Friday, January 21, 2011

Pro-QB recruiting competition UPDATE

[Read: Is there less competition for pro-style QB recruits?]

My original post on the topic was in response to an MGoBlog assertion that, since the widespread adoption of the spread offense in college football, there were actually more available pro-style QBs that Michigan could recruit from. I set out to prove whether or not that was true. The conclusion was that it wasn't (sort of). Commenter Jivas makes a good point (emphasis mine):
I appreciate the analytical bent, but I think the devil here is in the details. The real question isn't the *total* number of school taking commits from pro-style QB, but *which* schools. The possibility exists that more and more top-level BCS conference schools are switching to spread offenses and that competition for the best pro-style QBs **among those schools** has decreased.

Of course most of the FBS-quality pro-style QBs will find homes somewhere or another - as your charts show - but what may be happening is that some of them end up settling for lower-rated programs, which wouldn't be evident in these charts. So Brian's supposition may be correct, in that there may be less competition among top-tier BCS schools for top-tier pro-style QBs.
This makes sense: regardless of the schemes being played at various schools, BCS-caliber recruits are going to find a home somewhere. In hindsight, this was sort of assumed in my first post, which ultimately proved that pro-style quarterbacks go to a variety of schools instead of just all settling in at a specific number of pro-style programs. This, as Jivas points out, wasn't really what I was intending to discover anyway. What I'm looking to discover is whether or not the same caliber teams are recruiting pro-style quarterbacks or whether the adoption of the spread offense has left lesser schools to fight over higher-rated recruits.

For the sake of easy, I looked at two sets of data:  Lloyd Carr's final six years versus Rich Rodriguez's three years (beginning with 2008 and extending to 2010; 2011 has been excluded because the recruiting process is still incomplete). I tracked all of the 3-star+ recruits that committed during those time spans. The graphs are small, so click on them to see a full-size view.

What you see (and should've expected) is that the distribution of the recruits is fairly similar: there's a select group of schools that can recruit 4- and 5-star players, and then a definitive falloff. A bit on the raw numbers:

5-stars. Between 2002 and 2007, there were 11 5-star pro-style QB recruits. These were taken by 10 different schools (Michigan was the only school to receive two commitments: Henne and Mallett). Between 2008 and 2010, there were four 5-star recruits, each of which went to a different school. As you would expect, 5-star recruits don't really form logjams at any school and are distributed amongst the who's who of college football (with a few exceptions): Michigan, Arizona St., Notre Dame, Georgia, Oklahoma, UCLA, Penn St., Arkansas, Stanford, USC, Missouri, and Texas. Of the four 5-star recruits between 2008 and 2010, two of them ended up at schools (USC, Notre Dame) that lured one between 2002 and 2007.

4-stars. The same trend holds for the distribution of 4-star recruits. Between 2002 and 2007, 34 different schools received at least one recruit from 56 total players; 16 schools had more than one 4-star recruit commit to them. Between 2008 and 2010, there were 39 total 4-star recruits, distributed among 30 different schools. Nine received more than one commitment. This isn't a 1:1 relation, but it's close enough to assume that competition hasn't decreased dramatically (if at all)

None of this is definitive one way or the other, and it's close enough that it's probably difficult to argue for or against a decrease in demand for pro-style QBs.

Another commenter disagreed with, well, everything from the original post. I'll address a few of his criticisms.
Brian says “more pocket guys are available”. Using rivals rankings as evidence, you yourself note “The number of recruits has increased significantly” and your data shows this is true for pro-style QBs. You could probably just stop there and say he is right.
This is missing the crux of the argument. There are more recruits available as a whole (about which, more in a second), but the assumption Brian is making is that competition for these recruits has lessened because more teams are using a spread system. But given the distributions above, it's safe to say that not only are the elite recruits still being targeted by the nation's elite, but there's also equal (or near-equal) competition for lesser recruits.
You attribute the increase in listed/ranked 3-star+ QBs to: recruiting becoming a “mainstream process.” I have no idea what that means. To me, it seems that Rivals is just handing out 3 stars to more people and/or just increasing the size of their database.
The reason the public prevalence of recruiting  is important is because not only are services like Rivals more responsible for comprehensive lists, but players themselves now have the tools to market themselves to the world. YouTube started in 2005, shortly after which, the number of recruits spiked significantly. This isn't a solid case for a direct correlation, but it stands to reason that as recruits were able to freely and easily post videos of themselves, Rivals took note.
You take Rivals rankings to mean more supply (even though there is no logical explanation for this.) You then take the increase in supply and assume an increase in demand.
I'm not really sure where this assertion comes from. The increase in prospects is an increase in supply. And the increase in teams taking commitments from those players would indicate an increase in demand. Schools don't have to take recruits from anyone, so wasting precious scholarships on players that you don't need or want is unlikely.

