Kentucky Football Recruiting: The Numbers Game

Daniel Shirey-USA TODAY Sports

This is the first of a four part series about Kentucky's football recruiting and how it stacks up with the rest of the SEC. Kentucky, under Mark Stoops, has elevated its game and not just in quality, but in quantity.

One of our readers wondered how Kentucky's recruiting compares with the big dogs by position, so I decided to check it out. Let's begin with Alabama since they always seem to have the number one recruiting class for the last several years. As we go through the SEC teams, you'll see a pattern.

Alabama

Position

QB

RB

OL

TE

WR

DL

DE

LB

DB

ATH

K & P

Total

2012

Offers

12

12

18

7

17

24

11

22

18

6

1

148

2012

Enrolled Commits

1

2

3

1

2

4

0

5

4

2

1

25

2013

Offers

14

10

22

5

16

12

16

15

20

9

0

139

2013

Enrolled Commits

2

3

6

1

2

2

1

3

3

3

0

26

2014

Offers

8

12

35

8

20

23

19

21

29

8

1

184

2014

Signed Commits

1

0

6

1

2

4

2

4

3

2

1

26

What you see above is the number of offers for each position and the enrolled commitments for the last three recruiting classes (signed commitments for 2014). Under the NCAA regulations, a Div I team can only have 85 scholarship players at the beginning of a season. The SEC complicates things with their own limit of 25 players per signing class, a nebulous number. It is nebulous because of back tracking, meaning a school can sign more if they are filling holes in the scholarship roster due to attrition. Enrolled commitments is the key word because some schools over-sign and manage to leave some players in the lurch.

While Alabama is the national recruiting gold standard, Kentucky has been near the bottom of the SEC spectrum. The funny thing about Kentucky is that were they in another conference, the Wildcats would fall near the top in recruiting. That's how strong the SEC is.

Alabama, over the three year period, enrolled roughly 16.6% of the players they recruit while Kentucky enrolled roughly 11.9%. Obviously, Alabama being Alabama, the Tide has better numbers in terms of offers to enrollees. While Alabama won back to back national titles in 2011 and 2012, Kentucky went 5-7 and 2-10. While Alabama had a horrible 2-loss season last year, Kentucky followed up 2012 with another 2-10 season.

There are two distinctions between Alabama and Kentucky. First, Alabama has winning seasons and second, they recruit at a higher level. Looking at the two tables above, you don't see that.

What you do see, however, is that Mark Stoops has significantly increased the number of offers in order to get a Rivals #29 and #17 classes. What you can also see is that both schools place a premium on offensive linemen and defensive backs. One has to assume both schools recruit according to the holes they have to fill in their respective rosters. Kentucky had an obvious need pretty much across the board, especially at wide receiver.

Kentucky

Position

QB

RB

OL

TE

WR

DL

DE

LB

DB

ATH

K & P

Total

2012

Offers

4

12

23

6

26

11

20

21

32

12

2

169

2012

Enrolled Commits

2

2

5

0

2

2

1

3

5

3

1

26

2013

Offers

4

23

30

11

25

19

34

17

37

15

1

216

2013

Enrolled Commits

1

3

3

1

3

2

3

0

3

1

1

21

2014

Offers

7

11

40

8

43

23

21

39

55

19

0

266

2014

Signed Commits

1

2

4

1

5

4

2

3

6

0

0

28

While these tables tell the story, I am a visually oriented person and I find that I can find the dramatic differences by way of graphics much more easily than by looking at tables. So here's what the above two tables look like in a graph: (Click to Enlarge)

Uk_football_recruiting_dynamics_medium

What I see above is that Alabama is more efficient than Kentucky as one would expect. The Alabama tradition and two out of the last three national championships will do that for you. But, you also see the similarities. Offensive linemen, defensive backs, defensive linemen and wide receivers are the consistently premium positions which is logical because of the numbers game. Both schools have to offer many in order to gain a few. What surprises me is how many a school has to offer in order to gain those few.

Something else I found interesting was comparing the offers for quarterbacks. Both Kentucky and Alabama signed 4 quarterbacks over the three year period. Alabama signed one QB in 2012, 3* Alec Morris, but offered twelve, including two 5 stars, one of them being Alabama native Jameis Winston, and six 4 stars.  Alabama's difficulty had everything to do with the entrenched A.J. McCarron. In 2013, they signed 3* Parker McLeod after offering fourteen. Again, this was because of McCarron who was entering his senior season. For 2014, the Tide signed 4* David Cornwell, an Elite 11 QB.

Kentucky signed Patrick Towles in 2012, a 4* and Elite 11 participant. 3* Reese Philips signed last year and as everyone knows, the Cats signed 4* Elite 11 Drew Barker for 2014.

As the BBN is learning, recruiting is an art rather than a science. Of course, we already knew that from John Calipari's recruiting. Kentucky is fortunate to have hired a football coach who understands that one cannot just go through the motions. Mark Stoops and his staff clearly understand the nuances of recruiting. The talent level has increased since his hire.

The comparison between Alabama and Kentucky had me wondering if there is a difference between the SEC West and SEC East. The West has dominated the East for a number of years. Here's what I've found: (Click to Enlarge)

Uk_football_recruiting_dynamics_2_medium

Over the three year period, the SEC-W has signed 500 players compared to the SEC-E's 580 players. The number of offers is staggering: SEC-W put out 3,714 offers and the SEC-E put out 3,950. The only significant difference between the two conference divisions is at the Running Back position. You can see it better by measuring the success rates: (Click to Enlarge)

Uk_football_recruiting_dynamics_3_medium

These two charts show me that the SEC-E has to work harder to get the same level of results, but it hasn't translated into the same success on the field. The difference between the two divisions, then, has to be coaching. Since Urban Meyer left Florida, Nick Saban (at LSU and Alabama), Les Miles at LSU and now Gus Malzahn at Auburn and Kevin Sumlin at Texas A&M have better coaching staffs than Georgia's Mark Richt, Missouri's Gary Pinkel, Florida's Will Muschamp and South Carolina's aging Steve Spurrier.

Ch-ch-changes happen. Georgia fans were down right giddy to see Todd Grantham leave for Louisville. Georgia was ranked 17th in Total Offense last season, but ranked 45th in Total Defense. The Bulldogs were tied with Tennessee (78th) in Scoring Defense, 41st in Rushing Defense and 60th in Pass Defense. I guess those kind of numbers are good enough for Louisville, but they weren't good enough for the Georgia fan base.

Nick Saban has had to replace several staff positions (the price of success). The Coaches Hot Seat did not take kindly to the Lane Kiffin hire. The Mad Hatter of LSU had to hire some new guys like Bradley Dale Peveto away from Kentucky.

Will Muschamp had to make some coaching moves on offense. The Gators ranked 113th in Total Offense, 87th in Rushing Offense, 107th in Passing Offense, and tied with Eastern Michigan at 112th in Scoring Offense. That earned him first place on the Coaches Hot Seat. For perspective, Ron Zook had a better win-loss record at Florida in the same number of seasons. For the record, Florida still recruits well.

Mark Stoops will have to replace Peveto. There are too many coaching changes to mention all, but each will affect recruiting in some fashion and the changes could also have an effect on the field. If Kentucky can pull off six wins this year, things could change dramatically for the Wildcats with regard to recruiting. There are several very highly ranked players who will be watching.

Part 2 of this series will deal with the SEC East and how they recruited by position and Part 3 will deal with the SEC West. Part 4 will show how our non-conference opponents fared over the last three years in recruiting.

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