As National Signing Day fades and the 2016 recruiting cycle begins, let's take a look at what Georgia Tech recruiting has been in the past, and what it could be in the future. I've split this analysis into 2 parts so that I can focus on 2 specific topics. First, we'll take a look at the state of Georgia's place in the national recruiting landscape, while specifically focusing on the Atlanta area. We'll also compare the state of Georgia to the "Big 3" recruiting states in some key areas. Finally, I hope to investigate a couple of widespread recruiting myths that are out there currently. In the second post, I will look at trends in Georgia Tech recruiting, and summarize what all this means for the future. First, however, let's paint the national recruiting picture by identifying which states produce the most top talent.
Where does Georgia Rank Nationally?
For the purposes of this piece, I've used Rivals recruiting rankings for 2011-2015. First, I took a look at Rivals' top 250 recruits from each year and took a look at where they came from and who they signed with. To dive a bit deeper, I also counted the number of recruits that came from the Atlanta area(Fulton, Cobb, Dekalb, Gwinnett, and Clayton Counties). Let's take a look at the results (Note: Georgia's results include the Atlanta area even though it is also listed separately) :
Rivals Top 250 Recruits Per State
So what can we learn from this table? A lot! First, this supports the idea of the "Big 3." The states of Florida, Texas, and California have consistently produced more talent than the other states by a wide margin. Over the five years sampled, the 3 states combined accounted for over 40% of Rival's top 250. 3 states out of fifty. I knew these states were heavily recruited, but once I added up the numbers I had a hard time believing I didn't make some type of mistake. We'll take a closer look at these states a little later in order to compare them to Georgia.
While the Big 3 have been dominant, Georgia has recently established itself as a solid 4th state for recruiting. It produces significantly less talent than the states ahead of it, but is also significantly ahead of Ohio, the next best state on the list. So Georgia Tech is sitting on a fairly good hotbed of talent, but the stats on Atlanta are even more promising.
Over the last 5 years, on average, Atlanta has produced over 9 of the top 250 recruits in the country. This doesn't seem like a huge figure, until you compare it to some states. If Atlanta were a state, it would be the 9th best state for recruiting, putting it on a another level. I haven't looked up the numbers on other cities, but off the top of my head I think only LA, Dallas, Houston, Miami, Tampa, and Jacksonville could boast similar numbers.
Comparing Georgia to the "Big 3"
After taking a look at which states produce the most top talent, I decided to narrow the focus and take a look at the Rivals Top 50 recruits from the Big 3 and Georgia. For each state I took a look at the conference to which the recruits went, and tabulated the number of recruits who stayed in state at the end. As in the last section, special attention was given to the Atlanta area. I should also note that I didn't account for conference realignment here although there was a significant realignment during this span. The conference affiliation was based on the conference of which the school is currently a member.
Number of Georgia Top 50 Recruits per Power 5 Conference
Yup. Our state is dominated by the SEC in recruiting. As you can see above, the ACC is trending up in the state slightly, but the SEC has still been steady. These stats make sense though. Georgia is bordered by 3 states that have a lesser pool of talent. Each of these states contains at least 1 SEC school. Only 1 of those 3 has an ACC school. The state's recruits show fairly good regional loyalty, which can be taken as a good thing or a bad thing for Georgia Tech in the future, depending on which way you look at it.
As for school loyalty, here's a breakdown of the 10 colleges who recruited the most Georgia top prospects in the last 5 years:
Number of Georgia Top 50 Recruits per School
Unsurprisingly, georgia has the top spot by a large margin in our state. Even worse, Georgia Tech isn't second, but sixth. Of the states I gathered data for, only Georgia didn't have an in-state school in second place(In the second installment of this series, I'll look at what we're doing to fix the issue.) In the places between the dawgs and the Jackets, there are 4 SEC teams from neighboring states with smaller talent pools to draw from. I didn't expect South Carolina to be in second, but it makes sense given the amount of focus that Spurrier has placed on recruiting this state since he came there. I thought it more likely that Auburn, which is almost in West Georgia, would recruit here better. Clemson is on an upswing in Georgia recruiting, posting good numbers in the past 3 years. Time will tell if this success is sustainable, and whether or not they'll be able to cut into the recruiting totals of the top 5 teams. Lastly, don't read too much into Vanderbilt making this list, they only made it due to a couple good years under Franklin, and that success is long gone now.
