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Which AAC Teams are Recruiting the Best Players?

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A numerical look at which teams are best equipped for the future. Good news for Bulls, Knights and Bearcats fans.

Brad Barr-USA TODAY Sports

The much-maligned American Athletic Conference enjoyed an impressive debut season in 2014, with a Fiesta Bowl winner in UCF and another top 15 team in Louisville. The Cards have flown to the ACC, though, and Rutgers has departed for the Big Ten, and with the addition of several former Conference USA schools and the upcoming implementation of divisions in 2015, the conference is going to look much different .

Not only have the teams changed, but the recruiting landscape has as well-- teams like Memphis and Tulane are suddenly forced to recruit players capable of competing on a higher level, while the competition takes a step down for Cincinnati, UConn and USF. Let's take a look at how the conference has recruited over the last couple years, and which teams are poised for future success.

When looking at the strength of a Power Five program's recruiting class, analysts often look at the percentage of blue-chippers -- four and five-star recruits -- on the roster. AAC teams don't recruit at that level, so let's twist this concept a bit. How many three-star-and-up recruits does each school land?

We'll use 247sports' rankings here, since they're the most in-depth. Here are the percentages for each school's 2015 class thus far (remember, we're looking at quality, not quantity here -- thus the percentages that aren't skewed by number of commits).

2015 AAC Recruiting Rankings: Percentage of Commits Rated Three Stars and Up

1. Cincinnati - 90%
2. USF - 89%
3. UCF - 80%
4. East Carolina - 56%
5. Temple - 50%
6. SMU - 46%
7. Houston - 46%
8. Memphis - 44%
9. UConn - 38%
10. Tulane - 33%
11. Tulsa - 0%

You can see that Cincy, USF and UCF have the best 2015 classes so far by a pretty wide margin. Obviously, this method is a bit misleading-- the tags "three-star" and "two-star" are pretty broad, and can apply to a whole range of players at different talent levels. Since 247 offers consensus recruit ratings down to the decimal point, let's sort by average commitment ranking instead.

2015 AAC Recruiting Rankings: Average Commit Rating

1. USF - 82.76
2. Cincinnati - 82.48
3. UCF - 82.07
4. SMU - 80.38
5. Houston - 80.07
6. Temple - 79.46
7. East Carolina - 79.13
8. Memphis - 79.11
9. UConn - 79.06
10. Tulane - 78.98
11. Tulsa - 78.11

This allows us a better look at each class. SMU and Houston are recruiting better than most site rankings would indicate, but that Cincy-USF-UCF trio remains intact.

Still, the 2015 classes are far from finished and are undoubtedly going to fluctuate all over the place before National Signing Day. How does this data play out for the class of 2014-- the freshmen that are eligible to play this season? Here's the data:

2014 AAC Recruiting Rankings: Percentage of Commits Rated Three Stars and Up

1. USF - 96%
2. UCF - 82%
3. Houston - 73%
4. Cincinnati - 67%
5. Temple - 59%
6. Tulane - 45%
7. Memphis - 44%
8. East Carolina - 43%
9. SMU - 42%
10. Tulsa - 35%
11. UConn - 35%

2014 AAC Recruiting Rankings: Average Commit Rating

1. USF - 84.22
2. UCF - 83.71

3. Cincinnati - 81.08
4. Houston - 80.87
5. Temple - 80.06
6. East Carolina - 79.51
7. Tulane - 79.36
8. Tulsa - 79.25
9. Memphis - 78.41
10. SMU - 78.36
11. UConn - 77.81

That same trio is on top, although Houston isn't far behind at all. USF leads the pack here, but the gap is smaller than it might appear.

But these are individual classes. To get a comprehensive picture of how the teams stack up over the last few seasons, let's average together the still-developing 2015 class, 2014 class and 2013 class and see how the numbers look:

2013-Present AAC Recruiting Rankings: Percentage of Commits Rated Three Stars and Up

1. USF - 88%
2. Cincinnati - 81%
3. UCF - 78%
4. Houston - 73%
5. Temple - 51%
6. Tulane - 50%
7. UConn - 50%
8. SMU - 46%
9. East Carolina - 42%
10. Tulsa - 38%
11. Memphis - 31%

2013-Present AAC Recruiting Rankings: Average Commit Rating

1. USF - 83.21
2. UCF - 82.16
3. Cincinnati - 81.92
4. Houston - 81.17
5. SMU - 79.45
6. Tulane - 79.43
7. Tulsa - 79.30
8. Temple - 79.23
9. East Carolina - 79.22
10. UConn - 79.15
11. Memphis - 77.69

So we can pretty clearly tell that USF, UCF and Cincinnati are recruiting the best in the conference by a pretty decent margin, with Houston in the mix as well. The rest is pretty much a logjam until you reach Memphis, who are still trying to recover from some awful classes a few years ago. It's also worth noting that the top three teams will all be competing the same division from 2015 onwards. Yikes.

Each of those top four teams has pretty much seen corresponding success on the field recently, apart from USF. There are a multitude of reasons behind that -- Skip Holtz chief among them -- and it does show that there's more to winning games than recruiting well, but it also shows that the Bulls should expect to be competing with the Knights, Bearcats and Cougars in the top tier of the AAC within the next few seasons as the young, talented recruits gain experience.

The word "should," of course, is key here-- these rankings are by no measure a guarantee of how the conference is going to shape up in the future, and by comparing the overall rankings with the 2015 set we can get a glimpse of how each team is trending. But they do give the best possible picture as to which teams have the most talent.