Someone has to evaluate the recruiting services, right?

Both Rivals and 247Sports recently updated their final rankings of the 2020 recruiting class ahead of college football’s National Signing Day this past Wednesday. But the accuracy of those projections won’t be fairly judged until four or five years from now.

We’ll have to wait to see how each star rating and position ranking fared. But we can look backward at how well the two national recruiting heavyweights have done with Notre Dame recruits in the past.

I started this exercise last year by recounting the recruiting differences from the 2011 class, the first year in which 247Sports had complete star ratings, through the 2015 class. For the sake of sanity — and brevity — I limited the exercise to recruits given different star ratings by the two sites. Sure, Corey Holmes didn’t pan out to be a four-star recruit, but because both Rivals and 247Sports assigned him that rating, it’s not part of this discussion.

In the five Irish recruiting classes spanning from 2011 to 2015, Rivals and 247Sports disagreed on the star ratings of 27 recruits. Last year, I determined that Rivals had the more accurate star rating on 16 of those recruits.

But if I’m going to cast judgment on the star ratings, I should double back on my own analysis too. With another year of information, I decided I incorrectly gave the nod to Rivals for its four-star rating of offensive lineman Sam Mustipher from the 2014 class. That means in the 2011-15 classes, Rivals is operating with a 15-12 lead over 247Sports in the accuracy of star discrepancies.

Now it’s time to update the scoreboard with the 2016 class.

In 2016, Rivals and 247Sports disagreed on the star ratings of eight recruits. One has already been selected in the NFL Draft, two just completed their college careers at Notre Dame, three transferred to other programs and two are returning for fifth years in 2020. Let’s determine which ratings were more accurate.

• CB Julian Love

Rivals: Four stars, No. 21 CB. | 247Sports: Three stars, No. 51 CB, No. 549.

You might remember Love was given a three-star rating by some in high school. That made his rise to Jim Thorpe Award finalist even more special. But Rivals had Love correctly pegged as a four-star recruit.

Love played in all 38 games of his three seasons at Notre Dame and totaled 176 tackles, six tackles for a loss, five interceptions, four fumble recoveries, three touchdowns, one forced fumble and one defensive two-point conversion return. He set Notre Dame’s single-season (20) and career (39) records for pass breakups. Then the 5-foot-11, 195-pound Love was selected in the fourth round of the 2019 NFL Draft by the New York Giants.

The same questions Love faced in high school — size, speed and position projection — led to him slipping in the draft. Still, Love started the last five games of the season for the Giants and recorded 35 tackles, five tackles for a loss and one interception in just six games of extended action.

Rating winner: Rivals.

• S Jalen Elliott

Rivals: Four stars, No. 15 S. | 247Sports: Three stars, No. 29 ATH, No. 434.

Elliott’s Notre Dame career didn’t start off on a four-star path. He struggled in his sophomore season as a first-time starter, but he significantly elevated his play as a junior. Following a solid senior season, Elliott drew rave reviews at the Senior Bowl and was voted the defensive back practice player of the week for the North team.

Elliott started the last 39 games of his Irish career. In that time, Elliott helped the Irish improve their defensive passing efficiency from No. 46 in the FBS in 2017 to No. 5 in 2019. Elliott recorded 173 tackles, 17 passes defensed and six interceptions in 51 games.

Now Elliott has a chance of being selected in the middle rounds of the 2020 NFL Draft.

Rating winner: Rivals.

• CB Donte Vaughn

Rivals: Four stars, No. 20 S. | 247Sports: Three stars, No. 31 CB, No. 353.

Unfortunately and unfairly for Vaughn, a rough outing in the College Football Playoff semifinal loss to Clemson will be his lasting legacy for the Irish. Vaughn’s career started with promise as he tallied 22 tackles, six pass breakups and one interception in 10 games as a freshman in 2016. But Vaughn started as many games as a freshman — four — as he did in his final three seasons at Notre Dame.

Vaughn played in 10 games again as a senior with 16 tackles and five pass breakups along with three starts. Vaughn dealt with injuries to his shoulder and hand throughout his Notre Dame career, including a labrum surgery last offseason.

Rating winner: 247Sports.

• LB Jonathan Jones

Rivals: Three stars, No. 19 ILB. | 247Sports: Four stars, No. 18 OLB, No. 222.

