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Where Have All The 5-Stars Gone?

This Big 12 failed to land a single 5-star recruit in 2017, so where are they all going?

Getty Images - Darren Carroll

It was a dark year in Big 12 recruiting. Only two teams finished in 247Sports’ top 30 class rankings: Oklahoma at 8, and Texas at 26. However, beyond the lack of schools at the top, what sticks out as a major sore thumb is that no Big 12 team landed a five-star recruit. Not one, and that’s a problem.

Oklahoma brought in a bunch of four start guys, but the Big 12 as a whole landed just four of 247Sports’ top 100 recruits. For comparison, there were six classes that had more top 100 commits than the entire Big 12 combined.

The Big 12’s recruiting slide has been gradually becoming more drastic over the last few years. Last year, Oklahoma landed the only 5-star in the conference, Caleb Kelly. In 2015, Texas landed the only 5-star, Malik Jefferson. The last time more than one 5-star prospect chose a Big 12 school in the same recruiting class was 2014, in Joe Mixon and KD Cannon. In fact, the Big 12 landed more 5-Star recruits in 2010, than in the last four seasons combined.

So where are all the 5-star recruits going?

5-Star Recruits By P5 Conferences

2010
2011
2012
2013
2014
2015
2016
2017
Total

ACC

5 8 8 4 5 7 2 6 45

Big 10

1 3 4 3 4 0 3 8 26

Big 12

5 4 2 3 2 1 1 0 18

Pac 12

7 2 7 6 3 7 4 7 43

SEC

13 11 13 17 19 16 14 11 114

The SEC has been incredibly dominant on the recruiting path for the last 8 classes. Their dominance on the field has obviously translated well, as many of the top SEC teams bring in multiple blue-chips every year. Something else that the SEC does well, aside from paying their coaches well and winning (and having a bag man or two), they win the Southeast. A top player in Alabama, Louisiana, Mississippi, Georgia, South Carolina, Florida, and Tennessee are almost always a sure thing to go to an SEC school.

The SEC dominates their region of the country. The problem for every conference that isn’t the SEC, is that their talent is leaving. There’s no conference that knows that problem more than the Big 12.

The Big 12 geographical footprint is packed with recruits, mostly because of Texas. You’d think this would make for a huge advantage for conference teams, but unlike in other power five conferences, the Big 12 is losing the top recruits from Texas. Just this year, the Longhorns failed to land a top 19 recruit from their own state. To catch up on the field, they need to stop the bleeding.

Every conference has a ‘money state’, where each team knows they can count on top recruits being produced each year. The ACC has the D.C., Maryland and Virginia. The Big Ten has Ohio. The Pac-12 has California. The SEC has Louisiana, Georgia and they split Florida with the ACC. And the Big 12 has, well, Texas.

When looking at the last 8 recruiting classes, there’s only one conference that doesn’t consistently lock down their money areas, and it’s the Big 12. Let’s take a look at the percentage of top ten recruits from the money states landed by their respective conferences each year since 2010.

2010

2011

2012

2013

2014

2015

2016

2017

ACC

40% 53% 53% 43% 36% 40% 26% 33%

Big 10

40% 70% 100% 80% 70% 80% 50% 80%

Big 12

90% 100% 80% 60% 60% 20% 30% 10%

Pac 12

60% 100% 80% 80% 70% 80% 60% 70%

SEC

80% 85% 90% 85% 85% 75% 90% 70%

Part of the problem for the Big 12 that I noticed when looking at this, was how much the loss of Texas A&M and Missouri hurt the conference’s recruiting numbers. Combine that with the decline of Texas leaving Oklahoma as the only consistently elite Big 12 team, and the answer to this problem becomes more clear: Texas, and other Big 12 teams have to start winning games, but especially Texas.

The loss of Texas A&M and Missouri hurts, but you have to win games to recruit at a high level, and when you can’t win games, you have to find up other ways to gain excitement.

So how do you do that? Is it possible to drum up excitement around a college football program without winning games? Absolutely, look at Harbaugh at Michigan. He’s shaken up the recruiting world, and now the Wolverines are already winning again. Look at Tennessee, Texas A&M, and Ole Miss. Three SEC teams that recruit very well, despite never doing much of anything on the field.

The Big 12 conference needs to remember who they are, and find a chip to put on their shoulder, and start recruiting like they are a power five conference with something to offer. Thankfully, one coach already seems to be doing this. Coach Beaty at Kansas just received three 4-star commits out of the heart of SEC territory. If he can do that in Lawrence, KS, then there isn’t any excuse for anyone else.

The 2017 season looks like it could be one of the best seasons for the Big 12 in a long time with Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, Kansas State and West Virginia all showing a lot of promise. However, if the conference can’t capitalize on their success this year by landing strong 2018 classes, then the Big 12 is going to continue to struggle.

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