Recruiting success, reexamined: Re-ranking the best 2013 classes based on production; Punt, Pass & Pork

Three years after they were recruited, how do the college football classes of 2013 rank?
Publish date:

While most coaches lie when they say they don't care about recruiting rankings, they are absolutely correct when they say recruits need a chance to play at the college level before a cycle's classes can be accurately ranked. So, since 2009, we've re-ranked the recruiting classes from three years earlier. Why three years and not four? This exercise is a lot more fun when most of the players have another year or two left in college. In this edition of Punt, Pass & Pork, we'll revisit the class of '13.

Unfortunately, this method gives short shrift to certain teams. You won't find Michigan State on this list even though the Spartans have had one of the nation's best programs since 2010. Michigan State has been so good at developing players that most don't shine until their fourth or fifth years on campus. Sorry, Spartans. You'll have to comfort yourself with all those wins and those two Big Ten titles in the last three seasons. TCU finds itself in a similar situation. So does Baylor, but given the uptick in those programs' recruiting since they began to find success in the Big 12, don't be shocked if they begin making this list with regularity as more talented youngsters make bigger early impacts.

Also, quirky roster situations affect these rankings. Stanford's 2013 recruiting class produced only five major contributors to the team's Pac-12 title last season, but that total is quite impressive considering the fact that the Cardinal signed only 12 players in '13 because that's how many scholarships the program had available. (Insert your own SEC West oversigning joke here.) Florida State also didn't make the list because apart from a few standouts such as defensive back Jalen Ramsey, the prospects who signed with the Seminoles in '13 slammed into a wall of firmly entrenched talent that didn't leave until after the '14 campaign. So, while those players went 27–1 over their first two seasons, they didn't have a chance to truly make their mark.

The recruitniks were generally accurate during the 2013 recruiting cycle. They underrated a few programs that unearthed some gems, but they also nailed the team at the top when it signed a class for the ages. Just like last year, the choices became tougher after the No. 5 spot. It's easy to rank the classes that produced a long string of contributors. It's much more difficult to parse the ones that produced the usual six or seven contributors in a 22- to 25-man class. Recruiting is a lot like baseball. If you can get a hit every third time, you're going to have a long career.

[video: 13724991]

1. Ohio State

• Original rank: 1
• Record since 2013: 38–4
• BCS/CFP bowl appearances: 3
• Conference championships: 1
• National championships: 1

Major contributors: CB Eli Apple, QB J.T. Barrett, S Vonn Bell, DE Joey Bosa, CB Gareon Conley, RB Ezekiel Elliott, LB Darron Lee, DE Tyquan Lewis, WR Jalin Marshall, OG Billy Price

This is the class that put the Buckeyes over the top for the first national title of the Urban Meyer era, and it pulled off the feat in its second year in Columbus. Look at that list. Most of the players included made huge contributions during the championship run in the 2014 season and again during the 12–1 campaign last fall. The best of these players are already headed to the NFL, but they left the program in a great place.

2. Alabama

• Original rank: 4
• Record since 2013: 37–5
• BCS/CFP bowl appearances: 3
• Conference championships: 2
• National championships: 1

Major contributors: DE Jonathan Allen, OT Leon Brown, LB Reuben Foster, WR Robert Foster, RB Derrick Henry, TE O.J. Howard, DE A'Shawn Robinson, WR ArDarius Stewart, LB Tim Williams

In most years a class of this quality would have easily ranked first. But Ohio State's 2013 class produced so many impact players that it edged the group that helped the Crimson Tide win the most recent national title. This crop features a Heisman Trophy-winning tailback (Henry), four members of one of the best front sevens in college football history (Allen, Reuben Foster, Robinson and Williams) and a tight end whose potential might have finally been unlocked in the national championship game (Howard). With Allen, Howard and Williams turning down NFL money to return to Tuscaloosa for their senior seasons, this group might find itself celebrating another title next January.

3. Clemson

• Original rank: 12
• Record since 2013: 35–6
• BCS/CFP bowl appearances: 2
• Conference championships: 1
• National championships: 0

Major contributors: CB Mackensie Alexander, LB Ben Boulware, OG Tyrone Crowder, RB Wayne Gallman, S T.J. Green, S Jayron Kearse, DE Shaq Lawson, TE Jordan Leggett, CB Cordrea Tankersley, WR Mike Williams

This class produced the best pass rusher (Lawson), the middle linebacker (Boulware) and the majority of the secondary for the team that pushed Alabama to the limit in the national title game. Gallman and Leggett are two of quarterback Deshaun Watson's best offensive weapons. If Williams can return from the neck injury he suffered in the 2015 season opener against Wofford on Sept. 5—and he thinks he can—this class could go down as one of the best in Clemson history.

