In case you haven’t noticed, the Indiana University football team’s 2018 recruiting class is a respectable 39th nationally according to 247sports.com. This ranking is fluid and based on verbal commitments. If you’ve paid attention to college football recruiting in recent years, you know that last minute changes of heart by recruits are not uncommon. In fact, IU is currently still in discussions with a few players in the 2018 class, and just got a RB to flip his commitment from Rutgers to Indiana.
RB Ronnie Walker is IU’s top ranked recruit in 2018 and the 20th ranked RB nationally. photo source: scout.com.
We should have more clarity in just a few days. The college football recruiting landscape has changed, and there is now an early signing period that runs from December 20 through the 22nd. The traditional February signing day remains, but most coaches are expecting to sign the majority of their recruits in December now.
Indiana’s #39 national ranking for its 2018 class would be its best such ranking since 2000 based on a year by year review of the 247sports class rankings for IU. Over that period the Hoosiers’ average class ranking is 60th. So clearly this 2018 class is a big step in the right direction. That’s the good news. Here’s the bad news:
Everyone knows about the B1G East “wall” that Indiana must face year in and year out: Ohio State, Michigan, Penn State and Michigan State. Clearly, at least based on these rankings, IU is not making substantial progress against that Big 4. And you probably didn’t really expect that they would. What’s concerning is the other two teams — Maryland and Rutgers. Over the last four classes (i.e. the players you would expect to see on the field next season), Indiana is currently trailing EVERYONE in the B1G East. Perhaps this will change somewhat when rankings are updated to reflect RB Stevie Scott flipping from Rutgers to IU, but the overarching concern remains.
If Indiana is substantially behind the Big 4, falling behind Maryland and barely keeping up with/leading Rutgers — then how excited are you about that #39 ranking? Before you throw up your hands and conclude that the break through will never happen, consider one key thing about recruiting class rankings — they are not at all scientific. We prefer the 247sports composite because it at least attempts to aggregate the major national recruiting ranking services and come up with an average. But in the end it is all somewhat arbitrary. There is really no way to compare a supposed 3 star kid in Ohio with a 5 star in Florida. It is just an educated guess by people that never really see the complete universe of players in order to comprehensively compare and contrast them.
But more than even that, there is very little space between the teams after you get past the top 10 or 20. For example, if you look at 247sports’ 2018 rankings as of the date of this story, Iowa is ranked 38th and Illinois is ranked 63rd. What is interesting about the classes of those two teams is that they are both comprised of 14 3-star players and one 4-star player. We would humbly suggest that no one really has a clue what separates their respective classes. It is an semi-educated guess.
So what does ultimately determine how otherwise reasonably even recruiting classes translate into results on the field? Sure, there will be some underrated and overrated players, and academic and other off the field issues. But probably more than anything else it is coaching. If you had any doubt about that you need to look no further than our hated neighbors to the north. In one year Purdue’s Jeff Brohm turned the Boilermakers from B1G doormat to bowl eligible. And he did it with the remnants of poorly ranked recruiting classes. Purdue’s 2017 through 2014 classes were ranked 72-80-67-70 respectively.
So sure, be excited about that #39th ranked class. It’s progress, and hopefully a sign of things to come. Just swallow it down with a heavy dose of caution.
(all data from 247sports.com)
Main Photo – Steve Burns, indianapublicmedia.org