Southeast Spotlight: Recruiting updates for surprise teams
The SEC doesn't have any surprises in terms of unexpected teams surging in the polls, such as the case with Indiana and Cincinnati in the Midwest, and BYU in the West. But there are a few programs exceeding perhaps some expectations to this point, and we look at how it has impacted recruiting for them so far.
MORE SURPRISING PROGRAMS: Midwest
AP rank: 5
2021 class ranking: 13
Synopsis: Aggies coach Jimbo Fisher is in his third year at Texas A&M, and to this point, he has not lived up to the expectations of the 10-year, $75 million contract. This season though, could be a turning point. The Aggies sit at 5-1 with a big win over Florida last month, and many feel the program could run the table, finish 9-1, and make a case for the College Football Playoffs with its only loss coming to Alabama.
This recruiting class recently added a pair of teammates out of Miami Central, wide receiver Yulkeith Brown and running back Amari Daniels, both four-stars, and those commitments pushed the Aggies up into the top 15. They are expected to compete for a top 10 class when all is said and done. Out of their 18 commits, 11 are four-stars.
AP rank: 6
2021 class ranking: 6
Synopsis: Gators coach Dan Mullen and Florida have responded in a big way after a tough loss at Texas A&M with big wins over Missouri and Georgia. The Gators have an explosive offense, and it is drawing national attention. The development of quarterback Kyle Trask has made Florida a national contender this season, and he is in the top five Heisman Trophy Contenders.
The AP ranking and class ranking mirror each other and the Gators will likely make a push for a top five class come February. Mullen and his staff are putting together a strong group of in-state prospects this cycle with five-star Corey Collier and Rivals100 talent Tyreik Sapp and Jason Marshall leading the way. The Gators have done some damage outside the Sunshine State too, taking linebacker Jeremiah Williams out of Alabama and defensive back Donovan McMillon out of Pennsylvania.
AP rank: 24
2021 class ranking: 38
Synopsis: Auburn might not be a surprise, as the No. 24 ranking is far from where its fans prefer to be. But the surprise surrounding the Tigers is the way they have rebounded after their slow start and turned around the gloom and doom with big wins over Ole Miss and LSU. After losses to Georgia and South Carolina, and an escape against Arkansas, some felt the Tigers were in for a losing season. Gus Malzahn and his staff have kept the team focused, Bo Nix and the offense put on a show against LSU, and now those on the Plains may have changed the course of the season.
Can that change things in recruiting too? Auburn is just inside the top 40 in the team rankings. That just doesn’t sound right. Auburn has played the bridesmaid’s role recently, finishing No. 2 to Alabama for Ga’Quincy McKinstry, losing Kamari Lassiter to Georgia, and letting Florida flip Jeremiah Williams. Auburn has finished no lower than 14th in the team rankings since 2010, but to get there in 2021, it will need to close extremely strong from now to February.
AP rank: N/A
2021 class ranking: 22
Synopsis: Arkansas has to be the surprise of the SEC. Under Chad Morris for two seasons, the Razorbacks were 4-18, with all wins being against Group of Five schools. Sam Pittman was not the first, second, third, and perhaps not even the fourth choice for head coach based on reports, but he definitely looks like the right guy for the job. Arkansas is 3-3 this season with wins over Mississippi State, Ole Miss and Tennessee. The Hogs were leading Georgia at the half, they played Texas A&M tough on the road, and narrowly lost to Auburn.
The Razorbacks finished with the No. 41 class last year, and they are just outside the top 20 in 2021. Pittman has a strong staff mixed with experienced and younger coaches bringing a good blend when it comes to recruiting. Five of their 19 commits come from Texas, and their last commitment, four-star wide receiver Ketron Jackson, leads the way in this class. He is the lone four-star commit to date, but Pittman and company are looking to close strong.