Elite States of Recruiting: Running Backs

What schools are getting the best skill players? The top offensive linemen? The highest-rated defensive linemen? Which conferences are pulling in the most elite talent at a given position? And, in an attempt to answer the water-cooler debate once and for all,  states produce the most elite-level recruits for a given position?

The running back position in football has been the most common element since football's 19th-century beginnings (it wouldn't be until 1906 after numerous deaths - and a presidential intervention - to institute the forward pass). The constant has been running with the ball.

This is the second installment of examining elite recruits (see the 1st article on QBs here). We'll be looking at the top ESPN recruits from 2006 through 2011. Note that ESPN did not use the star designations until the 2010 recruiting cycle. Therefore, I've limited the sample to recruits who graded at 80 or better for this study (this left out a few 4* 79 players; but not all 79 grade players were 4-star recruits).

Below you'll find a table of all ESPN 80+ running back recruits from the 2006 through 2011 recruiting cycles. The table is sortable by clicking on the header.

2006-2011 80+ grade ESPN RBs
Year Recruit Grade State School Conference
2006 DeMarco Murray 92 Nevada Oklahoma Big-12
2007 Joe McKnight 92 Lousianna USC Pac-12
2009 Trent Richardson 91 Florida Alabama SEC
2006 Stafon Johnson 90 California USC Pac-12
2007 Marc Tyler 90 Lousianna USC Pac-12
2008 Jermie Calhoun 90 Texas Oklahoma Big-12
2008 Darrell Scott 89 California Colorado Big-12
2009 Bryce Brown 88 Kansas Tennessee SEC
2007 Noel Devine 87 Florida WVU Big East
2010 Michael Dyer 87 Arkansas Auburn SEC
2006 Chris Wells 86 Ohio Ohio State B1G
2008 Jamie Harper 86 Texas Clemson ACC
2011 Malcolm Brown 86 Texas Texas Big-12
2011 Isaiah Crowell 86 Georgia Georgia SEC
2006 Emmanuel Moody 85 Texas USC Pac-12
2007 Brian Maddox 85 South Carolina South Carolina SEC
2011 Aaron Green 85 Texas Nebraska Big-12
2006 LeSean McCoy 84 Pennsylvannia Miami (FL) ACC
2006 Michael Goodson 84 Texas TAMU Big-12
2006 James Aldridge 84 Indiana ND Ind.
2006 C.J. Gable 84 California USC Pac-12
2006 C.J. Spiller 84 Florida Clemson ACC
2007 LaSean McCoy 84 Pennsylvannia Pittsburgh Big East
2007 Antwain Easterling 84 Florida Iowa B1G
2009 Jaamal Berry 84 Florida Ohio State B1G
2010 Marcus Lattimore 84 South Carolina South Carolina SEC
2008 Ryan Williams 83 Virginia Virginia Tech ACC
2008 Aundre Dean 83 Texas UCLA Pac-12
2008 Andre Ellington 83 South Carolina Clemson ACC
2008 Richard Samuel 83 Georgia Georgia SEC
2009 David Wilson 83 Virginia Virginia Tech ACC
2009 Christine Michael 83 Texas TAMU Big-12
2010 Storm Johnson 83 Florida Miami (FL) ACC
2010 Lache Seastrunk 83 Texas Oregon Pac-12
2010 Jordon James 83 California UCLA Pac-12
2010 Mack Brown 83 Georgia Florida SEC
2006 Mon Williams 82 Texas Florida SEC
2006 Kylan Robinson 82 Florida Miami (FL) ACC
2006 Carlos Brown 82 Georgia Michigan B1G
2006 Benjamin Tate 82 Maryland Auburn SEC
2007 Caleb King 82 Georgia Georgia SEC
2007 Chris Rainey 82 Florida Florida SEC
2008 Jonas Gray 82 Michigan ND Ind.
2008 De'Anthony Curtis 82 Arkansas Arkansas SEC
2008 Cyrus Gray 82 Texas TAMU Big-12
2008 Carlton Thomas 82 Florida Georgia SEC
2009 Jarvis Giles 82 Florida South Carolina SEC
2009 Montrell Conner 82 Lousianna Miss. St. SEC
2009 Washaun Ealey 82 Georgia Georgia SEC
2009 Chris Whaley 82 Texas Texas Big-12
2010 Roderick Smith 82 Indiana Ohio State B1G
2011 Savon Huggins 82 New Jersey Rutgers Big East
2011 Brandon Williams 82 Texas Oklahoma Big-12
2006 Knowshon Moreno 81 New Jersey Georgia SEC
2006 Charles Scott 81 Lousianna LSU SEC
