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The Recruiting Rules: Rule 7 - Stack Elite Classes

1 good recruiting year does not a top-tier program make.

While one-year recruiting performance can yield good results for a year or two — see Ole Miss, 2013 — championship level depth is built over time. By having good recruiting success year after year, the overall depth and quality of a team’s roster will transform from “a good team” to “a great/championship caliber program”. Which leads us to our next Recruiting Rule:

Stack Elite Classes Year after Year

Obviously, this is easier said than done, but a major key to building a championship caliber team is elite recruiting on a yearly basis. SB Nation Recruiting Analyst Bud Elliott has coined what he calls the Blue Chip Ratio, where teams who have more than 50% of their roster comprised of 4-star and 5-star recruits have a team capable of winning the National Championship. The piece linked is Bud’s 2017 look at the Blue Chip Ratio, but rest assured that there will be an update to that piece for the 2018 season as well.

The logic behind the Blue Chip Ratio and this Recruiting Rule for stacking elite classes yearly is clear to see: teams with better players will (mostly) be better. If your roster has bigger, faster, and stronger athletes, the chances for your team to be successful on the field increases greatly.

Barrett Sallee of CBS Sports gave his thoughts about stacking classes:

Stacking [classes] should be encouraged nowadays. It builds competition for the nine months of the offseason, which in turn translates to preparation during game week during the season.

David Furones of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel had similar sentiments:

Fill needs before they become needs. If you’re going heavy at a certain position to fill a big need for the upcoming season, you’re already too late. Work at least a year ahead so you don’t have to rely on freshmen to produce but rather can use freshman production as a bonus if one is beating out an upperclassman for reps. Attrition can also hurt you here. Does no good to recruit well if players end up off the team later for whatever reason.

In a recent piece on their site, David Lake of InsideTheU.com opened this piece as follows (emphasis is mine):

Top Ten recruiting classes matter.

After Miami signed the No. 8 recruiting class in the country in 2018, the UM coaching staff is looking to stack another top ten class on top of that one in 2019.

I mean, you see it, right?

Sure, there’s something to be said for developing that 3-star steal so that they’re a starting player in their 3rd or 4th year on campus. But, there’s also much more to be said about getting elite recruits on the team who impact games (to various levels) from the moment they step foot on campus.

J.T. Wilcox of The Miami Sports Tribune took a slightly different look at this Recruiting Rule:

Recruit specifically. If a position group is highly productive yet upperclassmen-heavy, recruit their replacements as early as possible. Example: UM has 3 LBs coming into their junior years, it would be prudent to already have at least 2 players that could be their replacements on campus either as true or redshirt freshmen. It builds depth and competition.“

So, J.T. took a component view of the “Stack Classes” rule, but that still works. Each position needs to be accounted for every year. Team’s can’t ignore any position, because you never know when a new player or additional depth might be needed.

What J.T. touched on is more of the individual position coach’s responsibility — to ensure that their position is appropriately manned from year to year — but what he mentioned is a component piece of the “Stack Classes” rule. And, every position on the team counts, right? So what each position coach does, in terms of recruiting, counts as well.

Joe Garcia Jr., a former recruiting writer here at State of the U, had this to say about this Recruiting Rule:

Numbers and balance: You need to have the right number of kids at each spot every cycle. If you take 5 WR one cycle and 2 combined the next 2 cycles. You just created a depth void for yourself when those 5 WR all leave. You should be recruiting 2-3 a year to get to that have total of 7 but have them spread out over different classes so you never have a void of bodies at any spot. The minute you stop doing that is the minute you are left scrambling for Grad Transfers and reaching to fill a hole on NSD. And that isn’t conductive to winning. Same goes across entire classes. Bringing in 33 one year and 14 the next has similar repercussions. You should be aiming for full size classes from 23-28 yearly.

Makes sense, right? Thought so.

Something that both Furones and Garcia Jr. mentioned in their statements was “attrition” or players leaving the team prior to the end of their eligibility. Obviously, due to the structure of College Football, teams perennially have to deal with losing players who have used up their eligibility.

Attrition isn’t that; attrition is when a player leaves either of their own volition — usually to find more playing time or to be closer to family — or if they’re dismissed from the team for a rules violation or other negative interaction.

When teams stack classes year after year, losing a player due to attrition is something the team can immediately address and recover from. By taking a QB every year, there’s a built in cover for a player leaving to go elsewhere. By continually recruiting WRs or RBs or LBs, the team can cover for attrition at those positions — or any other position, as long as the recruiting is done on a consistent, annual basis.

While it’s key to stack elite classes on top of each other to build a championship caliber roster (or maybe just a competitive roster depending on the situation of the program in question), all classes are not created equal. In one year, a team might take 24 players overall, and 31 players the next. As long as there is a process and consistency across multiple years (no ignoring a position group for a couple cycles), then teams will have accomplished the goal of stacking elite classes, and building a roster that should be competitive year-in and year-out.