Crunching the NSD Numbers: What Does Syracuse’s Recruiting Ranking Mean?

Where does the Orange rate compared to its new ACC and old Big East rivals?

In the aftermath of Syracuse’s National Signing Day ’13, it’s fair to wonder whether the hype equaled reality. The College Football Matrix is a website that crunches the numbers on class rank, and highlights an Orange group that was less than dazzling in its ratings.

SU’s class was ranked #71 in the country by Rivals, #75 by Scout and #77 by 247Sports. That put it as the composite 72nd rated class in the country, just ahead of Louisiana-Lafayette, Tulsa and SMU. As far as BCS schools that Syracuse topped in such a ranking: Georgia Tech and Boston College. That’s it. That’s the list (we’re not going to include Temple or the newbie Big East schools).

As far as national prestige goes, not good for the Orange. Duke, Colorado, Wake Forest, Kansas and Iowa State all ranked ahead of Syracuse in the composite. Last year’s composite rank for Syracuse was nine spots higher, #62. Over the past four years, SU averaged 73rd in the country in composite rank. That means SU’s ’13 spot was one place higher than its four-year average.

This is slightly discouraging for Orange Nation because the schools surrounding SU all made major jumps this year compared to the previous four-year average. San Diego State and Fresno State came in just ahead of SU, at 70 and 71 respectively, and both jumped 10 spots compared to their four-year ranks. UL-L came in just behind the Orange at #72, but made an incredible 41 spot jump from its four-year.

So while SU essentially treaded water at that spot nationally, everyone around them made major gains. What do we make of this?

Let’s first get this out of the way: Rankings can be sh*t. They assign number values to dynamics that simply can’t be quantified. To try to grasp the limitations of the ranking system, let’s do a simple exercise. Go back over your last month, and think about every day. Now boil that day down to a ranking of 0-5 stars. Take the average of those 30 days, and that’s how you’re month ranked. But that doesn’t necessarily dictate how your next month will be. Or your year. And while you ranked January 12th as a 4-star because you had an amazing filet mignon dinner, your vegetarian girlfriend rated it a 1-star. But your “Glee” marathon on the 26th was a 2-star night in your eyes (you found 55 cents in the snack machine at work), while to her it was a 5-star evening.

Boiling down each athlete to the very confining values of 0-5 stars is somewhat ridiculous. And then grouping 20-25 high school seniors, averaging those stars and believing you have some tremendous grasp on that school’s future success is even more presumptuous.

But let’s be fair. If Syracuse landed the #27 class in the country, we’d all be using trumpeting that as evidence the program has turned the corner and is headed for greatness. It always depends on your perspective.

Class ranking can be a useful tool to identify (generally) where schools rank compared to its peers. In this case, Syracuse slightly beat two similar sized ACC universities (Boston College and Georgia Tech). It also ranked marginally lower than lesser programs it now meets on the gridiron (Duke and Wake), and a regional rival it wants to distance from (UConn). It got beat badly by another regional rival (Rutgers at #40).

Overall, the SU class was hurt by the coaching change. Had Gus Edwards, Laray Smith, and Malik Brown stayed loyal to the Orange the class would’ve been ranked much higher (potentially in the 50s). Did Marrone’s departure push Ebo Ogundeko away? Maybe. But I still find it hard to believe he would’ve chose Syracuse over Clemson no matter the staff.

But George McDonald’s addition clearly helped cushion the blow. His ability to reel in Corey Winfield, Corey Cooper, Brisly Estime, and Mitch Kimble were huge coups late in the game. Without them the Orange would have dropped into the 80s. Hopefully the new staff adjusted the focus to a broader net, looking beyond just the NYC area. If SU can meld both it would be ideal. The rankings aren’t exhilarating for the ’13 class, but numbers don’t tell the whole story. And giving The Mailman a full year to recruit will undoubtedly upgrade those ratings.

Posted: D.A.

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