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USF Recruiting Classes Review: 2002-2016

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We do another deep dive into USF football recruiting history, to see how all those stars and rankings actually worked out.

South Florida v Notre Dame
Ryne Giddins, a four-star USF recruit of days gone by.
Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

As we all know, Signing Day was earlier this month. We saw lots of numbers published about the quality of Charlie Strong’s first USF recruiting class compared to the competition.

To lend some perspective to this exercise, we are going to take a deep look at all USF’s recruiting classes going back to 2002, see how they were rated on Signing Day, and how things turned out.

As you may recall, we did this before in 2013, and updated it in 2014. We will update it again, to revisit some older classes, and take a complete look at the more recent ones. Our opinions of pre-2009 classes won’t have changed, so we’ll just link to those.

We review each class for 4- and 3-star signings; USF's national recruiting rank; the names that generated the most excitement at the time; the unheralded signees who turned out to be good; and players whose career never panned out. We assign each class a letter grade.

DISCLAIMERS: Rivals.com data, which I am using, likely contains errors. Players who started as walk-ons, or joined the team sometime other than Signing Day, aren't mentioned. I probably overlooked or misjudged a few players. These are broad categories, and I don't want to get into nit-picky arguments about whether someone was a "hidden gem" or just a "contributor."

Also, "attrition" doesn't imply anything negative about the player. It just means that their USF career did not match their high school pedigree. This is often due to factors beyond the player's control: injury, circumstance, a logjam of players at their position, or simply a desire to follow a different path in life.

So let’s dive in. For the older recruiting classes, I’m just going to link to the original article. You can read about them there. That article contains a link to bring you back here.

Click Here to Read About the 2002-2008 USF recruiting classes.

All caught up? OK, let’s move ahead to 2009.

2009 (5 ****, 17 ***, 29th nationally)

BLUE CHIPPERS: DE Ryne Giddins, DE Jason Pierre-Paul, LB Jacquian Williams, RB Adaris Bellamy, and ATH Bradley Battles. Other stars recruited in this class were RB/KR/WR Lindsey Lamar, LB Sam Barrington, LB DeDe Lattimore, and DB Kayvon Webster.

HIDDEN GEMS: This class had only six 2-star signings, of which DE Anthony Hill and WR/KR Derrick Hopkins became role players.

OTHER CONTRIBUTORS: DE Julius Forte, RB Victor Marc, WR Sterling Griffin, DE Luke Sager, DB Ricardo Dixon, S JaQuez Jenkins.

ATTRITION: USF should have gotten more out of Stephen Jacques, an offensive lineman sought after by Auburn. Battles and Bellamy, both running backs, were huge misses at the top of this class.

Bradley Battles stayed on the USF roster for four seasons, struggled with injuries (2010, knee and 2012, ankle), and languished on the depth chart. He might have gotten some playing time in USF’s misbegotten 2013 season, but he was suspended by Willie Taggart beforehand, and transferred to Division II Clark Atlanta, which ran the Wing-T offense.

Adaris Bellamy missed grades in 2009, went to prep school for a year, and was turned away by Skip Holtz in 2010. Bellamy ended up at Youngstown State, which already had an excellent running back in Jamaine Cook. Finally getting a chance to start as a senior, Bellamy ran for 203 yards against Dayton, then hurt his ankle, and finished his senior season with 207 yards. Football can be a cruel game.

ANALYSIS: At the time, this class was a huge leap forward in talent acquisition for USF. After bringing in classes of 1-2 four-star and 7-10 three-star players, this class had 5 and 17, respectively. Ryne Giddins set a higher standard for the kind of player USF could get: a local 4-star recruit, pursued by the major state schools, without academic or behavior problems.

In terms of producing NFL players, this is USF’s best class. Jason Pierre-Paul is USF’s most decorated professional. Jacquian Williams, Kayvon Webster, DeDe Lattimore, and Sam Barrington all starred for USF, and went on to NFL careers. Lindsey Lamar played in the CFL. Those names are all over the Florida State, Clemson, and Notre Dame victories.

