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:
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)
||Three-year blue-chip count
And if you’re wondering, here were Georgia’s tallies for the four years before Smart had his first non-transitional recruiting class.
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.