[video: 13724991]

4. Ole Miss

• Original rank: 10
• Record since 2013: 27–12
• BCS/CFP bowl appearances: 2
• Conference championships: 0
• National championships: 0

Major contributors: WR Quincy Adeboyejo, DE Fadol Brown, S Tony Conner, TE Evan Engram, DT Robert Nkemdiche, WR Laquon Treadwell, OT Laremy Tunsil

The reason the class Ole Miss signed last week was ranked higher than this one is because of its perceived depth. This group didn't produce as many impact players as most of the other classes on this list, but it did produce three (Nkemdiche, Treadwell and Tunsil) who completely changed their program's fortunes. That's why this class lands here in the re-rank. That Ole Miss could go to Tuscaloosa last year and win without the suspended Tunsil suggests coach Hugh Freeze's recruiting hasn't dropped off since. The Rebels still have to be more consistent, but given the fact that Ole Miss is the only SEC team to beat Alabama the past two seasons, it's possible this group paved the way for something special.

5. Notre Dame

• Original rank: 5
• Record since 2013: 27–12
• BCS/CFP bowl appearances: 1
• Conference championships: N/A
• National championships: 0

Major contributors: OG Steve Elmer, RB Tarean Folston, WR Will Fuller, WR Torii Hunter Jr., CB Cole Luke, OT Mike McGlinchey, S Max Redfield, WR Corey Robinson, DE Isaac Rochell, LB Jaylon Smith, QB Malik Zaire

This class was loaded with offensive playmakers, and it will be interesting to see how Folston and Zaire return from the season-ending injuries they suffered last September. Zaire will have to try to win the starting quarterback job back against replacement DeShone Kizer and youngster Brandon Wimbush.

6. Auburn

• Original rank: 13
• Record since 2013: 27–13
• BCS/CFP bowl appearances: 1
• Conference championships: 1
• National championships: 0

Major contributors: DT Montravius Adams, RB Cameron Artis-Payne, RB Peyton Barber, K Daniel Carlson, WR Marcus Davis, DB Johnathan Ford, QB Jeremy Johnson, DE Carl Lawson, QB Nick Marshall

Wait. Wasn't Auburn quite average last year? Indeed. But remember, not all signees are high schoolers. This class is here based on the strength of two juco transfers (Marshall and Artis-Payne) who helped the Tigers win the SEC and play for the BCS championship in their debut season on campus. (The team wasn't bad in 2014, either.) Lawson and Adams were the high schoolers who have fared best in college. Most of the rest—Johnson, for example—haven't lived up to their recruiting hype, and that's why Gus Malzahn is on the hot seat only three years after playing for the national title.

7. Tennessee

• Original rank: 36
• Record since 2013: 21–17
• BCS/CFP bowl appearances: 0
• Conference championships: 0
• National championships: 0

Major contributors: QB Joshua Dobbs, DB Malik Foreman, LB Jalen Reeves-Maybin, WR Josh Smith, CB Cam Sutton, DE Corey Vereen, OG Dylan Wiesman

Even though Derek Dooley committed coaching malpractice by signing zero offensive linemen in 2012, his staff hadn't completely quit on the recruiting trail in his final season in Knoxville. The Dooley administration landed commitments from Reeves-Maybin and Sutton, who would become the linchpins of an ascendant defense. Most of the Volunteers' class was cobbled together by Butch Jones and his staff after their arrival at the school in December 2012. The most important late addition was Dobbs, who flipped from Arizona State and signed with Tennessee. This group has taken a program that was a dumpster fire when it arrived and helped position it for a potentially huge '16 season.

