Ranking SEC recruiting efforts over past decade
Mark Pszonak contributed to this report.
With the 2020 class wrapping up in February, we thought it would be interesting to see which programs in each Power Five conference have done the best job of recruiting over the last decade. We continue with the SEC.
Average National Ranking: 2.2
The skinny: Nobody who has paid attention to recruiting during the last decade should be surprised by this. During this span of time, the Tide had the top class in the nation five times and finished second two other times. And with this, numerous elite recruits have come to Tuscaloosa and produced. This includes Tua Tagovailoa, Jerry Jeudy, Quinnen Williams, Calvin Ridley, Minkah Fitzpatrick, Derrick Henry and Amari Cooper.
Farrell’s take: The list is too long to mention when it comes to successful Alabama signees over the past decade and they have clearly set the bar nationally when it comes to recruiting. Nick Saban is the best recruiter in the nation and Alabama continues to reload. I don’t see this changing anytime soon.
Average National Ranking: 7.1
The skinny: Reeling in the top recruiting class in the country in the last two years, the Bulldogs have found a way to compete with Alabama. While their numbers for the decade are impressive, the Bulldogs have taken it to a new level during the last six years with an average class of 4.5. Jake Fromm, Sony Michel, Nick Chubb, Andrew Thomas and Todd Gurley are just a few of the top recruits who have excelled.
Farrell’s take: Georgia always recruited well under Mark Richt, but Kirby Smart has taken things to the next level and Georgia is one of the top two or three recruiting programs in the country. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, if Smart continues to recruit at this level he will win at least one national title.
Average National Ranking: 7.6
The skinny: With eight of their 10 classes finishing in the top eight in the nation, LSU has consistently brought in elite talent to Baton Rouge. This has been especially true at defensive back, where Grant Delpit, Kristian Fulton, Tre’Davious White, Jamal Adams, Eric Reid and Tyrann Mathieu became amongst the nation’s best during their time with the Tigers.
Farrell’s take: Recruiting has never been the issue at LSU under either Les Miles or now under Ed Orgeron and the home state advantage they have is the best in the country. They have produced so much NFL talent that it’s hard to believe they can’t break through in the SEC West. Orgeron is now recruiting nationally in 2020, which could make them even more dangerous.
Average National Ranking; 9.2
The skinny: While overshadowed by their in-state rivals, Auburn has consistently produced recruiting classes that would be the envy of the majority of programs in the country. However, their worst three classes of the decade have come in the last three years, with finishes at No. 14, 12 and 13. Former five-star Derrick Brown continues to dominate the defensive line, while Cameron Newton, Kerryon Johnson and Jonathan Jones continue to excel in the NFL.
Farrell’s take: Alabama gets all the attention in state, but Auburn has done a very good job recruiting over the last decade. An average national ranking in the top 10 is a big deal and it’s why Auburn always has some pretty high pre-season expectations. Gus Malzahn has done a good job recruiting and the roster is always full of talent. They just need to get past Alabama more often in the SEC West.
Average National Ranking: 10.0
The skinny: The first half of the decade went a little better than the backend, when the Gators finished with an average class of 14.2 over the last five years, but overall Florida is still one of the top recruiting programs in the country. Keanu Neal, Dante Fowler and Vernon Hargreaves are just a few of the former Gators currently doing well in the NFL.
Farrell’s take: The Gators have not had a recruiting problem, although I would have expected them to be a bit higher nationally and ahead of Auburn based on the brand name and what Urban Meyer left for them. Jim McElwain wasn’t an elite recruiter but Will Muschamp and now Dan Mullen are bringing talent into the fold. Recruiting needs to take a step forward still but they are trending in the right direction.
Average National Ranking:13.2
The skinny: While the product on the field has not been to the level Tennessee fans expect, the Vols continue to bring in recruiting classes that should make them much more competitive against the nation’s elite. Despite the on-field disappointment, players like Alvin Kamara, Cordarrelle Patterson, Ja’Wuan James and Derek Barnett have made their mark in the NFL.
Farrell’s take: There is no excuse for the state of the Vols football program right now based on the last decade of recruiting. While many players didn’t pan out or weren’t developed (take your pick) they have recruiting far too many talented players and finished way too high nationally to be an embarrassment right now. Amazingly, UT has not finished in the top 20 of the AP poll the entire decade while bringing in top 20 classes nine times during that stretch. Will things improve under Jeremy Pruitt? It’s not looking good based on the results on the field , which will hurt recruiting.
7. TEXAS A&M
Average National Ranking: 13.5
The skinny: The Aggies spent a majority of the decade in the SEC, joining during the summer of 2012. While they did not struggle before the move, the transition has given them a small bump, with no class being ranked worse than No. 17. A few of the top Aggies’ elite recruits who have excelled include Mike Evans, Christian Kirk, Jake Matthews and Myles Garrett.
Farrell’s take: The Aggies have always been able to recruit pretty well despite not winning anything major over the last decade and Jimbo Fisher has taken things to the next level. The problem? The same as LSU and Auburn. They are in the SEC West and breaking through has been impossible. The conference is so strong, especially that division, that these results need to improve.
