Back in the summer of 2016 we noted the similarities between Clemson and Washington. The two programs were strong regionally with each having a major national title. The two had similar histories and Chris Petersen and Dabo Swinney then were the two best coaches without a national championship.
According to the data, UW is about 5 years behind Clemson. Chris Petersen is 5 years behind Dabo Swinney.
Now I’m not saying UW will or even “can” win two national championships in the years ahead. Clemson enjoys a distinct advantage in having more talent in its backyard. It has a higher recruiting ceiling than Washington.
Clemson also managed to get near the top of the mountain and then accelerate its recruiting. UW hasn’t gotten near the top of the mountain yet.
In the screenshot below we compare various data points. For those who need a description of some of the data points, here you go.
Rec Class = recruiting class rank that year, by quality (not total points bullshit).
SRS = one of the best metrics for rating teams. Its based on margin of victory and strength of schedule.
Blue Chip Ratio = The percentage of the recruiting class that has 4 and 5 star players. I believe a +50% ratio for 4 years meets the threshold to compete for a national championship, according to Bud Elliot.
4-year Rec Rank = Not an average but a cumulative look at the last 4 classes and then ranked based on quality (not points).
Blue Chips = Number of blue chip recruits on the roster
5- Stars = The first number is the number of 5 star recruits that class while the number in parenthesis is the one on the roster.
There are several observations….
UW’s 4-year recruiting rank just hit #17 while Clemson’s first hit #17 in 2014 after being #13 in 2013.
UW now has as many blue chip recruits as Clemson had in 2016 but Clemson had 5 five-stars to UW’s one (Jacob Eason).
UW has made three consecutive NY6 bowls while Clemson achieved that from 2011-2013.
After Clemson made the championship game in 2015, their next three recruiting classes were ranked #4, #6 and #4.
From 2012 through 2014, Clemson had recruited only a single five star much like UW’s last 3 classes. Those 3-year stretches are quite similar. Over the next four seasons Clemson recruited 11 five stars and the number on the roster increased from 3 in 2014 to 6 in 2017 and 10 last year.
The clear difference between the two is five stars and that is the next path for UW to “level up.” It has to continue to recruit Sa’vell Smalls (multiple coaches should be recruiting him weekly) and it has to clean up in the 2021 class which currently has four five stars locally.
UW’s 2017 to 2019 classes were outstanding and we can argue that based on the data, UW heading into the 2019 season is in a slightly superior position to Clemson in 2014. Clemson finished 2014 on a tear, winning 9 of its last 10 and that continued in 2015 as they won 14 in a row before losing to Alabama in the title game. In 2014 & 2015 Clemson only had 3/4 five star guys but Deshaun Watson was a transformational QB for the program.
Right now, UW’s best chance to compete for a national championship requires Jacob Eason to return in 2020 and guys like Keith Taylor, Levi Onwuzerike and Hunter Bryant also returning. As long as Eason returns and one or two of the others, UW would likely be a preseason top 5 team in 2020, assuming a top 10 finish in 2019. (We know the media absolutely loves quarterbacks returning for their senior season). But according to metrics superiority guy, the 2019 schedule looks to be quite a bit easier than the 2020 schedule.
As we look beyond 2020, we circle back to the necessity for UW to get Smalls and get at least 3 five stars in the 2021 class. The roster in 21 and 22 could have 3-5 five stars and it would then look like Clemson’s in 2015 to 2017.
Clemson’s recruiting sucess in 2018 (getting 7 of the top 56 players nationally) and the coming class of 2020 (they are dominating right now) is just something we’ll never be able to match.
The bottom line is simple. The next test for leveling up is getting 5-stars. Attention coaches. Get some 5-stars!