But there were 22 other names in this class, and USF got little out of them.

Entering the Willie Taggart era, USF’s failure to get anything out of two four-star running backs appeared to be a gaping hole. As it turned out, the roster had much worse problems.

GRADE: B-. This class is difficult to grade. It’s similar to the 2005 class, in that it was loaded with stars, but had a large number of misses. A class that sent 5 players to the NFL can’t be graded too harshly, but its failings contributed to the problems later on. And, its best player stayed only one year.

It’s possible that I’m holding the failure of later classes against this class. The 2005 class had its share of misses, but subsequent classes shored them up. Also, the 2005 class led USF to unprecedented heights, while the 2009 class had one good season and a few marquee wins before the program fell apart. Still, I feel that on-field success should be part of the criteria.

2010 (2 ****, 10 ***, 62nd nationally)

BLUE CHIPPERS: DT Todd Chandler and DB Terrence Mitchell were the 4-star recruits. The 3-stars included OL Quinterrius Eatmon, DB Mark Joyce, RB Marcus Shaw, and juco returnee Claude Davis.

HIDDEN GEMS: C Austin Reiter and LB Reshard Cliett were 2-star recruits who became good starters for USF, and had fringe NFL careers.

OTHER CONTRIBUTORS: WR Deonte Welch, LB Hans Louis, and DB Curtis Weatherspoon were starters during the dark ages of USF football.

ATTRITION: Lots. DE Brandon Wilkinson (Samford), RB Tiger Powell (New Mexico State), and RB Michael Hayes (Houston) played elsewhere. WR Jamaal Montague and QB Jamius Gumsby never played anywhere. Kicker/punter Chris Veron never won a starting job. OL Tony Kibler was booted off the team after an arrest. Gigantic OL Jake Kaufman barely saw the field, due to career-long injury problems. That’s 8 washouts.

And Terrence Mitchell has to go down as at least somewhat of a bust. He had one pretty good year, 2012, as a wide receiver alongside Andre Davis. He also played some at DB and kick/punt returns. But he was often injured, and was eventually booted by Willie Taggart for behavioral reasons. USF needs better results from the few 4-star recruits it can attract.

ANALYSIS: Some USF fans were dismayed that committed recruits like Bruce Judson turned away from USF when Willie Taggart left for Oregon. But the 2010 class teaches us that keeping a recruiting class committed doesn’t always turn out for the best.

Jim Leavitt recruited this class before being fired. Replacement Skip Holtz received plaudits for keeping almost all of it committed to USF. But this class had a high level of attrition, the second such class in a row.

And Holtz’s spectacular botching of Bradenton Manatee QB Brion Carnes deserves special attention.

Carnes committed to USF in 10th grade, but Jim Leavitt was fired just before Carnes could sign. The recruit was then contacted by a legendary former quarterback at Manatee, now an ambitious young head coach at the worst program in FBS. That coach was Willie Taggart, and he convinced Carnes to give Western Kentucky a look-see.

Also in Carnes’ ear was his cousin, another former Manatee QB, who convinced Carnes to consider Nebraska. That cousin was Tommie Frazier, a name that inspires both awed reverence and Voldemort-like terror, depending on whether you supported Nebraska or Florida in the 1996 Fiesta Bowl.

Holtz, annoyed with Carnes’ perceived indecisiveness, abruptly yanked his scholarship offer. This destroyed USF’s long-nurtured relationship with Carnes, and angered high school coach Joe Kinnan (who would later work at USF under Taggart). Carnes’ bridge to USF burned, he would opt for Nebraska, where he got stuck behind Taylor Martinez. Holtz preferred a different quarterback, Jamius Gumsby, whom he signed.

