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2020 UGA and Bama join top-15 all-time recruiting classes ... one way or the other

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When it comes to ranking the era’s top classes, do you prefer total score or average rating per signee? Here are both lists.

Kevin C. Cox/Getty. Banner Society illustration

Below are the college football recruiting classes with the highest ratings of the internet era.

This doesn’t mean these are the best recruiting classes ever. There are a few distinctions there.

  1. Though publications have covered prospects for decades, national ratings were only formalized around the turn of the century by Rivals and Scout, with others joining and the 247Sports Composite eventually combining the major ratings into one.
  2. Rankings don’t equate perfectly to college success, so this is not a look to re-grade old classes based on college production. Ratings are predictive, of personal and institutional success, but nothing is perfect. Nobody would retroactively proclaim Florida’s 2010 class to be the greatest haul of the last decade, even though it remains the highest-scoring.
  3. A few years ago, SI’s Andy Staples went back to World War II to rank the 15 most valuable classes ever, with the benefit of knowing how signees performed in college. This post will focus only on ratings from the ratings era.

This goes back to 2002, when full classes at the top level began being somewhat reliably rated.

Highest-scoring recruiting classes, 2002-2020

Rank Team Class score Signees
Rank Team Class score Signees
1 2010 Florida 324.6 28
2 2017 Alabama 323.9 29
3 2018 Georgia 323.3 26
4 2014 Alabama 319.7 26
5 2013 Alabama 319.5 26
6 2019 Alabama 317.5 27
7 2018 Ohio State 317.1 26
8 2006 USC 317 28
9 2020 Georgia 313.3 25
10 2012 Alabama 313.1 26
11 2007 Florida 313.1 29
12 2017 Ohio State 312.1 21
13 2010 Texas 312.1 24
14 2015 Alabama 311.1 24
15 2015 USC 310.9 27
Anything 300 or above is typically in the running for a #1 ranking. Scores via 247Sports Composite

But classes are differently sized, based on scholarship availability, current regulations, and other factors. That means every year, some classes earn higher overall rankings simply because they had more spots to fill.

So another way to look at it is by average recruit rating.

The Composite doesn’t just use a straight average when it collects overall class scores, but rather a [inhales deeply] mathematical thing.

Ranking classes strictly by average player rating would give us this top 15:

Top recruiting classes by average signee, 2002-2020

Rank Team Signees Average
Rank Team Signees Average
1 2017 Ohio State 21 94.6
2 2019 Alabama 27 94.4
3 2018 Ohio State 26 94.3
4 2005 USC 16 94.3
5 2018 Georgia 26 94.2
6 2018 USC 18 94.2
7 2010 Florida 28 94
8 2010 Texas 24 93.9
9 2015 Alabama 24 93.7
10 2017 Alabama 29 93.7
11 2014 Alabama 26 93.6
12 2008 USC 23 93.6
13 2009 USC 18 93.6
14 2020 Alabama 25 93.6
15 2018 Clemson 17 93.5
A 247 score between roughly 89 and roughly 97 translates to a four-star grade, meaning the average signee in each of these classes was essentially a mid-four-star. Scores via 247Sports Composite

So Urban Meyer tops both lists, with Nick Saban’s teams showing up most frequently and a Saban spinoff, Kirby Smart, putting Georgia right around the top of both lists as well.

It’s fair to argue that the recruiting industry’s standards have evolved over time, so it’s hard to accurately compare a 2021 prospect to a 2001 prospect.

The process has improved greatly, due to exposure and experience, so it’s also hard to say for sure how 2003’s classes would’ve graded by 2020’s methods, and vice versa.

But! The same thing goes for yardage records on the football field, and we keep records for those all the same. This isn’t an attempt to declare these classes the best (but please feel free to weigh in), just a place to gather the numbers as they are.

Meanwhile, here’s a look at each FBS team’s historical recruiting norm. Who’s trending up or down?