Service academy recruiting is a different animal in a number of ways.
First, service academies are not limited by the number of participants and scholarships like other schools. There is a specific clause in the NCAA Manual that states:
126.96.36.199.2.3 Exception—National Service Academies. [FBS] There is no limit on the number of student-athletes who will be attending a national service academy and who may engage in practice activities prior to the institution’s first day of classes or the institution’s first contest, whichever occurs earlier.
As everyone is essentially on scholarship and the 105 participant rule noted above is waived, this means that they can bring in large recruiting classes each year. The official recruiting classes announced by Navy the past two seasons have had 64 and 60 players respectively.
Second, the majority of service academy players will spend their first year at prep school, preparing for the academic rigors of the institution while continuing to practice and work on their athletic craft.
A look at the 64 freshman who were a part of the 2015 official recruiting class at Navy showed that 48 of them attended the Naval Academy Preparatory School, or NAPS, before beginning their freshman year at the Naval Academy. So, 75% of this year's class of freshman would have been a part of the "standard" recruiting cycle two years ago.
That brings me to my third point, which is that the Naval Academy will not officially announce this year's recruiting class until the summer (generally July 1). Unlike most schools, you won't hear any announcements about this year's class for the next six months. The official recruiting class will consist mostly of those incoming players who spent the past year at NAPS with some direct entry players from this year as well.
This makes it difficult to look at who will make up the incoming class in February, because while we can get a relative idea of what players have entered the pipeline, it's unclear to the recruiting services like 247, Rivals, and Scout as to which of these players will actually be enrolling in the fall and which will be headed to prep school next year.
That doesn't mean we won't do our best to get a glimpse of the future of the Navy football program.
Here are the 2016 Navy Football commits according to 247 Sports:
In addition to the 34 commits listed by 247 Sports above, there are 9 other players I have down as being committed to the Midshipmen.
|Kurt Stengel||OG||2 star (scout)||Warminster, PA|
|Emmett Davis||ATH||2 star (scout)||Annapolis, MD|
|Sean Samuels||RB||2 star (scout)||Woolwich Township, NJ|
|Ben Everett||OL||2 star (scout)||Duluth, GA|
|Tyreek King-El||RB||2 star (scout)||Mableton, GA|
|Bradley Osborne||OG||2 star (scout)||Port Orange, FL|
|Brett Leake||DT||2 star (scout)||Culpeper, VA|
|Amari Dubose||ATH||2 star (247)||Jacksonville, FL|
|Chanse Pullen||WR||unranked||Germantown, TN|
According to the 247 Sports composite ranking, there are 11 three star commits in this year's class. The Midishipmen rank 87th in the country according to the same service. While I don't put too much stock in stars and rankings (looking at the 2012 rankings you will find an unranked Keenan Reynolds), I think it is important to note that no other Navy class in the last five years has had more than 5 three star recruits and the highest class ranking during the same period was 104.
There's no doubt that the success on the field is translating into success on the recruiting trail.
People always want to emphasize the challenges of recruiting at a service academy. Certain service academy coaches seem to make sure they are pointing this out every chance they get. There are some obvious and well documented obstacles to recruiting at a service academy for sure, and they do compete against each other and lower divisions for a large number of their recruits, but Coach Niumatalolo and his staff have improved on an already well established foundation in recent years.
Slowly but surely, they have increased the talent level across the board and been able to lure recruits away from the big boys in the process.
Joe Goff, the 3 star DT out of Alexandria, VA and highest rated player in this year's class, had offers from ACC, B1G, and SEC schools.
Looking across the class, Navy commits had offers from every Power 5 conference in the country.
It may be July before we get the official announcement regarding this year's recruiting class, but by all appearances, the needle continues to point upward.
Continuity, culture, and an 11-2 season will do that for you.