Fast forward two and a half years. USF had lost 14 of their last 17 games, and B.J. Daniels was being carried off the field in a game against UConn. Skip Holtz looked to the sideline, and saw the inept Matt Floyd; the redshirting Bobby Eveld; no Jamius Gumsby, who had left USF after a year; and no Brion Carnes, who was sitting on the bench in Lincoln.

Could Carnes have taken over for Daniels at the end of 2012? Could Carnes’ presence on the roster have spurred new coach Willie Taggart to find the right offensive scheme earlier on? (Remember, Taggart wanted Carnes at WKU.) Could Carnes have saved USF from the McNeese State fiasco? Could he have let Quinton Flowers redshirt all of 2014? And if the QB position was on solid ground entering 2013, how much worse would The Daily Stampede be if Steven Bench never transferred to USF?

(This is why I find past recruiting classes much more interesting than current ones. You can really play “butterfly effect” with them.)

Running back also looked to be a problem, with two high-profile misses in 2009, and two players who never made it to campus in 2010. Marcus Shaw was a one-year starter in USF’s abysmal 2013 season. Willie Taggart would quickly upgrade this position.

GRADE: D-. Reiter and Cliett, both 2-star recruits, are the only thing saving this class from an F. It turned up few good players otherwise. Could Jim Leavitt have done better with this group, especially with Carnes at the QB position?

2011 (1 ****, 15 ***, 63rd nationally)

BLUE CHIPPERS: The four-star was the late DT Elkino Watson, who surprisingly chose USF over Miami on signing day. WR Andre Davis was rated four stars in some circles, and was a top “get” in this class.

HIDDEN GEMS: In a class heavy with higher-rated offensive linemen, two-star OL Brynjar Gudmundsson started every game from 2013-2015. He also changed positions with aplomb, moving to center as a senior to replace the graduated Reiter.

CONTRIBUTORS: OL Darrell Williams started two and a half seasons, and went on to the NFL. Despite some severe injury problems, OL and future famous wrestler Thor Jozwiak started 26 games, and earned second team all-AAC as a senior. Like Gudmundsson, he was a full-time starter on USF’s first bowl team in five years.

ATTRITION: Several players transferred out: QB Matt Floyd left for South Alabama. WR Ruben Gonzalez, once considered a recruiting prize on par with Andre Davis, transferred to Jacksonville State. There was also RB Willie Davis (Tennessee Tech), DB Kenneth Durden (Youngstown State, spurred by an arrest for a barely felony-level amount of marijuana), and OL Marquis White (an academic casualty who ended up at Louisiana-Lafayette, where he became a DL).

OL David "Boo" Simon had to give up the game for health reasons. OL Max Lang, DE Edsel Caprice, and LB Antoine Pozniak all left the team early. DE Clavion Nelson, DB Corian Hamilton, and DB C.J. Garye all changed positions frequently to shore up the depleted 2013-2014 rosters, but none ever played much anywhere.

ANALYSIS: This was a very line-heavy class, and it turned up three pretty good OLs in Williams, Gudmundsson, and Jozwiak. USF also had Reiter and Eatmon from the previous class, walk-on find Mak Djulbegovic, and Kofi Amichia in the next class. The failure of Willie Taggart’s ground-based offense can’t be blamed on a lack of quality offensive linemen.

But for the third straight year, USF’s recruiting class found half a dozen pretty good players, and 15 or so who contributed very little.

GRADE: D. This class is a little better than the last one. It found two legit stars in Davis and Watson, and three offensive linemen who would help turn the team around. But again, a huge amount of attrition.

2012 (2 ****, 16 ***, 49th nationally)

BLUE CHIPPERS: TE Sean Price, WE D’Vario Montgomery. DB Chris Bivins was another touted signing.

HIDDEN GEMS: None.

CONTRIBUTORS: OL Kofi Amichia, DE Eric Lee, LB Tashon Whitehurst, DT James Hamilton, DE Tevin Mims, DB Fidel Montgomery.

