(Bumped up. Well worth a read)
INTRODUCTION: This past signing day, according to Rivals recruiting, Cal signed two five star and seven four star prospects. But what does that mean? Someone rated 5.8-6.0 is four stars, evaluated as an “All-American Candidate.” Here is the Rivals scale:
*6.1 Franchise Player; considered one of the elite prospects in the country, generally among the nation's top 25 players overall; deemed to have excellent pro potential; high-major prospect
* 6.0-5.8 All-American Candidate; high-major prospect; considered one of the nation's top 300 prospects; deemed to have pro potential and ability to make an impact on college team
* 5.7-5.5 All-Region Selection; considered among the region's top prospects and among the top 750 or so prospects in the country; high-to-mid-major prospect; deemed to have pro potential and ability to make an impact on college team
* 5.4-5.0 Division I prospect; considered a mid-major prospect; deemed to have limited pro potential but definite Division I prospect; may be more of a role player
*4.9 Sleeper; no Rivals.com expert knew much, if anything, about this player; a prospect that only a college coach really knew about
The rating is part projection of talent, part inflation to appeal to fan observers. While I’ll be pleasantly surprised if the nine Cal recruits rated four stars or better turn out to be All-Americans during their careers in Blue & Gold, I think reality will fall just short. On the other hand, I highly doubt all 20 four star University of Florida recruits will become All-Americans! How do we reconcile the hypothetical with reality? (Be warned: the very premise of this exercise will result in fewer four stars for our beloved Bears.)
The following research will be taking an objective, retrospective (pending, in the case of current players) look at a player’s contributions at the college level. Each player, as judged by their collegiate accomplishments, will then be awarded a star level and “Rivals Rating” score based on the scoring system employed by Rivals.com.
One nuance of college recruiting “stars” should be noted. Four- and five-stars are limited commodities. In any given class, only the top 25 are awarded a fifth star, while only the top 250 prospects are awarded four stars; in other words, it’s enough to have five-star ability if you are evaluated as the 26th best player in the nation. Because I am generous (well, mostly due to a misread before my research), for the purpose of this exercise, I have accepted the top 50 recruits in the Rivals 250 as five-stars.
Rivals released their top 250 list in 2007 for the first time, rating the best prospects from 1 to 250. I took the past three Rivals250 lists and averaged the number of four- and five- stars awarded by position, per year. To better understand the relativity inherent in the rankings—keeping in mind that stars are based as much on an individual’s talent vis-à-vis another prospect as that of the individual, independent—I divided the total number of prospects by seven for each of the six BCS conference plus an additional catch-all for Independents and other non-BCS conferences. The result is shown below:
In reading the chart, let’s look at the defensive backs category. Over the three-year period, there were 106 DB’s rated at four stars or better with an average of 35 per year. During the same period, 62 players evaluated as "athletes" were rated with an average of 21 per year. For this project, "athletes" were re-classified with allocation as follows: 33% defensive backs, 33% wide receivers, 24% running backs, and 10% linebackers. Therefore, the yearly defensive backs average gains seven for a total of 42. Dividing that total by seven makes six which draws the following conclusion: the six best defensive backs in a conference in any given year is a four-star player (thinking about it in another way, would you expect the 7th or 8th best defensive back in a conference selected as an All-American that year?). The same process is done for five star recruits, reaching the conclusion that the best player in the conference at each position is five stars.
The challenge, then, is to find player ratings by year, by conference. For this, I consulted all-conference teams. I have a high degree of confidence in the evaluations, as the honor is conferred by coaches who weekly scout and gameplan against the opposition—I trust coaches’ evaluations infinitely more than media, scouting "experts," or myself, to be honest. In a typical year, the coaches will select one quarterback, two running backs, three wide receivers, one tight end, five offensive linemen, four defensive linemen, three linebackers, and four defensive backs each for first and second teams. Thankfully, this neatly corresponds to the "by conference" breakdown for four stars so that first (sometimes second) team selections are awarded four stars. The two exceptions are defensive linemen and receivers, where first and second teams are considered. Within four stars, the Rivals Rating is to be laddered as followed:
6.0- One first-team selection, plus at least one other first- or second-team selection
5.9- One first-team selection, plus an honorable selection from another season
5.8 One first-team selection, or two second-team selections
For five stars, there needs to be clear indication that the player was considered the best at his position relative to other conference performers. The following are ways to achieve five stars, awarded automatically
- For linemen—both offensive and defensive—winner of the Morris Trophy
- Conference offensive or defensive player of the year
- Consensus first-team selection
- Recipient of national honor for position play (for example, Doak Walker, Thorpe, Randy Moss, etc.)
Players who received second team (excluding receivers and D-line) or honorable mention but no first team were awarded three stars with a Rivals Rating of 5.7. Any special teams member who earned any All-Conference honor was given a 5.7 rating.
The rest of the class was awarded three or two stars, and along with their Rivals Rating, this was accomplished exclusively from player participation based on the number of games played per season:
5.6 and Three Stars- Played in at least 75% of eligible games
5.5 and Three Stars- Played in 50-75% of eligible games
5.4 and Two Stars- Played in average of four games a season
5.3 and Two Stars- Played in average of three games a season
5.2 and Two Stars- Played in average of two games a season
5.1 and Two Stars- Played in average of one game a season
5.0 and Two Stars- Zero participation, transfer, non-qualifier
Without further ado, here are the re-rankings of Coach Jeff Tedford’s 2003-2007 recruiting classes. Please keep in mind that the last two classes—2006 and 2007—are still in progress and subject to change based on performance in the next few seasons.