The History of 5-Star Recruits

Coming out of the Cotton Bowl Classic loss to Clemson many Fighting Irish fans have turned their eyes toward recruiting and the quest for the elusive 5-star talents. Today’s post was going to be an off-season project either way but following our meeting with Clemson I figured I’d roll this out now.

I had been looking over the 247 Sports All-Time Composite List in recent weeks and wanted to compile more information on the 5-stars to see if anything worthwhile needs to be talked about for Notre Dame.

Obviously, for anyone who follows recruiting even cursorily most of what follows will not be surprising. The All-Time Composite goes back to the 2000 cycle and includes 702 players, 31 from the 2019 and 2020 classes who are not committed to a school yet.

Yes, the blue-bloods dominate.

The top 6 schools in accumulating 5-stars gobbled up 43.9% of them all. The top 10 schools signed 61.5% and the Top 16 schools signed 78.5% of all the 5-stars. The average Power 5 school signs a 5-star roughly once every 5 years and has 3 to 5 signed over the last 20 cycles. A few of the teams at the top have signed that many in one cycle before.

The sad Power 5 programs who haven’t signed a 5-star since 2000 include: Wake Forest, Duke, Iowa State, Kansas State, Texas Tech, Kansas, Indiana, Northwestern, Purdue, Minnesota, Washington State, Utah, Arizona, and Vanderbilt.

Here’s the full list for your perusal:

School/Position of 5-Star Recruits (since 2000)

Teams to sign 2: BYU, West Virginia, Nebraska, Kentucky, Illinois, Pittsburgh, Baylor

Teams to sign 1: Houston, Louisville, Arizona State, Southern Miss, Boston College, Georgia Tech, Oregon State, Syracuse, TCU, Oklahoma State

So, let’s talk about Notre Dame’s place in all of this. Here are all of the Composite 5-stars signed by Notre Dame since 2000 with their all-time national ranking in parentheses:

QB: Jimmy Clausen (t-42), Dayne Crist (t-476), Gunner Kiel (t-509)

ATH/RB/WR: Michael Floyd (t-357), James Aldridge (t-536), Duval Kamara (t-696)

OL: Sam Young (t-138), Mark LeVoir (t-480), Tommy Kraemer (t-689)

DL: Aaron Lynch (t-212), Victor Abriami (t-577)

LB: Jaylon Smith (t-48), Manti Te’o (t-88), Ishaq Williams (t-466)

DB: Max Redfield (596)

Obviously, only 15 players isn’t an impressive number and needs work. We should note it’s kind of silly to make too many bones out of something going back so far to 2000. Tennessee is a good deal ahead of the Irish on this list but packed the majority of their 5-stars in the first half of this 20-year period. Then again, you look at most of Alabama’s 5-stars coming over the past 10 years and it’s downright scary the run that they are on since Saban arrived.

One thing that jumps out is that not all 5-stars are created equal–we’re talking about hundreds of players–and Notre Dame has really, really struggled getting the top-tier recruits from within the 5-star ranks. The Irish only have 3 among the Top 200, the same as Penn State. In the same northern region, Michigan has signed 5 and Ohio State 11 total. The Buckeyes having just 4 fewer Top 200 all-time guys than Notre Dame has in the Top 702 is a huge discrepancy.

It’s often talked about how random 5-star talents can pan out but when you get to the absolute top and look through the Top 100 5-stars there are very few misses. Almost everyone excelled in college. It’s no wonder why Notre Dame’s trio of Top 100 guys all finished their careers in South Bend as great players–both Teo’ and Jaylon were Butkus Award winners and Clausen garnered some All-American love after his excellent 2009 season.

In the comment section of the Cotton Bowl review I made the case that the Power positions, specifically OL and TE, are overrated in today’s game. When you look this list of players for Notre Dame it’s abundantly clear that speed is sorely lacking.* Only 4 players who were 5-stars at running back, wide receiver, or defensive back is horrid for adding the best of the best at the speed positions. The top 6 added on average just under 22 of these players over the same time period.

