Recruiting Breakdown: Do Higher Rated Players Fare Better?

Editor's Note: Bumped to the front, fun read by Sammy for Monday morning. --Joe

National signing day has come and gone. That means, unless you are an astronomer by trade or tinker in astrology, stars won't mean nearly as much to you for another year.

College football fans across the country are almost universally excited about their school's prospects in hopes they'll help turn a program around, keep a successful train on the tracks, or boost a good program into an elite one. But what does signing three-, four-, and five-star prospects really mean? More often than not, no single player is going to turn a program around or lead a team to a national championship. So what can fans legitimately expect from players based on their recruiting ranking?

Well, in addition to high doses of Gumby's, Hokie House and on-screen antics (shout out to VTTV), I also studied history during my days in Blacksburg, so I decided to take a deeper look at current and former Tech players to see two things: 1) what they were rated coming out of high school, and 2) if you could draw any correlation between recruiting ranking and on-the-field impact. For this, I used rankings from Instead of just looking at the number of stars a player had, I broke it down using their Rivals Rating, a system the website describes as the following:

Players are ranked numerically on a national level at their positions. The numerical ranking at each position varies depending on the depth of the talent at the position.

Players are also ranked on their quality with a star ranking. A five-star prospect is considered to be one of the nation's top 25-30 players, four star is a top 250-300 or so player, three-stars is a top 750 level player, two stars means the player is a mid-major prospect and one star means the player is not ranked.

The ranking system ranks prospects on a numerical scale from 6.1-4.9.

  • 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 expert knew much, if anything, about this player; a prospect that only a college coach really knew about

Source: In perusing the Rivals database, it appears that they didn't start assigning players numerical ratings until 2004, so that's as far back as this study goes. The Hokies have signed 159 players rated at 5.5 or above since 2004, which breaks down like this:

6.1 – 2 players (1%)
6.0 – 5 players (3%)
5.9 – 11 players (7%)
5.8 – 24 players (15%)
5.7 – 45 players (29%)
5.6 – 32 players (20%)
5.5 – 40 players (25%)

The Five Stars


2 Players
All-Conference Honors: 2 players (100%)

2013 Commit: Kendall Fuller

From 2004–2012, Virginia Tech only signed two five star players, Macho Harris (2005) and Tyrod Taylor (2007). Needless to say, Rivals definition of a "franchise player" came to pass with both these prospects. It is certainly lofty expectations for a kid that's yet to take the field for the Hokies, but if Macho and Tyrod are any indication, Kendall Fuller could have a very bright future in Blacksburg.

The Four Stars


5 Players
All-Conference Honors: 3 players (60%)

2013 Commits: Holland Fisher, Wyatt Teller

These five players all had the highest Rivals rating possible without being a five star recruit. Williams, Logan and David Wilson would all qualify as living up to the hype. Quillie Odom is the notable exception in this list, as he was never able to put it together, for whatever reason, and left the program in 2011. Laurence Gibson hasn't achieved as much success as the others on this list, but in fairness, he hasn't really been given the opportunity to do so. We'll see if Gibson will be able to add his own accolades in the coming years playing under Coach Grimes.


11 Players
All-Conference Honors: 4 players (36%)

2013 Commits: N/A

This group isn't as cut and dry. Royal, Worilds and Hosley were all superstars for the Hokies. Painter had very solid senior year and Coles has one year left. Simmons and Whitaker had off-the-field issues that held them back from reaching their full football potential. Aaron Brown never lived up to expectations. Obviously it's too early to make a call on McCray, Caleb and Coleman, but I'm excited to see what all three can do in Scot Loeffler's offensive system.


24 Players
All-Conference Honors: 4 players (16%)

2013 commits: Bucky Hodges, Drew Harris*

As you can see, the vast majority of Virginia Tech's 4-star players are 5.8s, with 12 of the 24 coming since 2009. Right off the bat, names like Jerrodd Williams, Nick Dew, Kent Hicks, Elan Lewis, Todd Nolen and George Bell can be classified as flame outs for one reason or another. Despite being the largest group of 4- and 5-star kids, these players haven't racked up a ton of All-ACC honors. Having said that, there've been solid contributors among them through the years – namely Blake DeChristopher, Bruce Taylor, Stephen Friday, John Graves, Dyrell Roberts and yes, even Sean Glennon. Of the players in this group currently on the Tech roster, Kyshoen Jarrett has had the most impact at both rover and as a punt returner. Marshall and Vandyke have shown flashes of what they can do. 2013 could be a big year for Marshall and Vandyke, as well as Shuman, the expected starter at left tackle, Edmunds and Clarke, who will both likely see extensive playing time.

