by Chris Paschal
The SEC dominated on National Signing Day. It claimed 100 of the ESPN top 300 prospects. The next closest conference was the Big 10, which claimed 59 prospects. On 247 Sports, the SEC claimed 39 of the top 100 prospects. Rivals.com listed 36 of the top 100 prospects as SEC signees. According to Scout Recruiting, the SEC snagged 22 of the top 60. That’s pretty dang good.
And it wasn’t only the top prospects that went the SEC’s way. The SEC was able to recruit well rounded, deep, and talented classes. According to 247 Sports, the SEC made up 12 of the top 30 recruting classes. The next closest conference was the ACC with 6 (if you include Notre Dame).
So the conference recruited well, but that doesn’t really come as a shock. The SEC always recruits well. The more intriguing storyline is which programs within the SEC separated themselves from the rest of the conference. I determined which schools fell into which category based off of this criteria.
1) The talent of the class,
2) Whether or not they addressed areas of weakness on their roster
3) The program’s ability to establish/broaden their presence within the state, and in neighboring states
Georgia: The Bulldogs have always had really good recruiting classes, usually cracking the top 10. But this class is different because of how exceptional it is. Every recruiting expert ranked it within the top 3 nationally. How did Kirby do it? First, he won the state of Georgia. 18 of his 26 commitments came from the state. Second, he stole a few from neighboring states. Georgia snagged an inside linebacker from the state of Alabama and two cornerbacks from the state of Florida. Third, Kirby started the process of making Georgia a national recruiting power. Georgia signed the top ranked recruit out of the state of New York, the top ranked recruit out of Pennsylvania, and while they were at it, signed a 4 star wide receiver out of Philadelphia. Job well done by the Dawgs.
Gem of the class: Deangelo Gibbs, Loganville, Georgia, Safety. May not be the highest ranked recruit for the Dawgs, but at 6-2 205 pounds, Gibbs is the kind of defensive back Kirby Smart loves.
The one that got away: Aubrey Solomon, Leesburg, Georgia, DT. Even with an amazing class, Georgia fans have to hate losing an in-state, 5 star defensive tackle to the Michigan Wolverines.
Alabama: The Crimson Tide was ranked the top recruting class nationally, yet again. Alabama signed the most ESPN Top 300 prospects in ESPN history with 21. It was complete domination. Alabama dominated the states of Alabama and Florida, did well in Texas and Louisiana, signed highly ranked prospects out of Kentucky and California, and even signed the top prospect out of… Hawaii. How does Nick do it?
Gem of the class: Alex Weatherwood, Pensacola, Florida, OT. With Cam Robinson gone, Alabama reloaded at the position with one of the best offensive tackles in this recruiting cycle.
The one that got away: Multiple cornerbacks chose schools other than Alabama. A solid cornerback was a position Nick Saban mentioned throughout the recruiting process as a need.
Auburn: Auburn needed a quarterback. Auburn signed the nation’s highest ranked JUCO prospect in quarterback Jarrett Stidham. Auburn needed to dominate in the state of Alabama. Auburn signed six of the top 15 prospects within Alabama. Auburn also needed to improve its roster. Auburn signed a five star offensive tackle out of Washington, DC. All this while signing three prospects from the state of Florida and six prospects out of Georgia. Auburn did very well for a team that has been only pretty good these past few years.
Gem of the class: Markaviest Bryant, Cordele, Georgia, DE. Everyone thought he was going to LSU or Georgia, but Auburn was the one that signed this great pass rusher, which is huge for the Tigers after losing Carl Lawson.
The one that got away: None. Another win for the Tigers. This was a calm and successful signing day.
South Carolina: Yesterday was a very reassuring day for the Gamecocks. While their recruiting class did not garner as many blue chip prospects as the exceptional classes did, it was still chock full of highly ranked prospects, and even more importantly highly needed prospects. They did it just like Georgia did… from the inside out. First, they won the state of South Carolina. According to ESPN, there were three prospects from the state of South Carolina that were ranked in the Top 300. All three signed with South Carolina. That’s pretty good when the other program in your state is coming off a National Title victory. Next, the Gamecocks competed well in other SEC states. The Gamecocks signed elite Georgia prospects in Chad Terrell, MJ Webb, Aaron Sterling (a former Alabama commit), and of course the stud of the class, cornerback Jaymest Williams who was torn between Georgia and South Carolina until the bitter end. South Carolina also went into the fertile state of North Carolina to address needs on the roster signing an OT from Charlotte, a LB from Rocky Mount, and a S from Southern Pines.
