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SEC State of Recruiting One Month From NSD

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National Signing Day is less than a month away. Which SEC teams appear poised to be the big winners?

Marvin Gentry-USA TODAY Sports

With the 2014-2015 season in the books, restless football fans turn their focus to National Signing Day. The first Wednesday of February is an important one for coaches as it could be the big pay-off for a year (or maybe more) of selling their vision to teenagers with a particular set of skills. It's also a big day for fans, as it's the culmination of angst, exhilaration, and other emotions that fell across a wide spectrum during the recruiting period.

It's also a day that increasingly feels like a holiday of sort with its own unique rituals. It's the day circled on your calender with "Call In Sick" written in the middle. It's the day that message board forums are constantly being refreshed; crossed looks are received from significant others while one watches co-eds operate fax machines through blurry web cams.  It's another opportunity for fans to beat their chests, and rub salt in the wounds of their rivals. The adoration for prospects becomes official; that is unless they don't pick-up and put-on your team's hat, in which case look out 17 year-old's Twitter mentions.

For the SEC, a successful NSD could go a ways towards washing away the bitter taste of the bowl season, and remind college football fans which conference accrues the most talent. As Bud Elliot has thoroughly pointed out, it takes a certain percentage of blue-chip recruits to compete for national championships. Recruiting serves as the lifeblood of successful programs. Acquire the best possible raw materials and develop them over time, and you'll win more than you lose–or so goes the axiom. At the end of the day, athletic talent makes up for missed assignments, inevitable attrition, bad play-calling, and half-ass motivations.

With that reminder of why recruiting is important, let's delve into how each SEC team looks heading into these final weeks. All standard recruiting ranking caveats apply.

SEC West Standings

Rivals: January 11th, 2015
Team 2015 Signing Class Size (est.) Number of Commitments Number of Four- or Five-Stars % Blue Chips Overall Ranking SEC Ranking
Alabama 26 26 19 73 1 1
Texas A&M 23-24 22 11 50 8 4
Auburn 25 20 10 50 12 5
Miss. St. 26 26 6 23 16 7
LSU 21-25 16 10 63 17 8
Arkansas 20-23 18 8 44 22 9
Ole Miss 17-20 16 6 38 23 10

Impressions:

  • Alabama is putting on a recruiting clinic and we all must bear witness. Florida State has an outside chance of catching up with Alabama, but otherwise the Crimson Tide will claim the top spot for the fifth year in the row. They are on pace with their historical rate of an already ridiculously high 73% blue-chip rate. Losing two Sugar Bowls in a row hasn't had an impact on the recruiting trail.
  • Mississippi State has assembled a heralded class by capitalizing on a strong in-state crop of recruits. Many of these recruits were committed prior to the State's strongest season in some time. Dan Mullen's decision to stay in Starkville has helped to keep this borderline Top 15 class together. Go ahead and give recruiting coordinator Tony Hughes a bonus ASAP.
  • Auburn is currently a bit below its historical 53%, but it is targeting some highly-rated recruits with its last spots. Presumably, Auburn will close strong and finish with a Top 10 class since it has around five spots left to dole out.
  • LSU will close strong. The Tigers have around ten more spots to dole out, and there are still several highly-rated in-state recruits who remain uncommitted. It's nearly impossible to beat LSU among Louisiana kids historically and LSU sells playing early.
  • Ole Miss' class appears to be nearly finished, but could move up a few more spots if they're able to land a few blue chips they are targeting. 247's crystal ball shows Ole Miss is still in the hunt for a few elite prospects.
  • Arkansas has an impressive blue chip ratio in this class, especially considering its ratio has been around 20% since 2011. Bret Bielema and his staff have largely built this class with highly ranked linemen and tight ends. Arkansas has also fended off SEC West competitors and locked up several in-state blue chips.

SEC East Standings

Rivals: January 11th, 2015
Team 2015 Signing Class Size (est.) Number of Commitments Number of Four- or Five-Stars % Blue Chips Overall Ranking SEC Ranking
UGA 26 26 12 47 5 2
UT ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ 28 16 57 6 3
SCAR 26-27 26 11 42 13 6
UK 20-23 17 4 24 36 11
Mizzou 18-22 15 5 33 44 12
Vandy 15-19 15 2 13 59 13
Florida 25 8 0 0 93 14

Impressions:

  • Last July, South Carolina was ranked third in the country, but an underachieving season by Gamecock standards, and perhaps the lack of a coaching succession plan, seems to have played a role in a recent string of decommitments. South Carolina will still likely end up with a ranking the envy of the vast majority of programs, but it had a shot at a borderline Top 5 class a few months ago.
  • 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. How Butch Jones and his staff continue to sign such large classes is something I'm still trying to understand, and improbably they may not yet be done.
  • Georgia under Mark Richt has had over a 50% blue-chip ratio every year for the last 11 years, and if UGA closes strong that streak will continue. Incredible, and consistent, recruiting success feels ho-hum.
  • 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, it's 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 successful program in Columbia.
  • Kentucky held off Michigan to secure the services of its recruiting coordinator Vince Marrow, which may be the Wildcats' biggest recruiting win this cycle. UK's class looked like it had a chance have its highest finish for a third year in a row, but having a blue chip commit flipped by Ohio State and losing one of Kentucky's best ever recruits to Alabama almost certainly prevents UK from a Top 25 finish. Winning more ball games doesn't necessarily translate to a higher recruiting ranking.
  • Vanderbilt and Florida round-out the SEC recruiting rankings, which isn't too surprising given their seasons. The Gators underwent a coach change, and the new staff wasn't in place until recently. It's Florida, and "early playing time" is a pitch that would make sense at several positions. Florida likely will have the nation's highest percentage change in recruiting rankings by NSD. Vandy may not be taking any more commitments and probably finishes with a ranking close to what it now has.