SEC: Breaking down the five-stars of the past four cycles
In the next part of a weeklong series, Rivals.com National Recruiting Director Mike Farrell and National Recruiting Analyst Adam Gorney break down five-stars by conference over the last four full recruiting cycles, 2015-18.
Today we look at the SEC.
Ten of 14 SEC programs have landed five-star prospects in the last four recruiting cycles as it remains the best conference in college football from top to bottom. Alabama leads all teams nationally with 16 five-stars but Georgia is right there as well with 15, eight of those coming in a phenomenal 2018 recruiting class where the Bulldogs finished first in the team recruiting rankings. Only four programs in the SEC did not land a five-star prospect during this four-year stretch: South Carolina, Missouri, Vanderbilt and Arkansas.
ALABAMA - 16 SIGNEES
Signees: Damien Harris, Calvin Ridley, Daron Payne, Minkah Fitzpatrick, Ben Davis, Terrell Hall, Jonah Williams, Lyndell Wilson, Najee Harris, Alex Leatherwood, Jerry Jeudy, Jedrick Wills, Dylan Moses, Eyabi Anoma, Patrick Surtain, Jaylen Waddle
Breakdown: Nick Saban and his staff have done a better job than anybody else nationally in landing five-star prospects since his time in Tuscaloosa and the train keeps rolling as Alabama has the top-ranked 2019 class as well. Some of these players are already assets in the NFL. Others like Harris could be the first running back drafted and Williams will be taken early among offensive linemen. In the future, the Crimson Tide will keep pumping out top prospects and NFL teams love drafting Alabama players because they’re so well coached and prepared for the pros.
Farrell’s take: It’s no surprise that Alabama leads the way in this category is it? And most of them pan out which is why five-stars continue to flock to Tuscaloosa. There is no better program in the country when it comes to recruiting and developing five-star talent so when a kid like Ben Davis doesn’t pan out it’s more of a surprise than anything else. This list is loaded with current and future NFL standouts.
GEORGIA - 15 SIGNEES
Signees: Trenton Thompson, Terry Godwin, Jacob Eason, Mecole Hardman, Isaac Nauta, Isaiah Wilson, Jake Fromm, Justin Fields, Jamaree Salyer, Zamir White, Adam Anderson, Cade Mays, James Cook, Tyson Campbell, Brenton Cox
Breakdown: Kirby Smart and his staff did a phenomenal job in the 2018 recruiting class signing eight five-star prospects, the only other time that happened in the Rivals.com era dating back to 2002 was USC in 2004. That was a terrific finish for the Bulldogs as more than half of their entire five-star list over the last four cycles came in the previous class alone. Three five-star quarterbacks are among this group but Georgia has lost two of them as Eason has transferred to Washington and Fields recently left for Ohio State.
Farrell’s take: Georgia has done an incredible job recruiting and for the Dawgs to be only one five-star behind Alabama speaks to the ability of Kirby Smart to recruit. A few of these players are leaving too soon in my opinion like Hardman and Nauta while others should be high NFL picks like Wilson and Fromm. Georgia has had a couple of big names transfer in Eason and Fields but that’s because the Bulldogs have recruited so well at quarterback and Fromm has been so good.
LSU - EIGHT SIGNEES
Breakdown: The only two schools in the SEC with more five-star signees in the last four recruiting cycles are Alabama and Georgia so LSU has to be happy with its positioning right now even though eight is a much lower number than those two other programs. The Tigers have done well with in-state stars but have also had success going regionally to get Toliver, Teuhema, Stevens and Phillips. Ed Orgeron has proven the ability to recruit anywhere to get anyone.
Farrell’s take: LSU continues to recruit at a level high above many in the nation and continue to lure five-stars and it has to be only a matter of time before that comes around on the field, right? Some have transferred and a few are in the midst of solid careers and have the NFL interested but LSU has become one of the programs that recruits on a national top-10 level but doesn’t put it together enough on the field. We’ll see if Orgeron can change that.
AUBURN - THREE SIGNEES
Breakdown: All three of the five-stars Auburn has signed in the last four cycles play on the defensive line and Cowart was the top-ranked prospect in the 2015 recruiting class although he did not find success with the Tigers and has since transferred to Maryland. Brown was a force on Auburn’s defensive line this season, third on the team with 10.5 tackles for loss and second with 4.5 sacks. Davidson has also been very good but 16-to-3 for Alabama over Auburn is a huge discrepancy for elite talent to stay atop the SEC West.