*Although, there’s plenty of room for growth at offensive line and tight end, as well. Would anyone believe the Irish haven’t signed a Composite 5-star tight end? They’ve come as close as you can–Kyle Rudolph is the highest rated 4-star in the all-time rankings. 

The location of the best recruits is often talked about, as well.

Top 100 All-Time via States

California: 19
Florida: 16
Texas: 13
Georgia: 6
Louisiana: 6
New Jersey: 5
Maryland: 4
Pennsylvania: 4
Alabama: 3
South Carolina: 3
Virginia: 3
Washington: 3
North Carolina: 2
Colorado: 1
Delaware: 1
District of Columbia: 1
Hawaii: 1
Indiana: 1
Kansas: 1
Michigan: 1
Minnesota: 1
Mississippi: 1
Missouri: 1
New York: 1
Ohio: 1
Tennessee: 1

Seeing 60% of the recruits from the top 6 states is hardly surprising. Notre Dame’s traditional strong-hold states in the northern region of the country featured 12 players overall with the Irish signing 1 of them, Jaylon Smith from nearby Fort Wayne. Certainly, more work could’ve been done in the states of New Jersey and Pennsylvania where Notre Dame should always have among the strongest presence.

What about the movement of these all-timers?

Top 100 Recruits Who Left Their Region:

2016 Rashan Gary (NJ) to Michigan
2010 Ronald Powell (CA) to Florida
2000 D.J. Williams (CA) to Miami
2000 Brock Berlin (LA) to Florida
2007 Joe McKnight (LA) to USC
2012 Mario Edwards (TX) to FSU
2011 Cy Kouandjio (MD) to Alabama
2014 Jabrill Peppers (NJ) to Michigan
2009 Bryce Brown (KS) to Tennessee
2019 Kayvon Thibodeaux (CA) to Oregon
2005 Eugene Monroe (NJ) to Virginia
2005 Patrick Turner (TN) to USC
2002 Lorenzo Booker (CA) to FSU
2016 Greg Little (TX) to Ole Miss
2006 Percy Harvin (VA) to Florida
2010 Seantrell Henderson (MN) to Miami
2007 Jimmy Clausen (CA) to Notre Dame
2018 Eyabi Anoma (MD) to Alabama
2017 Najee Harris (CA) to Alabama
2006 Vidal Hazleton (VA) to USC
2003 Kyle Wright (CA) to Miami
2000 Travis Johnson (CA) to FSU
2008 Darrell Scott (CA) to Colorado
2014 Da’Shawn Hand (VA) to Alabama
2008 Will Hill (NJ) to Florida
2010 Dominique Easley (NY) to Florida
2007 Ryan Mallett (TX) to Michigan
2000 Kwame Harris (DE) to Stanford
2006 Myron Rolle (NJ) to FSU
2009 Manti Te’o (HI) to Notre Dame
2016 Jacob Eason (WA) to Georgia
2006 Matthew Stafford (TX) to Georgia

Almost a third went outside of their region although 23 moved to either a SEC school, Miami, Florida State, or USC. Out of the 30 current 2019 5-stars who have committed a total of five have left their region in addition to Thibodeaux listed above:

Daxton Hill (OK) to Michigan
Garrett Wilson (TX) to Ohio State
Antonio Alfano (NJ) to Alabama
Harry Miller (GA) to Ohio State

But wait! Shouldn’t we include the high 4-stars too? Here’s a list of all of those commits (0.950 Composite minimum) over the last 10 cycles for comparison to Notre Dame:

High 4-Stars Signed Since 2010

Alabama – 69
Ohio State – 55
USC – 51
Notre Dame – 31
Michigan – 24
Clemson – 22

So, it appears Notre Dame closes the talent gap a little bit here compared to 5-stars. Even better, 41.9% of these high 4-stars for the Irish are from the speed athlete/running back/receiver/defensive back positions as compared to just 26.6% of the 5-stars signed.

