The month of July typically sees a lot of football recruiting news breaking in the Southeastern Conference. This is towards the end of camp season, and the prep talent wishing to end their recruitment prior to their senior high school seasons are on the cusp of making their decisions. A flurry of late summer commits can also provide momentum heading into the football season, and have a cumulative effect on similar or better recruits. As Bud Elliot has thoroughly pointed out, it takes a certain percentage of blue-chip recruits to compete for national championships. Recruiting is the programmatic lifeblood of successful programs. At the end of the day, athletic talent makes up for missed assignments, inevitable attrition, bad play-calling, and half-ass motivations.
Part One: Current State of Recruiting In The SEC West
A lot will happen between today and the first week of February when football recruitniks across the land call in sick to work in unison in order to watch our coaches through webcams stand around fax machines drinking coffee. Recruiting rankings (assuming you put stock into them in the first place) will inevitably rise and fall. There could be: decommitments, an individual's ranking increases, an individual's ranking decreases, academic causalities, and several other possibilities. A school's intended signing class also affects the final rankings, and that can vary dramatically over the rest of the year depending on attrition, early jumps to the NFL, or something else entirely. With that giant disclaimer out of the way, let's take a look at the current state of recruiting rankings in the SEC East.
|Rivals: July 23, 2014|
|Team||2015 Signing Class Size (est.)||Number of Commitments||Number of Four- or Five-Stars||% Blue Chips||Overall Ranking||SEC Ranking|
- South Carolina has had a tremendous recruiting cycle, and winning 33 games in 3 seasons likely has a lot to do with the success on the recruiting trail. South Carolina has seen its efforts to diversify its recruiting geography pay off, and the odds of signing even more blue chips is a foregone conclusion. A top five class is almost assured.
- Tennessee's recruiting run continues unabated. Doubters who thought last cycle's high rating was largely the result of an unusual number of legacy recruits are being confronted with a stark reality. This year's class probably doesn't end up as high as last year's, but will certainly finish in the overall top ten.
- Georgia under Mark Richt has had over a 50% blue-chip ratio every year for the last 11 years. There's no reason to suspect it won't continue.
- Despite Missouri's already high blue chip ratio, it could have been even higher if local talent had chosen to stay in-state. Alas, when the siren calls of top-shelf programs like Oregon and Alabama beckon its hard to keep highly rated recruits from leaving. In any case, Gary Pinkel has never earned kudos from his recruiting prowess but continues operating a successfull program in Columbia.
- Like South Carolina, Kentucky has diversified its recruiting grounds away from competitive southern states and carried the SEC brand into Ohio and Mid-Atlantic region. The results are the two highest recruiting class ever at UK despite subsequent 2-10 seasons. This year's signing class is probably more vulnerable to a poor season than the previous two, and on-field victories are needed to keep a few of the higher rated prospects in the fold.
- Other teams' recruiting rankings vulnerable to regular season performances are probably Florida and Vanderbilt. Both teams could very well be improved this season, but their final record's may still only hold serve or show marginal improvement given the SEC gauntlet. If that happens Florida is either dealing with the short-term turmoil of a coaching change on one hand, or dealing with another cycle of negative recruiting regarding Muschamp's job security. For Vandy, the narrative that only James Franklin can win big in Nashville will be the lead pitch in negative recruiting.
It's still a long way to National Signing Day, and the recruiting rankings above are very fluid. South Carolina probably holds on to the top spot in the East, and the race for second between Georgia and Tennessee will be interesting to watch. If Florida has a successful season it's final rankings will likely be in the Top 10-15 range. Unlike the western division, the final recruiting rankings in the East appear be more influenced by the upcoming season.
What say you? What other narratives does the data bring to mind?