UPDATE: My brother made a good point about this final assertion:
The very last quote you block off and address makes a lot of sense.  You're right that if there are more QBs and teams are taking more QBs that there is an increase in supply coupled with an equal increase in demand.

But barring more college football teams, there aren't a lot of reasons for the supply of QBs-- especially of ranked 3-star QBs-- to have increased. You've noted that scouting has become more mainstream and more kids are getting ranked. This doesn't mean that the supply of QBs has increased. 120 college football teams in 2001 probably recruit almost exactly as many QBs as 120 college football teams in 2011. So the commenter is right, sort of: you're assuming there's an increase in demand because there was an increase in supply. In reality, there was probably neither.
This is right. The increase in ranked quarterback prospects is not a function of increased supply. It's actually an increase in the visibility of that supply. An important distinction.

Now, everyone please tell me what I've done wrong so we can do this all over again.


Anonymous said...

You're brother is right, but he's not saying anything different than what I said: there isn't an increase in QB demand or supply just because Rivals changed how it counts.

You can't just look at obviously inconsistent data and draw conclusion that don't make sense based on data. Counter-intuitive conclusions are great, but you have to be able to explain them not only with "the stats say so, if you make several assumptions" but also offer rational explanations about how/why.

Your new charts don't tell you anything interesting. You're really just showing how rivals recruits get distributed by schools and again focusing on the supply side of the equation.

We can reasonably assume supply is unchanged (because, save for some year to year variability, why would it have?), so you need to look at the demand side of the equation.

Since you seem genuinely interested in this, I suggest the following method: take the top programs and see what percent of their QB recruits were pro style from 2002-10. This keeps your sample consistent, and not dependent on rivals (obviously changing) ranking system.

Conventional hypothesis: the top programs recruited something like 70-80% pro-style QBs initially and that number drops 10% or so by the end.

Methodology may matter here, so this could be an iterative process, but heres a start:

The first step is to define your sample: Do you want the top 30 or 40 or 50 programs? What defines competition for UofM? Considering we lost QBs to Tulsa and Baylor, you could argue a big number is better. I’d say you might want to just include the entire BCS if you want to be thorough, but the top 40 schools might be a reasonable compromise. Next, you have to decide what programs to include. You could just do it subjectively or you could draw some arbitrary distinction, like say programs that have recruited at least 1 5-star, 2 4-stars, or 3-3stars…or some such combination….or just any team that had a top 10 finish since 2002. Whatever…Define your “competition” sample somehow and don't change it from 2002 to 2010.

Then you have to classify how many QB recruits each school had and what their style was, for each year. The tricky part of this is that many current QBs were recruited as Athletes, so if you ignore them you’re biasing the data. Really you want to look at QBs that took snaps, not recruits, but that’s probably too hard.

If thats too much work you could just pick one conference (say, the SEC or Big12 or even just the Big10), assume its a representative sample, and draw conclusions from that.

The pro-style vs running vs dual distinction can also bias the data a bit. e.g. I’m not sure which Forcier falls into.

If you go year by year and classify all QBs (including athletes that ended up at QB) recruiting by a consistent and representative sample you might be able to say something meaningful about a trend on this subject.

Chris Gaerig said...

Thanks for the input. In the first post, I thought I concluded that demand/competition for pro-style quarterbacks hadn't decreased, which isn't really what I proved. Rather, it just showed that recruits were landing at a higher percentage of schools than they had before.

"Your new charts don't tell you anything interesting. You're really just showing how rivals recruits get distributed by schools and again focusing on the supply side of the equation."

"Distributed by school" is as close to demand as we can determine from committed recruits because they don't necessarily have to end up somewhere. It's reasonable assume that the schools which receive commitments from a pro-style QB have a genuine demand for them.

"take the top programs and see what percent of their QB recruits were pro style from 2002-10."

I have this raw data split between the two time periods outlined above (2002-2007 and 2008-2010). This is definitely something I'll investigate. Defining what is a top program may be problematic (historically?, in the last 20 years?, etc.) but it's a start.

And thanks for the help. I sort of play these things by ear and try to get as much help as possible, but wind up waiting for people like you (or my brother--an econ grad/former economist) to tell me how wrong I am and why. Then I revise.

Anonymous said...

Kudos to you for keeping open minded and flexible to your analysis.

If you consider Michigan to be an upper-half BCS program, here is a subjective list of "competitive" programs:

7 ACC:
Va Tech
Ga Tech

Big East:

6 Big12:
Oklahoma ST

6 Big10:
Penn ST

8 SEC:

5 Pac10:

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