However, only 3 out of the Top 15 (Greg Bryant, Davonte Neal, Houston Griffith) high 4-stars came from the speed positions while 8 out of the 15 came from either offensive line or tight end.

There’s a perception in certain areas that Notre Dame is both killing it on the recruiting trail and doing so because it’s building strength on both lines. Even if the latter is true, the Irish are far from killing it at the skill positions and desperately need to bring in substantially more help in those areas to elevate the program for the future.

By |2019-01-01T22:05:21+00:00January 2nd, 2019|Recruiting|34 Comments

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juiceboxkiwifanIllinIrish20More Noisend09hls12 Recent comment authors
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The first thing that stood out in the list was the 0 in the TE column for 5 stars. Granted, there just aren’t that many 5-star TEs running around, but with all our success over the years at TE I was as surprised as you on that.

Nitpick: Is Thibodeaux leaving CA to go to Oregon really leaving his region? Ore recruits there heavily, it’s the Pac12, the states border each other, etc. That seems like a kid from GA or FL going to Alabama or Clemson.

Some of those names–Duval Kamara? Had no idea he was a 5-star. Redfield & Ishaq, [BIG SIGH GOES HERE]. None of those OL names lived up to the hype, though I guess Sam Young somehow has had a decent NFL career. Looks like ND’s got a 1/3 pan-out rate. with Kraemer still having time to do something. Also, looking at their individual numbers, it backs up your point re: the top of the top seem to be successes, and the lower end is where the 5-star busts are. Jaylon, Manti, Clausen, all top 100. Michael Floyd is really the only one outside that group (at 357) that lived up to a 5-star ranking.

I think you and the others who posted about it in the comments the last few days have really hit on something regarding the weighting of our 5/high 4-stars on the lines and TE, etc. as opposed to the speed skill spots. Great line play is definitely a good thing, and puts us in position to regularly beat the average team on our schedule. It puts okay backs in position to succeed on the ground (I think Josh Adams was more than okay, but let’s be honest that was a symbiosis between him and the line blocking. He wasn’t a create-something-out-of-nothing back.) But it doesn’t turn them into 5-star playmakers against the top level teams, and you’ve got to have at least one or two of those go-to guys. It’s interesting that our best success rate for 5-stars seems to be LB.


I thought Duval was going to be an absolute monster. His true freshman year, he was basically the 1 bright spot; 30 catches, 350 yards, 4 TDs. Big dude who could move too. Not sure I’ve been as disappointed by anybody else’s overall career than I was from him. He put up ok #3ish receiver numbers, so I can’t exactly call him a bust, but I thought he was going to break ND receiving records after that true freshman season. I couldn’t have been more wrong.

hooks orpik
hooks orpik

Yeah some of those 5 star names made me really happy that Eric included the high-4 stars at the bottom.

Clearly the glitz and glamour of the 5-stars catches everyone’s attention, but those guys are so rare and there are geographic struggles illustrated above. To me the best path forward is to get a high quantity yield of the elite 4 star types and that should really be enough to compete with anyone with good development and coaching. I hope they try for the 5* they can get, but for such a long roster of players, the Clemson’s and Bama’s of the world really shine with depth.

And, especially on defense the past couple cycles it seems like this is on the right path for Notre Dame. They do need better skill players and depth at RB and WR though to be a contender, which w all know. As I mentioned on the earlier post, I think those guys will follow the star QB’s and have extremely high sensibility about style of play and ability to get on the field quickly and get a ton of touches.