Farrell’s take: Auburn needs to step it up a bit when it comes to five-star recruiting especially at the skill positions and winning will help take care of that. Cowart was a bust but Brown has been amazing and Davidson hasn’t been far behind. The Tigers need to recruit more dynamic five-stars on offense to take the next step.
FLORIDA - THREE SIGNEES
Breakdown: The three five-stars for Florida have not produced and developed at a level expected from elite prospects. That could be bad coaching in Gainesville during the Jim McElwain error or it could be on the individual player but Ivey struggled against top-notch defensive ends this season and is not projected as a high draft pick. Jefferson seemed to have regressed this season and Clayton has just not been a factor for the Gators.
Farrell’s take: This number is embarrassingly low for Florida and, in my opinion, the Gatorsshould be in the 7-8 range here. A lot of that has to do with McElwain’s inability to recruit at a high level and it’s unclear if that will change under Dan Mullen. Florida needs to step it up and should be no lower than third in the conference when it comes to five-stars.
TENNESSEE - THREE SIGNEES
Breakdown: It would be accurate to say none of the three five-stars for Tennessee in the last four cycles have lived up to their billing. McKenzie was a sixth-round pick in the 2018 NFL Draft by the Kansas City Chiefs and has been converted to an offensive lineman. Richmond, a former Ole Miss pledge who flipped to the Vols on signing day, has entered the transfer portal looking for a new home next season. And Phillips finished third on the team in tackles and second in sacks this season but really never dominated like a five-star should.
Farrell’s take: Few programs have done less with five-Bstars in recent years than Tennessee which speaks to the developmental issues of Butch Jones. Tennessee is hoping that changes under Jeremy Pruitt. They have a nice recruiting base in Tennessee but they have to lure five-stars out of state as well to step things up to the next level and we’ll see if they can do that.
OLE MISS - TWO SIGNEES
Breakdown: When the scandal hit at Ole Miss, Patterson decided to transfer and he was the starting quarterback for the Wolverines this season and he plans to return to Ann Arbor for one more year. Little stayed with the Rebels and he’s in line to possibly be the first offensive tackle taken in the NFL Draft.
Farrell’s take: Patterson transferred out and could be a high NFL pick after next season for Michigan while Ole Miss did a great job developing Little and he is a sure-fire first round pick. It’s doubtful they will be able to recruit five-stars at the level Hugh Freeze did but much of that is due to the mess Freeze left behind.
TEXAS A&M - TWO SIGNEES
Breakdown: In three seasons at Texas A&M, Kirk totaled 234 catches for 2,856 yards and 26 touchdowns before leaving school early for the 2018 NFL Draft. He was a second-round pick by the Arizona Cardinals. Mond remains the Aggies’ starting quarterback where he threw for 3,107 yards with 24 touchdowns and nine picks and he also rushed for 474 yards and seven TDs.
Farrell’s take: Kirk was an amazing five-star recruit for Texas A&M while Mond is still a work in progress. I expect this number to increase under Jimbo Fisher with his impressive recruiting ability and it’s already off to a great start in 2019. Texas A&M is the sleeping giant of the SEC.
KENTUCKY - ONE SIGNEE
Signee: Landon Young
Breakdown: In his sophomore season two years ago, Young played in all 13 games with six starts at left tackle. He was expected to take over that role full time as a junior but Young injured his knee in the preseason and missed the entire 2018 season.
Farrell’s take: Young was a major signing for Kentucky and could be the last five-star for the program for a while with such intense competition out there for players in the state. But even landing one star speaks to how far the program has come.
MISSISSIPPI STATE - ONE SIGNEE
Signee: Jeffery Simmons
Breakdown: It is amazing with all the defensive line success in Starkville among other players who have stood out for former coach Dan Mullen and current coach Joe Moorhead that Simmons is the lone five-star in recent cycles. Alabama and Ole Miss made a serious run at Simmons, who could end up in the first round, although he had some previous off-the-field issues prior to getting to Mississippi State that will be examined thoroughly in the pre-draft process.
Farrell’s take: Mississippi State doesn’t get five-stars too often but they usually pan out when they do. Simmons has been a beast on the field and could land in round one. The state of Mississippi continues to push out elite talent so the Bulldogs should stay on this list with one or so every few years.