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Talent Development Rankings: Class of 2014 Retrospective

How did one of the greatest recruiting classes in Husky history stack up nationally?

Washington v Boise State Photo by Loren Orr/Getty Images

Welcome to the first entry in our talent development rankings series! If you missed the primer where I talked about each of the metrics you can catch up on it here.

Washington Huskies Class of 2014

The context behind Washington’s 2014 recruiting class is fascinating in hindsight. Steve Sarkisian bolted for USC in the beginning of December and Washington pulled off a coup by poaching Chris Petersen from Boise State. Luckily, the old national signing period schedule was in effect which gave Coach Pete nearly 2 months to build out a recruiting class instead of the 2 weeks he would have were it to happen today.

All things considered the Huskies did a solid job in putting together a 24 player class that finished 38th in the national rankings. For the most part Petersen was able to reach out and bring over many players that had been headed to Boise State when he was there plus a couple extras. The big prize was Budda Baker who spurned Oregon to stay home and play under Petersen.

5 Highest Rated Recruits: Budda Baker (4*, 0.9741 rating), K.J Carta-Samuels (4*, 0.9140), Kaleb McGary (4*, 0.8969), Lavon Washington (3*, 0.8595), Darren Gardenhire (3*, 0.8568)

These 5 players combined had an expected 0.394 All-Americans, 0.815 All-Conference players, and 0.92 players drafted. Obviously, the Dawgs wound up exceeding on all 3 counts despite 3 of them never making a substantial impact on the field for Washington. Budda Baker was the highest in all counts as a very high 4-star ATH which gave him a 25% chance of making an All-American team, 40% chance of making an All-Conference team, and 45% chance of getting drafted. He did all 3.

5 Highest Career Scores (with expected # in parentheses): Budda Baker 37.3 (14.3), Dante Pettis 36.6 (1.0), Kaleb McGary 31.8 (2.7), Sidney Jones 30.7 (1.2), Greg Gaines 24.4 (0.7)

That’s how you end up with one of the greatest recruiting classes in program history. 4 of those 5 were selected in the first 2 rounds of the NFL draft and Greg Gaines still made it into the 4th round. 2 of them made an AP All-American team and just as impressive all 5 made not just one but multiple all Pac-12 teams as well.

If every recruiting class has 5 players with this quality then you’re going to be appearing in the College Football Playoff. And this was the backbone of the class that got the Huskies to that level a few years later.

A shout out as well to several high impact starters who emerged out of 2 and 3 star recruits. The 2014 class also included: Jaylen Johnson, JoJo McIntosh, Drew Sample, and Will Dissly. The latter two were drafted and everyone but Jaylen is currently playing in the NFL. As part of this I’m not keeping track of which classes have the most players still on an NFL roster but Washington’s 8 has got to be right up near the top. Pretty good for the 38th ranked class.

Highest Expected Value Recruiting Classes

Before we get into the comparison of our observed to expected values let’s first talk about the expected component. The # of players expected to be drafted or become All-Americans is directly dependent on the recruiting rating of each player so obviously there’s some heavy correlation. Below is the top-ten in the 247 Sports Composite with their accompanying total of expected All-American, expected All-Conference, expected Drafted, and expected Career Score.

Class of 2014 Top-10 Recruiting Classes (247 Sports Composite)

247 Composite Rank School Expected All-Americans Expected All-Conference Expected Drafted Expected Career Score
247 Composite Rank School Expected All-Americans Expected All-Conference Expected Drafted Expected Career Score
1 Alabama 3.5 7 6.8 207.2
2 LSU 2.1 4.8 5.5 143.7
3 Ohio State 2.1 4.9 4.9 132.7
4 Florida State 1.4 3.9 4.6 115.5
5 Texas A&M 1.3 3.3 4.4 103.9
6 Auburn 1.4 3.6 4 99.5
7 Tennessee 1.5 4.2 4.8 113.7
8 Georgia 1.5 3.5 4.3 110.9
9 Florida 1.6 3.4 3.7 101.3
10 USC 1.9 3.6 3.8 112.2

The order using any given expected ranking varied a little but these 10 programs were always the top 10. There was a fairly clear separation between them and everyone else (Miami and Oklahoma were the only ones to come close).

However that’s clearly not how things ended up shaking out. Only half of those programs actually finished in the final top-10 in Career Score now that all is said and done: Ohio State (1st), Alabama (4th), LSU (6th), Florida State (9th), and Florida (10th). Texas A&M, Georgia, USC, and Tennessee were all within the next 6 spots and so came close to expectations. Auburn is the only one that truly fell off from a rankings standpoint with the 23rd rated class.

Highest Observed to Expected Recruiting Classes

The graph below shows the O/E career score for every power conference team in the 2014 class. You can scroll to the right to see each conference and the list on the far right shows the full order. If you hover over any of the values with your mouse you can see their O/E total as well as their overall expected and observed values.

The Pac-12 does pretty well for itself in these rankings as Utah and Washington come in at the very top of the rankings while Washington State also manages to finish in the top-10. You may notice however that Utah holds the top spot with a combined career score total of 67 which is essentially equal to that of just Budda Baker and Sidney Jones put together. Considering the career score expectations for Utah’s class were lower than that of San Diego State, Temple, or Western Michigan (it was a poorly rated 17 man class) it didn’t take much to surpass that.

