKS will raise the ceiling. Getting the two top picks out of Alabama is pretty huge.
    There is no evidence that Mullens will recruit at that level.

    When CKS came on the scene at UGA, the whole East was down.
    Coaches were being weighed against Nick Saban and found lacking in the balance.
    UGA won the lottery with Kirby coming on board and scarfing up talent while the other schools floundered. Now he is established, well known nationally, and is taking talent from right under other programs noses.
    He can’t get them all, but he’ll get enough to keep this going for a good and happy while!


    • All things being equal (year to year), normalcy being the end product (4-6 years of top 1-3 ranked crootin’ classes)….our eastern opponents will be requiring UGA to get bigger taillights (as Texas says) just to say they can see how far behind they are… ’em up, DAWGRADING is in their future!


  11. Tony Barnfart

    Not that this is any particular comfort food, but you could even see where talent alone kept us within a puncher’s chance in the Texas game when we left our heads and hearts back under the Christmas tree. I had hoped get-off-the-bus failures were left after the last regime, but I can honestly say that without our current level of recruiting that scoreboard would have been ugly beyond words.

    The only point is that an enormous amount of talent, while not enough to overcome an ‘F’ in effort (as we learned) is probably enough against 80-90% of opponents when you have only brought your C+ game.


  12. Texas Dawg

    So what they are saying is that Florida was watching Georgia’s tail lights disappear over the recruiting horizon. Now that is no longer the case. Now with a good pair of high powered binoculars, they can just make out the tail lights in the distance.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Uglydawg

      I don’t think that’s it. I think the tail lights are still growing smaller, just at a slower pace. Georgia was leaving them at rocket speed, now it’s only jet speed. Florida’s going to need a bigger engine or hope Georgia hits a wall.


  13. ugafidelis

    Just keep whooping that Gator ass and everything else will fall into place.


  14. TMC DAWG

    Don’t matter who they get. We’re still gonna spank that ass for years to come.


  15. WarD Eagle

    That’s a depressing chart.