ATTRITION: Montgomery (Iowa State), Bivins (Akron), and OL Kameron Davis (Bethune-Cookman) transferred out early. WR LaMarlin Wiggins and DB Jarvis McCall never made it to campus; McCall landed at Arizona. USF never found a use for TE Guito Ervilus. OL Lawrence Martin is best remembered for his disastrous attempt to score a fat guy touchdown against Memphis. RB Michael Pierre had to give up the game due to a medical condition.

Then there’s Alex Mut, the Mario Mendoza of USF football.

In 15 years worth of recruiting classes, no one was pursued more fervently, spent more time at USF, and did less on the field. Between grayshirting, redshirting, and using all his eligibility, he spent six years at USF. Career statistics: two receptions, three yards. All in 2016. And his first reception was for minus-2 yards in the season opener against Towson, which meant there was a real chance he would end his career with negative yardage. Fortunately (or unfortunately, depending on your viewpoint) he also had a reception for 5 yards against Cincinnati.

To be sure, lots of players have nondescript careers. What makes Mut noteworthy is the Terms of Endearment level of effort Skip Holtz put into getting him on campus. Even though Mut never showed a shred of interest in any other school, and the ACL tear he sustained in high school lowered his demand even further. This excessive, unnecessary effort to acquire a player whose football career would be a cipher, while jerking around the likes of Brion Carnes and Adaris Bellamy, made Alex Mut the symbol of Holtz’s recruiting ineptitude.

But let’s put this into perspective. If I may paraphrase Baseball Between The Numbers’ chapter devoted to Mendoza:

Analysts often say that a replacement-level player “has no value” as a simple shorthand. But keep in mind that value is relative. Even Alex Mut was a better football player than 99.9 percent of his classmates, and could certainly kick your or my sorry ass on a football field. So let’s honor Alex Mut. While such a player won’t help you won’t win the national championship, he still represents a level of talent and performance that those of us watching the games from our living rooms could never attain.

And like Mario Mendoza, USF wouldn’t keep Mut around if he didn’t do some things well. He was a three-time all-conference all-academic team, played on special teams, did his part in practices, and by all accounts a good guy. Just some things to keep in mind as we’re talking about people being busts and whatnot.

ANALYSIS: This is the fourth straight USF recruiting class that had severe attrition. The conditions were now in place for the awful USF teams that would come.

GRADE: F. This class turned up one of the few bright spots of 2013-14 in Sean Price, and a handful of other contributors. But I gave the 2002 class an F, and that class had Stephen Nicholas in it.

And, that 2002 class was recruited from a much weaker position. In February 2012, USF was coming off a 5-7 season that could be passed off as a slight step back; the details of the Big East implosion were still being sorted out; and Holtz was entering his third year on the job. Under the circumstances, this class was dreadful.

Even Holtz’s attempts to plug holes with junior college players failed. This class included six JUCOs, of which only Mims became a starter, and DB Fidel Montgomery a rotation player. (On bad teams.) Striking out at JUCO recruiting, something USF football traditionally does well, was the final piece of Skip Holtz’s complete failure to recruit at USF.

2013 (2 ****, 16 ***, 48th nationally)

BLUE CHIPPERS: DB Lamar Robbins, DT Derrick Calloway. DT Deadrin Senat was a high 3-star recruit.

HIDDEN GEMS: The class included six 2-star players: DE Auggie Sanchez, DT Bruce Hector, K Emilio Nadelman, DB Johnny Ward, RB Darius Tice, and junior college DB Torrel Saffold. That’s a lot of value.

CONTRIBUTORS: LB Nigel Harris, DT Dominique Threatt, OL Jeremi Hall, OL Cameron Ruff, LB Rahmon Swain, DB Nate Godwin, DE Mike Love, DB Hassan Childs. We also have to count departed QB Mike White here, for keeping the QB position afloat during USF’s thankfully short power running game era.

