NSD 2018 Wrap-Up: Ranking the SEC classes
The class of 2018 is officially off the clock as National Signing Day has come and gone. So how did everything shake out at the conference level? Today we take a look at the Rivals.com Team Recruiting Rankings in the SEC and offer some commentary on the biggest hits and misses for each program.
Note: These team rankings are as of Feb. 13 and are subject to change.
GEORGIA - No. 1 in SEC, No. 1 nationally
The Good: Georgia finished with the No. 1 class nationally, and it really wasn’t that close. It is hard to focus on a few of their top signees, but if you have to, quarterback Justin Fields, cornerback Tyson Campbell and edge rusher Adam Anderson are three. Georgia flipping Quay Walker from Alabama and Otis Reese from Michigan were big Signing Day stories.
The Bad: There is not much you can say here. Like all schools, Georgia missed on some targets, and one is in-state cornerback Kyler McMichael, who signed with Clemson, but when you sign 26 players and you finish with the top class in the country, there is not a lot that went wrong.
ALABAMA - No. 2 in SEC, No. 7 nationally
The Good: Alabama signed a good class, but at No. 7, that is not what the Crimson Tide are used to. It closed strong with five-star wide receiver Jaylen Waddle and five-star cornerback Patrick Surtain, Jr. The news of signing Surtain, Jr. was one of the top stories of the day. The Tide had a big need at defensive back and they signed five, so that was a strength of this class.
The Bad: The Crimson Tide usually doesn’t have bad news on Signing Day, but Bobby Brown flipped to Texas A&M, Quay Walker flipped to Georgia and they lost the top prospect in their state, five-star wide receiver Justyn Ross, to Clemson.
AUBURN - No. 3 in SEC, No. 12 nationally
The Good: Auburn signed 24 and a had a relatively quiet National Signing Day, but they really brought in a lot of skill guys. Asa Martin, Joey Gatewood, Matthew Hill and Seth Williams are a few to be excited about. Gus Malzahn and Chip Lindsey will have plenty of guys to build an exciting offense with in this class.
The Bad: Offensive line may be a concern in this class. The Tigers really wanted to add another tackle, but didn’t in the end. That, and losing Justyn Ross, the top prospect in their state to Clemson, were the two biggest disappointments.
LSU - No. 4 in SEC, No. 13 nationally
The Good: The Tigers locked up a good portion of their class in December and capped off the early Signing Period by landing five-star wide receiver Terrace Marshall, Jr. on Dec. 22. After an offseason filled with cautious optimism about the future direction of the offense, the Tigers did enough to convince several elite wide receivers that they should play their college ball in Baton Rouge. Landing Rivals100 defensive back Kelvin Joseph at the U.S. Army All-American Game was huge from both a perception and on-field stand point and capping the class off with Rivals100 wide receiver Ja’Marr Chase on Signing Day was also big.
The Bad: Landing Chase on Signing Day was huge, but the school known as “DBU” had to spend last Wednesday watching as Rivals100 Mario Goodrich spurned one Death Valley for another and signed with Clemson. That was quickly followed by the most painful loss in the entire class for LSU, as five-star defensive back and longtime Tigers lean Patrick Surtain announced and signed with rival Alabama.
TEXAS A&M - No. 5 in SEC, No. 16 nationally
The Good: The Aggies made a furious close to the 2018 class, landing eight players on National Signing Day and pushing all the way to No. 16 in the final Rivals.com Team Recruiting Rankings. The biggest win was flipping four-star defensive lineman Bobby Brown from Alabama, but beating out Florida State for three-star quarterback James Foster was also impressive. Add in elite players like four-star defensive back Leon O’Neal and four-star wide receiver Jalen Preston and the new staff in College Station can feel pretty good about their first class.
The Bad: It seemed like everything was going to break Texas A&M’s way on Signing Day, but that streak of luck finally ran out when five-star wide receiver Jaylen Waddle announced for Alabama instead of the Aggies. The electric wide receiver’s decision hurt not only because of his skills and the fact that he’s an in-state kid, but also because the Aggies will have to see him once a year in conference play.
FLORIDA - No. 6 in SEC, No. 18 nationally
The Good: If some people were to be believed heading into Signing Day, the sky was falling in Gainesville. Several top targets were rumored to be heading elsewhere and the Gators fans were nervous. But by the time the dust settled back on the fax machine at the Gators headquarters, all was well. Florida closed with a trio of four-stars, highlighted by edging out Tennessee and Alabama for Rivasl250 wide receiver Jacob Copeland.
The Bad: Florida seemed to be the leader in the clubhouse for the nation’s No. 1 offensive tackle, Nick Petit-Frere, but the Gators had to stand by and watch while the five-star announced his decision to leave the state and head north to play for Urban Meyer and Ohio State. At least Petit-Frere is headed out of state, but he would have been a huge recruiting victory for Dan Mullen and the new staff in Gainesville.
SOUTH CAROLINA - No. 7 in SEC, No. 19 nationally
The Good: South Carolina didn’t have much work to do after the Early Signing Period but the program did have a couple of reasons to celebrate late in the process. The Gamecocks landed four-star offensive lineman Dylan Wonnum a few days before Signing Day, edging out Tennessee and others. Then on Signing Day, four-star defensive tackle Rick Sandidge made his decision to head to Columbia as well, over options like Georgia and North Carolina.
