UW FOOTBALLSIGNING DAY

Badgers football: Time will tell where 2014 recruiting class ranks

2014-02-05T06:45:00Z Badgers football: Time will tell where 2014 recruiting class ranksTOM MULHERN | tmulhern@madison.com | 608-252-6169 madison.com

Don’t expect University of Wisconsin football coach Gary Andersen to jump into the discussion when it comes to evaluating where his 2014 recruiting class ranks.

Andersen let his feelings be known about recruiting rankings in December during bowl practices.

“I will never look at one of those recruiting rankings as long as I live,” Andersen said. “No one’s going to tell me who a three-star or four-star athlete is. We’ll evaluate it.”

As usual, those rankings are left up to the recruiting analysts who make a living evaluating football prospects and attaching stars to their names, all to determine who “wins” today’s signing day.

For much of the fall, it appeared Andersen’s first full class, after his hire in December of 2012, might be one of the highest-ranked in many years at UW.

That changed a bit over the past couple of weeks, as a class that has been in almost constant flux suffered some losses.

The biggest setback in terms of rankings was the departure of four-star Sun Prairie defensive tackle Craig Evans, who decommitted and announced he would sign with Michigan State. But given the academic issues that plagued Evans, he may have never made it on the field for the Badgers.

Just to show how fickle the rankings can be, UW tumbled from No. 19 nationally to No. 26 according to Scout.com, and from second in the Big Ten Conference to fourth — just on the basis of Evans’ departure.

“In terms of the paper rankings, it hurts them,” said Allen Trieu, a national recruiting analyst for Scout.com who focuses on the Midwest. “I think he’s obviously a talented player, so you hate to lose a guy like that. But it is just one kid in a class that’s still (at) 25.”

Where the class winds up remains up in the air, a fitting end to a crazy recruiting cycle that included enough commits and decommits to make anybody’s head spin.

Chalk that up to Ohio State coach Urban Meyer, who is still shaking up the conference with his aggressive approach to recruiting.

“Urban Meyer brought a whole new attitude to the Big Ten,” said Mike Farrell, a national analyst for Rivals.com.

“It’s the way recruiting is done everywhere else in the country. ... The Big Ten isn’t used to this. It drives the coaches nuts, but Urban Meyer brought in that cutthroat, ‘I’m going to go after anybody’ (attitude). He ticked off a lot of the coaches, and now they’re all going after everybody. One coach can change the entire feel of a conference. That’s what he did.”

UW is likely to lose cornerback Cornelius Sturghill, from Memphis, Tenn., who committed less than two weeks earlier. He is expected to sign with Louisville.

But the Badgers certainly gained more than they lost, getting several commits to “flip” in their direction. That’s why coaches must continue to recruit players, even those who have committed, until their names are on the letters of intent.

Some school presidents have been pushing for years for an early signing period, but Farrell doesn’t believe that will ever happen.

“You’ve got to understand. The big dogs don’t want an early signing period,” Farrell said “Because at the last second, if they strike out on their big five-star target, they want to steal somebody from someone else.

“You’re going to have to recruit these kids as if they’re not committed.”

Another issue is players being recruited earlier and giving earlier commitments, which can lead to more players flipping.

“The younger they are and the earlier they commit, without educating themselves, without getting out there and seeing all there is to offer, those are the guys who have the highest percentage of flipping,” said Tom Luginbill, ESPN’s national recruiting director.

This is an important recruiting class for the Badgers because of the large number of recruits and all the areas on the team that need replenishing. Andersen went in wanting to improve the speed and athleticism on both sides of the football.

“The focus is clearly to improve overall team speed, become more athletic at the quarterback spot, which is where a guy like D.J. Gillins comes into play,” Luginbill said of the dual-threat quarterback from Jacksonville, Fla., who is already enrolled. “We all know the success (Andersen) had with (quarterback) Chuckie Keaton at Utah State. ...

