Let me let you in on a little secret that was force fed to me. They say you can lead a horse to water but you can’t make him drink. Well apparently that’s not so true for a jacka… er… donkey, because after 4 years of working for Rivals, I finally drank the cool-aid I had resisted for so long.
The real battle in college football is won off the field.
It’s won in two places: The coach’s office while he’s evaluating high school talent and in the living rooms of those talented high school players when the coach is trying to convince him to come to his college.
The reality is that 9 times out of 10, if you look at the recruiting classes of the 3 years prior years, not counting the kids who came in that spring (so for 2011, you look at the kids who were signed in Feb. 2010, 2009 and 2008, and exclude (since so many redshirt) the kids who were signed in Feb. 2011), you’ll know a lot about how that team is going to perform that fall. I did some “star counting” using the last 3 years model and here’s what I got:
2011: 7-5 (185 stars in prev. 3 years)
2010: 5-7 (200)
2009: 8-5 (208)
2008: 9-4 (225)
2007: 7-6 (203)
2006: 10-3 (218)
2005: 8-4 (181)
Now stars aren’t perfect. When compiling the list I saw some real duds (the worst: Kevin Bemoll was a 4-star in 2005, but only played in 3 games) and some significant over-achievers (Tim Nixon, Erik Robertson, Thomas Decoud, Alex Mack, Robert Jordan, Justin Forsett, Mike Mohammed, Josh Hill and Kendrick Payne were all 2-stars), but as far as getting an average how how much talent is on a team, it’s as good a metric as any.
And looking at the record for those years, there’s an obvious correlation. Outliers aside, when the Bears have around 200 stars we’re looking at 7-5 kinda seasons. When they’ve got 215 and higher, that’s when we’ll have special teams. Of course there are some under-performing years like 2010 when the Bears had 200 stars and did worse than both 2005 and 2011 where the star count was in the 180’s.
Some of that over and under-achieving has to do with how many under ranked players there were in the past recruiting classes (or those duds too), but of course on the field does still count for something. Having no meaningful backup QB when your starter goes down will hurt a lot more than the stars could show by themselves (since it’s only one player).
Next year the star count will be 197, so the Bears are getting back on track after the drop-off in the 2008 and 2009 recruiting classes that has hurt us in recent years. Perhaps the Bears will over-perform and we’ll rise from 7-5 to a higher level, but these stats suggest we may be looking at another year of middling bowl eligibility next year.
However, and getting back to the original point of the post, if Tedford can match his star counts from last year in February, we’ll be at 215 in 2013. If he can do it again in February of 2013, we’ll be at 228 in 2014. That’ll be the most the team has ever had under Tedford.
But he’s got to get out on the road and get those “stars” (in real life we call them players). The coaching staff is out there as I type this, in living rooms across America, trying to convince fickle 17 year olds that Cal is the school for them. They’ll be doing this on and off for the next 3 weeks before the bowl game, and then hit the road HARD after the bowl game.
Luckily this year Tedford and Co. have a much better story. The new stadium opens next year. The SAHPC is brand new and awesome. The team is getting back on track and finished on a hot-streak. It will really help to have a big win over a big name team (Texas, anyone?) in the bowl game.
So far he’s got four 4-stars and fpir 3-stars. A recruiting class is made up of 20 or so kids and Cal will need at least six more 4-star kids and of the rest, almost all of them must be 3-stars. A 5-star or two would really help. But that’s not it, as I’ve written in the past, part of what makes a good class is the balance. So he can’t just go out and grab stars. He’s got to get the right kids who both play the positions he needs to fill and who are closer to gems than duds (this is where star counting breaks down).
From what I’ve read, there are a lot of 4-stars out there who still have interest in Cal (28 with medium interest or higher, according to Rivals) and at least one 5-star is in the mix (Shaq Thompson, SydQuan’s younger brother, is considered likely) with 6 others with some interest still. So there’s still the potential for a very good class.
But the truth of the matter is RIGHT NOW is one of the most important points of the season. Tedford and Co. will need to impress a lot of kids between now and the middle of February if he’s going to have the team he needs to make a run at the Rose Bowl in 2013 and 2014.
UPDATE: Getting all sorts of uncaught comment spam on this post so disabling comments.