ATTRITION: DB Darius Whitty never made it to campus. LB Mitchell Wright had to give up the game due to injury. WR Zach Benjamin and RB Stafon McCray left the team early. White and FB Kennard Swanson left USF after the change in offensive schemes. The 4-star Robbins found himself a reserve for most of his career.

STILL ON THE ROSTER: Sanchez, Senat, Hector, Hall, Ruff, Nadelman, Childs, Love, Tice (via medical redshirt), and DE Eric Mayes (now a backup OL) are all slated to return for 2017.

TBD: Like Terrence Mitchell, Derrick Calloway had a promising career arc aborted. After missing 2015 for academic reasons, he hoped to return to USF in 2016, but didn’t. He could resurface, but that seems unlikely.

ANALYSIS: To a badly depleted roster, Willie Taggart’s first class turned up a battalion of reinforcements. A lot of them were forced to start earlier in their career than they should have, but helped those 2013 and 2014 teams, and were experienced starters by the time things got better in 2015. Even more amazingly, USF managed to redshirt several players who look to figure prominently in 2017. The change in offensive scheme didn’t even cost them that much.

GRADE: A+. cnnsi.com did a lengthy feature on Skip Holtz’s first recruiting class. They should have done one on Willie Taggart’s first recruiting class, because it was a masterpiece. This class’ career isn’t even complete yet, but I have no reservations about giving it the highest grade a year early.

This class thoroughly restocked a depleted roster with talent. More than half the class became full-time starters. Some became all-conference players. Attrition was very low, and much of that was due to the radical change in offensive schemes after 2014. One minor nitpick is that this class lacked a superstar. But those were on their way.

2014 (2 ****, 21 ***, 41st nationally)

BLUE CHIPPERS: This class included RB D’Ernest Johnson, QB Quinton Flowers, DB Deatrick Nichols, aaaaaand:

Ladies and gentlemen, Marlon Mack. Take three minutes of your time and relive Mack’s first game:

Remember, USF was trailing Western Carolina 14-3 early, and by one point late in the third quarter. With the pre-Quinton Flowers offense still sputtering, it looked for all the world like USF was going to lose to an FCS team for the second straight year. But in his first game, as a true freshman, Marlon Mack showed up and Marlon Macked the hell out of the proceedings. He was so great, he should be a verb. We’re adding this to the TDS lexicon:

Other known marlonings include Mack’s final regular season game versus C. Florida; Quinton Flowers vs. Memphis; Mike White vs SMU; Andre Davis vs. Tulsa and Nevada; Amarri Jackson vs. Louisville; Andre Hall vs UAB; and J.R. Reed vs Memphis. In basketball, Dominique Jones against Providence and Georgetown, and Courtney Williams against Northern Colorado. (Years are intentionally omitted, as the term is reserved for performances so great you know exactly which one it was. Surely you weren’t thinking “which Amarri Jackson game?”)

HIDDEN GEMS: TE Elkanah “Kano” Dillon was rated only 2 stars by Rivals, and was on the Mackey Award watch list as a redshirt sophomore.

CONTRIBUTORS: DB Devin Abraham, DB Jamie Byrd, DB Tajee Fullwood, DE Kevin Bronson, WR Ryshene Bronson, DE Demetrius “Shawn” Hill, LB Vincent Jackson, DB Mazzi Wilkins, TE Marlon Pope.

ATTRITION: LB Nick Holman returned to his home state of Alabama to help restart UAB football. Also connected with UAB was DB Kendall Sawyer, who left USF after one year for junior college, but he’s not on their current roster. TE Nick Nataro left USF after a few days. OL Benjamin Knox got kicked off the team for firing a gun on campus. OL Zach Hudson gave up football after a surgery. DE Rohan Blackwood, who chose USF over many Power 5 schools, had academic issues and ended up at Division II Chowan.