“I think they’ve added more playmakers at wide receiver, guys that can create some plays in space than maybe they’ve had in the past. They’ve become a little bit more explosive on the edge.”

The Badgers currently have five wide receivers in this class, addressing a big area of need. To find that speed, they ventured into some recruiting areas that were either new or had not been explored in a while, such as Georgia, South Carolina and Tennessee, while also still hitting Florida hard.

“They’ve really done a nice job, in my opinion, of going into some areas where they feel like there’s an upgrade in athleticism ... that they don’t currently have within their roster,” Luginbill said. “It doesn’t mean you deviate from the plan and who you are as an identity, but it doesn’t also mean you don’t get faster and more athletic at every turn.”

But Farrell said the Badgers had better luck upgrading their speed on offense than defense.

They were late in addressing the need at cornerback, which is why losing Sturghill stings. That would leave them with two cornerbacks in the class: Lubern Figaro, from Everett, Mass., and Derrick Tindal, from Lauderdale Lakes, Fla., both of whom are two-star recruits, according to Rivals.com.

“When you’re in the two-star range, you’re sort of a guy we don’t expect to be an immediate contributor,” Farrell said. “These guys are going to have to surprise in the defensive backfield for that athleticism on defense to be addressed.”

In addition to the wide receivers, this class is highlighted by the offensive and defensive linemen.

“I think they benefited from a really good class in the state on both the offensive and defensive lines,” Trieu said.

While the class appears to be solid overall, the Badgers were close to breaking new ground. They were in it until the end for two highly ranked players — running back Joe Mixon and wide receiver Jamil Kamara.

Both made their decisions on television at the U.S. Army All-American Bowl. While there are no prizes in recruiting for second place, seeing Badgers hats at the table when those two players made their choices could be viewed as progress. Mixon chose Oklahoma and Kamara picked Virginia.

“I think it helps when they do it on TV and there’s the hat up there,” Farrell said. “Kids see that, and you get a little buzz when you get a Joe Mixon on campus and Jamil Kamara comes out and says you’re the leader, even though we knew that wasn’t true.

“Let’s put it this way, it’s better to finish second for guys like that than it is to finish second for guys no one’s heard of.

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(28) Comments

  1. Acapitalidea
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    Acapitalidea - February 07, 2014 10:50 am
    How many did they win? If you don't get embarrassed losing three straight Rose Bowl games that's your issue.
  2. w8rh3wk5
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    w8rh3wk5 - February 07, 2014 6:59 am
    As fans of a B program like UW is, yes a NC is the next level. UW has won Big ten titles, has had many rose bowl appearances, etc. Getting to a NC is the next step. And based on recruiting stats, it appears to be a very difficult borderline unlikely prospect for UW based on the players they have
  3. WhoDatGuy
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    WhoDatGuy - February 06, 2014 11:35 pm
    So ... winning the NC is the only worthy goal? Everything else -- conference championships, bowl victories, wins over other good teams, double-digit wins in a season, making the most of a team's abilities, persevering and prevailing over adversity -- none of these things have any value or meaning? It must be awfully painful and lonely to be that type of fan.


  4. WhoDatGuy
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    WhoDatGuy - February 06, 2014 6:03 pm
    Yes, and in every case there are eight other top-ten recruiting classes that did NOT make it to the championship game. In six of the eight years, #1 didn't make it, and it looks like a couple of trashy nobodies crashed the party in 09 and 12. Generally speaking, the 10-12 perennial powers get their pick of most of the best recruits, and everybody else picks over the rest. But even at that, 82% of the top-ten recruiting classes still fail to reach the prize. The real wonder of this process (in all sports, not just football) is that the perennial powers, with such an overwhelming advantage in recruiting, EVER lose to the likes of "lowly" Wisconsin, and yet we (and other teams like us) still get plenty of tasty upsets with our poor, pitiful, inferior athletes.
  5. WhoDatGuy
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    WhoDatGuy - February 06, 2014 5:52 pm
    And what happened to #1, and to numbers 3, 4, 5 and 6?
  6. WhoDatGuy
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    WhoDatGuy - February 06, 2014 5:51 pm
    And what happened to #1 and to numbers 4, 5, 6 and 7?
  7. Ego Vigilabo Vigilum
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    Ego Vigilabo Vigilum - February 05, 2014 8:12 pm
    badgerfan1;

