With last Wednesday being national signing day, there were a lot of questions in the mailbag about recruiting numbers -- enough that it was worth revisiting in a separate post to clear up any confusion.
For example, Will in Greenville, S.C., wrote: Being a Clemson fan, and the dominance of Bama, how can Bama sign so many more players to scholarships? Doesn't the NCAA limit schools to what they can have on their teams? I went onto the ESPN class ranking which go all the way back to 2006 and compared committed numbers between Bama and Clemson, and over the span from 2006-2013 Bama has sign a whopping 44 more players than Clemson. Can you explain the math on this? I look at this and say no wonder they are reloaded and win back to back NT's year in and year out. Not only are they getting the top recruits, but they have a much larger pool of talent when a recruit ends up a bust. It doesn't seem very balanced and fair, and I'm wondering how schools can actually do this?
HD: First, the NCAA does have a rule that limits schools to 25 signed national letters of intent in February, and overall, no team can ever have more than 85 players on scholarship. Period. Those are the two key numbers to know. The SEC also has a rule that says its schools can only mail out 25 national letters of intent to be signed, which is a big change from previous years, when the SEC developed its reputation for oversigning.
There are, however, some tricks to the trade, and attrition accounts for a lot of the varying numbers, too.
One of the biggest differences can be explained by coaches who count a few scholarships back toward the previous year. For example, if NC State was operating with only 83 scholarships in 2012, first-year coach Dave Doeren could count two scholarships from this recruiting class in last year’s if he wanted to.
Attrition is another big variable. Some players transfer, others leave the sport entirely for medical or personal reasons, some don’t qualify, some leave early for the NFL. It’s a guessing game.
Since you’re a Clemson fan, Will, let’s use the Tigers as an example. Clemson had four mid-year players. Coach Dabo Swinney still would have technically been within the rules if he had signed 25 more players in February. His entire 2013 class, though, is comprised of 23 players.
In 2014, Swinney will probably sign 12-14 players -- a small number that factors in a little bit of attrition. In 2015, though, Swinney might sign 30 players because of a massive rising junior class. He can sign several mid-year players and count them back to 2014, and still sign 25 more players in February.
Some programs will sign 25 players no matter what, and figure it out later (greyshirts, prep school, grades, etc.). All of the programs have to whittle it down to 85 by August, though.
Some programs stretch the rules more than others, but having covered the ACC for a while, that’s typically not the style in this conference. Only two schools -- NC State and Wake Forest -- took advantage of the full 25 this year, and Pittsburgh was the only school to go over that limit.
The SEC was a different story. Half the league (Bama 26, Florida 30, Georgia 32, LSU 27, Vandy 27, A&M 32, and Ole Miss 28) went over 25.
Here’s a look at the ACC class sizes for 2013:
BOSTON COLLEGE: 17
FLORIDA STATE: 22
GEORGIA TECH: 14
NORTH CAROLINA: 17
NC STATE: 25
VIRGINIA TECH: 22
WAKE FOREST: 25