2006 Chevon Walker 81 Florida Florida SEC
2006 Cordera Eason 81 Mississippi Ole Miss SEC
2006 Lance Smith 81 Ohio Wisconsin B1G
2007 Lee Chambers 81 Mississippi Miami (FL) ACC
2007 Lennon Creer 81 Texas Tennessee SEC
2007 Jonathan Dwyer 81 Georgia Georgia Tech ACC
2008 Mark Ingram 81 Michigan Alabama SEC
2008 Chris Burns 81 Pennsylvannia Pittsburgh Big East
2008 Justin Johnson 81 Texas Oklahoma Big-12
2008 Kye Staley 81 Texas Ok. St. Big-12
2009 Eddie Lacy 81 Lousianna Alabama SEC
2009 Edwin Baker 81 Michigan Michigan State B1G
2009 Lamar Miller 81 Florida Miami (FL) ACC
2009 David Oku 81 Nebraska Tennessee SEC
2009 Michael Ford 81 Lousianna LSU SEC
2009 Dexter Pratt 81 Texas Ok. St. Big-12
2009 Mike Gillislee 81 Florida Florida SEC
2009 DJ Adams 81 Georgia Maryland ACC
2010 Malcolm Jones 81 California UCLA Pac-12
2010 Brennan Clay 81 California Oklahoma Big-12
2010 Ken Malcome 81 Georgia Georgia SEC
2011 Mike Blakely 81 Florida Florida SEC
2011 Mike Bellamy 81 Florida Clemson ACC
2011 Demetrius Hart 81 Florida Alabama SEC
2006 Johnny White 80 North Carolina UNC ACC
2006 Josh Adams 80 North Carolina Wake Forest ACC
2006 E.J. Shankle 80 Texas TAMU B1G
2006 Javarris James 80 Florida Miami (FL) ACC
2006 Mario Fannin 80 Georgia Auburn SEC
2008 Marquan Brown 80 North Carolina ECU CUSA
2008 Dontavius Jackson 80 Georgia Georgia SEC
2008 Alonzo Landry 80 Lousianna McNeese State Southland
2008 Ryan Bass 80 California ASU Pac-12
2008 Martin Ward 80 Georgia Marshall CUSA
2008 Franklin Green 80 Georgia GSU Southern
2008 Adrian Jones 80 North Carolina ECU CUSA
2008 Eric Smith 80 Florida Auburn SEC
2008 LaMichael James 80 Texas Oregon Pac-12
2008 Tauren Poole 80 Georgia Tennessee SEC
2008 Demetris Murray 80 Georgia USF Big East
2008 Reggie Hunt 80 Alabama Auburn SEC
2008 Luther Ambrose 80 Lousianna ULM Sun Belt
2009 Victor Marc 80 Florida USF Big East
2009 Larry Caper 80 Michigan Michigan State B1G
2009 Kendrick Hardy 80 Mississippi Iowa B1G
2009 Bradley Battles 80 Florida USF Big East
2009 Rodney Scott 80 Florida Ole Miss SEC
2009 Knile Davis 80 Texas Arkansas SEC
2009 Desmond Scott 80 North Carolina Duke ACC
2010 Dontae Williams 80 Texas Oregon Pac-12
2010 Anthony Wilkerson 80 California Stanford Pac-12
2010 Spencer Ware 80 Ohio LSU SEC
2010 Brandon Gainer 80 Florida Kentucky SEC
2010 Eduardo Clements 80 Florida Miami (FL) ACC
2011 Darrian Miller 80 Missouri Kansas Big-12
2011 Travis Riley 80 North Carolina UNC ACC
2011 Javorius Allen 80 Florida USC Pac-12
2011 Kenny Williams 80 Texas Texas Tech Big-12
2011 Devonta Freeman 80 Florida FSU ACC
2011 Marlin Lane 80 Florida Tennessee SEC
2011 Brendon Bigelow 80 California Cal Pac-12
2011 Herschel Sims 80 Texas Ok. St. Big-12
2011 Daniel Lasco 80 Texas Cal Pac-12
2011 Kenny Hilliard 80 Lousianna LSU SEC
2011 Jeremy Hill 80 Lousianna LSU SEC
Before we look at some of the conference and state totals, consider this: From 2006 through 2011, FSU secured only 1 top running back commitment. And that one was only from this past recruiting cycle, Devonta Freeman. What is perhaps more remarkable is FSU's Rushing Ranking (FEI) over the past 3 seasons: 15th, 1st, and 5th. FSU has produced an elite ground game without an elite back. With Wilder and Freeman from this past recruiting cycle, it is salivating to think about what FSU elite OL coach Rick Trickett and Eddie Gran can produce. But before I get too far ahead of myself, a lot of credit has to be given to Jimbo and CP7 for checking into and out-of runs based on defensive pre-snap alignment. When teams have left only 7 in the box, my guess is that we are running often and with good results (perhaps except for BC). Perhaps MonarchNole has the data to answer that question?