    No Latin Scholar here; far from it. And thank you for expanding on your disturbance, however I must confess it doesn't have me at all disturbed to any degree, much less one deemed 'uncommon.'

    I guess perhaps we differ on our respective opinions of the commitment and desire of the AD & Coach A to continue and extend the success of the Football program.

    At the level the Athletic program finds itself, there's a lot at stake; I don't see them as minimizing or avoiding any effort toward that end.

    At this stage of the game, we're a top 20 team. And being a 'glass half full' kind of guy, I like the direction it's heading.

    I myself bleed Badger Red; always have, always will. I fly two Motion "W"/Bucky Badger flags outside my humble abode for each and every football & basketball game, home and away.

    I have a certified Red Room decorated with all manner of Cardinal & White, with a modicum of kitsch. It rocks on game day. I'm elated when they win, deflated when they don't.

    But as far as viewing myself as someone who sees what I think is right as making the difference that will take them beyond the 'win a few lose a few' and catapulting them into the place I feel they should be in order to validate my sense of self worth; I don't.

    THAT'S the kind of unsubstantiated, callow "truth" that one sees as being O.K. in grade school; capisce?
  8. GaryRobbins
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    GaryRobbins - February 05, 2014 7:12 pm
    Then why does Wisconsin always seem to get ranked in the 5th-7th range in the B1G w/their classes, yet they've just been in 3 Rose Bowls and Cap One and Outback Bowls, which are definitely higher than their ranking would predict?
    Because on the whole, ranking of recruiting classes is NOT, in general, an accurate predictor of how teams will do.
    So many biases where players are bumped up a star after they sign w/an SEC team, and players lose a star after they sign w/other, less sexy schools. Happens too frequently.
    And don't even get me started on how highly Notre Dame's classes have been ranked in the past 20 years, only to see them not even come close to that level of success on the field. That shows how such a bias does, in fact, exist.
    And Gary Andersen was not at all downplaying the significance of getting great players, he was simply agreeing w/what I am saying...don't let the ranking of a player, and a class, fool you into either despair or a false sense of security.
    I'll listen to him, since he knows a lot more about this.
  9. badgerfan1
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    badgerfan1 - February 05, 2014 6:53 pm
    First of all my latin scholar my use of disturbing seems to disturb you to an uncommon degree. I am a Badger FAN as such I want them to win EVERY game--not going to happen, but that is what I pull for when I watch the Badgers. As such I would hope that the athletic dept and athletic director would do everything in their power to give their teams a chance to be successful. I am not as yet convinced that Alvarez and his selection of Andersen fulfills that opportunity. It is early but I do not think a coach should minimize the importance of obtaining top recruits. So I have reservations on whether this is the right coach. I realise there "fans' who feel if the Badgers compete--win a few and lose a few--all is OK. That is true in grade school but should not be okay at this level.
  10. w8rh3wk5
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    w8rh3wk5 - February 05, 2014 5:27 pm
    And of course there are misses but it appears that if you dont have a top ten recruiting class you are eliminated from NC consideration in 2 years
  11. hoosierbadger
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    hoosierbadger - February 05, 2014 5:26 pm
    The 4 team playoff team will be: 2 SEC Teams,Ohio State and either Notre Dame,A big 12 team or Standford / Oregon.Recruiting 4/5 star kids will always keep Wisconsin out of the national title hopes,same in Basketball
  12. w8rh3wk5
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    w8rh3wk5 - February 05, 2014 5:08 pm
    And looking at that trend here was the top ten in 2012

    Texas, Alabama, OSU, Michigan, Florida, LSU, Stanford, Auburn, Miami, Oklahoma and FSU tie.