[video: 13724991]

8. Michigan

• Original rank: 2
• Record since 2013: 22–16
• BCS/CFP bowl appearances: 0
• Conference championships: 0
• National championships: 0

Major contributors: TE Jake Butt, DE Taco Charlton, DT Maurice Hurst Jr., CB Jourdan Lewis, RB DeVeon Smith, CB Channing Stribling

Former Wolverines coach Brady Hoke recruited this class, but it took Jim Harbaugh to unlock the potential of these players. Tight end Butt is an ideal fit for Harbaugh's offense. The defenders, meanwhile, finally got to play opposite a competent offense during their third season on campus. Quarterback Shane Morris is also in this class, so another member may wind up making a big contribution. Of course, it's quite possible the star of Houston's 2013 crop—quarterback John O'Korn, who was in the same class as current Cougars standout Greg Ward Jr. and transferred after his sophomore year—could wind up winning the job in Ann Arbor.

9. Iowa

• Original rank: 51
• Record since 2013: 27–13
• BCS/CFP bowl appearances: 1
• Conference championships: 0
• National championships: 0

Major contributors: DT Nathan Bazata, RB LeShun Daniels, LB Josey Jewell, CB Desmond King, RB Akrum Wadley, OG Sean Welsh

This group made a huge contribution to the Hawkeyes' 12-win 2015 campaign, but the contributions weren't limited to the recruited scholarship players. Left tackle Boone Myers also came to Iowa City in '13 as a walk-on. Like most walk-ons who find success, Myers didn't just come in from off the street. Hawkeyes coaches saw Myers, a 250-pound tight end in a wing-T offense at Webster City (Iowa) High, and thought he might grow into a capable offensive lineman. After seeing Myers play basketball, Iowa coaches offered Myers a walk-on spot. Myers elected to take that spot over accepting a scholarship offer from Northern Iowa. The ability to find walk-ons who may someday contribute is an underrated aspect of the recruiting process. The Hawkeyes dug deep to find the gems in '13, regardless of whether they came on scholarship.

10. UCLA

• Original rank: 3
• Record since 2013: 28–11
• BCS/CFP bowl appearances: 0
• Conference championships: 0
• National championships: 0

Major contributors: WR Darren Andrews, OT Caleb Benenoch, LB Jayon Brown, DT Kenny Clark, WR Thomas Duarte, LB Deon Hollins, LB Myles Jack, CB John Johnson DT Eddie Vanderdoes

Had two members of this class (Jack and Vanderdoes) not missed the majority of the 2015 season because of injuries, things might have turned out differently for the Bruins last fall. But this class—Jim Mora's second at the school and his first with the benefit of a full recruiting cycle—seriously upgraded UCLA's athleticism. Whether the Bruins can get over the hump under Mora is another question, but they don't enter games with a talent deficit anymore.

[video: 13724991]

A random ranking

I had originally planned to rank last night's Super Bowl commercials here, but they were fairly uninspired. Instead, here are the top five Super Bowl ads of all time.

1. Apple — 1984

Director Ridley Scott's spot encouraged computer buyers to break the mold and also managed to predict how Apple developers' conferences would look 30 years later.

2. Coca-Cola — Hey kid, catch!

Thanks, Mean Joe!

3. Wendy's — Where's the beef?

You don't need A-list celebrities or a huge budget—only a sentiment every hungry person can understand.

4. McDonald's — Michael vs. Larry

It's Michael Freaking Jordan and Larry Freaking Bird playing a one-letter game of H-O-R-S-E for a Big Mac. This might have had young Andy screaming "Nothing but net!" on the playground.

5. Budweiser — Best Buds: Lost Dog

A lost puppy and Clydesdales? A lost puppy and Clydesdales.


1. Pat Haden will step down as USC's athletic director on June 30, and while his record of success in just about everything else is rock solid, the jury remains out on how he fared as an AD. Haden was a national-title winning quarterback for the Trojans. He was a Rhodes scholar. He played professionally for the Los Angeles Rams. He made a boatload of money as a partner in a private equity firm, and he proved to be an excellent analyst for CBS and NBC. As an athletic director, he helped shepherd USC through crippling sanctions, brought in two new sports and created a first-of-its-kind endowment to encourage athletes to serve their communities. He also got bewitched by a basketball coach's great first weekend in the NCAA tournament and hired Steve Sarkisian as his football coach even though the drinking issues that ultimately ended Sarkisian's tenure were long an open secret in West Coast college football circles.

