College football season is fast approaching, and for some who wish summer away before it has even begun, it cannot arrive fast enough. I to have wished many summers away in my life anticipating the football season but as I grow older with children, I try to enjoy June at least before I get tired of the hot summer. July is very slow and sluggish with very little football content leading into the fall camp season of August and that’s why I spend a lot of time examining what I believe are the most essential off season components as its related to the success of a college football program beginning with the last three years’ worth of recruiting. Recruiting is the lifeblood of college football, and it’s also a direct correlation of whether or not a coach will succeed or fail.
The second off season component I like to dig into is every power five teams total returning starters, and more importantly their offensive-defensive line starters, and if they are returning a starter at the QB position (or a transfer with starters experience). The key to using these two items to measure potential success or failure during the off season is to compare these two components to one another and connect the dots for Ex. Team (A) is ranked 3rd overall in recruiting over the last three years providing evidence that they are talented, they also return 15 total starters (eight on offense, seven on defense) with four offensive line starters and three defensive line starters and their QB returning. We can begin to hypothesize that team (A) has the potential to be a great team.
The third off season component is to look at the previous seasons production comparing it to the returning starters measuring what production is returning. If Team (A) returns four offensive linemen of their total eight total returning starters yet they are losing their top RB, we can investigate who the possible RB replacement will be. We can evaluate if the other RB's on the roster have previous playing experience, who their position coach is and what the offensive scheme requires from the RB position. Another way to look at this scenario is If Team (A) had two starting offensive linemen returning, it might change the success narrative depending on their level of offensive line recruiting and development.
Speaking of development the fourth off season component directly points to this component by using our combine invites measure as a way to identify the level of players being recruited (no star, to 5 star) that are worthy of a combine invite. If team (A) had one out five offensive lineman returning but they developed three into players worthy of a combine invite we can conclude that team (A) does a good job developing their offensive lineman.
These are all obvious components that directly correlate to success though none of these components is an exact science requiring further examination such as the scenario discussed above. Several variables affect these components. Just because team (A) returns 15 starters, recruits at a high level sending multiple linemen to the NFL does not mean we can conclude that team (A) can replace a two year 1000 yds rusher with ease. As an analyst you must analyze further and identify other vital components such as RB depth, playing experience on the roster, recruiting, who is the RB coach and what’s his reputation, coaching changes such as HC, OC. Do the four returning offensive line starters have the same offensive line coach or did he move on to coach somewhere else? Continuity is just as important as any of the listed components.
I put together a preseason CFB top 25 composite average that includes preseason rankings from five different outlets and may grow to seven before the season starts. Using these rankings, we are going to dive into the top 25 based on the composite rankings using the above components to get an idea of who is deserving of their top 25 status.