SEC Spotlight: Handicapping the conference recruiting race
While the on-field start to the 2023 football season hasn't been as dominant as some expected, the SEC is still running the college football show when it comes to recruiting in the class of 2024. Rivals digs into the nation's top conference from the top-ranked Georgia Bulldogs on down to set the table for how the race could shape up leading into the Early Signing Period.
PROJECTED LEAGUE CHAMPION: Georgia
This is bordering on runaway status, even though the Bulldogs aren't quite done with the class of 2024 just yet. Georgia has the most overall commitments (27) yet also sits as the program with the highest star rating per commitment (3.93) in the conference with its three five-stars, including No. 1 overall recruit Dylan Raiola, and 19 four-stars setting the bar high. The recruiting title for the entire cycle seems to be all but wrapped up for Kirby Smart's staff, though several elite recruits remain on the board.
Georgia just landed elite linebacker Chris Cole, and it doesn't appear to be done on defense in courting in-staters committed elsewhere, like five-star KJ Bolden, who is expected to return to Athens this weekend for the first time since his big commitment to Florida State. Rivals250 defensive linemen Aydin Breland and LJ McCray also remain in play, and on offense, five-star wide receiver Ryan Wingo and offensive tackle Brandon Baker are still considering the national champs.
DON'T COUNT OUT: Texas A&M
Despite Saturday's on-field setback against Miami, Jimbo Fisher's program is recruiting at a strong clip. It is on the heels of Florida for the No. 2 class in the league with more obvious targets still in play close to home, such as top 50 athletes Kobe Black and Terry Bussey. Outside of the Lone Star State, the Aggies will contend for blue-chippers Aydin Breland and two-way talent Kamron Mikell, among others.
The current committed group is headlined by five-star wide receiver candidate Cam Coleman, who leads a stout group of pass catchers headed to College Station. It also has a strong combination of talent and volume along the offensive line, led by Ashton Funk, in addition to sporting a two-quarterback class with promising risers Anthony Maddox and Miles O'Neill on board.
BIGGEST OVERACHIEVER: Florida
Despite the Gators' 2022 record or underwhelming start to 2023 on the field, Billy Napier has had Florida rollin' on the recruiting trail from the moment he took the job in Gainesville. The class of 2024 may be his best haul yet, with key premium position gets like elite quarterback DJ Lagway of Texas to go along with a trio of premier defenders in linebackers Myles Graham and Adarius Hayes, along with another Texan in safety Xavier Filsaime. The out-of-state reach has also been flexed in Georgia, with a handful of Peach State natives on the commitment list, with Washington D.C., Mississippi, Louisiana and even Germany also represented in the current haul.
Holding on to such a strong group will of course be the talk of the remainder of the cycle, and there was a defection early this week in Michai Boireau, but there has been no shortage of return visits and extended votes of confidence coming from the class thus far. To attempt to hold on to what is currently a haul only bested by Georgia and Ohio State will be fascinating come December, either way.
SURPRISINGLY STRUGGLING: Alabama
Crimson Tide fans, let's take a breath here. Relatively speaking, surrounding the program that was often No. 1 or bust in recruiting as well as playing on Saturdays under Nick Saban, sitting at No. 5 in the nation would be considered underachieving. But Alabama is sitting at No. 5 in the SEC (six if we're counting Oklahoma) two weeks into September and it has to be considered a relative surprise. Alabama is beyond the top 10 overall, with Saban trailing at least three former assistants in the process.
Now, it should be said that Alabama has a pound-for-pound strong group with fewer commitments (19) than every program ranked ahead of it as well as three of the four immediately trailing, led by five-star quarterback Julian Sayin. We also know Alabama will continue to contend for more talent before all is said and done, including No. 1 offensive lineman Jordan Seaton and fellow blue-chippers Terry Bussey, Daniel Hill and Bradley Shaw, among others – so we're not writing Alabama off just yet.
But with the 'title or bust' mentality, being seemingly so far away from rival Georgia and on the verge of being passed up by Auburn is not ideal about three months away from the Early Signing Period. UA will make its move, but it won't be at the top after bringing in the top class last cycle.
BEST BATTLE: Missouri vs. the field for Ryan Wingo
Missouri has already kept one five-star home in Williams Nwaneri, but can it do it with St. Louis native and five-star wide receiver Ryan Wingo? The electric pass catcher is the highest-ranked uncommitted recruit in the Rivals100 and the Tigers have steep competition to overcome as it once did for Luther Burden. Texas has long held buzz for Wingo and now Georgia, Alabama and Tennessee see themselves in the thick of the race for the nation's No. 4 wideout as well.
Ahead of a December decision, Wingo has plans to return to Texas this weekend, and the Longhorn buzz won't soon slow down as hot as Steve Sarkisian's program is on the field and on the trail simultaneously.