Fairly or not, the tenure of an AD is judged on the quality of his hires in football and men's basketball. Haden hired Andy Enfield to coach the hoops team after Enfield's Florida Gulf Coast squad upset Georgetown and San Diego State in the first weekend of the 2013 NCAA tournament. But Enfield's transition from Dunk City to L.A. was rough. The Trojans went 23–41 in Enfield's first two seasons and finished last in the Pac-12 both years. The good news is Enfield's current team is 17–5 and sits in second in the Pac-12 standings. Haden's hiring and firing of Sarkisian, meanwhile, has been well chronicled. USC is fighting a wrongful termination suit filed by Sarkisian in the wake of his firing. It will likely be up to Clay Helton—the two-time interim coach who was elevated to the Trojans head job by Haden—to determine how Haden is remembered as an AD. If Helton can make USC the Pac-12's best program again, then Haden's tenure will be looked upon favorably. If Haden's successor has to fire Helton, then Haden will have to settle for only being remembered as a guy who was successful at almost everything else.

2. According to multiple reports last week, Florida's Treon Harris is moving to receiver. Harris, who went 4–4 as the Gators starting quarterback in 2015 after Will Grier was suspended following a positive drug test, probably faced two options: change positions or change schools. With the exception of a 27–3 victory over Georgia on Oct. 31, Florida struggled to move the ball with Harris under center. The deficiencies were especially glaring in Florida's three consecutive losses to Florida State, Alabama and Michigan to end the season. In those three games, the Gators averaged 4.1 yards per play and eight points.

If the switch for Harris is permanent, Florida's next quarterback competition will begin this spring including Oregon State (and Alabama) transfer Luke Del Rio, Purdue transfer Austin Appleby and freshmen Felipe Franks and Kyle Trask.

3. Oregon tailback Thomas Tyner has retired from football after missing all of last season with a shoulder injury. Tyner, from Beaverton, Ore., was the rare elite in-state recruit for the Ducks. He made headlines at Aloha High when he ran for 644 yards with 10 touchdowns in a single game. At Oregon, Tyner was the Ducks' third-leading rusher as a freshman in 2013. He earned a bigger role in '14, but injuries limited him for a chunk of the season. His best game as a college player came in the Rose Bowl against Florida State following the '14 campaign. Against the Seminoles, Tyner ran for 124 yards with two scores.

4. The Big 12's CEOs have agreed to stay quiet when it comes to talk of potential conference expansion. With Oklahoma president David Boren continuing to beat the drum for expansion—his is not a majority opinion—the league's presidents met last week at the conference headquarters in Irving, Texas, and agreed that only commissioner Bob Bowlsby should be allowed to speak publicly about expansion.

"If you're gonna have a family argument, is it better to have it at Applebee's or at home?" Kansas State president Kirk Schulz told the Tulsa World's John Hoover in one of the most Big 12 quotes ever. "We decided to do it at home with the doors shut."

[video: 13724991]

5. The NCAA's football rules committee will meet this week to discuss a few potential changes. Unlike the past two years, there is no surprise pace-of-play proposal dividing coaches into two camps. The committee will discuss the following topics:

• Changing the targeting rule so that a replay official can stop the game and call a targeting penalty that was missed by the crew on the field. This one won't be popular, but the targeting rule is a necessary step to stop headhunting, and this would allow the rule to be enforced even if the on-field officials weren't in position to see the foul. The issue with targeting isn't the rule itself—contrary to what the you're-sissifying-the-game crowd thinks, it is still possible to hit players very hard legally—it's the uneven enforcement of it. Adding replay review of targeting penalties has helped, but on-field and replay officials need to be perfectly clear on the rule, and that understanding of the rule needs to be uniform across all crews. A good rule gets a bad reputation when terrible calls like the one that went against Michigan's Joe Bolden in a matchup with Michigan State on Oct. 17 are allowed to stand.

• Ways to more consistently call the ineligible receiver downfield penalty. An under-the-radar attempt to change this rule last year had up-tempo coaches up in arms. A plan to reduce the distance a lineman could travel past the line of scrimmage from three yards to one on forward passes beyond the line was tabled in favor of an emphasis on actually enforcing the current rule. Defensive coordinators remain frustrated with the spotty enforcement. If the committee can't figure out a way to evenly apply the rule, it may have to address this next year.

• Whether a ballcarrier who slides should be afforded defenseless player protections. (Yes, he should.)

• Whether computers and tablets should be allowed on the sidelines for coaching purposes. (Yes again.)

6. The NCAA continues to exercise more common sense these days. Instead of caving in to selfish coaches and eliminating the graduate transfer rule—which happens to be the best rule on the NCAA's books—the organization will try to address the complaints with a measure that doesn't limit athletes' freedom to change schools and play immediately once they've graduated.

