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Peak Perspective: 2020 MWC Recruiting Comparisons

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Where does each MWC team fit in the landscape of recruiting?

It’s time for the annual look at the level each Mountain West team recruits at compared to the rest of the college football landscape. Here is last year’s post if you want a bit of a refresher. These posts aim to identify how each team does in recruiting by looking at the teams in the same range as them. That helps us determine which MWC teams are recruiting above, at, or below their conference affiliation.

Keep in mind this isn’t necessarily describing the quality of play each team has with the quality of players they recruit, as many teams in the Mountain West play above or below their level of recruiting. Instead, this attempts to give a range of comparisons for how each team recruited this past year.

Note: all rankings are taken from 247 sports composite rankings.

Air Force

2020 Ranking: 107

Closest Comparisons: USF, Colorado State, UAB, SDSU, UTSA, New Mexico

Bottom Line: As has been discussed many times, the Falcons’ recruiting is much different from the rest of the conference being an academy school. Many of their commits aren’t counted in the rankings, and they are looking for specific types of players to fit their scheme. Still, they have a better average than a few other schools that don’t have the same restrictions, which means they are doing something right.

Boise State

2020 Ranking: 63

Closest Comparisons: Wake Forest, Arizona, Duke, Boston College, Rutgers

Bottom Line: The Broncos took a step back from their record-setting rankings, but they still managed to settle into a pretty good spot and beat out or be comparable to some P5 teams. The ceiling in this class may not be as high as 2019, but from top to bottom, it’s difficult to find players who don’t project well at the college level. They continue to recruit head and shoulders above their conference mates.

Colorado State

2020 Ranking: 102

Closest Comparisons: USF, UAB, SDSU, UTSA, New Mexico, Air Force

Bottom Line: The Rams also took a step (or two) back from where they have recruited the past few cycles. An end of the year coaching change will do that. Still, they managed to be right in the middle of things in the conference, which isn’t a bad place to be. However, recruited was something they were doing better than most of the conference, and it will be worth keeping an eye on to see if they lost the one advantage they had.

Fresno State

2020 Ranking: 122

Closest Comparisons: Nevada, Louisiana-Monroe, Ball State, Princeton, Akron

Bottom Line: The Bulldogs are still lagging a bit in recruiting compared to their recent on the field success. Maybe that changes with the retooled staff, and maybe it doesn’t. They have little trouble mining into the talent-rich state of California. But they could use an increase in that area to maintain their competitiveness. Otherwise, they will have to push their solid player development to the breaking point.

Hawaii

2020 Ranking: 127

Closest Comparisons: Navy, Eastern Washington, Ohio

Bottom Line: It isn’t easy to recruit to the Islands, but Hawaii does pretty well overall. The coaching staff didn’t get much of a chance to recruit this cycle, and it shows in the rankings. All of that taken into consideration, the Rainbow Warriors lagged a bit in their recruiting efforts this season, ranking near the bottom of the FBS.

Nevada

2020 Ranking: 120

Closest Comparisons: Utah State, UConn, Louisiana-Monroe, Fresno State, Ball State

Bottom Line: The Wolf Pack identified their players, got them on campus and secured verbal commitments early in the cycle, and ended up with a class they liked. The “experts” didn’t agree in the rankings department, and it will be interesting to see how this class (and 2019, since the formula was the same) turns out since players were identified so early.

New Mexico

2020 Ranking: 106

Closest Comparisons: USF, Colorado State, UAB, SDSU, UTSA, Air Force

Bottom Line: The Lobos would, of course, rather be on the other side of 100, but they have to be happy with where they stand, considering they were starting from nothing in January. They don’t have a fertile recruiting state and don’t have success to fall back on, so all in all, this is a pretty good spot.

