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2015 Coaching Changes Make SEC East Recruiting More Difficult

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There are only so many players to go around.

Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

The 2015 coaching carousel is still spinning, but the major changes in the southeast are done. The upshot of those changes is that recruiting in the SEC East footprint is about to become tougher than ever.

The two biggest moves on that front are Mark Richt going to Miami (FL) and Will Muschamp going to South Carolina. Say whatever you want about their coaching acumen, but both are accomplished recruiters. Each was nearly always in the top ten of recruiting rankings at their previous jobs. They also are replacing coaches who seldom if ever were.

Here is a survey of selected power schools that recruit heavily in Florida, and Georgia—the East's two primary recruiting grounds—with ranks coming from the 247Sports Composite:

Team 2011 2012 2013 2014 2015 Average
Florida State 2 3 11 4 3 4.6
Georgia 6 8 12 8 6 8.0
Auburn 5 11 10 6 9 8.2
Florida 11 4 3 9 21 9.6
Clemson 10 15 15 17 8 13.0
South Carolina 17 17 20 19 19 18.4
Miami (FL) 33 10 14 12 27 19.2

You'll note that Carolina and the 'Canes are the two lowest schools in the table. Miami is getting the guy who took UGA to an average of eighth place, while the Gamecocks are getting the guy whose Florida classes averaged 6.8 and who had a not insignificant hand in Auburn's ninth ranked class thereafter.

It is unlikely that Muschamp will get South Carolina to average finishes up where his UF classes were, but it's not unthinkable that he'll improve on Steve Spurrier's average quite a bit. The Head Ball Coach was many things, but a dogged recruiter wasn't one of them.

Miami, meanwhile, has the real advantage of sitting on top of perhaps the nation's most concentrated gold mine of talent. Richt will undoubtedly get that class average up, and it's not unthinkable that he could get it near or even into the top ten based on his work in Athens.

And don't forget that top line team either. LSU tried but failed to pry Jimbo Fisher from Tallahassee. FSU could have ended up with an inferior recruiter in charge, but it didn't. Nor should you ignore the as-yet unmentioned ACC team on the list, Clemson. With the Tigers heading into the College Football Playoff as the No. 1 team, its profile is only growing. There is nothing to suggest that Dabo Swinney is going to slow down.

The jury is still out on Jim McElwain as a recruiter, given how poorly ranked his transitional class was, but he's currently sitting at No. 9 in the 247Sports Composite at present. If he is able to recruit at a high level, it'll be the first time in a long while that all three power schools in Florida have top flight recruiters at the same time.

On top of that, Kirby Smart's Georgia will probably keep bringing in prospects at a high level just like Richt's Georgia did. South Carolina will get better at it, and Clemson doesn't appear set for a fall. Auburn could fall off if things go south for Gus Malzahn, but AU is currently 11th in the Composite with only 17 commits lined up so far. Butch Jones's Tennessee doesn't pull enough players from Florida and Georgia to make my table above, but it has back-to-back top ten Composite classes thanks in part to pulling a combined four players from Florida and 11 from Georgia in them.

And then there are the schools from elsewhere who mine those states too. Former Florida head coaches Urban Meyer and Charlie Strong are on the hunt, as Meyer always snipes a couple blue chippers from his old stomping grounds and Strong got a couple last year. Jim Harbaugh's Michigan may get there too, although he's mostly just snagged three-stars so far. Even Hugh Freeze usually picks up a couple or three blue chippers from the area as well.

Let's not forget Nick Saban either, who usually gets whoever he wants. His Crimson Tide is in the playoff thanks in large part to contributions from Floridians Derrick Henry, Calvin Ridley, and Eddie Jackson along with Georgians Kenyan Drake, and Geno Smith.

There even could be a wild card with Scott Frost taking over the UCF job. He's known for being a great recruiter, and he's the only guy in the region who can sell players on running a close variant of Chip Kelly's offense. I don't see Frost stealing a player who, say, Saban truly wants, but he might pull away guys who would've provided valuable depth for the Power 5 schools that recruit the area.

Recruiting inside the SEC East's footprint is going to be as difficult and competitive as it's ever been. I think that that fact is likely to keep the division in the rut it's been in for a while.

The state of Florida is one of the best producers of talent, but there is only so much that even it can support. Florida, Florida State, and Miami all became prominent and successful in the 1980s. One of the teams appeared in all but one national championship game from the advent of such a game in 1992 up through 2002, and the longest title game drought for them since has been just four years (2009-12). They've been great.

However, they've seldom all been great at the same time. Since 1980, they've all won ten games in the same year just three times: 1991, 1994, and 2000. They've all sported a win percentage of at least .750 in the same season just six times, and none since 2000. Some of that is coincidence due to the rhythm and varying quality of coaching hires, but some of it has to do with who gets how many great recruits from the state.

Florida and Georgia produce plenty of gifted athletes, but there ultimately are only so many to go around. It's one thing to focus on Florida's Big Three like I did for a couple of paragraphs there, but there are seven Power 5 programs (see table above) all fighting to stock their teams in large part with players from those two states. Players who, let me reiterate, will in some part get picked off by the likes of Alabama, Ohio State, Ole Miss, and others. Mizzou is the only regular division contender largely unaffected by all this, but that's because it never rates that highly in recruiting anyway.

Louisiana players largely stay home at LSU. Alabama players largely stay home at Alabama and Auburn. Texas A&M is the only in-state school that can sell SEC affiliation, so it's fine. Mississippi doesn't produce a ton of talent, but it tends to go to Ole Miss or Mississippi State. The West has loyalty working in its favor.

Players from Florida can "stay home" by going to ACC schools FSU and Miami. Players from metropolitan Atlanta can and do cross the border over to the South Carolina schools, which are a manageable car trip away. It's more disjointed and divided for the East division, and it's likely to remain so with so much competition. Before even getting into coaching ability—which is in doubt for all three new East hires due either to inexperience or past experience—it's going to be hard for more than one or two East teams to be great at a time.