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Ohio State’s 2020 recruiting class is shaping up like some of the best under the Meyer era

The exact shape of the distribution of player ratings in Ryan Day’s 2020 class is unlike any of the five that came before it under Urban Meyer, but still looks like an elite group like those under Meyer.

NCAA Football: Big Ten Media Days Jim Young-USA TODAY Sports

We’re still a good ways from the 2020 signing day, but with the recent run of commitments, it’s a good time to take stock of how Ryan Day’s first full recruiting class compares with those in the Meyer era. And all indications are that it’s a good one. That comparison can also help illustrate the talent levels on the 2019 team and how it’s distributed by class.

I decided to look at the distribution of player ratings within each class rather than comparing the mean ratings, the number of blue chip players (although blue chip ratio is a great single metric for measuring team talent), or the median rating within each class.

First, I looked at the distribution of player ratings in each class by making boxplots, which I also did earlier this year, right after the 2019 class’s February signing day (check out that post for more about box plots.)

The main thing to note for this chart is that the horizontal lines in the boxes represent the median player rating in each class, the boxes’ upper and lower boundaries represent the upper and lower quartiles (i.e. the box represents the middle 50% of player ratings), and the vertical lines show the full range of player ratings.

Unlike the mean, the median is less affected by a skewed distribution or outliers, and really comes in handy when the data isn’t normally distributed. This chart also shows that the 2020 class is looking like it might end up somewhere between the 2016 class on the low end and the 2017/2018 classes on the high end — but either way, it should be a few steps above the 2015 and 2019 classes. But like those two classes, the large interquartile range (the size of the box) shows that the 2020 class has a more spread out distribution of its middle 50% of players compared to the 2016-2018 classes.

Next, while boxplots can give a sense for how data is skewed, it’s a little hard to tell exactly how or whether the data has multiple clusters. So I made histograms to show the distribution of player ratings in each class too — the taller the bar, the more players with that rating. Then I overlaid the histograms with a density curve to better see the general shape of the player rating distribution in each class.

Essentially, if we ended up with a histogram or density curve with a unimodal distribution centered near the middle of the axis, then that class would have more low-four star rated players than either five stars or three stars.

A couple of things stand out:

  • Like the 2015 class, the 2020 class currently has a bimodal distribution of player ratings, with clusters in the high-three star and high-four star ranges. However, the 2015 class has a much higher concentration of high-three stars, and the 2020 class has the opposite — a concentration of players rated as high-four or five stars.
  • The 2017 and 2018 classes, which both finished second in the country, have extremely similar distributions of player ratings. Both are unimodal, with more higher-rated players than lower-rated ones. It’s tough to imagine better classes than those two. What’s good news for Ohio State is that those two classes are now sophomores and juniors — not only did Ohio State have two recruiting classes with a near-unprecedented amount of talent, but that talent is now also experienced talent.
  • The 2019 class, which was lower rated than Meyer’s previous three, ended up ranked 14th in the country. That was mostly due to the fact that the overall class size was smaller than most others, with only 17 players. Many people noted that the average player rating was actually third-best in the country still, behind only Alabama and Georgia, thanks to five stars Zach Harrison, Harry Miller, and Garrett Wilson (and not including five-star Justin Fields as a transfer!). But as we’ve talked about before, average player rating doesn’t tell the whole story, since the distribution of player ratings can be skewed by relatively small numbers of elite or low-rated recruits. The density curve especially shows this for the 2019 class — there is a large concentration of lower rated recruits.
  • There has been some talk about the larger than usual number of three-star players that Day has taken in his first class. There are eight non-special teams three-star players currently in the 2020 class (although that’s likely to change for some of the players after ratings are adjusted during their senior seasons), and half of them are from Ohio. But the overall distribution of players is strong, even if there is a lower-than-normal number of lower four star commits currently in the class. To some degree, this might be indicative of a slight shift in recruiting strategy — a willingness to go after some lower rated guys (especially Ohio guys) that may have been later adds in earlier classes. But the Buckeyes haven’t shown any decline in their ability to also get the elite of the elite recruits either — as evidenced by Fleming, Johnson, Robinson, and Miller.