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How to Evaluate Kansas State Recruiting

What does any of this recruiting stuff even mean?

Scott Weaver/K-State Athletics

We’re in a “dead period” in college football, so I thought it would be a good time to about what all this recruiting stuff means (in my humble opinion of course).

Where is Kansas State Now?

First off, I think the 2020 class for Kansas State is coming together about as well as you could hope. As of this moment (which means little to nothing), according to 247 sports, Kansas State has the 32 ranked recruiting class in the nation, and the 3rd best recruiting class in the Big 12.

That’s a deceiving though. Kansas State has 18 players committed. That skews that rankings. To put it in perspective, Kansas currently has the second ranked class in the Big 12 on the strength of their 21 commits. Kansas State and Kansas both need players. It’s good that they’ve got a large number (compared to other Big 12 schools) on the hook already, but that doesn’t speak to the overall quality of the class.

A better metric for looking at recruiting classes is the average overall ranking of the commits in the class. If you reorder the Big 12 classes using that metric, it looks like this:

  1. Texas (93.39) - 7 commits
  2. Oklahoma (90.94) - 14 commits
  3. TCU (87.67) - 10 commits
  4. Oklahoma State - (86.44) - 12 commits
  5. West Virginia - (85.74) - 10 commits
  6. Texas Tech (85.23) - 11 commits
  7. Iowa State (85.08) - 15 commits
  8. Baylor (84.96) - 11 commits
  9. Kansas State (84.43) - 18 commits
  10. Kansas (83.43) - 21 commits

When you look at the 2020 recruiting class, it doesn’t look as good. The 2019 recruiting class average player rating was 84.43, the 2018 class (the last Snyder class) had an average player rating of 84.

How Did Kansas State Get Into This Mess?

The main problem with Kansas State, and what brought about the end of the Snyder era (other than his age) is that Snyder and K-State was recruiting, and more specifically, the average player rating of each class.

2014: 82.11

2015: 83.39

2016: 82.08

2017: 83.33

If you want to know why it looked like Kansas State was out-manned at almost every position group in 2018, it’s because they were. Even a position of strength, like offensive line, was an injury away from trouble, because it’s almost impossible to build functional depth with that sort of recruiting.

How Does Klieman Get Out of This Hole?

The simple answer, is to recruit better players, but that’s obviously easier said than done. The correct answer, right now, is to nail his evaluations on under-rated players. That’s a tough game to play in modern college football, but it’s not impossible.

I’ve been following recruiting for a long while, and I’ve noticed that the following players tend to be under rated.

Players Without a Position

It’s hard to evaluate guys when you’re not sure where they will play.

For example (and again please forgive me for using Clemson as a reference), Vic Beasley came to Clemson as 3-star (86) RB/TE/DE out of Georgia. He did a little bit of everything in high school, but no one could figure out where he fit in at the college level.

To be fair, Clemson didn’t know where he fit in either. He spent time at running back and tight end for the Tigers as a freshman before transitioning to defensive end as a sophomore. Once he found his position, his career took off. He was named a consensus All-American as a Junior and a Senior and ended up at the 8th overall pick.

Players That Don’t Fit the Size Profile

Scouts and coaches have a physical profile they look for in a player. If a player doesn’t match that physical profile, they get moved down the list, regardless of other, potentially elite characteristics.

Going back to Clemson, Grady Jarrett is the perfect example of player that didn’t fit the physical profile, and was subsequently under rated coming out of high school. As a recruit, Jarrett was a 3-star (83), 6’0, 280 pound defensive tackle. That’s about 3 or 4 inches short and 10-20 pounds lighter than scouts and coaches like to see at the defensive tackle position.

The Clemson coaches saw a defensive tackle with a non-stop motor, super human strength, and an innate understanding of leverage. Jarrett went on to be a two year starter for the Tigers and one of the more disruptive defensive tackles in college football.

Strangely enough, the same size issue that lowered his “value” as a recruit, lowered his value in the draft. He slipped into the 5th round, and again over performed his draft rating. Jarrett has started 46 games for the Falcons in 4 seasons and just signed a 1-year, 15 million dollar contract after the Falcons used their “franchise” tag designation on the diminutive defensive tackle.

What’s Interesting About Those Two Players

Vic Beasley and Grady Jarrett are both Clemson legends. What’s interesting is that I doubt either of them are a take for Clemson if they were in the 2020 class.

2 and 3 star players are a gamble. While there are plenty of success stories, the odds are stacked against guys rated like Beasley and Jarrett. Clemson doesn’t have to take those types of chances in recruiting anymore, because for every Vic Beasley and Grady Jarrett, there are significantly more 3-star players that don’t pan out. If you have the option of taking a 3-star player or a 4-star player, you almost always take the 4-star player, because the odds are significantly better that 4-star player pans out.

This 247 article by Chris Hummer lays out the odds of being drafted depending on your star rating in high school.

I recommend reading the article, because it’s an interesting look at just how accurate high school talent evaluators have become. The most interesting part of the article for me, was the break down of NFL draft picks per star ratings.

2014 Recruiting Class Percentage of Players Drafted Per Star Rating

5-star - 33 total recruits (57.6% drafted)

4-star - 296 total recruits (23.6% drafted)

3-star - 1,541 total recruits (6.9% drafted)

2-star - 1,666 total recruits (1.1% drafted)

What This Means

The higher rated a player is, the higher probability that player has to be drafted. That doesn’t mean that 3-star players don’t turn into solid college football players, because as you can see by the numbers, most programs are built on a foundation of 3-star players, but if you’re looking for elite players, you’ve got a much better shot with 4- and 5-star players.

You need at least a few elite players on every squad to compete in modern college football.

This is both good and bad news for Kansas State.

The good news is that at an average rating of 85 or below, it’s more about who coaches like, than who is the better player. Coaches make evaluations, target the attributes they value, and roll the dice.

Obviously, the higher your overall class average, the better chance you have of landing a high profile player. There is a difference between a 3-star player rated at an (89) and a 3-star player rated at (80), but the difference between a guy rated at an 85 and a guy rated at an 83 is negligible.

Outside of the top 4 school in the Big 12, it’s more of a question of who evaluates talent better than who recruits better. The bottom half of the Big 12 is grouped close enough together in recruiting that coaching plays a huge role.

That makes moving up in the Big 12 easier than moving up in a some other conferences. Much like ACC, the conference is top heavy, but outside of those 3 or 4 programs at the top, there is ample room to move up to mid conference.

The bad news is that while K-State is recruiting players with high ceilings (Talor Warner) and guys with elite physical skills that don’t fit the ideal size (Keyon Kozee and Deuce Vaughn) it’s a roll of the dice. Guys like this (not these particular players, but players like this in general) have high ceilings, but they also have low floors.

I like the 2020 class but there are going to be a bunch of misses. That’s just the nature of the beast when you’re recruiting at the level K-State recruits at. You hope to find players that, at worst, can fill a specific role on the roster, but even that is tough.

This staff is recruiting better than the last staff, but they’re going to eventually have to make a jump up the recruiting ratings if they want to consistently compete with the upper echelon of the Big 12.

How Teams Move Up?

This is easy. You win football games.

Coach Klieman is going to have to do it with superior talent evaluations and game planning and win football games. If he can patch together a squad and consistently win 6-8 games in the next 3 or 4 seasons, recruiting becomes much easier.

If he struggles to win with overall inferior talent (as a group) he won’t be able to improve recruiting at K-State, and his tenure in Manhattan will be short.

In the end, everything comes down to one simple sentence, coined by Al Davis.

Just Win Baby!

Do that, and everything else, including recruiting, falls into place.