How good is ND’s 2008 recruiting class?

(This builds on something I posted a month or so ago at IrishEnvy, but it updates the numbers and goes in a bit of a different direction.)

As most people know, Notre Dame’s current group of 19 committed players for their 2008 recruiting class is ranked #1 overall by both Scout and Rivals. As anyone who follows recruiting will be quick to remind you, though, the programs that have been the best at recruiting in recent years - Florida and USC in particular, with just 8 and 14 total commitments respectively - are just getting started, so it’s hard to say where ND’s class will be ranked overall when National Signing Day rolls around.

Nevertheless, we can get some sense of how to answer this question by comparing ND’s class as it currently stands to Charlie Weis’s recruiting classes from the past two years. At present, four of ND’s committed players have received five stars from, eleven have received four stars, and four others have received three stars. Meanwhile, Rivals has given five stars to just one ND commit, but fourteen others have four stars and the final three have three stars. As the following table shows, those numbers stack up pretty well against ND’s classes from the past two years:

One thing this chart makes clear is that according to both recruiting services, the average star rating of an ND recruit has gone up each year under Weis, to the point where now our average recruit is just about a four-star player. (For comparison’s sake, the average star rating in Tyrone Willingham’s banner year of 2003 was 3.52 from Scout and 3.41 from Rivals.) So while our number of genuinely elite, five-star players still hasn’t reached the level of a Florida or a USC, our overall player quality is more than respectable.

What’s in a way even more interesting, though, is that the total number of “points” given to this recruiting class by both services is already higher than the number of points received by either of our previous two classes, including the group from 2006 which was nearly half again as large as our current class. Obviously there might be a bit of inconsistency in terms of how points are assigned from year to year, but it’s instructive to compare the current class to the very top overall classes from previous years in this respect: in 2007, a total of 3,685 points would have been good for the #7-ranked class from Scout, and in 2006 this total would have been good for the #1 overall ranking. Meanwhile, Rivals would have given a class that received 2,226 points their #6 ranking in 2007 and their #8 ranking in 2006. (For comparison’s sake, it’s perhaps also worth mentioning that Willingham’s 2003 class earned 2,338 points from Scout and 1,756 points from Rivals, though inter-year variability in how points are assigned is probably even more extreme here.) Once again, the possibility of year-to-year inconsistency in the assignment of points makes these statistics a bit hard to interpret, but they do give us good reason to believe that even if Notre Dame doesn’t manage to land ANY more commitments for this year, the present group of 19 will be good enough for a top ten ranking from both services.

This last remark - that ND’s current recruiting class is probably “top ten” caliber even as it stands - raises obvious questions about how good it will be if the class grows larger. But that’s a post for another day.

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