    The trend dictates one or both NC participants will come from this group. And now with the playoff.... it will schew stats alittle bit but I wouldnt be the least beit surprised of 3 out of the 4 playoffs teams come from those 11 teams. Maybe even all 4.
  13. Ego Vigilabo Vigilum
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    Ego Vigilabo Vigilum - February 05, 2014 5:04 pm
    Over the last 4 or 5 years Michigan has had a higher ranked recruiting class than Bucky.

    Maybe we could compare B1G TEN titles, games won, etc?

    badgerfan1;

    "Andersen underplaying the signuificance of getting highly ranked players is VERY disturbing."

    "VERY" disturbing?

    Have you shared your disgust with the coaching staff, because I would think that someone that is VERY disturbed has needed input to impart.

    I'm not trying to be snarky, but I am curious. How, and to what extent, does it affect you? Personally, financially, existentially, does it affect your health or family life; how?
  14. w8rh3wk5
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    w8rh3wk5 - February 05, 2014 5:02 pm
    I looked back at the last 8 NC games. 2 years before I took the rankings of recuiting class. Very interesting data.

    2013 - FSU (#1 class) Auburn (#2)
    2012 - Alabama (#4)
    2011 - Alabama (#2) LSU (#3)
    2010 - Auburn (#6), Oregon (#9)
    2009 - Texas (#3)
    2008 - Fla (#2) Okla (#7)
    2007 - OSU (#7) Fla (#10)
    2006 - USC (#1) Tex (#10)

    14 out of a possible 16 NC participants had a recruiting class ranking in the top ten 2 years before their NC appearance. More tham just cherry picking stats there.
  15. badgerfan1
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    badgerfan1 - February 05, 2014 4:45 pm
    There is no question that the ranking of the recruiting classes provides an indicator of what schools have the best players. Very often this results in these schools having the best team. It is not an accident that the SEC schools all or almost all are ranked high, they will be the best schools in the next 4 or 5 years. Andersen underplaying the signuificance of getting highly ranked players is VERY disturbing. This AM while in my car I was listening to a local sports station--they were going on about what a big day today is in the south. It was pointed out that in many other areas of the country where the schools play mediocre football there is no where as much interest--he used Madison and the U. of Wisconsin as his example of ho hum what is the big deal.
  16. GaryRobbins
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    GaryRobbins - February 05, 2014 3:09 pm
    I didn't say that teams w/highly ranked classes do poorly, but these rankings aren't a very good predictor that a highly ranked class means elite success and that a lowly ranked class means failure.
    I can cherry pick teams that were ranked very highly and flopped, just like you can cherry pick teams that came through w/success.
    But 120 teams get their classes evaluated and ranked every year, not just the Top 10 or 25. Many that had classes only in the Top 50 ended up in the Top 25 in the polls. That's a different degree of success than would have been predicted given their recruiting rankings.
    Gary Andersen just cited a stat that, between the 2 teams in the Super Bowl this year, 46 players on those teams were ranked as 2* recruit prospects or less.
    Nearly half of the NFC and AFC championship teams were comprised of recruits ranked at 2* or less.
    See? I can cherry pick convincing stats, too.
    I respect your opinion, but I've seen too many Top 10 classes flop, and too many Top 40-50 classes succeed on a high level to worry about where some sports magazine, who is just looking to use this topic as a way to generate more readers in the offseason, ranks the recruiting class of my favorite team.
    Of course we always want as many great players as we can get our hands on. But given the numerous agendas and profound biases of these publications in their rankings, and their overall inconclusive results in the past, their rankings don't do a good job of predicting how schools will fare, given the classes they've recruited.
    So it means more ad revenue for the media, but not much else.
  17. w8rh3wk5
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    w8rh3wk5 - February 05, 2014 2:20 pm
    2003 and 2004 USC was #1 and that was when they turned the corner and became a dominant team
  18. w8rh3wk5
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    w8rh3wk5 - February 05, 2014 2:18 pm
    2006 Florida was #2 and Oklahoma was #7 and two years later they met in title game
  19. w8rh3wk5
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    w8rh3wk5 - February 05, 2014 2:16 pm
    2009. #2 class was Alabama. #3 class LSU. 2 years later they meet in National Title Game
  20. w8rh3wk5
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    w8rh3wk5 - February 05, 2014 2:15 pm
    According to scout.com in 2011 guess who had the top two recruiting classes????

