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Vanderbilt First SEC School To Offer Rayford

Latevius Rayford could have a decision to make.

The wide receiver from Memphis (Tenn.) Central High School received a scholarship offer from Vanderbilt on Monday.

Rayford, whose offer list includes Arizona State, Purdue, Memphis and Western Kentucky, received the offer during a phone conversation with Commodores head coach James Franklin.

“I was very excited because a lot of schools have offered but Vanderbilt has been one of my top choices for a long time because of the academics,” Rayford told MrSEC. “My main focus is on academics.”

And Rayford’s attention is now focused on his latest offer from Vanderbilt. He said he plans to spend Monday night discussing the offer with his parents and Franklin before he decides if he’s ready to commit to the Commodores.

Along with academics – Rayford said he plans to study business in college – Vanderbilt offers a chance to play in the SEC.

“That’s big time right there because that’s the best football conference in the NCAA,” Rayford said. “That’s where the big-time players go to pursue a chance to go to the NFL. The SEC gets your name out there. I just really want to play in the SEC to play against the best competition.”

Rayford would be the first wide receiver to commit to Vanderbilt, which has seven commitments for the class of 2013.

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Ex-NFL Star Ward Still Talking About Coaching At UGA

Hines Ward loves his alma mater.  It also sounds as if he loves the idea of coaching at Georgia someday.  But does the recently retired Pittsburgh Steeler really want to invest the kind of time the coaching profession requires?

That’s what the ex-receiver is trying to figure out after shadowing current Bulldog offensive coordinator Mike Bobo this spring:

 

“I loved everything about it, it’s just the time commitment.  I just left football. That’s something that I’m still deciding.  I’d love to coach here, there’s no question about it.  I don’t know if I’m ready for that commitment just yet because there’s so much time that you have to put in it.  I love Georgia.  If I ever get into coaching, it would definitely be here first…

I don’t want to be one foot in and one foot out.  If I get into coaching I want to be all in…

I always said if I wanted to get back into coaching the University of Georgia would probably be my first place just because I want to give back to my university and I think I have a lot to offer to the state of Georgia and the kids because I’ve been in their shoes before.  I think it wouldn’t be fair to my university (to coach somewhere else).  I’m a Georgia kid… Georgia’s my home.  It’s where I reside at.  For me, it’s only 50 minutes commute where I live at.  The possibility is there.”

 

Ah, but what possibility?  If Ward were to join the UGA staff — and Mark Richt would have to actually offer him  a gig before he could accept it, of course — someone currently on the staff would have to go to make room for him.  (Yeah, yeah.  We know, Dog fans, Bobo.)  Ward is aware of that fact, too:

 

“I’m not trying to step on anybody.  To be honest, that would be the worst thing.  I don’t want to take anyone’s food off their plate.  I’m a Georgia guy, played 14 years, I played the wide receiver position.  Coach (Tony) Ball, I’m not trying to step on his toes.  I don’t want him sweating or anything.  I love the guy, respect him.  He coached some great players through here.  I just wanted to see if there was interest and see if I was interested in getting into coaching.”

 

Well, I’m sure Ball appreciates Ward tossing his position out as the obvious spot for Ward to land… should he decide to coach in Athens and should Richt offer him that opportunity.

With the Georgia staff currently filled, Ward is also considering broadcasting as a future field.  At least in the short-term.  ”We’ll see,” he said.  ”It’s great to have options.”

Ward also shared with the press his thoughts on the Bulldogs’ program and in-state recruiting.  (As you might have noticed, he’s not real shy about talking… something he’d have to change if he were to enter the super-secret, uber-stealthy world of collegiate coaching.)

 

“It irks me that talent goes to the University of Florida and Alabama and stuff like that. We need to keep our top recruits here in the state of Georgia.  Because Georgia’s always been close.  We’re on the cusp of doing big things.  It’s just one game or one play here or there, who knows, maybe the player that we lost out of the state of Georgia, that player can probably make a difference and maybe we can win a national title.

“The recruiting process (if Ward became a coach), I think would be easy.  The parents can recognize me, a lot of them grew up with me.  A lot of them watched me on ‘Dancing with the Stars.’  A lot of the fathers saw me play 14 years at a high level in Pittsburgh.  So I think I have a lot to give back to the university.”

 

From a recruiting standpoint, the name “Hines Ward” would definitely open some additional doors for UGA.  This is also the kind of potential move that heats up talk radio shows and messageboards.  ”Why it’s a no-brainer,” most Dawg fans will bellow.