So what about Atlanta? I took a look at how many of the top 50 were from the Atlanta area and the results are pretty interesting:
Number of Georgia Top 50 Recruits in the Atlanta Area per Year
This means that on average over half of the the top 50 recruits in our state come from the Atlanta area. I knew Atlanta was a great city for talent, but I wasn't expecting the results to be this significant. Atlanta not only produces some of the top talent in the nation, it also produces deep recruiting classes every year.
Number of Florida Top 50 Recruits per School
And here's the full breakdown by conference:
Number of Florida Top 50 Recruits per Conference
When you're the best at recruiting the best state in the country at producing talent, it shows. Florida State's run of 3 straight ACC championships has been largely influenced by their in-state recruiting. However, the top 2 spaces show how coaching and player development can be just as important as talent. Florida has been abysmal under Will Muschamp, despite putting up recruiting numbers that aren't too much worse than FSU's. For GT fans, much of the debate centers around how well we've done with the talent we've gotten. Tech's successes and Florida's failures, when contrasted with FSU's success, perfectly represents the dichotomy that exists between the two sides of the "Do recruiting rankings matter?" debate.
As far as other trends in the state, the 3 in-state Power 5 schools owned the top 3 recruiting spots, and there was not as much difference between the top 3 spots as there was for Georgia. Most of the out of state schools on the list are from the SEC, though Clemson has done well in the state. Louisville's success has died off after an initial surge from hiring former Florida DC Charlie Strong, so they will likely drop down in these standings over the next few years.
Number of Texas Top 50 Recruits per School
Breakdown by Conference:
Number of Texas Top 50 Recruits per Conference
Texas has been a huge supplier of talent for the Big-12 for many years, and the stats show it. Had Texas A&M not left, the conference would have been pulling in over 35 out of the top 50 recruits in the state each year. Again, the top 2 are in-state, and one of them has done little with a lot. Texas in the final years of Mack Brown underachieved despite getting much of the state's talent. Charlie Strong has recruiting back on track this year, and he'll be able to bring the program back to national prominence if he can do anything with it.
So, like Georgia, Texas has a strong regional allegiance, but like Florida, has 2 in state teams close to the top in the recruiting rankings.
Number of California Top 50 Recruits per School
Breakdown by Conference:
Number of California Top 50 Recruits per Conference
California, by far, had the most top players go to a single conference. This makes sense based on the Pac-12's location relative to the other Power 5 conferences. The Pac-12 is all by itself on the west coast, and therefore doesn't have to compete with other conferences for talent. California is a bit more like Georgia in that there is one clear in-state school at the top of these standings, but UCLA and Cal also successfully recruited in-state talent. I find it interesting that USC, like Florida and Texas, has underachieved with the talent it had, but...well.... Lane Kiffin and scholarship reductions are all you need to know about that one.
I have a lot of relatives who are big uga fans, and I hear them complain all the time about how the in-state talent always leaves to go to schools out of state. While the raw numbers back this up, they don't tell the whole story. Georgia only has 2 Power 5 programs, while the other big recruiting states have more. To take a look at this myth, I divided the number of top 50 recruits who stayed in state by the number of Power 5 programs in the state.
Number of Top 50 Recruits Staying In State
Georgia actually compares well to the Big 3 in terms of keeping talent in state when the data is looked at in this light. It's not a perfect correction factor, but it does show that Georgia recruits aren't as opposed to staying in-state as some fans out there believe.
So what have we learned? For starters, Georgia is a great state for recruiting, and Atlanta is an even better city for it. Second, uga currently has had a choke hold on the state's top talent over the past few years, and most of the other states have more parity at the top of their statewide recruiting. This isn't the best news for Georgia Tech fans, but in Part II we're going to take a look at how these trends could change for us over the next few years.
Thanks for reading! Any feedback and discussion is welcome!