Re-ranking top 2007 classes based on -- gasp! -- on-field production
Like a good pot roast, the best recruiting rankings take a long time to produce
Three years later, it's clear Boise's 2007 class (No. 68) was vastly underrated
Texas, Ohio State classes can suffer from the logjam of talent ahead of them
The annual recruiting rankings came out on National Signing Day, and they naturally touched off a new debate over which team won the recruiting national title.
Since we live in an instant-everything society, the major recruiting services as well as publications such as SI and ESPN.com quickly provided rankings that generally agreed Florida and USC signed the best two classes, and Texas and Alabama also put together impressive groups. But what do we know? For that matter, what do the coaches know?
There's a huge difference between an 18-year-old and a 21-year-old, and it's almost impossible to predict how a group of 18-year-olds will produce as 21-year-olds. Like grits or pot roast, the better recruiting rankings take a lot longer to produce. That's why, here at the SI.com Diner, we give you the best slow-cooked recruiting rankings.
Last year, we re-ranked the class of 2006 based on -- I know this may sound crazy -- actual on-field production. Today, we bring you the re-ranked class of 2007. Why three years later and not four? Because it's a little more fun when most of the players are still in college.
As was the case last year and earlier this year in SI.com's all-time recruiting rankings, championships and successful seasons counted far more than NFL potential. After all, the coaches are recruiting players to win in college; if those players wind up top draft picks, that's just a happy coincidence.
While last year's re-rank didn't stray too far from the original Rivals rankings, this year's deviated quite a bit -- especially at the top. Keep reading to find out how the No. 68 class wound up the No. 2 class three years later.
2007 Rivals rank: No. 1
2009 Starters: S Ahmad Black, DE Carlos Dunlap, CB Joe Haden, P Chas Henry, TE Aaron Hernandez, C Maurkice Pouncey, OG Mike Pouncey, RB Chris Rainey, WR Deonte Thompson, S Major Wright.
Analysis: Florida's class of 2006 (No. 1 in last year's re-rank) produced the three most important players (QB Tim Tebow, LB Brandon Spikes, WR Percy Harvin) on the Gators' 2008 BCS title team, but this class provided the raw materials for a championship. When Florida beat Oklahoma to win that title, Dunlap -- who has since become better known for his DUI arrest before the SEC title game -- was named the MVP, and Black intercepted Sam Bradford to seal the win. While NFL potential isn't a huge factor in these rankings, it's interesting to note that this class could produce as many as four 2010 first-round draft picks (Dunlap, Haden, Hernandez, Maurkice Pouncey). Meanwhile, back in Gainesville, John Brantley, another member of this class, stands ready to take over for Tebow at quarterback.
2. Boise State
2007 Rivals rank: No. 68
2009 Starters: DT Chase Baker, C Thomas Byrd, DE Shea McClellin, QB Kellen Moore, WR Austin Pettis, OT Nate Potter, LB Aaron Tevis, CB Brandyn Thompson, DE Billy Winn, WR Titus Young.
Analysis: Want to know why the Broncos are such a trendy pick to bust into the BCS title game next season? This class. The class of 2007 produced a nucleus of 10 starters who have led Boise to a pair of undefeated regular seasons and won a BCS bowl game. This class brought quarterback Moore to the blue turf as well his top three receivers (Young, Pettis, Efaw), who combined to catch 173 passes for 2,340 yards and 25 touchdowns in 2009. Add a few key members of the defense that shut down TCU in the Fiesta Bowl, and you have a class that could make history.
So how did the evaluators at Rivals -- and Scout and SI and everywhere else -- so badly underestimate this class? Simple. Boise State doesn't have a huge fan base. There aren't as many potential subscribers, so, from a business perspective, it doesn't make sense to spend as much time evaluating Boise State recruits as Alabama or Texas recruits. That's probably the biggest flaw in recruiting rankings; the teams outside the traditional power structure can be vastly underestimated. Because if you look only at the teams that traditionally finish in the top 15, the rankings are usually pretty accurate.
3. Georgia Tech
2007 Rivals rank: No. 18
2009 Starters: S Morgan Burnett, CB Mario Butler, RB Jonathan Dwyer, OG Joseph Gilbert, LB Brad Jefferson, RB Roddy Jones, WR Tyler Melton, DE Derrick Morgan, QB Josh Nesbitt, CB Jerrard Tarrant, DT Logan Walls.
Analysis: Chan Gailey signed a great class in 2007, only neither he nor anyone else realized just how good it could be. The Yellow Jackets brass fired Gailey after the 2007 season and brought in Paul Johnson, a coach who knew how to unlock the potential in Nesbitt, Dwyer and Jones. It didn't hurt that this class also included Burnett and Morgan, two defenders who would have become stars under any coach.
Who knows? Maybe Gailey, now coaching the Buffalo Bills, will draft one or both players in April so he can spend more time coaching them.
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