San Diego State

2020 Ranking: 104

Closest Comparisons: USF, Colorado State, UAB, UTSA, New Mexico, Air Force

Bottom Line: Lather, rinse, and repeat for the Aztecs. They take another conference average class like they have the past few years. They also excel in finding their guys who fit well in their system. For other teams, there may be a bigger question, but SDSU has a proven track record of being able to do a lot with players who aren’t flying off the prospect rankings. Although not being in the conference title game recently may be proving that wrong.

San Jose State

2020 Ranking: 117

Closest Comparisons: Eastern Michigan, Coastal Carolina, Utah State, UConn

Bottom Line: This site has said for a few years now that the Spartans recruit better than their record, and they were able to start seeing the fruits of their labor this past year. On the other hand, they weren’t winning many head-to-head battles and finished closer to the bottom of the FBS in recruiting this year. They still seem to be making the long but slow climb uphill, but it is one step at a time.

UNLV

2020 Ranking: 77

Closest Comparisons: FAU, Louisiana Tech, Southern Miss, BYU, Louisiana

Bottom Line: Plain and simple, the Rebels got the vote for most improved recruiting efforts this year (although New Mexico was right there with them). They secured some of the best players in the conference this year, and hopefully it will shave some time off of their rebuilding efforts. Look for this class to start seeing on the field production a bit next season and a lot the year or two after.

Utah State

2020 Ranking: 118

Closest Comparisons: SJSU, UConn, Nevada, Louisiana-Monroe

Bottom Line: The Aggies have gone for quantity type of classes the past few seasons, and the ranking people are scoring it accordingly. That’s not to say there isn’t talent there, but the new staff seems to be prioritizing restocking the depth rather than an all-or-nothing type of approach. They are comparable to many of their conference peers, but that isn’t the greatest thing with this topic.

Wyoming

2020 Ranking: 114

Closest Comparisons: Central Michigan, Tulsa, Eastern Michigan, Coastal Carolina

Bottom Line: The thing to remember here is Bohl’s teams do more with less, as they consistently outplay their recruiting, which is a tribute to their coaching staff. This year, they saw an uptick in talent with the 2020 class, although it isn’t fully captured in the rankings. Like a few other teams, their recruiting climb may be slow and steady, and hopefully a year from now, there is more data to reflect that theory.

Summary:

Let’s summarize and reorder a bit by putting the 12 teams into some groupings. Some groupings I just made up, but groupings nonetheless. Keep in mind there are 129 FBS teams.

Recruits at a lower Power 5 level: Boise State

Recruits at a high Group of 5 level: UNLV

Recruits at a middle Group of 5 level: Colorado State, San Diego State, New Mexico, Air Force

Recruits at a lower Group of 5 level: Wyoming, San Jose State, Utah State

Recruits near the bottom of the FBS: Nevada, Fresno State, Hawaii

It seems like the conference is trending downward a bit. Only two teams in the top 100 in the 247 composite rankings isn’t great for the Mountain West. And with half the teams 114 or worse (out of 130), 50% of the conference is in the lowest percent tile recruiting wise.

I’ll beat the commenters to the punch. Every year, there are lots of players who out-perform their recruiting rankings. And there are highly rated prospects who don’t pan out. There is no denying that. Wyoming, SDSU, Fresno State to some extent, all outperform their rankings annually. Hawaii just played in the conference championship, and they don’t land high on the rankings lists. I get it.

On the other hand, players play to their rankings more often than not. And it is certainly better to get better players (by whatever metric coaches use to recruits. It is understood that they don’t just look at recruiting lists). We will likely never know, but the important question to consider is where on the recruiting board are the players they are landing? Are teams getting players from their top few tiers or instead landing commits at lower points on the board?

For fans of teams who recruit to a specialized scheme or standard (Air Force) or the teams mentioned above who excel in player development, or who just don’t care about recruiting, this post may not carry much weight. At the end of the day, it is still interesting to know how teams are measuring up both in conference and across the board. Recruiting is the lifeblood of a college program, and it bodes well for teams to recruit well. Then of course they have to develop the skills and the culture to produce winning. Consider this post an emphasis on step one of the process.