Nick Saban may be the best coach in college football, but his ability to recruit scoffs at that. His work on the trail has seen Saban land not just one No. 1 ranked class, but a streak of seven straight that ended last February. Recruiting well wins you games. Recruiting well over time wins you championships.
With the release of the 247Sports Team Talent Composite for the 2018 season, we get a little bit of insight into who has recruited well over time. It's a tool that looks at who is currently on each roster in college football, accounting for graduations, dismissals, early NFL departures and other attrition as well as incoming transfers and gives us a real time picture of a roster's talent level based on each player's ranking as a high school prospect.
A few highlights from the 2018 list:
- Ohio State, not Alabama (No. 2), is the most talented team in the country in the estimation of this ranking. An uncharacteristic fifth-place finish in recruiting for the 2018 cycle for Nick Saban allowed Ohio State to jump Alabama for the top spot on this list. It's a position that speaks more to the long term health of Ohio State than any head-to-head advantage that it may have over Alabama this season. Alabama lost 12 players to the NFL Draft in 2018 and backloaded with its lowest ranked class of Saban's Alabama tenure, but many of the Tide's best players are members of a 2017 class that was one of Saban's highest ranked of all time, so the current contributors are as highly ranked as ever.
- Georgia sits at No. 3 and has more five-stars on its current roster than any program, including Alabama and Ohio State. It's a roster that already had strong a strong foundation in place when Kirby Smart took over and subsequently added the No. 6, No. 3 and No. 1 classes in the country respectively. It's why when you look around the college football landscape, Georgia is one of the few teams that looks equipped to take on Alabama from a talent perspective.
- This is the most talented team that Clemson has had. It made a College Football Playoff appearance with the No. 13 roster in 2015. It had the No. 9 roster the following two seasons. This year, it is up to No. 5 and that's what drives some lofty expectations.
- Anyone surprised by the start for LSU this year needs to look no further than the No. 6 spot on this list as to why it is sustainable. The Tigers have recruited really well over time and this roster ranking gives it credit. It also has a former four-star upperclassman at quarterback in Joe Burrow that never counted towards any particular recruiting class as a transfer, but factors into this calculation.
- Near the top of the list, no programs are underachieving more relative to the talent on hand than USC and Florida State. Clay Helton is a victim of his own success in that regard. The last three years, Helton has landed the No. 4, No. 4 and No. 10 classes in the country. We're seeing some youth make plays this fall and a true freshman at quarterback, but the development and discipline is lacking. Willie Taggart inherited his talented roster but at No. 7 on this list, it's hard to square up the talent available to the product on the field. Offensive line injuries and attrition is one culprit and may speak to a developmental snag at the tail end of Jimbo Fisher's tenure.
- On the surface, new hires at Tennessee, UCLA and Nebraska are struggling to get momentum after inheriting bad rosters. But according to the Team Talent Composite, those rosters should have been workable. Tennessee sits at No. 15, UCLA No. 19 and Nebraska at No. 25 in terms of talent available. Tennessee's culture and strength and conditioning weaknesses, UCLA's offensive line personnel and Nebraska's quarterback issues are among the problems that contribute to underachieving rosters. Meanwhile, all three are undergoing major schematic transitions on the field.
- According to the Team Talent Composite, when Texas faces Oklahoma this weekend, the Longhorns will have the most talented roster either team has had in this series since the tool was instituted in 2015. The Sooners head into the game as favorites, but Texas should have the horses to matchup.
- Notre Dame is starting to get some early playoff buzz. In some cases, the talk is backhanded in nature, but don't doubt that they've got the talent. Granted, it's the lower ranked quarterback of the two options that has given the Irish a spark in Ian Book, but Notre Dame has plenty of highly regarded talent around him. With a No. 10 roster, the Irish have assembled a worthy group.
- Unsurprisingly, Kansas is the least talented roster among the Power Five programs, but the second lowest ranked roster is Purdue. With the kind of early success that Jeff Brohm is having in West Lafayette relative to his roster, the Boilermakers have to be excited about what's to come. It's especially encouraging considering Purdue is currently recruiting at a historic pace in the 2019 cycle.
- Among the Group of Five programs, Houston boasts the most talented roster, thanks in part to former five-star Ed Oliver as well as some high profile transfers. Unsurprisingly, not far behind is UCF, a program that boasts a roster more talented on paper than the likes of Texas Tech, Washington State, Virginia and Wake Forest.
- Looking for a team that is more talented than it gets credit for? Maryland sits inside the Top 25 at No. 24, four spots up from its ranking last year. It already used that talent to knock off a good Texas team. It may be more equipped to challenge some of the Big Ten's top tier than people realize.