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What Can We Learn From Recruiting: Alamo Bowl Edition

Stanford and TCU are set to face off in the Alamo Bowl, but who has recruited better over the years, and how much does it matter?

Freelance for The San Antonio Express News - Ron Cortes

It’s hard to predict bowl games. Many different factors go into determining who actually has the upper hand. Did one of the teams recently lose a head coach or coordinator? Did one of the teams have a season below pre-season expectations, and now don’t have much to play for? Is one of the teams missing a key player at a key position? Which team has the better coach? The list can go on and on.  All of these things have the potential to impact who is favored in a game.

While all of those things are important questions, I wonder sometimes if we are making this harder than it needs to be. What if it’s as simple as which team has recruited better?

I can’t say for certain if its enough to answer the question, coaching matters a lot, as does player development, but I think it will get us closer to answering the question of who is going to win the Valero Alamo Bowl in San Antonio on December 28th.

Below, we’ll look at both Stanford and TCU’s recruiting classes from 2014 through 2017. Each year will detail where the schools ranked within their conference and nationally, as well as the top recruit in that class. All rankings are according to 247Sports composite team rankings.


School Pac12/Big12 Rank National Rank Top Commit
Stanford 2nd 13th DL Solomon Thomas – 5 star – Now in the NFL
TCU 7th 43rd RB Shaun Nixon – 4 star – Retired due to injuries


School Pac12/Big12 Rank National Rank Top Commit
Stanford 5th 24th WR Trent Irwin – 4 star – Still on Roster
TCU 6th 39th CB Deshawn Raymond – 4 star – Transferred


School Pac12/Big12 Rank National Rank Top Commit
Stanford 3rd 16th TE Kaden Smith – 4 star – Still on Roster
TCU 3rd 21st ATH Sewo Olonilua – 4 star – Still on Roster


School Pac12/Big12 Rank National Rank Top Commit
Stanford 2nd 14th OT Foster Sarell – 5 star – Still on Roster
TCU 3rd 28th WR Jalen Reagor – 4 star – Still on Roster

What Does This Tell Us?

It’s clear to see that Stanford has the overall advantage here. 247Sports keeps a rolling count of the most “talented” teams based on the recruiting rankings. Taking these four years into account, 247Sports has Stanford ranked 14th in the nation in terms of overall talent. TCU on the other hand is 32nd in overall talent.

TCU has started to see improvement in the last couple years finishing behind only Texas and Oklahoma for consecutive years in the Big 12 rankings. Additionally, TCU is set to finish 3rd in the Big 12 again for their 2018 class, and could finish with their highest national ranking ever. Of course that will be dependent upon how they finish the 2018 class out, but there are still a number of high level targets left on the board for TCU.

What Does This Not Tell Us?

As I mentioned at the beginning, recruiting rankings isn’t the totality of what a team will be for a number of reasons. Take a look at TCU’s defensive ends for example. TCU’s starting defensive ends Matt Boesen and Ben Banogu have been arguably the best defensive end duo in the entire country this year, certainly in the Big 12 though. Take a look at these numbers put together by Pro Football Focus:

Boesen and Banogu were a nightmare of opposing offensive lines this year, and were arguably the top two performers on TCU’s entire defense. I bring this up because its important to remember that what you start out as is not ultimately what you are destined to become. Ben Banogu was a two star recruit coming out of high school. Banogu’s composite ranking from 247Sports was .7575, which is one of the lowest rankings that you can actually receive on the site.

Boesen was rated more highly as a three star, but still only hit .8680 in the composite rankings.  Both players were selected to All Big 12 teams, and Boesen was recently selected as a first team all-American by Sports Illustrated.

ESPN’s draft expert Mel Kiper Jr. has Ben Banogu in his top 5 of draft eligible defensive lineman.

What I’m trying to say is that both of these players have developed way past what their initial ranking was coming out of high school, and that is why you can’t solely rely on recruiting rankings.

Final Thoughts

On December 28th in San Antonio, Stanford will be the more talented team, but I don’t think the gap is quite as big as the recruiting rankings might have you believe.

Not only do you not have a completely full picture by just looking at recruiting rankings, but you have to factor in things like player development.

Gary Patterson is regarded as one of the top defensive minds in all of college football, but maybe more to his credit is player development. Patterson consistently does more with less year in and year out than almost anyone else.

So at the end of the day, yes, Stanford has recruited more five-star recruits in just their 2017 class than TCU has in their entire history, but don’t expect to see a mismatch on the field.


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