8. SOUTH CAROLINA
Average National Ranking: 18.9
The skinny: Consistency has been the name of the recruiting game for the Gamecocks during this decade. With no class worse than No. 26 or better than No. 16, South Carolina continuously fields elite talent who has the potential to play toe-to-toe against anyone. This was especially proven with Jadeveon Clowney, but also players like Deebo Samuel, Mike Davis and Pharoh Cooper.
Farrell’s take: This is where there is a bit of a drop off in the SEC as South Carolina is more than five full spots below A&M in average national ranking. That doesn’t mean the Gamecocks haven’t done a good job recruiting, but the end of the Steve Spurrier era didn’t help as the staff didn’t recruit well. Muschamp is doing a solid job, especially with Clemson in state, but will it be enough to break through in the SEC East? So for it doesn’t look good.
9. OLE MISS
Average National Ranking: 21.9
The skinny: The Rebels have experienced somewhat of a roller coaster ride during this decade. Between 2013 and 2016, the Rebels finished with an average class of 13.5, however during the other six years they finished at 27.5. After finishing at No. 22 in 2019, the fanbase hopes that another upswing is on its way. A few of the Rebels’ elite recruits who lived up to expectations include Donte Moncrief, Laremy Tunsil. AJ Brown, DK Metcalf and others.
Farrell’s take: Much of this is due to Hugh Freeze and the success he had in luring some big names, but the NCAA infractions that came with it have stunted recruiting a little bit. But 2019 was a good recruiting year and they do a good job overall of pulling some tough recruiting battles out of state and holding onto some in-state players.
10. MISSISSIPPI STATE
Average National Ranking: 30.1
The skinny: Another SEC program that has been relatively consistent throughout the decade, especially if you take out their best (No. 16) and worst (44) finishes. They have steadily improved since 2016, finishing at 34, 27, 25 and 24 during that time, so it’ll be interesting to see if they can continue this streak in the new decade. Chris Jones continues to excel in the NFL and the defensive line recruiting has been off the charts as the NFL Draft has shown.
Farrell’s take: An SEC ranking outside the national Top 25 isn’t great, so Mississippi State has struggled a bit despite landing some amazing talents like Montez Sweat and Jeffery Simmons. But 30.1 national average over a decade isn’t horrible either and they have been very steady. Ole Miss and their success hurt them a bit.
Average National Ranking: 32.3
The skinny: Aside from two very disappointing classes, No. 49 in 2010 and No. 61 in 2018, every Arkansas recruiting class has finished between 20 and 34. The good news is that the No. 20 finish came in 2019, so recruiting is trending in the right direction. The number of top-level recruits who truly excelled have been minimal, but a few who have are Alex Collins, Denver Kirkland and Hunter Henry, who has been ravaged by injuries in the NFL.
Farrell’s take: Chad Morris did a great job recruiting in 2019 but Arkansas is far from being competitive on the field, as we’ve seen this year. The big question is whether he can continue to recruit well if they continue to lose games to FCS teams. Eleventh in the SEC sounds low, but it’s not that bad and I’m surprised they are ahead of Kentucky and Missouri.
Average National Ranking: 36.9
The skinny: After finishing at No. 50, 61 and 63 to start this decade, the Wildcats have seen their recruiting improve significantly over the last seven classes. With an average class of 27.9 during this time, it is not surprising that the product on the field has also improved. Overall, the Wildcats have done a better building up lesser known recruits, like Bud Dupree, Benny Snell and most notably Josh Allen.
Farrell’s take: There were some bleak classes at the beginning of the decade, but Mark Stoops has done a really good job recently and the results have shown on the field for the most part. He’s hit the Southeast well and done a solid job of keeping Midwest kids interested, especially in Ohio.
Average National Ranking: 37.1
The skinny: As with Texas A&M, the Tigers officially joined the SEC during summer of 2012. However, during these seven years, Missouri’s recruiting has failed to reap the benefits of this move, with an average class finish of 38.7. On the bright side, the Tigers have seen recent improvement, with class finishes of 49, 39 and 34 over the last three years. Elite recruits like Tyler Gabbert, Sheldon Richardson, Drew Lock and Kony Ealy have experienced their fair share of success at Missouri and beyond.
Farrell’s take: Missouri hasn’t been in the SEC as long as the others (aside from A&M) and they have a distinct geographical disadvantage. They do a pretty good job locally and have stolen some players from the Southeast, but it’s hard to lure kids from Georgia, Florida, Alabama and the rest up to Missouri even if you’re winning.
Average National Ranking: 48.4
The skinny: During this decade the Commodores have experienced good times, such as a No. 19 finish in 2013, and bad times, a No. 70 finish in 2011. Overall, they produced classes that most would expect, especially due to their high academic standards. While the number of elite recruits making their way to Nashville is rather minimal, a few like Zach Cunningham and Trent Sherfield met expectations.
Farrell’s take: Vandy has academic restrictions that no other school in the SEC has and that hurts them, but losing doesn’t help either. James Franklin did some amazing work there and made the impossible look easy, but unless this changes a lot, they will continue to be at the bottom of the SEC.