The Three Stars


45 Players
All-Conference Honors: 9 players (20%)

2013 Commits: Brandon Facyson, Andrew Motuapuaka, Braxton Pfaff

In the three-star players, those with a 5.7 ranking, the highest of the three stars, has been the majority of Tech's recruits since 2004 with 45 total. This is the first grouping without a First Team All-ACC selection, although that could potentially change this fall with Gayle and Exum (if he's 100%) back for their senior seasons. Tech's developed key contributors from this group, notably Mr. Everything Chris Drager, Darren Evans, Davon Morgan, Ed Wang, Anoine Hopkins, etc...


32 Players
All-Conference Honors: 3 players (9%)

2013 Recruits: Cequan Jefferson, Jonathan McLaughlin, Carlis Parker, David Prince, DJ Reid

The 5.6 rated players are a mixed bag. Some significant players (Cam Martin, Render, Brooks, Boone, Nekos Brown, Tariq Edwards), but perhaps the thing that stands out most among this group is the players that didn't make it, particularly the 2008 class: Xavier Boyce, Austin Fuller, Lyndell Gibson, Isaiah Hamlette, Jake Johnson, Leon Mackey, Derrick McCoy, and Allen Stephens. That's a high percentage of flameouts in one class. Many of those players would have been redshirt seniors this past season as well. Something to think about when searching for a reason the Hokies had their worst season in 20 years.


40 Players
All-Conference Honors: 6 players (15%)

2013 recruits: Kyle Chung, Charles Clark, Jamieon Moss, Deon Newsome, Parker Osterloh, Anthony Shegog, Jerome Wright

Several names pop off this list immediately – Kam Chancellor, Jarrett Boykin, Eddie Whitley, Kyle Fuller, Derrick Hopkins and Beau Warren were/are all major contributors. Also, there are several younger players in this group that appear to have loads of potential, namely Dadi Nicholas, Demitri Knowles, Desmond Frye, Donovan Riley and Joshua Stanford.

Notable Exceptions:

2004: Brandon Flowers (3rd team AP All-American 2006, 2nd team AP All-American 2007, 1st team All-ACC 2006, 2nd team All-ACC 2007), Josh Morgan, Ryan Shuman
2006: Rock Carmichael (5.3 rating, 2-star recruit – honorable mention All-ACC 2009)
2007: Danny Coale (5.4 rating, 2-star recruit), Alonzo Tweedy (5.3 rating, 2-star recruit)
2011: Luther Maddy (5.4 rating, 2-star recruit), Kevin Asante (5.4 rating, 2-star recruit)


Cody Grimm (3rd team AP All-American 2009, 1st team All-ACC 2009)
Jack Tyler (2nd team All-ACC 2012)

There are always exceptions to the rule, the most glaring here is Brandon Flowers. In 2004, while Flowers was designated a 3-star recruit, he was not assigned a Rivals rating (although it appears many players that year were not). Needless to say Flowers has out-performed his ranking, as has Josh Morgan, who was a key contributor for the Redskins this past season. Danny Coale was, well, Danny Coale. He's probably still open somewhere in Texas. Luther Maddy came in and contributed immediately. Virginia Tech's had a history of solid walk-ons, but perhaps none better than Cody Grimm. Jack Tyler had one heck of a 2012 campaign. So what do these numbers all mean? One thing, especially looking at the exceptions list, is that talent can be found anywhere. Recruiting rankings and stars are all subjective. However, at least in Virginia Tech's case, a high percentage of the Hokies 5-star and high 4-star recruits have indeed lived up to their billing once they arrive in Blacksburg. How do these numbers change the way you look at incoming recruits, if at all?



Excellent analysis.

It was a catch

Good job.

One additional data point, Ladi Ajiboye (5.8) ended up at South Carolina:

"He was named to Second TeamTSN Freshman All-American and a Freshman All-SEC selection by the league's coaches."

A narcotics arrest ended his career early in Columbia.

Orion Martin

As Bob Vanderheyden point out, I completely goofed in leaving off Orion Martin in the notable exceptions. Martin was a walk-on transfer from Norfolk State and earned 2nd team All-ACC honors in 2008. He certainly deserves a mention.


Good read, my friend. I noticed you kept it limited to the 21st century Hokies, but I think John Engelberger would be one of the best walk-on candidates ever at VT as well.

I think Sam Rogers is gonna keep up that walk-on program prestige as well.

He only used 2004 onward because that is how long Rivals ratings have been available.

