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Offensive Position Group U?

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Which programs have done the best at pumping out talent at each position on offense since the class of 2014?

College Football Playoff Semifinal at the Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl - LSU v Oklahoma Photo by Carmen Mandato/Getty Images

Many schools claim to be [Insert Position Group Here] U. That program that lays ultimate claim to being the best place for a potential recruit at that position to attend school if they want to ascend to superstardom.

As part of my talent development rankings series I came up with career score as a way to put a number on how impressive a given players’ career actually was. Adding up the total career score at each position seemed like a pretty good way to help settle some arguments about which schools have produced the most talent at each position in recent years.

My data goes back to the recruiting class of 2014 so these are primarily the stars of college football over the past 5 years. I also broke things out differently than just the position they were assigned by the 247 Sports ranking system. The difference between Defensive Line, Edge Rusher, and Linebacker on defense can sometimes be a little difficult to parse through but I grouped these rankings by the position where they finished their career playing. So everyone under the title of “ATH” was re-assigned to where they actually ended up.

We’ll do the offense today and come back later for the defense.

QUARTERBACK

This first graph looks at the total career score based on the school with whom the player initially signed. However, we’ll also look at it from the perspective of where they ended up since quarterback is essentially the only position where transfers regularly have success at their second stop.

It’s a tight race but Alabama narrowly edges out Ohio State while Clemson is lurking just behind waiting for next year when Trevor Lawrence becomes the #1 overall pick to ascend to the throne. It should come as no surprise that those 3 schools sit at the top of the rankings and unfortunately we’ll see a lot of each of them as we move from position to position.

The duo of Tua Tagovailoa and Jalen Hurts gives Alabama a combined 4 all-conference nominations and 2 AP All-American team nods with a 1st and 2nd round draft pick. Ohio State has both Joe Burrow and Dwayne Haskins who each were 1st team all-conference and an AP All-American before becoming 1st round draft picks. You may notice that one name in each of those duos had more success at their second stop which we’ll get to shortly.

Washington comes in at 21st overall with 10 total career score points since the start of the 2014 recruiting class. Jake Browning is the only member of that starting group that has started a game and he earned a 1st team all-conference plus a pair of honorable mentions before going undrafted as a 4-year starter. There’s still hope for this number to go up in the near future. Jacob Sirmon and Dylan Morris are both battling for the starter’s job this year at UW. Meanwhile transfers Jake Haener (Fresno State) and Colson Yankoff (UCLA) could potentially win the starting job at those places this year. But despite the recent stockpile of 4-star QBs the Huskies haven’t had a quarterback they recruited drafted during this time frame.

Things look almost entirely different once we switch to each player’s most recent school. Oklahoma vaults right to the top which shouldn’t be a surprise as they’ve had Kyler Murray and Jalen Hurts come in and be spectacular as transfers. Their stranglehold atop this list would be even higher if Baker Mayfield had made the cut off in the time period and added another #1 overall pick to the resume. With all of those transfers coming in it means no one that Oklahoma recruited out of high school recently has had any success but if they bring you in as a transfer and you win the job you’re an instant Heisman contender (although Spencer Rattler is expected to be the homegrown guy starting this year).

Clemson and Louisville stay in the top-five since they haven’t had to dip into the transfer market to pick up their brightest stars. Ohio State and Alabama each drop with the loss of Joe Burrow and Jalen Hurts off their resume but OSU gets to include Justin Fields in this method of accounting which offsets it to some degree and which will only improve their standing in years to come as a future 1st round pick.

On that related note Georgia falls off the face of the earth from 5th place to 23rd overall now that they don’t get credit for Jacob Eason or Fields. Washington is the beneficiary for Eason’s 4th round draft pick status and that bumps them up just ahead of Oregon and Justin Herbert into 13th place overall.

Every other position I think it’s most accurate to use “originally recruited by” but because transfers are so common in college football for the QB position that’s what I’m using here.

Final Verdict- Quarterback U is...Oklahoma.

RUNNING BACK

There’s a pretty clear top 2 here as Stanford and LSU have separated themselves from the rest of the pack. It’s not tough to see why the Cardinal have laid claim to the highest total career score. Christian McCaffrey had one of the more prolific college careers we’ve seen in a long time and likely should’ve been a Heisman winner while Bryce Love also had an absolutely ridiculous junior year before injuries took their toll.

Meanwhile, there are 3 LSU backs that have seen a fair amount of recent success with Leonard Fournette, Derrius Guice, and Clyde Edwards-Helaire. None of them had as good of a year in college as McCaffrey or Love but Fournette was drafted higher than either while Guice and CEH were taken between spots 30-60 in the NFL Draft.

The next tier also has done a good job of creating some distance with Wisconsin, Penn State, Oklahoma, Florida State, Georgia, Kentucky, and Oklahoma State. Those schools have produced standout backs like Jonathan Taylor, Saquon Barkley, Dalvin Cook, Nick Chubb, and Sony Michel in recent years who dominated in college and were premium draft picks.

