Biggest recent recruiting boosts

Stanford Cardinal's best class ever continues upward momentum

Updated: February 7, 2014, 11:53 AM ET
By Brian Fremeau | ESPN Insider

Stanford CardinalsMark J. Rebilas/USA TODAY SportsStanford's on-field success has definitely helped recruiting efforts.

It should come as no surprise that the top teams in the recruiting rankings are familiar leaders in attracting top athletes year after year. The most talented football players coming out of high school gravitate toward programs that are already positioned for success on the field. And the programs that have found the most success on the field have made the most of the talent pool that signs every February.

Historical program strength is strongly correlated with recruiting success. Teams like Tennessee and Florida may not have done much on the field in 2013 (9-15 combined, 5-11 in the SEC), but they both rank among the top 15 in winning percentage in the past 25 years. In fact, 13 of the top 15 teams in the RecruitingNation 2014 class rankings rank among the top 20 in winning percentage over the past 25 years.

We measure recruiting success over multiple seasons as part of our annual projection model. One class won't make a major impact all by itself, but teams that have consistently improved their recruiting hauls over multiple seasons have been big winners on the field of late. Strong performances beget better recruiting classes beget stronger performances.

We identified five programs that have been on the biggest uptick in recruiting in the past few seasons, programs that have already been on the rise and should continue to trend in the right direction.

Stanford Cardinal

RecruitingNation 2014 Class Rank: No. 15
Program Recruiting Rank: No. 21 (up 18 spots in three years)

The 2014 class is the best in recent Stanford history, the first top-20 class for the Cardinal according to ESPN and very nearly the top class in the Pac-12 this year. Stanford ranks as one of our top five teams in overachievement relative to the strength of their previous recruiting classes, playing in four straight BCS bowl games and ascending to No. 3 in our Program FEI ratings.

Brian Fremeau

ESPN Insider
• Has been a contributor to ESPN Insider and ESPN The Magazine since 2009
• Creator of the Fremeau Efficiency Index (FEI), a measure of college football team efficiency
• Contributor to Football Outsiders and his own site, bcftoys.com