 

Conference Totals
Conference Total
SEC 42
ACC 20
Big-12 17
Pac-12 16
B1G 10
Big East 7
CUSA 3
Independent 2
Southern 1
Southland 1
Sun Belt 1

Of the 120 total 80+ running backs, 42 (35%) went to an SEC school. That is astounding. The ACC comes in a distant 2nd, getting 20 - good for ~17%. The SEC took more top running backs during this period than the 2nd (ACC) and 3rd (Big-12) place teams combined.

This sentence here is reserved for general mocking of the Big lEast.

School Totals
School Total
Georgia 8
Miami (FL) 7
Florida 6
USC 6
Auburn 5
LSU 5
Oklahoma 5
Tennessee 5
Alabama 4
Clemson 4
TAMU 4
Ohio State 3
Ok. St. 3
Oregon 3
South Carolina 3
UCLA 3
USF 3
Arkansas 2
Cal 2
ECU 2
Iowa 2
Michigan State 2
ND 2
Ole Miss 2
Pittsburgh 2
Texas 2
UNC 2
Virginia Tech 2
ASU 1
Colorado 1
Duke 1
FSU 1
GSU 1
Georgia Tech 1
Kansas 1
Kentucky 1
Marshall 1
Maryland 1
McNeese State 1
Michigan 1
Miss. St. 1
Nebraska 1
Rutgers 1
Stanford 1
Texas Tech 1
ULM 1
WVU 1
Wake Forest 1
Wisconsin 1

That's right - FSU will open the 2011 season against a ULM team with the same number of elite ESPN backs.

 

Per Capita

In 2009, 24.3% of the US population of 308 million was under the age of 18, or about 75 million kids (quickfacts.census.gov). The numbers and percentages, obviously, vary by state. Florida, for example, had 21.9% of its roughly 18.8 million person population under the age of 18, or about 4.1 million kids.

Let's start with a simple assumption that any state can produce an elite recruit equally. Said another way, how might a state's population determine the likelihood of producing said recruit? This is the per capita argument: Total state numbers (here, elite RB recruits) are primarily determined by that state's population. Let's test this hypothesis.

The table below is a list of States along with their respective youth population (under 18; in units of 1,000). The next column "As % of" is the percentage of all US youth in that state by US total number (approximately 74.4 million ; taken from government 2005 estimates). After that is the total number of elite RB recruits from that state from 2006 to 2011. "As % of" is a column to show each state's percentage of total elite RB recruits nationally. Finally, the "Odds Ratio" column is the fun part: We divide a state's percent of elite RB recruits by its percentage of total under-18 US population. A number here greater than 1.0 means that that state is producing more elite QB recruits than what the per capita line-of-thinking says we should be seeing; lower than 1.0 means you're not producing your fair share.