Matt Hinton did an article about recruiting ranks recently

The most interesting part is the breakdown of what happens when teams from one star category play teams from another. The 5-star teams consistently beat the hell out of lower rated teams, which is a strong suggestion that the recruiting rankings matter and are reasonably accurate. 4 and 5 star guys are also more likely to become All-Americans.

The rankings aren't perfect. They don't measure emotional maturity. They don't consider how well a player fits a team's system, or coaching changes. There are biases inherent in the system. And there's certainly a self-fulfilling prophecy to them- a 5 star guy is likely going to get more chances on a team to prove his value, while a 2-star guy could spend most of his career buried on the bench. In general though it's pretty clear that Rivals et al. know what they are doing.

One MAJOR problem in this analysis...

Gumby's is closed. It's Benny Marzano's now.

Twitter me

Yeah, I know Gumby's is closed now - and that's a travesty.


I'd say Benny Marzano's quickly tempers that travesty. Kinda hard to argue with their price and size. A full pizza is about 30$ and if you had it for a tailgate, it would feed about half the parking lot.

What? Where are kids supposed to get obscenely large amounts of bread sticks? Also where are you supposed to get pizza that turns your shit green?

"We judge ourselves by our intentions and others by their behavior" Stephen M.R. Covey

“When life knocks you down plan to land on your back, because if you can look up, you can get up, if you fall flat on your face it can kill your spirit” David Wilson

There's still D2 for that

Ah yes...

The good old "D2 Dash"

you know, i'm probably in the minority on this but i always felt like gumby's was overrated. if you were just getting a cheese pizza you were good but if you wanted toppings forget about it. you were getting wilted brown veggies on rubbery pizza.

i think everybody just got a kick out of saying the word 'damnit' in their pizza order

"That kid you're talking to right there, I think he played his nuts off! And you can quote me on that shit!" -Bud Foster

100% Agree

Oh Gumby's was totally overrated, but isn't that the point of college. I'd literally shit green 15 mins after eating it and think "that can't be good" then get drunk the next night and order it again. Those were the good days.

Note: Looking back now perhaps the Wild Turkey was doing more harm than the Gumby's. Ah well.

"We judge ourselves by our intentions and others by their behavior" Stephen M.R. Covey

“When life knocks you down plan to land on your back, because if you can look up, you can get up, if you fall flat on your face it can kill your spirit” David Wilson

No more Pokey Sticks??!

Pokey Sticks

FWIW, Benny Marzano's has "resurrected" pokey sticks. They aren't near as good as Gumby's original though.

Just to be clear

Gumby's pokey sticks were never good, they were cheap and came in mass quantities. After a good night of drinking taste didn't matter. In fact I think that was Gumby's motto.

"We judge ourselves by our intentions and others by their behavior" Stephen M.R. Covey

“When life knocks you down plan to land on your back, because if you can look up, you can get up, if you fall flat on your face it can kill your spirit” David Wilson

Haha, yeah bro I don't think anyone here was thinking they were amazing or anything. Just being nostalgic!

Great stuff Sammy, thanks for the hard work!!

As always, the measure of success determines the outcome of the

study. This one has a reasonable measure of success. Personally I like to use the NFL draft as a measure. Were they drafted, and are they still on a roster.

Reality has a mighty pimp hand.

Here are the Rivals 5 stars from 2006 and 2007

I used those two classes because everyone's graduated and had a chance to establish themselves in the NFL.

2006: Percy Harvin, Andre Smith, Beanie Wells, Gerald McCoy, Sergio Kindle, Matthew Stafford, Vidal Hazelton, CJ Spiller, Allen Bradford, Mitch Mustain, Sam Young, Myron Rolle, Brandon Spikes, Reshad Jones, Brandon Graham, Taylor Mays, Robert Rose, Stafon Johnson, A.J. Wallace, Al Woods, Ricky Sapp, Tim Tebow, C.J. Gable, Brandon Warren, Eddie Jones, Stephen Schilling, James Aldridge, Carl Johnson

2007: Jimmy Clausen, Joe McKnight, Eric Berry, Ryan Mallett, Carlos Dunlap, Everson Griffen, Marvin Austin, Ronald Johnson, Torrey Davis, Josh Oglesby (no, not our Oglesby), Chris Galippo, James Wilson, Terrance Toliver, Chad Jones, Noel Devine, Tray Allen, Marc Tyler, Chris Donald, Chris Culliver, Ben Martin, Curtis Brown, Dwight Jones, Ryan Miller, Arrelious Benn, Donovan Warren, Martez Wilson, Tyrod Taylor, Cam Newton, Kris O'Dowd

If my math is correct, 18-5 stars from 2006 and 17 from 2007 were drafted. That's a pretty decent ratio compared to other star rankings.