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UGA’s Blue-Chip “Plus” Ratio

April 22, 2022
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UGA’s Blue-Chip “Plus” Ratio

By Jonathan Shapiro

With UGA’s overwhelming success on the field in 2021, at the 2022 NFL Combine and what is expected in the upcoming NFL Draft, it may be time to reconsider just how good their recruiting has been.  Spoiler alert:  it has been even better than industry experts have described.

For UGA and a few of the most elite recruiting juggernauts, Bud Elliot’s “Blue-Chip Ratio” – the percentage of scholarship players a team signs over the last four recruiting cycles that are 4 and 5 Stars (“Blue Chips”), rather than 3 Star or lower – may underrate their talent advantages.  Elliot explains that while a Blue-Chip Ratio greater than 50% is no guarantee of winning, no team with Blue Chips accounting for fewer than half of its scholarship players has ever won a College Football National Championship (in the internet era), nor can it expect to win one in the future. 

In the most recent version of the Blue-Chip Ratio for 2021, 16 teams met Elliot’s greater than 50% threshold, with National Champion UGA at 80%, second only to Alabama at 84%.   Ohio State was 3rd at 79%, Clemson 4th with a ratio of 67% and LSU, Oklahoma, Texas and Florida sat at 66%.  Obviously, not every Blue Chip becomes an impact player, and while player development is critically important too, Blue Chips are statistically more likely than 3 Stars to be game changers.  And statistically speaking, the more Blue Chips a team has on its roster, the more impact players it will generally have and this will usually translate to greater on-field success.    

It is also obvious to anyone paying attention that Alabama, UGA and OSU (along with to a slightly lesser degree Clemson and LSU and very recently Texas A&M) have been dominating recruiting in recent years.  Those first five have been routinely signing approximately half of the 5 Stars and half of the top 100 players each year.

Yet, there is a way to look at the Blue-Chip Ratio for the very best at recruiting – Alabama, UGA and OSU and maybe a few others – as an undercount of their talent.  A player that is not a Blue Chip but is a “take” for one of these teams is not your typical 3 Star.  These players seem to have a higher success or “hit” rate than most 3 Stars and for good reason.

For instance, it has become clear that elite recruiter Kirby Smart, unlike many “good” recruiters, signs 3 Stars not because he needs them to fill out his recruiting classes, but rather because they are often preferrable to some 4 Stars who might not have as much perceived upside potential.  Many of the 3 Stars Kirby has taken are raw football talents – some might be new to football or a position they are playing and/or could be physically late-bloomers.  These players usually have certain unique physical attributes that contribute to their potential upside.  (Think of the blazing speed and length of raw track athlete Eric Stokes and the size and agility combination of converted offensive lineman Jordan Davis.)

Georgia’s (and certainly Bama and OSU’s) 3 Stars do not seem to be like the others.  With their selective 3 Stars, these programs have separated themselves even further from the pack than their Blue-Chip Ratios’ would suggest.  Perhaps the very best recruiting programs (e.g., a team finishing with a top 5 recruiting class in a given year) should receive “partial credit” for their 3 Star takes that year given that these players were very likely taken by choice over higher ranked players and because of the higher hit rate of these unique players.  Maybe this brand of 3 Star player should count as ½ of a Blue Chip for a “Blue-Chip Plus Ratio”?  If one did that it would likely put UGA, Bama and OSU’s Blue-Chip Plus Ratios at around 90% and would better represent just how talented their rosters truly are relative to others. (Although, a small sample size, watching the 2021 CFP Semi-Final Game and what Georgia did to Michigan, which had the 10th highest Blue-Chip Ratio of 58%, illustrates this point.)

In sum, UGA is among the elite of the elite in talent acquisition.  Bud Elliot describes having a 50% or greater Blue-Chip Ratio as the minimum required (like an ante) for a National Championship, and history suggests that UGA’s continued recruiting dominance means it will have more talent and greater depth than all but a few programs.  History and recruiting statistics indicated that a National Championship was likely coming soon for Kirby Smart’s Georgia and 2021 was the year that it happened.  With the recruiting machine that Kirby and Co. have developed, more National Championship contending teams would seem to be on the (nearby) horizon and you can expect that they will likely battle the teams with the highest Blue-Chip Plus Ratios.

***

Below is more information on Georgia’s 3 Stars signed by Kirby Smart since his first full recruiting cycle at UGA (based on 247Sports’ Composite Rankings):     

2017:  Blue Chips (20) and 3 Stars (5).  3 Stars included Eric Stokes (NFL 1st Rounder), Justin Shaffer (2022 NFL Combine invitee and likely 2022 late round draft pick), and Amir Speed and Latavius Brini (both UGA contributors and potential starters at transfer destinations Michigan State and Arkansas, respectively).

2018:  Blue Chips (21) and 3 Stars (3).  3 Stars were Jordan Davis (expected 1st Round 2022 NFL Draft Pick), Jake Camarda (2022 NFL Combine Invitee and likely 2022 late round draft pick) and Owen Condon.

2019: Blue Chips (20) and 3 Stars (4).  3 Stars were Tymon Mitchell, Brett Seither, Tramel Walthour and Stetson Bennett (former walk-on, rated as a 3 Star in his return from Junior College).

2020:  Blue Chips (19) and 3 Stars (6).  3 Stars included Ladd McConkey and potential future kicker Jared Zirkel.

2021: Blue Chips (15) and 3 Stars (5).  3 Stars included Adonia Mitchell, Marlin Dean and Javon Bullard.

2022: Blue Chips (20) and 3 Stars (9), including the number 1 ranked punter Brett Thorson.

Note 1:  The star rating system is designed with future NFL Draft position in mind, and kickers and punters are rarely drafted and, if so, usually in later rounds.  Nonetheless, it seems that any player ranked among the very best in the country at their position (Camarda and Thorson were the number 1 ranked punters in their classes, while Zirkel was the 5th highest ranked kicker in his class) should at worst be ranked a low 4 Star or at least be treated as a “Blue Chip” for the purposes of a Blue-Chip “Plus” Ratio. 

Note 2:  It often takes two or more years on campus (and sometimes longer) to determine if a player has panned out or not and 3 stars are often project-types with a potential upside that can take even longer to reach (or not). The 2019-2022 3 Stars will need to be evaluated in a few years, although we can safely say already that Stetson Bennet, Ladd McConkey and Adonia Mitchell have been “hits.”

 


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