Quarterback Johnny Doe makes a strong commitment, after his junior season in high school, to play at State U. Coaches from rival universities find Johnny’s commitment to be pretty darned close to ironclad. Then Johnny goes out and has a gigantic senior season, and some of the biggest schools come knocking — but there isn’t an all-out national recruiting blitz because, again, Johnny’s original commitment was the real deal.
Given that scenario, Johnny’s rating as a recruit is less likely to change than it would be if he were undecided about his college choice and actively entertaining offers. Why? Because a player’s list of official offers is a huge driver in his rating. So maybe the major recruiting services wind up keeping him as a three-star QB instead of bumping him up to four stars.
This sort of thing happens all the time with hundreds of really good college football recruits. It’s one of the biggest reasons the recruiting rankings are, on a case-by-case basis, highly suspect.
Taken as a whole, though, they are meaningful. The national team recruiting rankings, especially, are meaningful. According to Rivals’ rankings, six of Nick Saban’s eight recruiting classes at Alabama — including the one unveiled Wednesday — have been No. 1 in the country, and the proof has been in the pudding. Starting in 2010, every Auburn class has been ranked in the top 10, which explains why the Tigers were able to ‘‘surprise’’ their way to last season’s BCS title game.
And the Southeastern Conference? Year after year, it owns national signing day. Wednesday was more of the same: Only three of Rivals’ top 10 classes — Ohio State’s (No. 3), Florida State’s (4) and USC’s (10) — came from outside the SEC. Yet another indication that its status as college football’s best might be permanent.
The Big Ten
You can’t ever examine the Big Ten’s signing day performance without looking at Ohio State on its own. OSU is the only true ‘‘national’’ program in the conference. At least, it’s the only program that recruits with the big boys.
‘‘We won today,’’ proud coach Urban Meyer beamed during a news conference Wednesday.
To wit: Of the top 12 Rivals-ranked players to sign with Big Ten schools, eight of them — EIGHT — are bound for Columbus. The other schools are left to fight over relative scraps.
Michigan State has the 22nd-ranked class, and Penn State is at 24. Michigan, Nebraska, Wisconsin and Indiana are all in the 30s.
Notre Dame’s class ranks 11th on Rivals’ list. Northwestern’s is 69th, Illinois’ 72nd and Northern Illinois’ 90th.
Take those last three numbers with a grain — maybe even a spoonful — of salt. The deeper you get into the team rankings, the less reliable and relevant they are.
‘‘There is a correlation between how teams do [on the field] and where your recruiting class is ranked,’’ Meyer said. ‘‘But certainly that’s not the final product because you’ve got to coach and develop them.’’
When a coach who has just inked an elite class says that, it kind of makes you shrug. For the likes of Pat Fitzgerald, Tim Beckman and Rod Carey, though, such sentiment is gospel.