STILL ON THE ROSTER: Flowers, Johnson, Nichols, Abraham, Dillon, Fullwood, both Bronsons, Bayes, Jackson, Wilkins, LB Josh Black, DE Juwaun Brown, WR Stanley Clerveaux, OL Michael Galati, OL Michael Smith.

ANALYSIS: Well, there are your superstars. Marlon Mack, Quinton Flowers, D’Ernest Johnson, and Deatrick Nichols is as good a group as USF has ever had. Only the 2005 and 2009 recruiting classes turned up so many big names.

USF also re-discovered its success in recruiting junior college players. Taggart found three good ones in Byrd, Hill, and Pope.

Going into 2017, 16 of the 25 high school players in this class are still on the roster. But it hasn’t quite developed that second tier of starters yet. Most of the class has been playing, so this class is well-positioned to provide help going forward. But some of the better-regarded recruits haven’t played much. 4-star Jimmy Bayes’ inability to find the field has been puzzling.

MIDTERM GRADE: A. This class is obviously a very good one, but its final grade depends on how much value it provides to the 2017 and 2018 teams.


It's too early to grade the 2015 and 2016 classes, so I'm just going to summarize their recruiting ratings, and what we know so far.

2015 (0 ****, 12 ***, 57th nationally)

This was a smaller class than the last two, contained no 4-star signings, and thus received a lower ranking from the recruiting cognoscenti. But early indications are that Willie Taggart aced another exam.

In the 2014 version of this article, I wrote that almost half of the 2012 class was already gone from USF. In 2017, I can happily report that 18 of the 19 players in this class are still on the roster. (OL Cameron Campbell, had to give up the sport for physical reasons.) Almost all of this class has gotten playing time; some were already starting on the Bulls’ successful 2015 and 2016 teams.

2016 (2 ****, 9***, 72nd nationally)

Most of this class redshirted their first year. Only 4-star WR Darnell Salomon (8 games, 2 receptions, 14 yards) and junior college DE LaDarrius Jackson (7 games, 3 tackles) saw significant action.

But this class is seeing some early attrition: DB Armunz Matthews and DB Josh Dunn, two of this class’ more touted signings, have left USF. DE Tramal Ivy seems never to have enrolled. Those losses, plus 3 junior college players whose eligibility will expire, mean only about a dozen players will be around for 2018.

Conclusions

After the 2013 and 2014 versions of this article, I wrote up my conclusions. Some of these still apply, so I’ll repeat them here. I’ll also add some new ones.

  • USF's ratio of 4/3/2-star players is consistent year to year, but took great leaps forward after the signings of Mike Jenkins and Ryne Giddins. Go back again and look at the star counts for each year. In both cases, after USF signed a player they never would have gotten before -- a player who wasn't an academic or behavior risk, and whom bigger schools genuinely wanted -- more players of that caliber started coming. Schools can forever change their perception on Signing Day.
  • There is little variance in USF's overall recruiting ranking, but much variance in how good each class turned out. I said in 2013 that Skip Holtz’s recruiting classes didn’t look much different than Jim Leavitt’s. They didn’t, in terms of stars and rankings on the front end. The difference was that Holtz got much less out of them. Because:
  • Recruiting success isn’t just about signing players. It’s about keeping them. I use the word “attrition” a lot. I believe this to be central to the success or failure of a recruiting class. USF’s darkest years were preceded by four recruiting classes with massive attrition problems; USF’s renaissance was preceded by three classes where almost everyone stayed and contributed. Recruiting analysis tends to focus on stars, but you need a lot of players to complete a roster.
  • Recruiting class success is also a measurement of how effective the coach is day-to-day. Holtz’s attrition rate was so high, and Taggart’s so low, that you have to conclude that Taggart ran a much happier ship. Even players whose role diminished as upperclassmen, such as Johnny Ward, stayed to play for Taggart. Holtz lost players in large numbers.