Washington falls to 23rd in career score which might seem a little perplexing given their strong pedigree at the position. Myles Gaskin was often the bridesmaid when it came to all-conference voting and despite 4 seasons with 1200+ rushing yards he only made one 1st team all Pac-12 team before becoming a 7th round pick. Meanwhile, Salvon Ahmed left early for the draft after last season only to go undrafted. The Huskies have had a ton of very talented backs over the past decade but they never seem to get picked highly in the draft despite college success which has hurt their standing.

You could consider it just about a tie between Stanford and LSU but given that Stanford also had Toby Gerhart in the past decade at the position I’m giving them the edge.

Final Verdict- Running Back U is...Stanford.

WIDE RECEIVER

You might still associate Bama as the ultimate ground and pound team but they’ve made the transition over recent years to getting elite athletes at receiver and it shows. The Sooners have made it a competition but those 2 schools are otherwise basically lapping the field. The Crimson Tide have had Henry Ruggs, Jerry Jeudy, and Calvin Ridley all become 1st round NFL draft picks in recent years while Jaylen Waddle and DeVonta Smith who are still on the team have each earned All-SEC recognition.

The Oklahoma trio of CeeDee Lamb, Marquise “Hollywood” Brown, and Dede Westbrook is pretty solid as well but doesn’t quite have the same depth. Ohio State, LSU, and USC are tightly packed down in the next tier. The Buckeyes seem poised to shoot up this list with their ridiculous recent recruiting at the position but it’s unlikely any of the 3 fall off in the near future.

Ole Miss at 6th and Arizona State at 8th seem like two of the biggest surprises given their lack of recent team success but each has managed to recruit a dynamic duo with A.J Brown and D.K Metcalf at Ole Miss and N’Keal Harry and Brandon Aiyuk at ASU. All but Metcalf were taken in the 1st round while D.K became a 2nd rounder and had an outstanding rookie season for the Seahawks.

Washington comes in at a solid 16th overall with Dante Pettis providing all of the points. John Ross was in the 2013 class and so misses the cut off but recent starters like Chico McClatcher, Andre Baccellia, and Aaron Fuller never got all-conference recognition before going undrafted which means it’s Pettis and nothing else for the purposes of these rankings. With the recent influx of talent the Huskies have had at this spot they’ll hope to rise up the charts in the coming years.

Final Verdict- Wide Receiver U is...Alabama.

TIGHT END

We finally get to a position where talking about Washington isn’t just because this piece is written for a Husky sports blog but because they belong near the top of the rankings. Washington has tremendous success since the start of the Chris Petersen era at developing tight ends. Drew Sample and Will Dissly each were NFL draft picks while Hunter Bryant was an All-American who went undrafted because of injury concerns. Cade Otton also seems poised to be the next in line to earn 1st team all-conference before getting drafted.

However, unfortunately there’s not a lot of debate about the #1 school on this list. The Hawkeyes had the double whammy of Noah Fant and T.J Hockenson each getting selected in the 1st round of the 2019 draft. Considering how few tight ends go in the 1st round these days period that’s enough on its own to get them the title. Oklahoma comes close but the vast majority of their candidacy comes from Mark Andrews who was a WR/TE hybrid so it’s for the best they don’t claim the top spot. Iowa also graduated George Kittle from the 2012 recruiting class who doesn’t count for these rankings but who has become one of the all around best players in the NFL since he graduated.

Stanford and Miami are the only other two schools even in the running as there’s a massive drop off following the first five programs. This isn’t exactly a surprise since the proliferation of the spread offense made it so that fewer and fewer schools feature the tight end within their offense. Still, it’s clear the Huskies are among the elite at producing talent at the position.

Final Verdict- Tight End U is...Iowa.

OFFENSIVE LINE

There’s a fairly strong 4 school grouping making up the first tier here and it shouldn’t be all that surprising based on the names in that list. Those 4 programs have combined to produce 5 1st round picks, 2 2nd rounders, 3 3rd rounders, 4 4th rounders, 2 5th rounders, and a 6th rounder since the 2014 recruiting class. When you consider they weren’t draft eligible until 2017 that means that essentially the schools have combined for an average of 4+ draft picks along their offensive line in recent years. If a year goes by without an offensive lineman getting drafted from any of those schools it’s considered an oddity.

The SEC schools have been better at getting their players at the very top of the draft as all 5 of the 1st rounders in that bunch went to either Alabama or Georgia. But Oklahoma and Wisconsin have made up for that with a crazy hit rate in Oklahoma’s case or spectacular college careers in Wisconsin’s case.

There’s a sizable gap between Wisconsin at #4 and Michigan at #5 but you can generally consider Washington to be towards the bottom of the next tier at #9 overall just ahead of LSU. The Huskies would likely be several spots higher had Trey Adams never suffered a back injury which torpedoed his NFL draft stock. Still, Kaleb McGary was a 1st rounder, Nick Harris was selected in the 3rd round, and when combined with a healthy Adams each of those 3 players made multiple 1st team all Pac-12 squads.

Final Verdict- Offensive Line U is...Alabama

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Join us next time when we switch to the defensive side of the ball which given Washington’s recent defensive dominance looks a lot more favorable.