Here are a couple of tables, the one on the left sorted by average "star" ranking and the one on the right sorted by average "Rivals Ranking" for the ranked recruits in the SEC for 2009 so far. Here's how this all shakes out:
|Quartile||School||Avg. Stars||Avg. RR||Count||Quartile||School||Avg. Stars||Avg. RR||Count|
Hmm. Doesn't exactly look like UK is setting the world on fire based on these numbers. Of course, this is nothing like precise -- the class sizes vary wildly, none of the unranked recruits are considered, and there is a long way to go for almost every school before 2009 is done. This also says nothing about Coach Brooks & Co.'s ability to evaluate talent that the scouts have underrated or missed. What this is for is just to give you a directional idea of how far Kentucky has to go to catch up with the rest of the SEC.
Keep in mind that 3 or 4 of the classes are comparatively small right now, so there is quite a bit of margin for error. But you can see that it is highly unlikely for UK's class to rise above the 3rd quartile in these measures. That places us firmly in the bottom half of the SEC, and if you look at the teams in there with us, you will find the ones that we have been traditionally very competitive with (with the exception of Spurrier's Gamecocks, who for some reason have our number despite not being tremendously more talented).
I wrote back last year that it is a monumental task to build a program in the SEC, and despite Kentucky's success over the last two years, we see here in somewhat stark relief just exactly what I was talking about. Even successful bowl appearances and a quarterback who was mentioned at one time as a possible Heisman contender did not substantially change how we are perceived by the 4 and 5 star studs.
The next question I would ask is how is Kentucky doing year over year? This table gives us an idea since 2004 (when Rivals began assigning Rivals Ratings):
|Year||>= 3 star||>=5.4 RR
||Delta Star||Delta RR|
|Players without RR considered min for star rank|
Now this looks a little more promising. While 2004 looked like a great class on paper, a surprisingly small number of the most highly-ranked players ever made it onto the playing field. 2005 looks pretty weak, but a number of those players, including Zipp Duncan, Braxton Kelley, Jeremy Jarmon, E. J. Adams and Tim Mastay have contributed significantly.
But the thing I like best is that Brooks is starting to become consistent in getting better players. We still have a long way to go in 2009's class, and it could get significantly better pretty easily. Generally speaking, the higher rated the player, the more likely he is to be physically ready to contribute right away. Brooks and his staff have done a great job at developing the lower rated guys, but by consistently bringing in more talent, the UK staff is placing us in a position to be competitive in the SEC by improving our ready depth from year to year.
We still have a very long way to go to compete anywhere near the top of the SEC, if we ever can. But the longest journey begins with one step, and right now it looks as if our recruiting is stepping in the right direction. Going .500 in the SEC should be our next goal, and while that looks pretty improbable this year, it looks a lot more doable in the near future.