Mid-Summer Report Card: Grading SEC recruiting
While some of the numbers tells us it's further along, the college football calendar tells us we're just beyond the midpoint in tracking the recruiting class of 2024. After a flurry of June and early July verbal commitments, Rivals checks in on every program in the SEC to issue a summer grade on the recruiting front.
As per usual the last several recruiting cycles, Alabama isn't winning the numbers race in the offseason, sitting at just one dozen verbal commitments. However, the program has picked up momentum of late, adding five pledges since June began.
The defensive haul features many of the newest names on the list, including a pair of flips in linebacker Justin Okoronkwo (flipped from Maryland) and Isaia Faga (Utah). Many elite targets remain, of course, and we expect the Crimson Tide to continue to push up the ranks around headliner and Elite 11 MVP quarterback Julian Sayin.
The Hogs are ranked in the top half of the league at the moment, representing a high mark for the program under the direction of Sam Pittman over the last several cycles. Staying there is a bigger storyline, especially with the expected runs elsewhere in the league from programs Arkansas currently sits ahead, such as Alabama, Auburn and perhaps South Carolina.
Still, the class is strong close to home, with several in-staters still to decide, with a nice balance elsewhere, including multiple additions from Alabama, Texas and Mississippi. Pittman focused on the trenches more than most and it is where the class headliners lie for the program in Charleston Collins and Kavion Henderson to date.
The Tigers are tied with Missouri for the fewest verbal commitments in the league, with just 10 to date, but the quality for Hugh Freeze's group is there. If sorted by average star rating, Auburn trails only No. 1 Georgia with a 3.80 mark with its haul, including in-state pass rusher Malik Blocton, who jumped on the commitment list Sunday.
Seven of the 10 pledges are from within Alabama state lines, a strong trend relative to the previous staff in town. The numbers will jump here soon, but the AU foundation is rock solid to date, led by quarterback Walker White, though surprisingly AU is recruiting a bit better on defense at the moment.
Few programs in the league or elsewhere enjoyed the summer run Florida did, adding double-digit recruits to the top-five national haul since June began. The class began with elite talent, from quarterback DJ Lagway to linebackers Myles Graham and Adarius Hayes, and it has supplemented with critical wins in the trenches ever since.
The Gators have made waves in enemy territory, too, winning heavy SEC clashes for Georgia natives Michai Boireau and Amir Jackson along the way. Billy Napier and Co. have addressed needs up front, including Monday's commitment from Fletcher Westphal, and the secondary appears to be the next group to target.
Bulldog fans should stop and smell the roses for what Kirby Smart has done on the trail, even without an end in sight to this dominant stretch. The program is running away with the top recruiting class in the land in mixing conventional, elite recruiting on defense and in the trenches, while mixing in the modern with a stunning two-quarterback haul of Dylan Raiola and Ryan Puglisi and hitting on a higher level of talent among its pass catchers as well.
The largest class in the country behind only Stanford, UGA also somehow sits as the second-best in average star rating behind only Ohio State, which has eight fewer commitments on board. Smart's class isn't yet complete, either.
The Wildcats have expanded their recruiting footprint under Mark Stoops and the 2024 cycle features evidence in 10 states represented on the commitment list to date. Most importantly, though, Kentucky has done well close to home including class headliner and blue-chip quarterback Cutter Boley.
Offensive lineman Aba Selm and tight end Willie Rodriguez, the highest-ranked in-staters beyond Boley, are also committed to Big Blue. More star power out-of-state is needed, though, if the program is to make a run at a top-10 SEC finish, something Stoops has accomplished just once in the last four cycles.
Brian Kelly's class has a lot going for it – star power, volume and plenty of local flavor. LSU holds the commitment of the top three prospects in Louisiana who have committed while playing favorites for nearly all of the rest in the top 10.
The national top-10 haul features a pair of Rivals100 gets in tight end Trey'Dez Green as well as linebackers Kolaj Cobbins and recent pledge Xavier Atkins. The class has only two Texans on board to date, but LSU will have a play at some of the top talent from the state before the cycle comes to a close, likely pairing with its fate among top undeclared prospects in Louisiana to create the Tigers' recruiting ceiling.
Given all that's happened in Starkville, the Bulldogs sitting above South Carolina, Kentucky and Auburn in any recruiting ranking for the 2024 cycle has to play like a major win. As one may expect, Mississippians dominate the summer commitment list for Zach Arnett's program, filling nine of 15 spots to date – but the group remains offensive-laden.
Mississippi State has gone head to head with rival Ole Miss for key wins at wide receiver such as JJ Harrell and Braylon Burnside, as well as along the offensive line in Jimothy Lewis and for linebacker Fred Clark, a former Rebel commitment.
It had been a slow start for the Tigers on the trail until very recently, where the Ft. Lauderdale (Fla.) St. Thomas Aquinas trio of James Madison, Nicholas Rodriguez and Justin Bodford helped to spark a run of pledges for Eli Drinkwitz's program. All but two of Mizzou's 10 commitments have come this summer and all eyes are on the Tigers' chances to make a run at the immense talent among in-state prospects still on the board in the cycle such as five-stars Williams Nwaneri and Ryan Wingo.
Winning one or both of those battles would curb perception in a hurry, but the field plays as the favorite for each at this time.
The summer has been great for Lane Kiffin's program, already sitting with more commitments from the high school ranks than all of last cycle at 17. Losing longtime quarterback commitment and face of the class Demond Williams stings, despite some new QB offers being sent out.
But the defensive class looks strong. Top in-state cornerback Patrick Broomfield is on board along with multiple safety types, including the flip of Wake Forest pledge Andy Jaffe in June. Solving the QB issue, to pair with a large offensive line group already on board, will go a long way moving forward.
The Gamecocks came out of the gates hot this cycle, particularly in-state against rival Clemson, winning out for several key cogs such as offensive lineman Kam Pringle and wide receiver Mazeo Bennett. South Carolina has also held off many others for quarterback pledge Dante Reno, an Elite 11 finalist, who has been courted by other programs over the last several months.
The volume isn't quite there relative to the rest of the league, but many big fish like five-star Dylan Stewart remain on the board for Shane Beamer's staff. The on-field product could factor in here, too.
The Vols' 2024 class has strong optics to its favor, getting in early with key members of the group including quarterback Jake Merklinger, who has been on board while most of the 16-man class has been built. The offensive and defensive line hauls are each SEC-worthy, with more room to add to the trench hauls going forward.
Somewhat surprisingly, though, the skill position groups are a tad lacking after what Tennessee put on tape in 2022, and losing a pair of wide receiver pledges to SEC foes doesn't help. In-state, Boo Carter was a strong get atop the Volunteer State elites, but the Vols have missed out on nearly the rest of the state's top-10 prospects to date.
Wake up, everyone, Texas A&M is starting to recruit like it did in that historic 2022 cycle. The Aggies have a two-QB class, profile hot at the right time this offseason and just pulled the stunner of the summer in landing top 25 overall recruit Cam Coleman from longtime favorite Auburn's backyard.
Jimbo Fisher's bunch has shot into the national top 10 and looks poised to continue to make a run at top talent on defense, where it has just six projected players on the current commitment list. If not for a slower start, the Aggies could be sitting in the top five nationally amid this offensive-laden recruiting run.
Last alphabetically, but not in the rankings, Vanderbilt has been quite busy on the trail. In fact, only No. 1 Georgia holds more pledges in the league than Vandy's 21, with a whopping 16 new commitments coming since the first weekend of June.
Another program with multiple quarterbacks on board, the two of the first pledges VU brought in overall to get the class going, there is a strong balance on the list between skill players and the trenches.