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SEC Football Recruiting Trends

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A look at out-of-state recruiting trends for the SEC West programs Alabama, Auburn, and Mississippi State. A second part covering the rest of the teams in the SEC West is forthcoming.

Elsa

The importance of out-of-state (OOS) recruiting varies between football programs in the SEC. For schools residing in low FBS signee per capita states it can be very important for programmatic success, but even talent-rich states must recruit "abroad", especially in the South.  Every program in the country, regardless of conference, scours the region for prospects increasing competition for a finite resource; thereby forcing SEC schools to diversify their geographic recruiting efforts. For example, The University of Georgia is forced to recruit outside its borders because it competes with in-state program Georgia Tech for Georgia recruits along with every other SEC, ACC, B1G, B12 program canvassing the state.

OOS recruiting can also reflect a program's abilities to project influence outside of the comfortable confines of its state's borders, and that is an aspect of overall worth. OOS recruiting is a cog in the larger prestige machine.

This is the first in a four part series that will attempt to measure the quantity and quality of OOS recruits for every SEC football program between the 2004-2014 signing classes. Some variables - such as coaching changes, programmatic success/failure, and increased/decreased competition - will be highlighted to demonstrate their impact. Part One will examine Alabama, Auburn, and Mississippi State from 2004-2014 signing classes.

Note: For simplification, an attempt was made to filter out JUCO and military academy transfers from the results, and only high school senior signees (not necessarily qualifiers) were counted. Additionally, Rivals ratings were used until the 2010 Class at which point the 247 composite ranking became available.

Alabama

For complete OOS tally click here.

Year

Total Signees

Total OOS

%

OOS 4*

OOS 5*

2004

18

2

11

-

-

2005

29

13

45

3

-

2006

23

11

48

6

-

2007

25

9

36

2

-

2008

32

11

34

8

-

2009

28

16

57

7

1

2010

30

18

60

9

-

2011

25

15

60

9

2

2012

25

16

64

11

2

2013

26

17

65

7

4

2014

24

18

75

8

3

Initial Impressions:

  • The Shula Era ended in 2006 and Saban has been in charge since, if the roster-flipping purges of 2008-2010 weren't apparent. Since taking the helm, both the quantity and quality of OOS recruits has risen to ridiculous levels.
  • The Southern states 'Bama has most of its OOS recruits from are: Georgia, Louisiana, Tennessee, Mississippi, and Texas.
  • Noticeable is the drop in Florida signees since 2007, likely coinciding with the apex of Urban Meyer's power in Gainesville and then continuing with Jimbo Fisher's ascendance to head coach in 2010. Meanwhile, every program in the country competes for the state's recruits.
  • Since 2013 'Bama is picking off select recruits in more geographically diverse places like Minnesota, Michigan, Iowa, Pennsylvania, and New Jersey to name a few. The rise in national prominence is reflected in 'Bama's ability to sign a kid from anywhere.
  • The ebb and flow of assistant coaches and their regional connections also influences OOS recruiting. Curt Cignetti signed a lot of talent out of Tennessee from 2007-2010 for 'Bama, and Kevin Steele has helped sign highly ranked OOS defensive talent east of the Mississippi in each of his Tuscaloosa tours. Bobby Williams is the lead recruiter for most of the signees out of the Midwest the last few cycles.
  • Say what you will about Lane Kiffin but he has always been a strong recruiter. Could his presence on the staff open more doors on The West Coast? That appears to be the intent.
  • Programmatic decline is improbable with the attitudes of the coaching staff, and the future success of recruiting OOS blue chips likely continues as long as Saban and his staff reside in Tuscaloosa.

Auburn

For complete OOS tally click here.

Year

Total Signees

Total OOS

%

OOS 4*

OOS 5*

2004

29

22

76

2

-

2005

22

14

64

2

1

2006

25

15

60

6

-

2007

30

23

76

9

-

2008

29

19

66

3

-

2009

28

11

39

5

-

2010

32

23

72

7

2

2011

24

14

58

11

1

2012

21

15

71

8

-

2013

24

12

50

2

2

2014

25

13

52

7

-

  • Auburn has recruited OOS prospects at an even higher level than Alabama, which I suppose is the result of two major football programs being co-located in a state with finite FBS prospects. Notably, Auburn recruited OOS blue chips well even in the latter Tuberville years.
  • Speaking of Tuberville's staff, they recruited Florida (specifically the Ft. Lauderdale area) successfully. When Chizik started, the Florida recruiting took a hit that has continued. I'd chalk this up to first Meyer and later Fisher putting a fence around the state and hoarding the best prospects, but Chizik's staff may have also had fewer connections.
  • Georgia is Auburn's most important OOS recruiting state both qualitatively and quantitatively.
  • The bounce from the national championship is apparent with the 2011 signing class.
  • When Malzahn was on Chizik's staff they signed three recruits from Arkansas and they were all blue-chips.
  • OL coach Jerry Grimes was at Auburn from 2009-2012, and during that time he signed three four star offensive linemen from out west, underscoring the value of his connections while coaching at Colorado from 2007-2008.
  • The current list of 2015 commits shows, at least early on, a heavy reliance on OOS recruits.

Mississippi State

For complete OOS tally click here

Year

Total Signees

Total OOS

%

OOS 4*

OOS 5*

2004

23

12

52

-

-

2005

29

16

55

-

-

2006

22

11

50

1

-

2007

33

10

30

-

-

2008

27

10

37

-

-

2009

27

8

30

-

-

2010

26

7

27

-

-

2011

22

4

18

-

-

2012

28

9

32

2

-

2013

21

8

38

1

-

2014

24

8

33

-

-

  • By looking at this recruiting chart alone, can you tell when the Croom Era ended and the Mullen Era began? Oddly, the decrease in OOS recruiting really began under Mullen. My theory would be he has done a better job of recruiting Mississippi kids than Croom was a capable. This is laudable in its own right, as the previous charts showed how much Alabama and Auburn recruit the state.
  • Since 2004, MSU has only signed OOS recruits from 9 different states. The vast majority of which have come from Alabama and Georgia. Comparatively, Auburn has done so from 23 different states in the same time period by my count. Alabama has from 22 states.
  • MSU has not been successful recruiting blue chips from OOS. And yet...
  • MSU has a respectable record in the SEC since 2009. Perhaps MSU is an example of a program that is able to win games without successful OOS recruiting. Nevertheless, this is a tight rope to walk. Alabama and Auburn (not to mention Ole Miss) mark the state for plunder, and MSU is forced to hold on to most of the state's best recruits. If not, the undiversified recruiting is vulnerable.
  • Perhaps knowing this, the 2015 commit list is currently comprised of 48% OOS recruits. This is by far the most in the Mullen Era.