Recruiting grades put pressure on coaches

Underachieving classes hurt Bowden and Weis

adell@bradenton.comAugust 5, 2010 

Bobby Bowden and Charlie Weis are no longer coaching college football. They struggled to win in recent years, which looked even worse because they were recruiting well.

Fans and administrators can be forgiving if a coach takes a team with little talent and has a mediocre season. But losing with a squad that is perceived to be loaded is a mortal sin in their profession.

Bringing in a highly recruited class has become a double-edge sword and was paramount among the reasons Bowden, the legendary FSU coach, was forced to retire a year before he had planned.

Bowden’s 2005 and ’06 recruiting classes were considered among the best in the country, earning a No. 2 and 3 ranking by and No. 3 and 8 from Phil Steele’s magazine, rated the most accurate preseason football publication over the past decade.

Over the five-year period ending in 2009, Bowden’s recruiting class averaged an 8.4 ranking by Rivals and 12.2 by Steele. But from 2006-09, his team was ranked in the postseason Top 25 coaches poll only once, at No. 23 in 2008.

Things were even worse at Notre Dame with Weis at the helm. During the same five-year period, Steele gave the Irish a top-five ranking from 2006-08 that included a No. 2 in 2006 and No. 1 in ’08. Rivals ranked Notre Dame in the top 10 in three of those years.

But the Irish did not make the Top 25 postseason poll the last three seasons, with their best ranking 19th during the 2006 season.

One of the more interesting scenarios occurred at USF under former coach Jim Leavitt, who started the program 14 years ago. He took criticism for getting his team into the top 10 two straight years and reaching No. 2 in 2007 only to fall out of the rankings both seasons.

But if you look at Leavitt’s recruiting classes, they show he had no business even flirting with a Top 25 ranking. None of his recruiting classes from 2005-08 were ranked in the top 50, with his best class in 2009, which was ranked 29th by Rivals.

Another in-state program that hasn’t lived up to its billing is Miami. The Canes had a top 10 class in 2005 and ’08 and were in the top 16 the other years. But they were in the Top 25 postseason national rankings only last year, when they finished 19th.

LSU is a school where the success of its recruiting class cannot be measured in the final postseason rankings. The 2005 Tigers had the 22nd-ranked recruiting class by Rivals and 10th by Steele, but won the national title in 2007. Their past three recruiting classes had a ranking average of 5.5, but they finished out of the top 25 in 2008 and were 9-4 last season with a No. 17 ranking in the coaches poll.

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