Three players provided all of the value for Utah’s #1 development class: Marcus Williams, Matt Gay, and Jackson Barton. Getting 3 players who all made 1st team all Pac-12 out of a 17 player class ranked 66th nationally is certainly an accomplishment. However, I’m not sure if it’s truly more impressive than the job the Huskies did getting 7 players drafted and 2 AP All-Americans out of their 2014 class.

To look at things in a slightly different way we’ll look at the overall career score surplus rather than just the observed to expected ratio. This reduces the advantage given to classes that were terrible on their face in the first place. You’ll notice in the graph above that of the original top 10 classes, Ohio State finished at the top at 1.7 which is several magnitudes below Utah, Washington, or NC State.

Using this method it knocks Utah down a few spots and provides North Carolina State and Washington as the clear winners with a trio of Big-10 contenders in Ohio State, Penn State, and Wisconsin nipping at their heels.

I understand that Washington fans will want to assert they should be on top but give the Wolfpack credit for having one heck of a recruiting class. Bradley Chubb went from a mid 3-star to the #5 overall pick in the NFL draft and Garrett Bradbury was a low 3-star tight end who became a 1st team All-American center and 1st round NFL draft pick plus 3 other 3-stars who became 3rd round draft picks.

Ohio State finished with the highest overall career score of any class in the country and fall to #3 because they were expected to finish in the top-3 from the get go. It may not be quite as impressive as rising up a bunch of low 3-star players into national names but they (unfortunately) deserve credit for continually having top end talent at a minimum meet their expectations. 9 players from the Buckeyes’ class ended up getting drafted after coming in as at least a 4-star recruit. A pair of players merited 1st team AP All-American status during their career and 2 also were selected in the 1st round of the NFL Draft.

Alabama was the runaway consensus best class in the country and they finished 4th in absolute career score behind the 3 teams mentioned above. They finish with a negative grade by failing to live up to those expectations but it’s hard to call a class that had 11 players drafted a failure. The bigger issue for Alabama was that they only had 2 players (3.5 expected) make an AP All-American team and only 2 make 1st team all-SEC in their careers. A number of the players who got drafted either did so because the NFL was willing to bet on their raw talent which Alabama had nothing to do with or no one got enough playing time to really have their ability to stand out on those loaded Bama teams.

Top-10 Career Scores from 2014 Recruiting Classes

Career Score Rating Player School 247 Composite Rating Career Score
Career Score Rating Player School 247 Composite Rating Career Score
1 Christian McCaffrey Stanford 0.9593 59.7
2 Myles Garrett Texas A&M 0.9993 56
3 Dalvin Cook Florida State 0.994 55.8
4 Deshaun Watson Clemson 0.9794 55.1
5 Orlando Brown Oklahoma 0.8731 53.2
6 Dalton Risner Kansas State 0.8681 48.8
7 Adoree' Jackson USC 0.996 48.2
8 Jabrill Peppers Michigan 0.9992 47.4
9 Mark Andrews Oklahoma 0.9407 47.1
10 Cam Robinson Alabama 0.998 46.5

A pair of offensive linemen from the Big 12 in Orlando Brown and Dalton Risner were the only 3-star players to crack the top-10 overall from the Class of 2014. Meanwhile Garrett, Peppers, and Jackson were all national top-10 recruits and they played like it from the second they stepped on their respective campuses. Leonard Fournette narrowly missed the cut here at #11 which means 6 of the 11 most impressive careers in the recruiting class came from 5-star players. Once again, a higher recruiting ranking is no guarantee but on the aggregate things definitely played out in a “stars matter” manner.

Stanford finished 2nd in the Pac-12 using surplus and 4th using O/E career score largely on the back of McCaffrey’s exploits. He finished with nearly 40% of their career score from the 2014 class although Solomon Thomas winding up a top-3 NFL draft pick definitely helped their class as well.

Kansas State had a top-10 development ranking by either method and that was largely thanks to Risner who provided more than half of the value for their recruiting class and more than doubled their expected totals by himself.


No matter how you slice it the Huskies finished with one of the 3 best recruiting classes in 2014. They finished 2nd in O/E career score, 2nd in surplus career score, and 3rd in total career score. Washington had 7 players drafted which was 6th nationally and those same 7 players all made at least 2nd team all-conference which tied for 2nd.

There are a number of unanswerable questions we would have to magically answer to figure out why. Were those players merely overlooked in high school and destined for greatness anywhere? Would they have developed similarly under another coaching staff? Were they underrated coming out of high school because they needed the perfect system to thrive? Did Coach Petersen know deep in his bones that they had the type of potential they eventually showed or was even he surprised at the results deep down in his bones?

The answers are likely a blend of yes and no for all of them. Even if you’re distrustful of the evaluations of recruiting services there’s no question that Washington far exceeded even the rosiest expectations nearly across the board with this class.

However, that kind of production is simply unsustainable for programs that aren’t playing in the national title game annually. Washington has had very good recruiting classes since then but we’re in part one and we’ve already reached the peak. It’s an incredible peak and taking a step down still has allowed the Huskies to wind up in multiple conference championship games but there’s no question that Petersen and the coaching staff did their best work in their earliest years in Seattle.

We’ll be back next time to look at the 2015 class headlined for the Huskies by a trio of 4-year starters at QB, RB, and Left Tackle.