Note also that the coach who recruited them is often not the coach they would play for. Jim Leavitt recruited the 2009 and 2010 classes, but wasn’t around to develop them, so it’s unfair to assign him all the blame. Similarly, the offensive linemen Holtz recruited played a lot better under Taggart. So the above grades may even be giving Skip more credit than he deserves.

  • Leavitt’s classes were up and down. Holtz’s were atrocious. Taggart’s were awesome. When I first compiled this in 2012, the trend was up and down. Which makes sense, because Leavitt recruited under a wide range of circumstances throughout his tenure, from bottom rung I-A independent to BCS Top 25 nouveau riche. With Holtz, recruiting went in the toilet; and with Taggart it went to the stratosphere. Now that the program has found a level, it will be interesting to see if future coaches will be as consistent as Holtz and Taggart were going forward.
  • One bad recruiting class won’t kill you. Four bad recruiting classes in a row will kill you. Some of Leavitt’s classes weren’t too great, but he never had a run of bad ones, not even really two in a row. But his 2009 class, followed by Holtz’s three straight misses, left the roster badly depleted. Taggart had two straight home runs, and his two later classes look very good, meaning that the roster is now stable. Even if the 2016 or 2017 class turns out to be a miss, USF will be fine, as long as subsequent classes are good.
  • Recruiting rankings are biased towards larger classes. This is not just in terms of mathematical ratings, but in terms of having more opportunities to develop star players.

Much was written about how USF's 2014 recruiting class crushed the Group of Five competition, loaded with 3-star talent and a couple 4-stars. But USF signed a whopping 28 players, compared to as few as 15 for some schools. When you account for that, the advantage is much thinner. By the same token, Taggart’s later classes, and Charlie Strong’s first class, got lower ratings simply because they were smaller. Recruiting rankings do a poor job of accounting for this. But I have an idea:

  • Recruiting classes have three tiers. In doing this exercise, I’m developed a model to apply. One third of each class should become stars or starters; one third starters or useful players; and one third backups and attrition.

Holtz’s recruiting classes were fine at the very top. Elkino Watson, Andre Davis, and Sean Price would have starred for any USF team. His bigger problem was the middle third, which barely turned up anyone good enough to start in four straight losing seasons. If you grouped Willie Taggart’s classes into thirds, the middle third would have a lot of future starters in it, and the bottom third would have a couple hits.

An insightful comparison here is Torrel Saffold and Fidel Montgomery. Both were junior college defensive backs and career rotation players at USF. Montgomery is about the 6th best player of the Holtz’s 2012 class (a top third player); Saffold is about the 6th worst player of Taggart’s 2013 class (a bottom third player). When the bottom third of a class is turning up contributors, the coach really did something right. When they’re the only recognizable names five years later, the coach did something wrong. And finally:

  • My “star” and “contributor” ratings aren’t very good. They don’t capture the value of players like Saffold and Montgomery, who filled a role on the teams they played for. Similarly, players like Mike White, Derrick Calloway, and Terrence Mitchell provided value to USF before leaving the program early. Even the much put-upon Alex Mut appeared in 38 games, which is 38 more than you and I, and he deserves credit for that. It’s grossly unfair to equate such players with the likes of Jamius Gumsby, Tiger Powell, and Rohan Blackwood, who never saw the field for USF.

To that end, I am developing an objective mathematical system for rating recruiting classes. In brief, it will be based on how many games you played and started; how good a team you played for; did you win any awards (e.g., all-conference); and there will a statistical element for positions where that makes sense. Each career will be rated on a scale of 0 to 5 stars. That will make for interesting, objective comparisons of past classes.

Which I think has its place in modern football analysis. If attrition really is the biggest indicator of future success, then we should be able to predict which teams are better and worse positioned for the future, simply by looking at rosters. Perhaps such a system could help identify teams due for a fall, or those due to rise again. I will share my results here. Thank you for reading.