The Gamecocks also started to build a winning SEC roster. To win in the SEC you have to have great play on the offensive and defensive line, as well as have depth throughout the defense. South Carolina signed five offensive linemen, four outstanding defensive linemen, and then signed ten more defensive prospects throughout the back end of the defense. Another weakness Will Muschamp and his staff wanted to address was the lack of speed on his roster. They addressed that weakness in a multitude of ways, but none more effective than the signing of four star wide receiver Shi Smith. Shi reminds me a lot of Ace Saunders. Not only will he be effective in the slot position on offense, but he will be utalized in speed sweeps and in returning kicks. He will be a headache for teams throughout the SEC for years to come. Overall, a very good day for the Gamecocks.
Gem of the class: Jaymest Williams, Loganville, Georgia, CB. This one felt good for Gamecock fans. Williams is a top 100 recruit and was snagged from the clutches of Georgia. Look for Williams to compete for playing time immediately.
The one that got away: South Carolina lost three 4 star prospects throughout the recruting cycle which probably cost the Gamecocks a spot in the “Exceptional” category, but none hurt more than Hamsah Nasirildeen. The top ranked prospect out of North Carolina, Hamsah decommitted from the Gamecocks, and signed with Florida State.
LSU: This was a great first class for Ed Orgeron. First, the Tigers got a quarterback, the Achilles Heel of Les Miles. Second, LSU was able to protect its borders by signing two of the top three players in state, while also being able to pick up prospects out of Florida and Texas. Further, the Tigers were able to land some great signees at positions that matter for Ed Orgeron. The nation’s top ranked safety and top ranked inside linebacker signed with LSU. They also snagged a defensive end and a defensive tackle, both ranked within the top five of their respective position groups. The reason why this class was not as exceptional as Alabama and Georgia, however, was in how it closed with some recruits. Most regarded the Tigers as the clear cut favorite for Dylan Moses, a Louisiana native who picked Alabama fairly early on. Then it was pass rush phenom Markaviest Bryant who signed with Auburn. But the biggest disappointment was how LSU lost out on Marvin Wilson. Wilson was a top five national prospect, the top ranked DT prospect, and the top prospect out of neighboring Texas. In shocking and thrilling fashion, Wilson signed with Florida State, and not LSU. (If only LSU had served him Honey Fried Chicken).
Gem of the class: Myles Brennan, Bay Saint Louis, Mississippi, QB. With the hiring of Matt Canada at Offensive Coordinator, Brennan recommitted to LSU and became the prized quarterback signee the Tigers desperately needed.
The one that got away: As already stated, losing Marvin Wilson was pretty significant.
Good not Great
Florida: Yes, the Gators closed well and signed a top 15 class by many regards. But the Gators got killed at home! The Gators signed one. ONE top 20 in-state prospect. That is unacceptable if you’re a Florida fan. If Florida had even signed three or four of the state’s top prospects this would have been a top 10 or top 5 class.
Texas A&M: The Aggies signed a highly ranked class. They did a great job recruiting their home state of Texas, they signed highly recruited players, and they addressed a lot of needs. Except one. Where is the quarterback?! The Aggies have been plagued by horrible quarterback play, especially when the starter goes down, and the Aggies signed one, lightly recruited quarterback. That’s troublesome.
Tennessee: In my opinion, Tennessee, while signing some blue chip prospects, has the fourth best recruiting class in the SEC East. While the Volunteers did steal on of the best prospects in the entire nation out of Memphis in Trey Smith, the rest of the Volunteer class reeled in some solid but not exceptional prospects. On the one hand, that’s fine considering how well Tennessee continues to recruit. On the other hand, it almost feels like the momentum Butch Jones had built up in Knoxville is starting to decay.
Mississippi State/Kentucky: Both Dan Mullen and Mark Stoops did really well for being sort of mid to bottom tier football programs. Mullen had a class that would have been good enough for the second place ranking in the Big 12, but in the SEC it lands him at ninth. Mark Stoops fell outside the top 25 nationally, but in the weaker Eastern division, keeping it close to the big boys is all Kentucky fans need to see to keep the faith.
If only we weren’t in the SEC…
Arkansas has a top 30 class, which lands them at second to last in the SEC West rankings. Vanderbilt is considered, by many, to be the conference doormat. But Derek Mason and his staff feel confident in where their program is heading. Look out for Alabama native Jacob Free, a quarterback ranked in the position group’s top 25 prospects to play a big role in seasons to come for the Commodores.
This Isn’t Good
Ole Miss: Yes, they did better than I expected but with the NCAA cloud looming over Oxford, Mississippi, the Rebels barely managed to pull together a top 30 recruting class. It was good for dead last in the SEC West. For a program that had been experiencing top 10 recruting classes, this finish had to be alarming and unnerving. The Rebels did sign a monster though in wide receiver D.D. Bowie who was highly recruited by other SEC schools.
Missouri: Missouri had a pretty mediocre class, even by Missouri’s standards. The Tigers are recruiting like they deserve to be in the Big 12. Oh wait…
(Image from scout.com)