The production peaked for Jones in his sophomore season with 10 tackles, one tackle for a loss and one pass breakup. He added just seven more tackles and one tackle for a loss in the last two seasons as he struggled to find a role beyond special teams.

Jones played in the last 38 games of his Notre Dame career before graduating and enrolling at Toledo for his final year of eligibility in 2020. Even if Jones lands a starting role with the Rockets, he’s unlikely to push his career to a four-star level.

Rating winner: Rivals.

• S D.J. Morgan

Rivals: Four stars, No. 23 S. | 247Sports: Three stars, No. 44 S, No. 612.

Morgan struggled to find the field at Notre Dame. In three seasons with the Irish, Morgan saw action in only two games and recorded two tackles. Though Morgan’s transition from safety to linebacker didn’t pan out at Notre Dame, he found some success last season following a graduate transfer to UConn.

Morgan started 10 games at linebacker and finished fifth on the team with 49 tackles, seven tackles for a loss, and two sacks. He’s returning for the 2020 season to a defense that finished No. 128 (out of 130) in the FBS in scoring defense and No. 116 in total defense.

Rating winner: 247Sports.

• S Devin Studstill

Rivals: Three stars, No. 45 ATH. | 247Sports: Four stars, No. 11 S, No. 241.

Studstill’s Notre Dame career peaked as a freshman in 2016. He started nine games and totaled 38 tackles, one tackle for a loss, one interception and one forced fumble for the 4-8 Irish. Studstill never found his way back into the starting lineup at Notre Dame. In the next two seasons, Studstill played in 17 games and made 22 tackles.

Studstill completed a graduate transfer to South Florida last year. With the Bulls, Studstill started all 12 games and finished second on the 4-8 team with 74 tackles, four tackles for a loss, three pass breakups, two fumble recoveries and one interception.

Studstill, who had four tackles playing in the NFLPA Collegiate Bowl in January, may have a chance to make the NFL. But the three-star rating is more fitting until proven otherwise.

Rating winner: Rivals.

• DE Daelin Hayes

Rivals: Five stars, No. 7 OLB, No. 31. | 247Sports: Four stars, No. 10 OLB, No. 133

Hayes hasn’t lived up to a five-star label yet, but a massive season in 2020 could get him there. A torn labrum in his right shoulder against Virginia in the fourth game of 2019 ended his season, but it also allowed Hayes to retain a year of eligibility and return as a graduate student.

Hayes will no longer have to split time with Julian Okwara at defensive end, but the Irish will likely still work in a rotation. In 41 games through four seasons, Hayes tallied 78 tackles, 14.5 tackles for a loss, six sacks, four fumble recoveries, three pass breakups and one forced fumble.

Rating winner: TBD.

• OL Tommy Kraemer

Rivals: Four stars, No. 4 OT, No. 41. | 247Sports: Five stars, No. 2 OT, No. 8

Kraemer’s five-star reputation has carried into his college career even if his play hasn’t always matched it. Kraemer was named to the preseason and midseason AP All-America teams last year before going down with an MCL sprain in his left knee against Michigan.

Kraemer was playing his best football last year at right guard before the injury. Having him back in the lineup with his 29 career starts will be valuable for the Irish. But can he take the next step and be special? It requires a Quenton Nelson level of performance for a guard to qualify as a five-star prospect.

Rating winner: TBD.

Final tally

Rivals continues to be more accurate in star-rating disputes with 247Sports on Notre Dame recruits. Starting with the 2011 class and working through the 2016 class, Rivals can claim a better rating on 19 of the 33 recruits.

The same sample shows that it pays to be more conservative on rating disagreements. Of those 33 recruits, the lower rating turned out to be more accurate 25 times.

It’s important to remember how high the standards are for each star rating. A five-star recruit should eventually be a first-round pick. A four-star recruit should be drafted or at the very least invited to the NFL Scouting Combine. Even a three-star recruit should become a regular starter.

Rivals and 247Sports disagreed on the star rating of seven of Notre Dame’s 17 signees in the 2020 class. Recent history indicates that Rivals may be the more accurate rating. But the lower rating — regardless of which site assigned it — may be the safest bet.


Twitter: @TJamesNDI