Man, you did a great job of summing up my thinking on this. We desperately need Lenzy to be a star, because we couldn’t stretch the field deep this year, and our fastest player (Dex) is gone. One thing I didn’t see mentioned; ND fans pretty much couldn’t stop talking about how much we loved our pass rushers this year. And it’s true, they were the best unit we’ve had in years. And yet, they got didn’t actually get home at an elite rate. 36th in sacks per game. 63rd in tackles for loss per game. If you’re going to play a bend but don’t break defense (i.e. the Lea/Diaco style), you’re going to be fine against the average NCAA offense (most teams can’t put together 5 or 6 long, sustained scoring drives in a single game). But when you’re playing against a great QB who can pick apart soft coverage if given time, you need an absolute monster on the edge who can wreak havoc all game. The guys we have are very good, and I think NaNa will eventually be very good. But to slow down a Trevor Lawrence/Tua Tagovailoa, we’ll need more than “very good” (at least with our current style of defense). I accept that we’re never going to recruit at Alabama’s level. I’m ok with that. But to win 2 playoff games against 2 teams that have more talent than us overall, I think we have to have: 1) A top tier QB 2) At least 1 burner at WR (or a TE who can own the seam with a QB who isn’t afraid to throw that pass) 3) 1 shutdown corner 4) 1 monster DE I believe Love is a shutdown corner. If he’s back next year, I’d love to see the staff encourage Pride to give a tiny bit less cushion in his coverage on team’s #2 receivers. I do not believe we have a monster DE, but we have 2 guys (Okwara, Kareem) on the brink. Maybe one of them makes the jump this year. I do not believe we have a burner WR, as I have a hard time believing 1 of this year’s freshmen will be able to step up as a true sophomore with essentially no playing experience. But if Lenzy could get to the point where he’s truly a weapon by the end of the season, maybe he gets there. I do not believe we have a top tier QB. Book is very good, I don’t think anyone questions that. He proved this year he can lead a comeback drive against decent competition. He proved that he can make halftime adjustments when things aren’t going well. And he proved he can beat opponents when the running game isn’t working. But he did not look like he had a chance against Clemson. That’s ok! Most QBs don’t. But he isn’t going to lead us to a National Championship (and based on what the beat reporters were saying about Jurkovec’s… Read more »


It will be a shame if this Oline is back and a year better and our RB situation takes a step back. It doesn’t look like we have anyone of Dexter’s abilities to take his place. A decent running game would take a lot of pressure off of Book by putting him in more advantageous situations. For all the good things Alford has seemed to do, getting stud RBs in recruiting hasn’t been one of them.


You mean Autry Denson, of course. Alford’s been long gone.


oops of course.

hooks orpik
hooks orpik

Armstrong + Jones should be serviceable but not explosive like Josh Adams/Dex. Not sure if Smith or the kid enrolling early will be a potential home run hitter but it doesn’t really feel like they’re going to have a workhorse in 2019.

I’m not too worried about the run game as it goes to Book. He’s so accurate at the underneath that the short throws basically is the run game. Of course, the jig is probably up when you face a Clemson level team, but such appears to be life in NCAA football these days.


Any QB has an advantage if his team can run the ball. Even one good at the short throws. More guys in coverage if you can’t run the ball.


With regards to excitement about recruiting I think that stems from improved and consistent defensive recruiting over the last couple years. There are solid 4 star players at every position group over the last two years; for the first time in the Kelly era it doesn’t feel like there will be an impending hole on the roster due to quality recruiting across the board.

Having said that the skill position, specifically in the 2019 class is very underwhelming. A 3 star an surrounded by 3 3 star skill guys. Blah. I basically think with development, depth, and 4th year players we are as good, save Bama, as just about every other team besides skill players.

But look at Bama, Clemson, Ohio state skill guys then compare to Michigan and ND. They are light years better. Avery Davis wouldnt get touches on their scout teams, let alone be the “change of pace X factor”

hooks orpik
hooks orpik

To be fair though, Davis only got 27 touches all season. And just 5 of them were after September — 4 of those coming in mop up time in the Florida State blowout. It’s not like he really was a factor once the Dex suspension was up.

Though point taken on the overall thought process that ND does need to find a way to add more skill and depth at the skill positions. Clemson/Bama doesn’t need to turn to guys like Davis at all even with an injury or a suspension.