But not all great players make great coaches.  In fact, the list of star players who’ve turned into star coaches is much, much shorter than the list of stars who’ve turned into total busts as coaches.  But Ward is clearly interested in coaching at his old school and Richt and Georgia should weigh the possibilities accordingly.

That doesn’t mean the school should toss a full-time gig to someone who’s never coached before and who has — it seems — rather loose lips when it comes to discussing other coaches’ jobs, the ease of recruiting, and the fact that Richt’s program is “just one game or one play” away from winning a national title.

Look, we get it.  At first blush, it seems that Ward plus Georgia would equal a perfect marriage.  But perfect marriages rarely result from first-date elopements.

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Dooley Says Staff Exodus At UT Was “A Good Correction For Me”

When a head coach loses seven of his nine assistants in one offseason — an offseason heading into what many view as a make-or-break season, for the matter — it’s hard to put a good spin on the turnover.  But that’s what Derek Dooley has been faced with at Tennessee since last November.  And with each coach who’s left for a lateral job elsewhere the mass exodus has been viewed more and more as a case of rats scurrying to find an exit from a sinking ship.

But don’t tell that to the Vols’ third-year coach:

 

“Is it normal to have seven coaches transition in a year?  No, it’s very rare for something like that to happen.  But I kind of view it as sort of a correction.  When you start a company, when you start anything, you always have that little initial correction to kind of fix all the things maybe you didn’t get right in the beginning.

I think it was a good correction for me, and I think it’s going to be for the team…

I think some left because the fit wasn’t right.  I think some left because they maybe allowed the fear… the fear made the wolf a little bigger than it was. I think some left just because professionally they thought it would be a good growth situation.

Each coach was unique in why they left, and it’s part of the profession.”

 

Uh, sort of.

Yes, coaches move.  But not in droves as they did from Knoxville over the past few months (as Dooley freely admitted).  Part of the problem for Dooley’s staffing issues might have resulted from a miscalculation — or a signal sent — on the part of his boss, new AD Dave Hart.

Several of Dooley’s ex-aides were looking for some type of contract extension this past offseason to insure that they wouldn’t be left without a seat in the coaching game should things go poorly for UT this fall.  But Hart wasn’t interested in giving extensions to coaches who had led the Vols to an 11-14 record in two years and who had just blown a 26-game winning streak over Kentucky.

Several of the ex-coaches realized it was better to make a lateral move for a two-year deal than to stay in place on a “you-could-be-done-at-year’s-end” type of pact.  Heck, that’s just smart business.  The bad part for UT, however, was that the school found in order to hire new assistants — many from smaller schools like UCF, The Citadel, and MTSU — Hart and Tennessee wound up having to offer multi-year contracts anyway.

Whether this was a miscalculation on Hart’s part or a message to Dooley that he’d better put things together quickly is anyone’s guess.  In fact, a bit of both could be true.  But the bottom line is this: Dooley’s heading into a key season with seven new assistants and he’s implementing a new 3-4 defense as well… a move that usually works better in Year Two than in Year One of such transitions.

At this point, Dooley’s not willing to compare his last staff to his current one.  He told The Chattanooga Times Free Press that “it’s a little premature” for that kind of call.  He did say, however, that he believes “this group has a real good understanding of Tennessee, the SEC and what it takes to be successful in this league.”

For his sake, he’d better hope so.

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SEC Headlines – 4/30/12

1.  A few weeks ago we wrote that we hoped a new playoff system might actually help restore some glory to the old bowl system and New Year’s Day.  This writer — one of the best in the South — believes that’s exactly what will happen.

2.  Phillip Sims decision to transfer from Alabama will leave the Tide in a quarterback quandry.  (Looks like he’s off to Virginia, by the way.)

3.  From elementary school to high school to Arkansas and now on to the Minnesota Vikings, Greg Childs and Jarius Wright are joined at the hip.  (What were the odds against the two wideouts being picked #118 and #134 in the fourth round by the same franchise?  Cool story.)

4.  O-lineman Blaine Causell is making the most of his chances at Mississippi State. 

5.  Texas A&M’s defense is going to have to improve to survive in the SEC.

6.  One expert has two Kentucky players and then Bradley Beal from Florida as the top three prospects for this summer’s NBA draft.

7.  What’s next for seven Georgia footballers drafted last week?

8.  Tennessee’s lack of talent was on full display during the NFL draft.

9.  No shock here, Missouri’s recruiting in the Kansas City area hasn’t been hurt by the school’s move to the SEC.  (Hey, Jayhawks, you might want to re-think that whole “We won’t play you” thing, lest you start losing more prospects to Mizzou.)

