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9 maps and charts that explain where college football players come from

How geography shapes the sport from coast to coast.

College football players come from all over, but not every region is equal in how many players it produces. Large swaths of the country produce very few FBS players, while some hotspots produce tons of them. At various points over the years, we’ve put together data to give you a better picture of the geographical trends that have shaped the player pool, and other outlets have done so as well. Here’s a digest.

1. In 2016, Jake Sharpless of Rukkus (it seems that site is no more) published this heat map that demonstrated the geographic origins of every player in the country:

A consistent theme with data and maps in this post is that geographic trends don’t change a ton year to year. Whenever you’re reading this, the outlook’s similar for that season.

2. Focusing in on just the stars produces a similar map. Here's a heat map of every top-15 national recruit’s hometown, from 2000 to 2021, using consensus rankings from the 247Sports Composite. Another way to think about it: a map of the 330-ish highest-ranked recruits in the ratings era.

You’ll notice that more top players appear to come from three or four states – Florida, Texas and California, along with Georgia – than anywhere else. That’s reflected in the full data as well.

3. Check the breakdown of state shares of blue-chip recruits, and notice how little the picture changes annually. Again, just about any five-year period will tell the same story:

Blue-chip football recruits by state, 2015-19

State 2019 2018 2017 2016 2015
State 2019 2018 2017 2016 2015
Texas 48 44 47 52 47
California 48 48 35 45 44
Florida 45 65 42 47 50
Georgia 40 40 33 26 34
Mississippi 16 3 7 11 7
Louisiana 15 12 12 21 13
North Carolina 15 12 7 15 9
Alabama 14 10 15 8 12
Ohio 13 12 16 12 17
Tennessee 12 11 9 8 11
Virginia 11 4 15 6 13
Michigan 9 7 10 9 4
New Jersey 8 9 5 8 7
Maryland 8 9 9 11 6
Kentucky 8 3 1 3 2
Missouri 7 6 3 1 3
Indiana 6 3 4 4 3
Arizona 6 2 3 5 2
Hawaii 5 1 2 2 4
Pennsylvania 4 12 9 9 9
Oklahoma 4 6 5 1 5
Arkansas 4 2 2 3 5
Illinois 3 4 5 6 5
D.C. 3 2 3 4 3
Iowa 3 1 2 2 0
Kansas 3 1 0 3 0
Connecticut 3 1 2 0 2
West Virginia 3 1 0 0 0
South Carolina 2 4 4 5 5
Washington 2 3 5 3 6
Utah 2 6 5 2 3
Nevada 2 5 6 0 3
Oregon 2 7 2 2 1
New York 2 2 1 0 1
Minnesota 2 0 0 1 1
Colorado 1 2 2 1 3
Nebraska 1 1 0 0 0
Delaware 1 0 1 0 0
Rhode Island 1 0 0 0 0
Wisconsin 0 0 1 2 0
Massachusetts 0 2 0 0 0
Idaho 0 2 0 0 1
New Mexico 0 0 1 0 1
South Dakota 0 0 0 1 0
Alaska 0 0 0 0 0
Maine 0 0 0 0 0
Montana 0 0 0 0 0
New Hampshire 0 0 0 0 0
North Dakota 0 0 0 0 0
Vermont 0 0 0 0 0
Wyoming 0 0 0 0 0
Data via the 247Sports Composite.

4. Want to look at that per capita? Here’s how each state does scaled to its overall population, using its number of four- and five-stars per class and Census estimates:

Blue-chip football recruits per capita, 2015-19

Location Average blue-chips Population Per 100,000
Location Average blue-chips Population Per 100,000
D.C. 3 702,455 0.43
Georgia 34.6 10,519,475 0.33
Louisiana 14.6 4,659,978 0.31
Mississippi 8.8 2,986,530 0.29
Alabama 11.8 4,887,871 0.24
Florida 49.8 21,299,325 0.23
Hawaii 2.8 1,420,491 0.2
Texas 47.6 28,701,845 0.17
Tennessee 10.2 6,770,010 0.15
Maryland 8.6 6,042,718 0.14
Ohio 14 11,689,442 0.12
Virginia 9.8 8,517,685 0.12
Utah 3.6 3,161,105 0.11
North Carolina 11.6 10,383,620 0.11
California 44 39,557,045 0.11
Oklahoma 4.2 3,943,079 0.11
Arkansas 3.2 3,013,825 0.11
Nevada 3.2 3,034,392 0.11
New Jersey 7.4 8,908,520 0.08
South Carolina 4 5,084,127 0.08
Michigan 7.8 9,995,915 0.08
Kentucky 3.4 4,468,402 0.08
Pennsylvania 8.6 12,807,060 0.07
Oregon 2.8 4,190,713 0.07
Missouri 4 6,126,452 0.07
Indiana 4 6,691,878 0.06
Iowa 1.6 3,156,145 0.05
Washington 3.8 7,535,591 0.05
Arizona 3.6 7,171,646 0.05
Kansas 1.4 2,911,505 0.05
Connecticut 1.6 3,572,665 0.04
West Virginia 0.8 1,805,832 0.04
Delaware 0.4 967,171 0.04
Illinois 4.6 12,741,080 0.04
Idaho 0.6 1,754,208 0.03
Colorado 1.8 5,695,564 0.03
South Dakota 0.2 882,235 0.02
Nebraska 0.4 1,929,268 0.02
New Mexico 0.4 2,095,428 0.02
Rhode Island 0.2 1,057,315 0.02
Minnesota 0.8 5,611,179 0.01
Wisconsin 0.6 5,813,568 0.01
New York 1.2 19,542,209 0.01
Massachusetts 0.4 6,902,149 0.01
Alaska 0 737,438 0
Maine 0 1,338,404 0
Montana 0 1,062,305 0
New Hampshire 0 1,356,458 0
North Dakota 0 760,077 0
Vermont 0 626,299 0
Wyoming 0 577,737 0
Population is based on U.S. Census estimates for July 1, 2018. Blue-chips are an annual average from 2015-19, based on the 247Sports Composite.

