SEC Recruiting Grades
By Matthew Osborne
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The SEC once again dominated on the recruiting trail in 2013.
After another hectic National Signing Day, head coaches throughout the country can now breathe a temporary sigh of relief before spring practice gets cranked up.
With most team’s recruiting class completely solidified, let’s take a look at how each SEC school fared in recruiting this year.
Would you expect anything less from the team that has won three of the last four BCS national championships? Nick Saban is a tireless recruiter, and his hard work has paid tremendous dividends for the Crimson Tide in recent seasons. Over half of Alabama’s signees are ranked among the top 100 prospects in the country, making this another elite recruiting class in Tuscaloosa.
The Razorbacks have never been a great recruiting team, but a bevy of off-the-field issues made this a down year in recruiting even by their standards. Landing five-star running back Alex Collins (we think) late in the process will be a bonus, but Arkansas needs to recruit better in order to keep up with the rest of the SEC West. Bret Bielema will have a chance to prove his recruiting prowess with next year’s class.
Considering the struggles on the field this past season, this recruiting class has to be considered a pleasant surprise for the Tigers. Auburn signed a number of JUCO players who will have an immediate impact on the Plains, but also did a nice job of landing a fair amount of top-level high school talent. The Tigers had a nice Signing Day, landing Montravius Adams, Johnathan Ford and Elijah Daniel, most notably.
Florida parlayed its success on the gridiron this season into outstanding success on the recruiting front. The Gators are always an elite recruiting program due to the benefit of being the flagship program in a state filled with high school talent, but Will Muschamp took this class to the next level. Led by five-star cornerback Vernon Hargeaves III, the Gators are very talented on defense in this class.
The Bulldogs are helped slightly by the fact that they signed 30 prospects, but this is still a very solid pull for Mark Richt. Unlike the past couple of seasons though, this class does not contain the star prospect at the top. At the end of the day, this is a very strong class that will help Georgia win a lot of games in the future. Defense is undoubtedly the strength for the Dawgs’ class.
Kentucky’s recruiting class is not going to close the gap between the Wildcats and the remainder of the SEC East, but new head coach Mark Stoops did a very nice job closing out the class. Landing four-star prospects Marcus McWilson and Jason Hatcher was a nice way to end the 2013 class for the Wildcats. If nothing else, Kentucky has generated a bit of momentum for 2014.
As is the case for Alabama, the Tigers are reaping the benefits of their continued success on the gridiron. Not surprisingly, LSU’s best position in this class is likely the defensive line, where the Tigers signed a number of talented prospects. With classes like the one Les Miles just brought in, there is no reason to believe that the Tigers will fall off the map any time soon.
Keeping five-star defensive end Chris Jones away from Ole Miss was a nice victory for the Bulldogs on Signing Day. The Bulldogs placed a heavy emphasis on bringing in offensive skill players in this class, and many of those prospects will have a chance to see the field early in Starkville. This is a good class for Mississippi State, although it is unfortunate for Dan Mullen that the rest of the SEC recruited so well.
Missouri’s first season in the SEC was an up-and-down experience, and the Wildcats aren’t faring much better in recruiting. The Tigers don’t have a marquee signee in this class, but Gary Pinkel’s squad gets better at just about every position. Missouri did much better at recruiting outside of the “Show Me” state towards the end of the recruiting cycle, although it was an uninspiring Signing Day performance.
It is impossible not to be impressed with the job that Hugh Freeze did in his first full recruiting cycle at Ole Miss. The Rebel’s recruiting class got off to a fairly good start, but no team in the country finished stronger. Signing Day was particularly kind to the Rebels, as Ole Miss landed signatures from Robert Nkemdiche, Laremy Tunsil, Antonio Conner and Austin Golson, to name a few.
Unlike the past few seasons, the Gamecocks were unable to land one of the nation’s truly elite prospects this time around. Larenz Bryant and Kelsey Griffin are very good defensive recruits, but there aren’t many signees in this class who will be able to compete for early playing time. The good news for the Gamecocks is they also did not sign many prospects who won’t eventually contribute in Columbia.
Credit to Butch Jones for finishing the class off nicely, but there is an abnormal number of “reach” prospects in this class. Jones worked tirelessly to bring the Vols into contention with many top prospects down the stretch, which paid some nice dividends on Signing Day. This is a decent haul for Tennessee, but there is reason to believe recruiting will pick up for the Vols very soon.
Signing over 30 prospects will help even the best teams improve their program. Taking advantage of their unique “southwest” presence, the Aggies signed a slew of talented prospects who will make an immediate impact in College Station. Most of A&M’s top signees come on the offensive side of the ball, where prospects are certainly intrigued by Kevin Sumlin’s explosive scheme.
When he’s not causing controversy, James Franklin really does work as hard as any coach in the nation on the recruiting trail. Capitalizing on his team’s success on the gridiron, Franklin has made it cool to play football at Vanderbilt, which has not been the case in a long time. This class lacks an influx of star power at the top, but Vanderbilt has once again improved its depth this year.
For ACC Recruiting Grades, click here.