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A statistical deep dive into Ohio State’s recruiting, talent level heading into 2019

How does Ohio State’s roster stack up against Michigan, and against other top national recruiters?

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: APR 13 Ohio State Spring Game Photo by Adam Lacy/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

As we wrote last week, Ohio State ranks between 4th and 13th in a number of advanced statistical projections for the 2019 season.

But the Buckeyes are also arguably the most talented team in the country — especially going by Blue Chip Ratio. So let’s do a deep dive into the numbers for Ohio State’s talent level for the 2019 season.


Earlier I took a look at how Ryan Day’s 2020 class is shaping up against the last five seasons under Urban Meyer. The charts above — histograms with overlaid density curves — show the distribution of player ratings in each class between 2016-2019, which is essentially the overall talent heading into 2019. The density curves smooth out the histograms, allowing you to easily see the shape of each distribution. The higher each bar (or density curve), the more recruits at that rating. I filtered out all players who are no longer with the team, and added in incoming transfers as well.

As you can see, the 2017 and 2018 classes form the talent core for the 2019 class, with strong left-skewed classes back-to-back.

This chart breaks down the 2016-2019 classes showing the average (mean) rating for each position group. The size of the circle is the number of recruits at each position. Not surprisingly (considering players like Nicholas Petit-Frere, Wyatt Davis, Garrett Wilson, Harry Miller, Zach Harrison, and Chase Young), both offensive and defensive lines and wide receivers are the most talented position groups on the team.

Ohio State vs. Michigan

Next let’s take a look at how Ohio State’s recruiting compares to Michigan’s:

These charts are density curves showing the distribution of recruit ratings by year for Ohio State and Michigan. Note that this data only includes recruits — no transfers in or out —and with special teams players removed.

These charts show a clear, consistent trend that the Buckeyes have recruited better than the Wolverines over the last four years.

While Ohio State’s 2017-2018 classes show a left skew, the Wolverines’ classes consistently are right-skewed. The two teams’ 2018 class density curves are almost mirror images of each other. That is despite high rankings for Harbaugh’s classes — 8th, 5th, 22nd, and 8th during the time period. Michigan’s overall Blue Chip Rating is still a strong 60%, though.

This chart is similar to the above density curves, but combines the 2016-2019 classes into a single curve for each team and adds a dashed line for the median player rating.

It essentially sums up what we saw above. Both teams are capable of signing elite recruits, but Ohio State has a much higher percentage of high-four star players compared to the Wolverines. Michigan’s median player rating is significantly lower than Ohio State’s, too.

Top 3 Recruiters

Finally, let’s see how Ohio State compares with the other two top recruiters over the last four seasons — Alabama and Georgia.

This chart is similar to the first OSU-Michigan comparison, and shows density curves of the distribution of player ratings for each team by year.

As you might expect, all of these recruiting classes are strongly left skewed — except for two: Georgia’s 2016 class, which looks almost like a bell curve except for a few very-highly rated players (three five-stars, including Jacob Eason, Issac Nauta, and Mecole Hardman), and Ohio State’s 2019 class, which is right-skewed.

This chart combines each team’s four recruiting classes into a single chart and adds median lines. This shows that Alabama has the highest percentage of high-four star recruits, Georgia has the most low-four stars, and Ohio State has a roster that is more balanced between high and low four-stars than Georgia or Alabama. As you’d expect, the Buckeyes’ median player rating is between Georgia’s and Alabama’s, but closer to the Tide’s.

These box plots show the same data set as the previous chart and are another way of visualizing the distribution of player ratings on each team. Check out my post on the 2019 recruiting class for more info on box plots.

This last chart is a bubble chart that compares average (mean) player rating by position for each team, with the size of the bubble showing the total number of recruits for each position. There is a lot going on here, so I’ll try to summarize:

  • The Buckeyes tend to take more players tagged as athletes, and they’re a little lower rated than those from UGA or Bama.
  • The highest-rated overall position group is safeties, with a mean rating of .962. For Ohio State, that includes Tyreke Johnson (who is tagged as a safety in the 247 ratings) and Josh Proctor in 2018, and Isaiah Pryor in 2017.
  • Not surprisingly, defensive ends aren’t far behind at .951. Although Alabama has more total defensive end signees, Ohio State has the highest average rating — this group includes Nick Bosa, Tyreke Smith, Jonathon Cooper, Chase Young, and Zach Harrison. UGA is a little bit lower, likely because their 3-4 defense prioritizes pass-rushing OLBs (and notably, both Bama and UGA have higher LB ratings than Ohio State). Georgia also doesn’t have the recent history of producing elite defensive ends like both Alabama and Ohio State do.
  • Overall, Ohio State has the highest position average at defensive end, defensive tackle, and running back. I was a little surprised by the latter two. Defensive tackle seemed to be a talent deficiency for Ohio State for most of the Meyer era, but the Buckeyes have prioritized the position in recent recruiting classes, signing Haskell Garrett, Taron Vincent, Tommy Togiai, and Tyler Friday (tagged as a DT in the 247 ratings). That’s a formidable group. I was also a little surprised by running back, since both Georgia and Alabama are known as running back factories, while Ohio State typically signs solid four-star players (even Zeke and Dobbins were “just” four-stars). Looking at Alabama’s running backs, they’ve signed five stars like Trey Sanders and Najee Harris in recent classes, but they’ve also signed three backs rated under .9 (although that list includes first-round draft pick Josh Jacobs). Georgia is similar — five stars Zamir White and D’Andre Swift, but also mid-three star Brian Herrien. Ohio State’s only running back rated below .9 was Marcus Crowley (.8917).
  • Ohio State has the lowest average rating at athlete, linebacker, and safety. A number of these athletes have turned into safeties or linebackers — Brendon White, Jordan Fuller, Malik Harrison, Jahsen Wint, and Craig Young are all in the group. As mentioned above, Ohio State’s scheme highlights the pass rushing abilities of defensive ends rather than outside linebackers, as at Georgia, so it’s not too surprising that the Buckeyes have a lower average at linebacker. That rating might also be due to less coaching star power at the position for much of this time period. And while safety is a highly-rated position for all three schools, Ohio State’s safeties are lower than Georgia’s and Alabama’s.
  • Interestingly, on offense, the three schools have very similar average player ratings at offensive line and running back, but differ pretty significantly at wide receiver. Ryan Day and Dwayne Haskins (and now Justin Fields) have revolutionized Ohio State’s wide receiver recruiting abilities, putting them closer to Alabama’s insane lineup of Jaylen Waddle, Jerry Jeudy, DeVonta Smith, and Henry Ruggs III. Georgia, known far more for the ground game, ranks a good bit lower despite commitments from elite players George Pickens and Dominick Blaylock in the 2019 class.