Recruiting Analysis: Where do the best football players come from?

Which states produce the most five-star talent in the nation these days?

Don’t listen to the old guard.

 

Recruiting rankings matter. Landing an elite class isn’t a guarantee of future success, as coaching, development and plenty of luck are all needed to win a national title. But having the best players is the best way to start.

 

A huge reason why Ohio State rolled through the Big Ten and then Oregon was superior talent. The Buckeyes had great coaching and development but it also had a significantly more talented roster than anyone it faced in league play or their national title game opponent.

 

Urban Meyer has proven that recruiting matters after stacking top-10 classes upon each other since arriving in Columbus and promptly winning just the third national title for the B1G since 1968.

 

But where do all these elite players come from? Using the last five recruiting cycles — 2011 through 2015 — it’s easy to accurately project the geographic distribution of high school talent in this country. Using 247Sports' composite rankings, Athlon Sports analyzed the best 1,000 recruits to enter college football over the last five cycles (200 per year) to determine where the nation’s best prospects are being recruited.

 

The Peach State

The Big Three in recruiting have long been Florida, California and Texas but Georgia has been closing the gap for years and the 2015 class could be one of the deepest in recent memory. The Peach State features four five-star recruits and the consensus No. 1 player in the nation (Trent Thompson) according to 247Sports and a modern state record with 20 players from Georgia landing in the Top 200. There is a reason nearly every SEC and ACC program focuses on Georgia as it closes the gap on the state of Florida.

 

Big Ten looks East

Population is declining in the Big Ten footprint and that means fewer elite prospects — just look at the projected starters at QB for the Power 5 teams. But while states like Pennsylvania and Michigan continue to drop in terms of overall talent production, the addition of Maryland and Rutgers should begin to pay dividends. New Jersey moved into the top 10 states for talent with the ’15 class and both Maryland and D.C. rank in the top 14 as well. As the Big Ten East Division continues to develop, look for these fertile territories to become a pipeline for B1G talent. Consider: Big Ten states have produced 23 five-star recruits in the last five cycles and 10 of those hail from New Jersey or Maryland.
 

No. 1 in the Nation

The aforementioned Thompson, an impressive defensive tackle from Albany (Ga.) Westover, is slated to sign with the Georgia Bulldogs on National Signing Day. If that indeed does happen, it would be the sixth consecutive season that the consensus No. 1 player in the nation signed with an SEC school. The Bulldogs also would become the sixth different SEC school to land one of these No. 1 prospects. LSU landed New Orleans’ Leonard Fournette last season. Ole Miss landed Robert Nkemdiche out of Georgia in 2013. Missouri scored in-state star Dorial Green-Beckham in the ’12 class. Steve Spurrier signed Jadeveon Clowney out of Rock Hill, S.C in ’11 and Florida inked Ronald Powell in its ’10 haul. Thompson is the fifth straight No. 1 player in the nation to hail from the SEC’s footprint.

 

Conference footprint comparisons

The last five recruiting classes have produced 167 five-star recruits. Of which, 128 of them hail from the SEC footprint. Of the top 1,000 players to enter college the last five years, 559 of them played high school football in a state with an SEC program. The ACC footprint is No. 2 with 68 five-star recruits in the last five years. Despite the biggest footprint in college football, the Big Ten is producing the fewest (23) five-star athletes. Here is the complete breakdown:

 

  States 5-Stars Top 200 Top 1,000
11 68 297 365
5 24 127 151
11

23

166 189
6 26 136 162
11 128 431 559
 
NoShow State

There are 11 states that haven’t generated at least one top-200 prospect over the last five years. Many of them are obvious and make sense. We don’t expect elite recruits to hail from less populous states like Alaska, Wyoming, Montana, North and South Dakota or Northeast outposts Vermont, New Hampshire, Maine and Rhode Island. But it was startling and concerning that neither West Virginia nor Nebraska were able to produce one of the top 200 recruits in the nation. This stresses the job the Huskers need to do in Texas and the work the Mountaineers need to do in Florida.

Here are the top 200 prospects broken down by state over the last five recruiting cycles (number of five-stars listed in parenthesis):

 

Rk State 2011 2012 2013 2014 2015 Total
1. Florida 36 (10) 32 (5) 28 (7) 30 (5) 27 (9) 153 (36)
2. Texas 27 (4) 27 (5) 28 (5) 22 (5) 28 (5) 132 (24)
3. California 21 (2) 23 (4) 23 (3) 23 (3) 27 (6) 117 (18)
4. Georgia 13 (2) 15 (2) 17 (4) 15 (2) 20 (4) 80 (14)
5. Ohio 10 (2) 12 (1) 10 7 7 (1) 46 (4)
6. Louisiana 10 (3) 3 (1) 7 12 (5) 9 (1) 41 (10)
7. Alabama 6 10 (3) 8 (2) 7 (4) 8 (1) 39 (10)
8. Virginia 6 (1) 6 9 (3) 7 (3) 9 (1) 37 (8)
9. N. Carolina 6 8 (3) 6 9 6 35 (4)
10. New Jersey 8 (1) 4 (1) 7 5 (1) 4 (1) 28 (4)
11. Pennsylvania 5 7 (2) 8 (1) 3 4 27 (4)
12. Illinois 5 3 7 (1) 7 (1) 2 (1) 24 (3)
13t. Michigan 5 5 5 4 (1) 3 22 (1)
13t. Maryland 6 (1) 7 (2) 5 (2) 2 (1) 2 22 (6)
15t. Mississippi 6 4 (1) 4 (2) 3 4 21 (3)
15t. Arizona 5 (1) 4 (1) 3 7 (1) 2 (1) 21 (4)
17. Tennessee 2 2 4 (1) 4 8 20 (1)
18. S. Carolina 5 (1) 2 3 5 2 17 (1)
19. Oklahoma 1 3 2 4 4 14 (0)
20. Indiana 2 3 (1) 3 (1) 2 3 13 (2)
21. Missouri 0 5 (1) 1 3 3 12 (1)
22. Arkansas 3 0 2 2 2 9 (0)
23. Kentucky 2 0 3 2 1 8 (0)
24t. Washington 2 3 1 (1) 1 0 7 (1)
24t. Colorado 1 2 1 2 1 7 (0)
26. Utah 0 1 1 2 2 (1) 6 (1)
27t. New York 1 (1) 2 0 2 0 5 (1)
27t. D.C. 0 1 (1) 1 1 (1) 2 5 (2)
29t. Oregon 2 1 (1) 1 (1) 0 0 4 (2)
29t. Hawaii 0 0 1 0 3 (1) 4 (1)
31t. Kansas 2 0 0 1 0 3 (0)
31t. Minnesota 0 0 0 2 1 3 (0)
31t. Nevada 1 1 0 0 1 3 (0)
31t. Mass. 0 2 1 0 0 3 (0)
35t. Connecticut 0 0 0 0 2 (1) 2 (1)
35t. Iowa 0 0 0 2 0 2 (0)
35t. Wisconsin 0 1 0 1 0 2 (0)
35t. Idaho 0 1 0 0 1 2 (0)
35t. New Mexico 1 0 0 0 1 2 (0)
40t. Delaware 0 0 0 1 0 1 (0)
40t. Canada 0 0 0 0 1 1 (0)

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