With the latest additions of Florida high-school teammates 4-star Jon Mitchell and 3-star Antoine Belgrave-Shorter, both cornerbacks, Penn State football has vaulted to the 8th ranking in the 2024 recruiting class.
3-stars, 4-stars, the rare 5-star (for Penn State anyway), top ten recruiting class, what does it all mean and how do these rankings translate to success on the field?
There is a saying that goes “It’s not always about the X’s and O’s, it’s about the Jimmy’s and Joe’s”. All recruiting data and information are collected from the recruiting website 247.
Recruiting success equals championships
A familiar refrain amongst college football fans is that “stars and recruiting rankings don’t matter”. They’ll point to the sure-fire recruit who failed to develop into the next Heisman Trophy winner (Penn State football’s Christian Hackenberg comes to mind) and use one miss as an excuse to devalue the whole system.
As Covid-19 completely altered the landscape of college football, we’ll look at the national champions in college football from the start of the College Football Playoff system (2014) and compare them to both their 3-year and 10-year average recruiting classes before they held the championship trophy for all to see.
2019- LSU Tigers. Their 3-year average prior to defeating Clemson was 8. Their 10-year average was 6.8.
2018- Clemson Tigers. 3-year average, when they beat Alabama, was 11.3. The 10-year average was 16.7.
2017-Alabama Crimson Tide. When Bama beat Georgia in overtime, their 3-year average was number one. They finished number one in seven of ten years for an average of 1.8.
2016-Clemson Tigers. When they defeated Bama for their first National Championship in 35 years, their 3-year recruiting average was 12 and their 10-year average was 16.9.
2015-Alabama Crimson Tide. Bama beat Clemson with a 3-year average again of number one and a 10-year average plummeted to 5.6.
2014-Ohio State Buckeyes. When OSU defeated Oregon in the first-ever CFP Championship game, they did so with a three-year recruiting average of 3.3 and a 10-year mark of 8.2.
In this six-year time span, it is crystal clear that, while sometimes star recruits might not work out, these recruiting analysts get it right much more than they get it wrong.
Penn State football’s recent recruiting
Penn State’s recruiting success lately has been fairly impressive. While there is a large portion of the Nittany Lion faithful that are not fans of James Franklin’s coaching abilities, no one can deny his ability to recruit.
In the 10 seasons for full recruiting cycles under Franklin (including the 2023 year), Penn State football has averaged a ranking of 14.6, with two top-10 recruiting classes at 6th place in 2018 and 2022. His lowest class was 21st, ironically in 2021.
As stated before, the 2024 PSU class is currently 8th in the country and could go higher if 4-star QB Michael Van Buren follows 247’s “Crystal Ball” predictions and signs with the Nittany Lions. Of course, this number could also decrease if one of these top recruits decommits and signs elsewhere.
These numbers show, without a shadow of a doubt, that success on the field is preceded by success in recruiting. Penn State football’s championship foundation was being constructed over the past decade. Now they just have to finish the house.