10.  Here’s one man’s take on all 42 SEC players selected in last week’s NFL draft… no really, all 42 in one place.

11.  And AthlonSports.com looks at 10 teams that could end the SEC’s six-year BCS title streak.

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Part Three: A School-By-School Comparison Of The SEC’s NFL Pipelines

Earlier today, we showed you how the SEC continues to dominate the NFL draft.  Then we showed you why you can expect that trend to continue — and even grow — in the future.  Now we look specifically at the 14 SEC member institutions to see which programs have been producing the most draft-worthy talent for the National Football League’s 32 teams.

First, here’s a look at the number of NFL draft picks produced by each school over different periods of time: this past week’s draft, the most-recent five years (2008-2012), the most-recent 10 years (2003-2012), and the past 20 years (1993-2012).

Programs are listed according to this year’s draft numbers:

 

   School    2012 Picks    2008-12 Picks    2003-12 Picks    1993-12 Picks
   Alabama    8    24    45    85
   Georgia    7    28    56    101
   S. Carolina    6    18    31    46
   LSU    5    30    56    82
   Arkansas    4    15    29    48
   Texas A&M    4    13    25    66
   Miss. State    3    9    16    47
   Florida    2    20    48    98
   Kentucky    2    11    15    35
   Vanderbilt    2    8    12    21
   Auburn    1    15    33    62
   Missouri    1    13    21    29
   Ole Miss    1    10    21    40
   Tennessee    1    13    39    101

 

Before anyone screams that we’ve ranked their favy-wavy school lowest in a tie because we hate them… we actually just fell back on plain ‘ol alphabetical order to separate those schools tied with four picks, two picks, or one pick each.

As you can see, when you add in Missouri and Texas A&M, this year’s SEC draft class would have jumped from 42 players selected to 47 overall.

But which programs are on the rise and which are on the decline from a talent perspective?  Admittedly, that’s a tough question to answer.  A school that had one player drafted this past season might wind up with six or eight or ten next year depending on success, decisions to leave school early, etc.

In order to answer that question then, we’ve decided to just compare the past five draft classes for each school to the total number of players drafted from each institution over the past 20 years.  Column B divided by Column D, in other words.

Below we’ve listed each SEC program according to the percentage of total NFL picks (1993-2012) that have come from the last five drafts (2008-2012).  This should give us a very loose, very ballpark idea of which programs are headed up and which programs are headed down in terms of overall talent.

 

   School    2008-12 Picks    1993-12 Picks    % of Picks from Last 5 Years
   Missouri    13    29    44.8%
   S. Carolina    18    46    39.1%
   Vanderbilt    8    21    38.0%
   LSU    30    82    36.5%
   Kentucky    11    35    31.4%
   Arkansas    15    48    31.2%
   Alabama    24    85    28.2%
   Georgia    28    101    27.7%
   Ole Miss    10    40    25.0%
   Auburn    15    62    24.1%
   Florida    20    98    20.4%
   Texas A&M    13    66    19.6%
   Miss. State    9    47    19.1%
   Tennessee    13    101    12.8%

 

Let’s just go ahead and state the obvious “yeah, buts” right off of the bat.  For some schools, there was nowhere to go but up (or down).  Other schools have gone through recent coaching changes and coaching changes always lead to attrition.  Folks at Auburn, Florida and Tennessee can certainly point to that as being a factor in their low percentages.  Also, teams like Auburn or Tennessee — which leaned heavily on youth last year — might begin to see their numbers change next April or the next.

That said, here just a couple of observations:

 

1.  Credit Gary Pinkel for the outstanding job he’s done at Missouri in terms of raising the school’s overall talent level the last five years.  SEC fans will scoff and point to the Big 12 as being an inferior conference, but the Tigers did outgun both South Carolina and Arkansas in bowl games on Pinkel’s watch.  For comparison’s sake, Mizzou is entering a tougher top-to-bottom SEC than the one Arkansas and South Carolina joined 20 years ago, but the Tigers are better positioned in terms of their current roster than either of those schools were when they climbed aboard Roy Kramer’s ship.