2006-2011 Elite RB recruit home-state comparison. (Population numbers are in units of 1,000)
State < 18 As % of Elite RBs
As % of Odds Ratio
Louisiana 1,172 1.57% 10 8.33% 5.31
Florida 4,086 5.49% 26 21.67% 3.95
Georgia 2,502 3.36% 15 12.50% 3.72
Mississippi 759 1.02% 3 2.50% 2.45
Texas 6,785 9.12% 24 20.00% 2.19
South Carolina 1,036 1.39% 3 2.50% 1.80
Arkansas 703 0.94% 2 1.67% 1.77
North Carolina 2,269 3.05% 6 5.00% 1.64
Nebraska 446 0.60% 1 0.83% 1.39
Michigan 2,487 3.34% 4 3.33% 1.00
Nevada 665 0.89% 1 0.83% 0.94
Kansas 699 0.94% 1 0.83% 0.89
Indiana 1,596 2.14% 2 1.67% 0.78
Pennsylvania 2,748 3.69% 3 2.50% 0.68
Ohio 2,744 3.69% 3 2.50% 0.68
Virginia 1,880 2.53% 2 1.67% 0.66
New Jersey 2,088 2.81% 2 1.67% 0.59
California 9,497 12.76% 9 7.50% 0.59
Alabama 1,092 1.47% 1 0.83% 0.57
Maryland 1,406 1.89% 1 0.83% 0.44
Missouri 1,411 1.90% 1 0.83% 0.44
New Mexico 479 0.64% 0 0.00% 0.00
Washington 1,488 2.00% 0 0.00% 0.00
Connecticut 814 1.09% 0 0.00% 0.00
Oregon 863 1.16% 0 0.00% 0.00
Illinois 3,197 4.30% 0 0.00% 0.00
Colorado 1,189 1.60% 0 0.00% 0.00
Minnesota 1,290 1.73% 0 0.00% 0.00
Arizona 1,688 2.27% 0 0.00% 0.00
Alaska 184 0.25% 0 0.00% 0.00
Delaware 202 0.27% 0 0.00% 0.00
D.C. 114 0.15% 0 0.00% 0.00
Hawaii 316 0.42% 0 0.00% 0.00
Idaho 400 0.54% 0 0.00% 0.00
Iowa 711 0.96% 0 0.00% 0.00
Kentucky 1,002 1.35% 0 0.00% 0.00
Maine 269 0.36% 0 0.00% 0.00
Massachusetts 1,484 1.99% 0 0.00% 0.00
Montana 212 0.28% 0 0.00% 0.00
New Hampshire 304 0.41% 0 0.00% 0.00
New York 4,421 5.94% 0 0.00% 0.00
North Dakota 142 0.19% 0 0.00% 0.00
Oklahoma 895 1.20% 0 0.00% 0.00
Rhode Island 249 0.33% 0 0.00% 0.00
South Dakota 194 0.26% 0 0.00% 0.00
Tennessee 1,479 1.99% 0 0.00% 0.00
Utah 819 1.10% 0 0.00% 0.00
Vermont 132 0.18% 0 0.00% 0.00
West Virginia 382 0.51% 0 0.00% 0.00
Wisconsin 1,319 1.77% 0 0.00% 0.00
Wyoming 116 0.16% 0 0.00% 0.00

There are some striking results from the above (sortable) table. First, we see that Florida is #1 in terms of total production of elite running backs. That is remarkable in of itself. We know that Florida's population is smaller than that of Texas' and California's, so that is striking. Compare the odds ratios for those 3, and you see that Florida produces 1.8 (3.95/2.19) times the amount of elite RBs than what we'd expect from Texas and 6.7 (3.95/0.59) times that of California's expected number. That is remarkable, especially given the Texan cultural commitment to football.

#1 for all states though in odds ratio (again, which takes into account the relative size of the under 18 population of one's state) is Louisiana. Louisiana has a relatively small under-18 population, yet an astounding number of elite RB recruits.

Conversation Starter: Which state per capita rate of elite RB production surprises you the most over this 5-year period?

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