football Edit

College Football Playoff: Breaking down the four rosters

The College Football Playoff is upon us and so there is no better time to review the rosters of the four teams involved to see how the past five recruiting classes panned out, which is a helpful guide of understanding how these teams made it to this point.

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CLEMSON 

PLAYERS SIGNED FROM 2015-19 STILL ON TEAM: 75

NO LONGER ON TEAM: 20

IN THE NFL: 11

TOTAL SIGNED: 106

STILL ON TEAM: 71 percent

NO LONGER ON TEAM: 19 percent

IN THE NFL: 10 percent

OVERVIEW: Like every other team in the playoff, the 2015 class for the Tigers has been dramatically thinned out and only five players from that class remain on the team, mainly because a lot of elite players have left for the NFL. Christian Wilkins, Austin Bryant, Clelin Ferrell, Deon Cain and others make up that group. The highest-profile transfer of that group was quarterback Kelly Bryant to Missouri.

What stands out most about Clemson’s roster management in the following four years is just how stable things have been with the team. Of the 2016 recruiting class, 16 players are on the team, three aren’t and then three others left for the NFL: Dexter Lawrence, Tre Lamar and Trayvon Mullen. Rahshaun Smith and Taviean Feaster were important transfers.

The 2017 class was incredibly stable, with 12 of 14 players still on the team, and that was a loaded class led by running back Travis Etienne, wide receiver Tee Higgins, defensive back A.J. Terrell and others. Stable roster movement continued with the 2018 class as 15 of 17 are still on the team, including WR Justyn Ross and of course quarterback Trevor Lawrence.

The 2019 class has seen only one departure in the 27-man class, as some players even among that freshmen group have made important contributions this season.

FARRELL’S TAKE: This is why Clemson is the best program in the country and why there is little drama when it comes to recruiting and transfers. They sell a family atmosphere and prove it when you get there. A few of these transfers are quarterbacks because of a guy named Trevor Lawrence, so this number would be even more impressive if he weren’t such a generational talent. Dabo Swinney knows how to handle players and keep everyone interested and excited. If players leave it’s most likely to the NFL a year early.

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OHIO STATE 

PLAYERS SIGNED FROM 2015-19 STILL ON TEAM: 78

NO LONGER ON TEAM: 26

IN THE NFL: 11

TOTAL SIGNED: 115

STILL ON TEAM: 68 percent

NO LONGER ON TEAM: 23 percent

IN THE NFL: 9 percent

OVERVIEW: Ohio State has seen its fair share of defections from the 2015 recruiting class, but the Buckeyes also have players from that group who have been significant contributors this year, including receiver K.J. Hill, defensive back Damon Arnette, DL Jashon Cornell and others. LSU transfer quarterback Joe Burrow was also a member of that recruiting class.

The 2016 class had an impressive mix of players who left early for the NFL, including quarterback Dwayne Haskins, defensive end Nick Bosa and others. The class also had players who have stayed and played a big part in Ohio State’s success this season, such as Malik Harrison, Jordan Fuller, Binjimen Victor and others.

A huge 2017 recruiting haul has stayed largely intact - except for transfers from Tate Martell, Trevon Grimes and Isaiah Pryor - and those players have had huge roles for the Buckeyes this season. Contributors include running back JK Dobbins and defensive end Chase Young, among many others.

A big part of Ohio State’s success is that 23 players from its 2018 signing class remain with the team, including receiver Chris Olave and many others who are expected to fill vital roles next season. All 17 of the Buckeyes’ signees from 2019 are still in Columbus as turnover has remained really low the last few cycles.

FARRELL’S TAKE: The Buckeyes aren’t far behind Clemson overall and that’s a testament to Ryan Day and the smooth transition that occurred when Urban Meyer left. Day is a player's coach and a great recruiter and I think he will have the Buckeyes on a level like Clemson soon, with multiple national titles and worry-free recruiting and roster management.

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LSU 

PLAYERS SIGNED FROM 2015-19 STILL ON TEAM: 74

NO LONGER ON TEAM: 32

IN THE NFL: 12

TOTAL SIGNED: 118

STILL ON TEAM: 63 percent

NO LONGER ON TEAM: 27 percent

IN THE NFL: 10 percent

OVERVIEW: Of the 25 prospects in LSU’s 2015 class only three remain on the team with 13 others leaving the team and nine off to the NFL, including Arden Key, Derrius Guice, Donte Jackson and many others.

Twenty-four players signed with the Tigers in the 2016 class and 13 remain on the roster, seven are gone and two have gone to the NFL: Greedy Williams and Devin White. White was the fifth overall pick in the draft last April and Williams was a second-round selection. Kristian Fulton, Rashard Lawrence and others from that recruiting class are still on the team.

Like many other teams in the playoff, the 2017 group’s ability to stay largely intact is a huge reason why LSU has been so successful. Twenty of 24 players are still on the LSU roster, including K’Lavon Chaisson, Jacob Phillips, JaCoby Stevens, Kary Vincent, Grant Delpit, Austin Deculus, Patrick Queen, Clyde Edwards-Helaire and Justin Jefferson, all players who are making huge contributions.

There was a surprisingly high number of departures in the 2018 class, as LSU lost eight of 22 signees already but many that stayed have been huge contributors, including Ja’Marr Chase and Terrace Marshall at receiver.

As for 2019, only one player in a class of 24 is off LSU’s team, as DT Siaki Ika, RB John Emery, receiver Trey Palmer, LB Marcel Brooks and others could be next in line in Baton Rouge. Of course, former No. 1 overall prospect Derek Stingley is already one of the best cornerbacks in college football.

FARRELL’S TAKE: There is a slight drop-off from Clemson and Ohio State to LSU, but the Tigers have done a great job overall. And recruiting in the SEC is no picnic, so the fact that they haven’t lost a ton of players is impressive with the transfer portal so predominant lately. Players love Ed Orgeron and want to play for him, and winning at a high level has helped roster management for sure.

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OKLAHOMA

PLAYERS SIGNED FROM 2015-19 STILL ON TEAM: 58

NO LONGER ON TEAM: 37

IN THE NFL: 11

TOTAL SIGNED: 106

STILL ON TEAM: 55 percent

NO LONGER ON TEAM: 35 percent

IN THE NFL: 10 percent

OVERVIEW: Like every team on this list, Oklahoma has seen significant thinning out from its 2015 recruiting class, as only a handful of players remain on the roster from that group as others have transferred, gone to the NFL or moved on from football altogether.

The 2016 recruiting class has also seen some steady attrition over the years, as eight players from that cycle remain with the Sooners but only three have gone to the NFL and 10 have left the program, including quarterback Austin Kendall, but there have been no significantly major losses, either.

What has become a trend in this story is that Oklahoma’s 2017 recruiting class has remained largely intact and filled with top performers. Nineteen players from that group remain with the Sooners, including receiver CeeDee Lamb, running backs Kennedy Brooks and Trey Sermon, offensive lineman Creed Humphrey and a host of others.

There have actually been a surprising number of transfers from the 2018 class, with eight players no longer a part of the program but many defensive players who have stayed and contributed greatly to Oklahoma’s success. The 2019 class has seen only two early defections in a class that could be hugely significant to Oklahoma’s success moving forward.

FARRELL’S TAKE: This is a surprisingly low number for Oklahoma because they are viewed as a very stable program under Lincoln Riley. And perhaps 55 percent is stable in this day and age. After all, it’s just a bit below the rest of the playoff field. I’m not sure why they are losing more transfers, but I can tell you one thing: It hasn’t hurt them on the field.

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