Recruiting Battles in the MAC: Early Signing Day Results

December 18th was early signing day for college football, and a ton of teenagers learned how to use a fax machine. More than two hundred players sent letters of intent to a MAC school to play football there in the fall.

With 25 scholarships and some ways to get more than that each year, like grey shirting, some schools have some work to do before the February signing day. Others are done, either leaving space in the class intentionally or due to some over signing in previous years.

I really like recruiting. It’s the clearest way to get an edge in college football. Get better talent than the competition. I don’t pretend to be a talent evaluator, I can’t watch film and know if a player is for real or not. Also, I’m not a coach so my opinion doesn’t matter. I pay attention to the recruiting rankings from 247 Sports pretty much year-round.

Getting to the finish line with the guys that are verbally committed can be a real trick if you’re doing too well on the recruiting trail. Teams from the P5 love to pick from the top of the G5 classes when they learn their out on other guys late in the cycle. It can be painful but it’s part of the process.

For the first time, I looked at all of the signed and verbally committed players to MAC teams and checked what teams have offered them scholarships. I only looked at MAC offers. I looked because I want to see a couple of things. How many players that end up at MAC schools get offers from other MAC schools? Are there any teams operating on an island? Is there a recruiting battle between two schools that is very one-sided?

Recruiting Battles: Data with Hesitations

I’ve thought a lot about the chart below. There are problems with the data. I’m sure that 247 Sports does whatever they can to be as accurate as possible. But. Is every scholarship offer reported? Probably not. Does every player get every offer he deserves? No. There are a ton of reasons that a team doesn’t offer a player a scholarship.

Maybe he’s dead set on an offer he already has. Giving him an offer would be a waste of the paper it’s printed on. Maybe an Ohio kid wants to stay home and Buffalo or Northern Illinois know that. This also goes the other way. Some teams seemingly blast out scholarship offers. There is no limit to how many they can offer, just how many they sign. In some cases, some teams probably are taking a “loss” in a battle where the only time they contacted the player was with a letter saying they’re offering a scholarship.

Basically, this data is far from a complete picture but it is a part of it. The best way I can think to interpret this data is from the most basic sense. If a team is getting a win or taking a loss to another team, all that means is that a player had gotten a scholarship offer from both and selected one of them.

Does that mean one coaching staff is better at recruiting than the other? Not necessarily. Before I poke too many holes in this and get you to believe it’s meaningless here’s the chart. One thing to note. Wins can be picked up in bunches and losses are one at a time. If a player picks one school over four others, that school gets 4 wins and each other team gets one loss.

Recruiting-Win-Loss

The Good Teams Win Recruiting Battles

This is a very obvious statement but the only teams with more wins than losses are WMU, Toledo, Miami, Ohio, and NIU. Of these teams the only one that seems to be only offering players that they can sign is Ohio. Ohio had the smallest class and the least amount of losses. I’m guessing they take a much more personal approach to recruiting than some other teams in the MAC.

I tried my best to not play with the data, but I couldn’t help myself. For what it is, Western’s players had the most MAC offers on average. Bare minimum, getting players that most of the competition believes would help them win, is good. The best option might be getting the players that didn’t have MAC offers because he was thought to be out of reach. I didn’t see too many of those players anywhere in the MAC.

Akron had a hard time winning recruiting battles. I thought at the time of his hire, Tom Arth would be a good recruiter. His classes at Chattanooga were top 5 in the FCS. Akron is a much different circumstance, but if almost any other MAC school made an offer they didn’t get that player. He still could be a good recruiter, but this cycle didn’t go his way.

Bowling Green and Scot Loeffler’s staff are high volume recruiters. They still did a really good job getting players that other teams wanted. BGSU had at least one win against every other MAC team. They didn’t do well head to head against rival Toledo, but right now, Toledo is a much healthier program.

It will be very interesting to see how this changes over the years.

The Best Incoming Classes

247 Sports ranks classes based on overall points. High-quality players go a long way but volume can put a team on top of another without the star power. For this reason, WMU, Toledo, and Bowling Green all have classes higher-rated nationally than USC at the moment. USC’s average player is an 86 grade and Toledo’s is an 83, but 18 signees for Toledo puts them ahead of USC’s 11.

Toledo has the best overall score and average player score. They lost some important commitments but rebounded nicely down the stretch to stay in a good place.

Bowling Green signed a great class to build on. The high end of the class is solid for the MAC and there are multiple players in each position group. The Falcons were the only team to go into Arkansas. They currently have 3 verbals and one player signed all from the same high school in Arkansas.

Kent State’s best players on paper in this class are not at the same level as the rest of the MAC teams. They have one player in the top five in the MAC in their position. The class overall is not even close to bad, of the 17 players, there are 15 three-star athletes. It’s not common but WMU signed a low three-star cornerback, switched him to wide receiver, and he made the All-MAC First Team.

These rankings are not finished yet. The final signing day is in February and I would expect Ohio, Ball State, Buffalo, and Kent State to each add a couple of players. Also, I would expect Bowling Green to lose a couple of players. They currently are at 30 with 27 signed. Three players are still verbal commitments, but I’m not sure that Bowling Green can guarantee them a scholarship.

What Could Have Been

Akron had the 2nd best running back in the MAC verbally committed. De’Andre Bulley was a mid-three-star running back and backed out in mid-November. He still has not committed or signed with any team, despite six offers from power five teams.

Ball State had a safety flip to Navy. He wasn’t their top recruit in the position but it does leave them with one player incoming in the secondary. A second would be good for depth.

Offensive guard Aaron Beckwith and cornerback Michael Holmes both ended up not signing with Central Michigan. Beckwith is a mid-three star player that would’ve been the top guard in the MAC class. He ended up going to UMass.

EMU lost an offensive tackle to Michigan State. Hard to compete with the Big Ten for players. At 6’6″ and 285 pounds, Justin Stevens would’ve been a great get for the Eagles.

NIU had Kaveon Mack and then lost him to division opponent WMU. He was a very late commit and gained his spot with Western after they lost a player. He would’ve been the Huskies third highest-rated player.

#9WINDIANA was too alluring for AJ Barner. He signed with Indiana after verbally committing to Ohio. He is a mid-three-star tight end that would’ve been Ohio’s highest-rated recruit.

JJ Davis could’ve been the highest-rated incoming running back in the MAC if he had stuck with Toledo. He ended up staying in his home state and signing with Marshall. At six feet tall and 195 pounds, he has the size to play right away.

Joshua Celiscar changed from Western Michigan to UCF late in the process. He would’ve been the third overall DE in the MAC. His brother was a corner at Western Michigan, Donald Celiscar, from 2011-14. That was probably a major reason Joshua was considering WMU.

Players to Know

The top five at each position as currently listed by 247 is below. The two players shaded orange are players that have not signed a letter of intent. In the early signing day era, if you’re a verbally committed player that doesn’t sign on early signing day, every competitor is going to think that player isn’t committed.

2019-Offense-Top-5

2019-Defense-Top-5

The players in this chart are the most likely to make an impression during their time at their MAC school or end up in the transfer portal. Western Michigan’s Skyy Moore and Miami’s Brett Gabbert earned awards after their freshman seasons from the 2019 class. Skyy Moore was an All-MAC First Team wide receiver after not being on this graphic last year.

Toledo and Western Michigan dominate the offensive and defensive lists with 12 players and 11 respectively. Bowling Green scored 9 and Miami got 8. NIU rounds out the top 5 with 6 players on the lists. The top account for 46 of the available 65 slots.

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