Adjusting the 2024 college football freshman class ratings for early enrollee transfers

Recruiting class rankings have an expiration date for certain applications. Some hit theirs sooner than others.

On occasion, classes can get big retrospective upgrades. Florida’s 2016 class immediately comes to mind, as it was No. 12 nationally but had 11 of 25 players drafted (all but one out of Florida) with its lowest-rated player a Heisman finalist in 2020.

More often, classes get downgraded over time as some members of them simply don’t pan out or otherwise run into issues. A still somewhat under-the-radar example is UF’s 2019 class, which saw four of its 25 players fail to qualify or otherwise get into school right off the bat. Two more were gone before preseason camp, leaving just 19 remaining. Going by just the players who reported that fall, the class rank would’ve fallen from No. 9 overall to No. 17.

At least, that’s without adjusting for other teams’ classes having non-qualifiers and other early attrition of their own. It’s possible that the actual number might’ve been one or two different in one direction or the other.

Super early attrition is still unusual, but it’s now the unlimited transfer era. You don’t even have to come up with a waiver excuse if you arrive as an early enrollee and realize immediately you made a mistake. Nick Saban retiring in January and re-opening the transfer portal for Alabama also created room for a small burst of movement.

Florida happened to be the beneficiary of both of those factors in 2024. Offensive lineman Jason Zandamela mostly grew up in Mozambique, played high school ball in Clearwater after moving to the States, and then early-enrolled at USC out of high school. He regretted being so far away from his support network, so he chose to transfer back to the Sunshine State. UF won out in the competition for his services.

Also about a year ago, corner Jameer Grimsley committed to Alabama over Florida and Michigan because he thought the program would be his best path to the NFL. After the creator of that path decided to call it a career, Grimsley had the opportunity to think about switching to one of his runners up. Ultimately he did, and he is now a Gator.

Florida is in an unusual spot of having two true freshmen with the designation of “transfer” for how they ended up in the program. If you go look at the recruiting class rankings, UF’s rating and rank haven’t moved in light of those guys coming in.

And really, they shouldn’t have moved, because Billy Napier didn’t get them to commit and sign out of high school. That’s what those rankings are for. There still is value for keeping them separate from transfer rankings
because recruiting and signing high school players is a different process from recruiting and landing transfers — even transfers who have only spent a small amount of time on a college campus.

But on the third hand, people usually use recruiting class rankings as a proxy for the amount of talent a program has brought in that has all of its years of eligibility left. For most programs, the 2024 ratings and rankings are still accurate because they haven’t seen any movement in or out. For once, Florida is not like most programs for a good reason: it has picked up two highly rated players from the 2024 high school class via transfer.

Therefore, to provide rankings of talent coming in with all of its years of eligibility remaining, I have created adjusted 2024 class ranks. I looked at the top 15 teams in the 247Sports Composite and went through both their signing classes and their transfer classes to see which ones have experienced early movement.

Among them, only Alabama (three) and LSU (one) have already seen a ’24 signee leave. Florida has added two transfers who early enrolled elsewhere, while Ohio State and Oregon each added one. Therefore, I am only giving you the top ten in these adjusted rankings below because all of the teams that experienced a change are in it. Among the teams I looked at that aren’t listed below, they neither brought in nor said farewell to an early transfer.

Team Adj Rtg Adj Rk Orig Rtg Orig Rk Diff
Georgia 317.05 1 317.05 1 0
Alabama 300.86 2 310.74 2 -9.88
Ohio State 297.59 3 289.1 5 8.49
Oregon 295.64 4 293.2 3 2.44
Miami 291.52 5 291.52 4 0
Texas 286.9 6 286.9 6 0
LSU 278.59 7 278.74 7 -0.15
Florida 277.7 8 268.23 13 9.47
Oklahoma 275.6 9 275.6 8 0
Notre Dame 275.56 10 275.56 9 0

The Gators, on account of not just bringing in two players but two highly rated players, jumped five spots from No. 13 to No. 8. Ohio State was the only other program to make a move, rising two spots after landing 5-star QB Julian Sayin from Alabama. The Crimson Tide, despite losing three players and gaining none, was so far clear of the rest of the pack initially that it remained No. 2 overall.

In terms of true freshman talent acquisition by one method or another, Florida now has a top ten haul. It’s better than the alternative, though perhaps still cold comfort to those who watched prized commit after prized commit go elsewhere as the team faltered on the field last fall. The class is still well below the top five, Zandamela probably isn’t an immediate contributor since he hasn’t played American football for long, and Grimsley is entering a crowded corner room.

In short, the guys who gave the class a bump in the adjusted rankings probably won’t see the field much this fall outside of special teams. Still though, the internals of the true freshman class do look better than a quick glance at the team recruiting ratings would have you believe.

Zandamela is a special case, but Grimsley is proof that in the unlimited transfer era, a runner-up school may not be a runner-up for long. It can be worth it to stick with a recruitment to the bitter end even if it’s clear you’re not going to win Round 1, because you never know when a Round 2 may be coming.

And, in the second half of this two-part series, we’ll take a look at 2023 and see how keeping a group together and converting initial runner-up status to eventual landing spot status can boost a program even more.

David Wunderlich
David Wunderlich is a born-and-raised Gator and a proud Florida alum. He has been writing about Florida and SEC football since 2006. He currently lives in Naples Italy, at least until the Navy stations his wife elsewhere. You can follow him on Twitter @Year2