Geography is more important in college football than any other American sport. Recruiting is any program’s lifeblood, each team needs dozens of new players every year, and it’s a lot easier to recruit if you’re located in a place with lots of good high school football players nearby.
Some programs have managed long-term success despite being far from the country’s talent hotbeds, but if you’re not a legacy program like, say, Oklahoma, it’s hard. And the Sooners have relatively easy access to the loaded state of Texas.
Here’s how long it’s been since all 50 states and the District of Columbia had recruits rated two, three, four, and five stars on the industry-consensus 247Sports Composite. This list runs back to 2000, the start of the Composite era. At the bottom of the table, you’ll see a list of the 16 states that had five-stars and everything else in the 2020 class.
The last time each state had a player of each star rating
We initially built this list with prospects only from 2002 or later, when rankings were based on a little more data than before that. But I’ve added Delaware and Iowa from the old days.
The big milestone this year? Welcome to the Blue-Chip Club, New Hampshire!
The Granite State has its first blue-chip recruit ever in four-star QB Parker McQuarrie of St. Paul’s School in Weare. It seems like McQuarrie is actually from New Hampshire and wasn’t merely attending boarding school there, so the state gets even more points.
All but six states have had at least one blue-chip since 2017. Those six are the ones that have still never had one: Alaska, Maine, Montana, North Dakota, Vermont, and Wyoming.
This year does not have any first-time entries to the Five-Star Club. The state of West Virginia joined in 2019 with offensive tackle Darnell Wright, who picked Tennessee.
This list highlights how impressive it is that a few programs have managed to thrive in states with little high-end talent.
Boise State wouldn’t get many blue-chips anyway, because four- and five-star recruits almost exclusively pick Power 5 schools. But they’re often the best Group of 5 recruiter despite playing in a state that’s never produced a five-star and (despite having some recent four-stars) doesn’t rank highly in blue-chips.
Iowa’s consistency despite a lack of in-state blue-chip talent is worth calling out, too. It’s easy to forget how hard it is to find good players in Iowa, because the Hawkeyes have found ways to do it for so long. The same statement’s true for Wisconsin, which hasn’t had a five-star come out of its own state since 2007.
There’s a bit of inherent bias in this exercise.
High school football is definitely better in Florida than it is in Wyoming. For that reason, more talent evaluators spend time in Florida than Wyoming, making it easier for more middling players in that state to get noticed than their counterparts elsewhere. A stat line in Florida will be taken more seriously than an equivalent line in another state, because the level of competition is higher. That translates to more players getting recognition in more populous states.
For the most part, that reflects the reality that some states have a lot more talent than others. Some great players in lesser-producing states unfairly fall under the radar, but for the purposes of understanding a college team’s advantages, recruiting ratings are the simplest starting barometer. Consider who wins every championship.
Another way to measure a state’s potency as a recruiting pipeline is just to count up the four- and five-star players.
Florida, Texas, and California are historically the leaders in that count every year, but Georgia has finally overtaken California to join the top three in 2020.