The Bad: It was a good year for high-end talent in the state of South Carolina, especially if you factor in five-star defensive end Xavier Thomas, who finished his career at IMG Academy in Florida. But despite landing several quality in-state players, South Carolina didn’t reel in the best of the best. Thomas, who the Gamecocks pursued heavily, as well as five-star wide receiver Derion Kendrick both ended up at Clemson, while Columbia-area native Channing Tindall spurned the Gamecocks for rival Georgia.
TENNESSEE - No. 8 in SEC, No. 20 nationally
The Good: The new staff in Knoxville is working to re-load the roster with talent and did a great job working the junior college ranks to add players who could have an instant impact. Among them were early signing period addition Dominick Wood-Anderson, who chose the Vols over Alabama, as well as four-star defensive linemen Emmit Gooden and Jordan Allen. That trio will have big expectations, as will Rivals100 linebacker J.J. Peterson, who the Vols also nabbed away from the Tide.
The Bad: Tennessee swung for the fences with several elite prospects in the lead up to National Signing Day, hosting five-star defensive backs Tyson Campbell, Isaac Taylor-Stuart and Olaijah Griffin. Unfortunately for Vols fans, the school couldn’t reel any of the big fish in on Signing Day. That coupled with the loss of Vols legacy and Knoxville native and five-star offensive lineman Cade Mays to Georgia during the early signing period kept that Vols class from being much higher in the final rankings.
MISSISSIPPI STATE - No. 9 in the SEC, No. 25 nationally
The Good: The Bulldogs won the state battle and really did a great job of securing early commitments from prospects in their home state. Mississippi State signed the top four prospects (Malik Heath, Jaden Crumedy, Kwatrivous Johnson and Marcus Murphy), five of the top seven and eight of the top 15 in Mississippi. Devonta Jason was a huge pull out of Louisiana too.
The Bad: They did not close as well as they had hoped. They lost Myles Mason, a long-time commit to Arkansas. At one time, the Bulldogs led for Eddie Smith, but the Louisiana cornerback signed with Alabama. Griffin McDowell flipped to Florida late, so that one left a hole on the offense line.
OLE MISS - No. 10 in SEC, No. 27 nationally
The Good: Matt Luke finished with a top 25 class, so that is something to be proud of. The Rebels flipped quarterback Matt Corral from Florida and signed three four-star wide receivers for him to throw to in the future. Demarcus Gregory committed very early in the process, then the Rebels flipped Elijah Moore from Georgia in December and got big new late from Miles Battle.
The Bad: Mississippi State had a much better year with the in-state talent, so the Rebels will look to do a much better job there in 2019. Ole Miss only signed two of the top 15 prospects in their home state and that can’t happen this next cycle if they want to have a top class.
KENTUCKY - No. 11 in SEC, No. 30 nationally
The Good: The Wildcats capped off their 2018 class with the addition of four-star Ohio linebacker Chris Oats, continuing a trend of excellent recruiting in the state. With so few Power Five prospects in their own backyard, the ‘Cats have gotten creative in recent years, including in this class when prospects from seven different states and two different countries joined the fold. A successful 2017 season has only helped the Cats efforts to expand their recruiting footprint.
The Bad: As mentioned above, the Wildcats don’t have a plethora of elite talent in their own backyard, but not signing one player from the Bluegrass State is pretty surprising. Players like four-stars Tahj Rice and Justice Dingle left to go to Duke and Georgia Tech, while other players from Kentucky ended up at West Virginia, Purdue and Vanderbilt. The staff obviously has their own evaluations, but maintaining local ties is also important.
MISSOURI - No. 12 in SEC, No. 41 nationally
The Good: Missouri likes the throw the ball around in its offense and the Tigers signed a strong group of receivers this cycle. It was a big need in this class and they appear to have met that. Harry Ballard III is one to watch early with him coming out of the junior college ranks. A sleeper could be Khamari Thompson, a speedster out of Georgia.
The Bad: The state of Missouri had four, four-stars in the 2018 class and the Tigers only kept one at home. Daniel Parker, Jr. is the No. 6-ranked prospect in the state, so Missouri lost the top five to other programs. Michael Thompson, the state's No. 2 prospect, spurned the Tigers for Oklahoma on National Signing Day.
VANDERBILT - No. 13 in SEC, No. 46 nationally
The Good: The Commodores continue to recruit nationally to find players that fit both their academic profile and football requirements. This year’s class was highlighted by four-star Alston Orji from Texas, as well as four-star New Jersey offensive lineman Daniel Dawkins. The school also focused on more prospects from Tennessee, with four-stars Brendon Harris and Camron Johnson electing to stay close to home.
The Bad: Once again the Commodores find themselves near the bottom on the SEC in recruiting rankings, and just No. 46 overall in the country. In order to consistently compete in the SEC, recruiting at a higher level is required.
ARKANSAS - No. 14 in SEC, No. 60 nationally
The Good: Chad Morris is known as an offensive guy, but he and his staff came in and did a better job on defense. What stands out most about this Arkansas class is its success at defensive back. The Razorbacks kept four-star cornerback Ladarrius Bishop at home, then went to Alabama to get safety Myles Mason and to Louisiana to get Joseph Foucha.
The Bad: The numbers had to be low, so Arkansas was not going to sign a big class in 2018, but finishing No. 60 in the country can’t happen again if Morris wants to be successful. They missed on some top offensive line and wide receiver targets and they lost the top prospect in their state, Sean Michael Flanagan, who was at one time committed to Arkansas, to Oklahoma State.