2.  Speaking of South Carolina, nearly 40% of the Gamecocks drafted over the last 20 years have been tabbed in the last five Aprils.  That’s a testimony to the type of foundation Steve Spurrier has put down in Columbia.  Will the Gamecocks be able to unseat long-term one of the traditional “big six” programs in the SEC — Alabama, Auburn, Florida, Georgia, LSU or Tennessee?  That’s a big task as most traditionally powerful programs eventually find their way back to the Promised Land after spending time in the desert.  That’s happened at Oklahoma, Southern Cal, Texas, Alabama, and Tennessee over time, just to name a few.  But there’s no question Spurrier has turned Carolina into a football program that the SEC and the nation must take seriously moving forward.  That’s a great achievement considering where the Cocks were for most of their first 17 seasons in the SEC.

3.  James Franklin has done a tremendous job at Vanderbilt.  He’s recruiting well and he’s building excitement around a program that’s lacked that since, basically, the 1920s.  But a look at the numbers reveals that Bobby Johnson deserves credit for improving Vandy’s talent level during his tenure.  For the most part, Johnson made the Commodores a more competitive program and he did lead them not only to their first bowl game since 1982, but also to their first bowl victory since Dwight Eisenhower was in the White House.  Credit Franklin for the works he’s doing now.  Credit the VU administration for supporting him as promised.  But don’t forget the work done by Johnson.  His decision to redshirt players left and right has allowed Franklin to walk in and inherit to veteran clubs in his first two seasons in Nashville.

4.  Rich Brooks and Houston Nutt — yes, Hog fans, Houston Nutt — and Bobby Petrino deserve some credit for boosting the talent levels at Kentucky and Arkansas respectively during their reigns at each school.

5.  LSU was an absolute sleeping giant when Nick Saban arrived.  From 2000 through the 2011 season, the Tigers have played in five BCS bowl games, including three BCS title tilts.  But between 1986 and 2000, LSU did not reach a single major bowl game.  Saban closed the state’s borders to outside recruiters and built a powerful program.  Les Miles has successfully kept the pipelines pumping from across the Pelican State right into Baton Rouge.

6.  In terms of drop-offs, Auburn, Florida, Texas A&M and Mississippi State have seen them.  Auburn, Florida and A&M are traditionally strong football programs based in fertile recruiting ground.  Therefore it’s a bit surprising that their numbers haven’t been better over the past five years — compared to where they have been over the last 20 drafts.  Coaching changes and the attrition attached to coaching changes can be blamed.  As for MSU, however, it will be interesting to see if Dan Mullen can finally get the Bulldogs’ program back to where it was talent-wise under Jackie Sherrill (and do so legally, for that matter).  State has had first-round draft picks in each of the last two years, something that hadn’t happened at MSU since the early-80s.  That’s a start.  As Mullen enters Year Four, we’ll now see just how many NFL scouts start beating a path to Starkville.

7.  Oh, sad, sad Tennessee.  The Volunteers produced 101 NFL picks between 1993 and 2012, but less than 13% of those selections have come in the last five drafts.  Unlike the other schools who’ve experienced a recent coaching change, UT has endured that upheaval twice.  The Vols have hemorrhaged players as a result of the Phillip Fulmer-to-Lane Kiffin-to-Derek Dooley roundabout.  But Tennessee’s problem traces to something greater.  In a four-year span from 2000 through 2003, UT saw 32 of its players drafted into the NFL.  That’s eight players per year for those of you who aren’t boned up on your ciphering.  But the number of players picked dropped to 27 from ’01 to ’04, then to 23 from ’02 to ’05, then to 20 from ’03 to ’06, and all the way down to 15 at the end of the Fulmer Era in the ’06 to ’09 draft cycle.  That’s a mighty precipitous drop.  What caused such a fall?  First, Tennessee isn’t a talent-rich state.  Second, Georgia and South Carolina — two states Fulmer had successfully mined during his heyday — saw their state schools make upgrades in their own coaches.  Borders were shut down, UT never recovered.  UT’s tradition suggests they will indeed rise again someday, just like those other powers we mentioned earlier in this piece.  But the key will be recruiting.  And having to fire Dooley if the 2012 season doesn’t go as planned could set that front back to square one.

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Part Two: The SEC’s Talent Pool Is Only Getting Deeper

In Part One of today’s post-NFL draft Stat Analysis piece, we looked at the number of draft picks (and first-rounders specifically) to come from the SEC and the other BCS conferences in recent years.  In this portion, we’ll take a look towards the future.  And the future looks good for the Southeastern Conference.

As we noted earlier today, the SEC has led all other conferences in NFL draft picks for six years in a row and for 13 of the last 15 years.  That’s not just a product of superior budgets, facilities and coaches.  A lot of it has to do with simple census data.  Just as pro scouts and executives come to the SEC to do their shopping, SEC coaches can stock up on local talent to build their college programs.