    Florida St and Auburn.

    And who played in the title game?

    Florida St and Auburn
  21. w8rh3wk5
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    w8rh3wk5 - February 05, 2014 2:11 pm
    Look at the last decade... highly tputes recruiting classes generally mean a 10 plus win season 2-3 years later when those players are starters. Its not gossip, but there is a correlation between the two.

    Why has the SEC been so dominant in the last decade. Look at how they have recruited and you see why. Why has the big ten struggled, look at recruiting to see why
  22. Wanzo
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    Wanzo - February 05, 2014 12:32 pm
    "fallen flat on their faces"? did you watch the last 3 rose bowls? don't recall getting embarrassed in any of the recent bowl games
  23. jayhoo67
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    jayhoo67 - February 05, 2014 11:15 am
    In the main I agree with Acapitalidea. That said, competent coaching of smart, motivated players can and often does close the talent gap. We do need to recruit a little more speed and athleticism at some positions.
    The new coaching staff is headed in that direction. We'll see if they can succeed.
  24. Acapitalidea
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    Acapitalidea - February 05, 2014 9:50 am
    I believe there is validity to recruiting rankings. They are not a guarantee of success, but the perennial powerhouse teams seem to end up with the most 4 and 5-star players. I can't believe Gary Andersen wouldn't take all the 4 & 5-stars he could get. Fact of the matter is with the exception of Ohio State, Big Ten teams don't attract them. How many 5-star players has Wisconsin signed? How many even consider Wisconsin? How many national title games have they played in? It's expected the Badgers will play in a bowl game every year, but they have fallen flat on their faces too many times because their opponents have faster, stronger and more talented and athletic players. What does this do to their recruiting efforts? Another Badgers bowl loss! I believe Gary Andersen is aware of what it takes to elevate the Badgers to elite status. His challenge, as with most other coaches, is picking through the leftovers after the top teams feast on the best recruits.
  25. philfan05
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    philfan05 - February 05, 2014 9:01 am
    Agree with GaryRobbins. The Badgers seem to have a strong tradition of underperforming when they are expected to do well and do well when not much is expected. I'd like to have a season where we are expected to do well and exceed those expectations.
  26. GaryRobbins
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    GaryRobbins - February 05, 2014 8:44 am
    There's a very weak correlation between the two. Getting great players will greatly help win a NC, but too many schools that didn't have highly ranked classes have had many great seasons, and many schools have highly ranked recruiting classes based too much in reputation, and many of those teams have bombed.
    While it's nice to have your class ranked highly, and it may favorably sway a couple of players your way (or it may not), the correlation between the ranking of recruiting classes and how a team performs is rather inconclusive.
    So I don't worry about where my favorite team's recruiting class us ranked.
    There are also far too many biases in the ranking system to rely on it.
  27. w8rh3wk5
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    w8rh3wk5 - February 05, 2014 5:23 am
    I disagree... recruiting rankings do have some value. Its no coincidence that championship teams tend to be programs finishing consistently in the top ten in recruiting rankings
  28. GaryRobbins
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    GaryRobbins - February 04, 2014 9:54 pm
    Read my lips: ranking recruiting classes is useless.
    Useless!
    Don't waste another precious moment of your life worrying about football recruiting rankings.
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