A caveat: the District of Columbia is just a city, and if Los Angeles got to be its own “state,” it’d win the blue-chips-per-capita contest in a landslide. If you considered all of D.C.’s recruits to be part of Maryland or Virginia — which is wrong, but makes sense if you’re trying to figure out which colleges have the easiest recruiting footprints — you’d see a new leader on this list: Georgia, where the Bulldogs have a massive advantage.

5. Wanna go by high school players who go Division I, rather than total population? Understandable. The NCAA figured that out in 2017:

6. The home-state distribution of every single listed recruit in the country, from 2008 through 2013:

cfb recruits chart Football Study Hall

The Texan, Floridian and Californian share of the country’s total recruits isn’t all that different than their share of blue-chip players. There are just a lot of players there, in general. Georgia also outstrips the non-Texas, Florida, and Cali schools here.

7. How about where first-round NFL draft picks come from? Here, we see the Northeast emerging a little more. This is every first-rounder from 2008 through 2017:

Morgan Moriarty

8. Those spots where it looks like there aren't any star recruits? There aren't. This is the 2017 Five-Star Desert, which looks pretty similar to a lot of previous years:

9. It’s not just a lack of five-stars. Some states have never even had a two-star, meaning recruiting services have basically decided to skip evaluating players there. Through the college freshman class of 2019, here’s how long it had been since every state in the union had a recruit of every star rating:

The last time each state had a player of each star rating

State 5-star 4-star 3-star 2-star
State 5-star 4-star 3-star 2-star
Alaska Never Never 2020 2019
Idaho Never 2018 2020 2020
Maine Never Never 2019 2008
Massachusetts Never 2020 2020 2020
Montana Never Never 2015 2020
New Hampshire Never 2020 2018 2018
New Mexico Never 2017 2020 2020
North Dakota Never Never 2015 2018
Rhode Island Never 2019 2018 2015
South Dakota Never 2016 2020 2018
Vermont Never Never 2013 2005
Wyoming Never Never 2015 2020
Delaware 2000 2019 2020 2019
Nebraska 2000 2020 2020 2020
Iowa 2001 2020 2020 2020
Colorado 2007 2020 2020 2020
Wisconsin 2007 2020 2020 2020
Kansas 2009 2020 2020 2020
Minnesota 2010 2020 2020 2020
Oregon 2013 2019 2020 2020
Connecticut 2015 2020 2020 2020
Kentucky 2015 2020 2020 2020
Arkansas 2016 2020 2020 2020
Hawaii 2017 2020 2020 2020
Illinois 2017 2020 2020 2020
Indiana 2017 2020 2020 2020
New York 2017 2020 2020 2020
Tennessee 2018 2020 2020 2020
Alabama 2019 2020 2020 2020
Michigan 2019 2020 2020 2020
Mississippi 2019 2020 2020 2020
New Jersey 2019 2020 2020 2020
Oklahoma 2019 2020 2020 2020
Virginia 2019 2020 2020 2020
West Virginia 2019 2019 2020 2020
The 16 states (and one federal territory that should be a state) with every type of star rating in the 2020 class: Arizona, California, D.C., Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, Maryland, Missouri, Nevada, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Texas, Utah, and Washington. 247Sports Composite

Oh, and there are also a bunch of no-star punters and kickers from Australia.

College football players come from lots of places, but a few states create lots more of them than the rest. There’s a trickle-down effect, whether it’s from population moves, evaluators’ bias, or superior player development, that leads to tons more blue-chip recruits also coming from those states. Mathematically, it makes sense.

It changes how the sport works. The greatest competitive advantages a college football program can have are money and easy access to good recruits. And how much access a team has depends, in large part, on its zip code.