Davis was very bad every time he played. He’d need to have a big leap to be an average P5 backup.


Before I read in detail, let me just thank you, Eric. After blowout losses I feel like I’m banished from any public college football discussion. Good to have a safe space!


Found the snowflake!
(I’m a millennial)


This illustrates to me how close ND was to obscurity in football with Davwiesingham. And how much rebuilding needed and still needs to be done. Its Kelly’s 10th year here and it’s the first year we dont feel like there are significant holes on the team, or our floor stays the same and with some amazing skill players our team could be a contender. Under Wies he had Clausen who was able to do quite a bit without a solid base of players to support him. If we had Clausen on this team how different does it look? How does that affect recruiting going forward? I guess what I’m getting at is it seems like our floor has been raised but not the ceiling. I think it takes a 5* qb who is a die hard ND guy or a coaching change with a good coach who generates the interest/desire for a recruit to play for him. (I’m not advocating this because the coach has to be a clear upgrade from Kelly and I dont see any of those out there right now). What are the chances he goes to the Bucs? I doubt he will.


Clausen on the team would increase both the quality of the downfield passing and the “I’m a total douche” factor necessary to compete in today’s CFB.


Clausen could throw but was very immobile, so I think either of these defenses (Bama or Clemson) would eat him alive behind the current Oline and with the current receivers, who struggle to get meaningful separation. Book at least has escapability.

I too think Clemson has a chance, but given Tua and his receivers vs Lawrence and his receivers, I think Tua is more apt to prevail if he’s healthy.

Also the ND defense is the best Lawrence faced and while Love was in we were right with them. Bama’s defense is a different story.

But I still think Clemson has a decent chance. I do expect a good game. I don’t see a 28-0 start for either team.

More Noise
More Noise

OK, so speaking of five star recruits…. does Clemson have any chance against the Death Star? And who do “we” at 18 Stripes want to prevail?

hooks orpik
hooks orpik

Line is only Bama -6 which for them is very low. Most “expert” picks I’ve seen like Clemson to at least cover that.

Then again, last year this game was Bama 24-6 so who knows.

I’d feel a bit better personally if Clemson won 24-6 this year, but that’s probably not likely to happen. They’ll probably win 31-28 or something close and exciting, which I think they can do. Lawrence’s reads and accuracy was unbelievable.

If Clemson does lose like 30-3 to Bama, a NC for Notre Dame will feel ever so far away. If Clemson wins, I’ll probably feel better that ND hung with them for almost a half until Love got hurt. Does that actually make them any closer? No, not at all, but feelings can help for the next 9 months.

More Noise
More Noise

Yep! (thanks t you above for the replies.) Now if J Love had decided to stick around those dreams would be easier…. heavy sigh!


Absolutely Clemson has a chance. Last year was the only time Bama truly handled them and Clemson brought basically everyone back and upgraded on OL and at QB, while Bama had the usual turnover/replace with stud.

That said, I’m hoping Bama wins convincingly and Saban is finally satisfied that he has reached the pinnacle of CFB and he can’t top this year’s team. So he rides off into the sunset, allowing the fighting Dabo’s (whether it’s Clemson or Alabama, should he take that job) to be the overlords.


It would be really interesting to see how much Clemson could maintain it’s recent success if Dabo left.


Here’s an interesting article on the Clemson site:

It attempts to analyze Clemson vs Bama outcome based on the star ratings of the players, broken down by position group. Amusingly, Lawrence was rated a 5 star, while Tua was rated a 4 star, so his analysis has Clemson stronger on offense than Bama, because the QB star rating is 1/3 of the weighting on relative offensive strength in his system.

In his text, he does back off that to a degree, but the fact that he bases all on star ratings coming out of high school is specious IMO.

I would take Tua and Murray over Lawrence, talented though he is.

I love Book, and expect him to start next year, but we definitely need a QB of the above caliber to really compete with the elites. And before anyone says it, I don’t consider Clausen to have been in their league.