We are getting closer and closer to national signing day on Feb. 1. Classes are falling into place across the country, and since football and football recruiting rank first and second as far as interest among our readers goes, I thought I would take this opportunity to offer up the first of what will hopefully be a couple of status reports heading into national signing day.
UNT picked up a commitment over the weekend from Jacob Brammer, an offensive lineman from Richmond Foster.
He’s a good prospect who had offers from Rice and New Mexico.
The addition of Brammer adds to a solid sore of players UNT has commitments from and leaves the Mean Green sitting 10th out of 14 teams in 247Sports rankings of the classes in Conference USA.
And that brings us back to the topic we always end up discussing at this time of year when it comes to UNT football.
UNT’s program has struggled for years to move up the recruiting rankings as measured by the recruiting industry. Whether that matters is always up for debate.
My position is well known on this, but just to reiterate — Yes. Recruiting as measured by the traditional ranking services matters.
Seth Littrell and his staff have done a terrific job since they showed up before last season and led UNT to a bowl. No one saw that coming. The staff as also done a solid job bringing in some recruits that contributed significantly who were clearly under rated.
Mason Fine was terrific for UNT in his freshman season, despite being lightly recruited. Tyler Wilson looks like a future star at wide receiver.
UNT is doing a good job of evaluating talent.
What I have always contended is that the overall measure of recruiting classes is a good indication of how well a team will perform down the line. History supports that theory.
UNT won four straight Sun Belt titles from 2001-04, largely because The Great Darrell Dickey (check his record with four bowl appearances, it’s true) landed a series of highly rated players right after taking over the program. Linebacker Taylor Casey, defensive tackle Brandon Kennedy, safety Jonas Buckles and tight end Randy Gardener were all state top 100 recruits. Offensive lineman Nick Zuniga and running back Michael Hickman were both area top 100 recruits. That’s a fact. It’s listed in UNT’s old media guides.
And that doesn’t even take into account Scott Hall and linebacker Cody Spencer, were also highly recruited. I believe both were top 100 state recruits and both are now UNT Hall of Famers. I just can’t find a listing to back that up that they were state top 100 players.
Jamario Thomas, who played a key role in UNT’s Sun Belt run, was also a state top 100 player.
UNT’s 2013 Heart of Dallas Bowl team was loaded with highly recruited players, most of whom followed Todd Dodge to Denton. Zach Orr was a highly regarded three-star player. Marcus Trice was a four-star player when he signed with Oklahoma before transferring to UNT. Cyril Lemon was also highly recruited.
Granted, UNT struck gold with Brelan Chancellor, who was lightly recruited. You just can’t expect to hit on a host of lightly recruited players.
Even this season’s Heart of Dallas Bowl team lends credence to the fact that recruiting rankings matter. James Gray, Ashton Preston, Joshua Wheeler, Eric Jenkins, Terian Goree, Brandon Garner and Willy Ivery were all three-star players.
You know what those guys all have in common other than being three-star prospects back in the day? They were all key players this year.
The list at the top of this post of of 247 Sports’ composite talent rankings. The site takes every team’s roster and takes into account their recruiting rankings to come up with a talent composite.
The list backs up the point of the overall rankings being a generally accurate measure of how a team will fare.
Take the league and split it in half. Five of the top seven teams in the rankings played in a bowl, while four of seven finished over .500. Marshall fell of the face of the earth and Florida Atlantic didn’t live up to expectations. Both finished 3-9. Texas-San Antonio lost its bowl game and finished 6-7.
Only two teams in the bottom six made a bowl and only one finished with a winning record. Old Dominion went 10-3 and beat Eastern Michigan in the Popeyes Bahamas Bowl, while UNT finished 5-8 after falling to Army in the Heart of Dallas Bowl.
And don’t forget, UNT only reached at bowl because of its score on the NCAA’s Academic Progress Rate report.
People are fond of saying that outside of the top few hundred players in the country, the rankings are not all that accurate. They point to how many offers a player has or say that there is no way for every player to be evaluated.
In certain instances that is true.
What can’t be denied is that talent wins. And there is no better measure of talent than the rankings for an overall view.
It’s proven over and over again every year.
It’s also why it is really important to watch the way UNT closes this year and where its class ends up ranking.