Instead of eliminating the exception entirely (what certain coaches want), the NCAA's Division I academic committee is considering eliminating the automatic retention point for each graduate or post-baccalaureate player in a team's Academic Progress Rates calculation. In this scenario, graduates would be counted just like undergrads. If they aren't making meaningful progress toward a degree, the team could be punished with scholarship reductions.

This will allow players to continue to take advantage of the rule, but it will force coaches to be sure they're taking a player who still plans to attend class and not simply play a semester and then leave.

7. We don't expect most of the participants in the Jeopardy! college tournament to dominate a football category, but an LSU student should be able to get the following correct.

8. Kentucky will have new uniforms next season, and they look pretty great.

The Wildcats' new logo is another story. While not as potentially obscene as the long-ago cat that had a tongue that looked a like a, um, well, you know, the new logo looks like a left-facing Northern Iowa mark. Or, if you prefer, like a certain office implement.

9. Mark Chelgren, an Iowa state senator with far too much time on his hands, has introduced a bill aimed at punishing Stanford for allowing its band to poke fun at the Hawkeyes during the Rose Bowl halftime show. How would said punishment be administered? One of the world's top universities wouldn't get to collaborate with the institutions of Iowa's state university system.

That'll teach 'em.

Not everyone in Iowa is so upset at the Stanford band's slaughter of sacred cows. Herman Quirmbach, the chair of the Iowa Senate Education Committee, told the Des Moines Register that he has no interest in the bill. "Stanford University is one of the premier research universities in the world and for us to cut off contact with Stanford over something that happened on a football field I think sinks to a level that would be unworthy of our fine research institutions," Quirmbach told the paper.

Where does Quirmbach work? Iowa State, of course. All politics remain local.


What's eating Andy?

Once again, my calls for a Steven Wright halftime show at the Super Bowl were ignored. Efforts will be doubled—or possibly redoubled—next year.

What's Andy eating?

I still can't understand why some company hasn't turned a street taco joint into the next sweeping-the-nation fast-casual chain. Torchy's Tacos seems to be the best candidate here, but so far its only expansion outside Texas has been to Colorado. We love good tacos in flyover country as well, but for most of us, our exposure is limited to great one-off spots and mini-chains in bigger cities or in smaller cities in taco-centric states such as Texas, Arizona and California.

That's why I take advantage when an excellent taco opportunity is nearby. Last week I had to go to New York to shoot our National Signing Day live show spectacular in conjunction with After a day spent planning the show, editor Ben Glicksman and I craved folded food. So, we headed to the original Otto's Tacos location—there are now three—in the East Village. There, we met the Gorgon.

Edith Hamilton's Mythology described Gorgons like this: "And they are three, the Gorgons, each with wings/And snaky hair most horrible to mortals/Whom no man shall behold and draw again/The breath of life…" The most famous (and only mortal) among them was Medusa, whose glance could turn a man to stone. Perseus defeated Medusa by looking only at her reflection in his shield.


Andy Staples

No such protective measures were necessary when viewing Otto's Gorgon. Unlike its namesake, it is a thing of heavenly beauty. The Gorgon began as an off-menu secret for those in the know, but it now sits proudly on the menu alongside the more standard street taco offerings. What makes the Gorgon special? Instead of using a thin tortilla, it starts with a thick, fresh-made masa pillow that gets fried so that it turns into the corn equivalent of a funnel cake. This gets loaded down with your choice of meat—I selected carne asada and Ben chose carnitas—guacamole, serrano cream, cilantro and onions. Depending on how long the tortilla was cooked, it may or may not fold. This definitely will not matter. You will be equally satisfied eating it with your hands or with a fork.

The regular tacos at Otto's were excellent. The carnitas version I ordered was stuffed with moist, tender pork and drizzled with tasty tomatillo salsa. The masa fries—deep-fried cornmeal sticks—were ideal for dipping in the various salsas. And the rice and beans were most certainly cooked with love (a.k.a. pork fat). Still, the star was the Gorgon. The juicy carne asada came spilling out with each bite, but I still had plenty to blend with the spicy cream and the soft masa base. Those with normal appetites need not order past the Gorgon. You'll be full, and you'll be happy. And when you can do that for $8.50 in New York, you have accomplished something as legendary as slaying a snake-haired monster.