The talent is in Dixie.  That’s a pretty big plus for the two leagues most associated with the region — the SEC and the ACC.  And it just so happens that both are expanding, too.  The SEC is spreading west and south this summer while the ACC will be moving further north by 2014.

Meanwhile, the two BCS leagues in America’s Heartland appear to have a fight on their hands when it comes to re-establishing themselves as dominant players — top to bottom — in the world of college football.

First, some stats.  Below you’ll find the make-up of each of the five biggest BCS leagues as we believe they will look in 2014.  The Big East — as we showed in Part One — hasn’t been a serious producer of talent compared to their BCS brethren and has had to spread all over the continental US just to survive recent defections.  For those reasons, we’re not even going to examine that league’s future roster of schools.

You’ll see each conference, it’s total number of schools (according to who’s scheduled to join by 2014), the total number of states it can claim, and the NFL talent produced from those states’ high schools over a 20-year span.  For our purposes, we’ll consider all the NFL draft picks from 1992 through 2011 for each state in each of the big five conferences.

And we’ll look at them in order with regards to total picks from each league’s footprint:

 

   SEC States    Schools In State    Draft Picks By HS State ’92-’11
   Texas    Texas A&M (2012)    493
   Florida    Florida    460
   Georgia    Georgia    235
   Louisiana    LSU    188
   Alabama    Alabama, Auburn    135
   S. Carolina    S. Carolina    127
   Mississippi    Miss. St., Ole Miss    112
   Tennessee    Tennessee, Vanderbilt    81
   Missouri    Missouri (2012)    59
   Arkansas    Arkansas    42
   Kentucky    Kentucky    40
   11 States    14 Schools    1,972 NFL Draft Picks

 

As you can see, the rich is about to get richer.  By expanding into Missouri and Texas, the SEC is growing its borders and putting down a talent pipeline into the second most productive state in the Union (Texas) all at the same time.  While other conferences are spread out further geographically — from Canada to Mexico in the Pac-12, from Pennsylvania to Nebraska in the Big Ten, from Miami to Boston in the ACC — none tap into 11 states.  SEC recruiting will improve in the future, not regress.  And that’s bad news for every other conference long-term.

 

   ACC States    Schools In State    Draft Picks By HS State ’92-’11
   Florida    Florida St., Miami    460
   Georgia    Georgia Tech    235
   Virginia    Virginia, Virginia Tech    162
   Pennsylvania    Pittsburgh (2014)    145
   N. Carolina    Duke, UNC, NC St., W. Forest    139
   S. Carolina    Clemson    127
   New York    Syracuse (2014)    86
   Maryland    Maryland    64
   Massachusetts    Boston College    34
   9 States    14 Schools    1,452 NFL Draft Picks

 

Yes.  Over the 20 years from 1992 through 2011 the 11 states of the new SEC have produced a whopping 520 more draft picks than the 9 states of what will be the new ACC.  And John Swofford’s league is second to Mike Slive’s overall.  So if you think there’s a drop-off in overall talent pool from the SEC to the ACC, wait until you see what we’re going to show you next.

 

   Pac-12 States    Schools In State    Draft Picks By HS State ’92-’11
   California    Cal, Stanford, UCLA, USC    579
   Washington    Washington, Wash. St.    78
   Arizona    Arizona, Arizona St.    68
   Colorado    Colorado    56
   Oregon    Oregon, Oregon St.    38
   Utah    Utah    31
   6 States    12 Schools    850 NFL Draft Picks

 

You might as well just call Larry Scott’s league the Cal-or-Bust League.  College prospectors have to head to the Golden State to strike it rich.  The recent additions of Colorado and Utah help a bit, but not much.  The Pac-12 region — while larger from end-to-end than the SEC — has produced a more than a thousand fewer NFL draft picks from ’92 through 2011.  That’s bad.

What you’ll in the Rust Belt is worse.

 

   Big Ten States    Schools In State    Draft Picks By HS State ’92-’11
   Ohio    Ohio State    197
   Pennsylvania    Penn State    145
   Michigan    Michigan, Michigan St.    126
   Illinois    Illinois, Northwestern    116
   Indiana    Indiana, Purdue    57
   Wisconsin    Wisconsin    46
   Iowa    Iowa    38
   Nebraska    Nebraska    34
   Minnesota    Minnesota    33
   9 States    12 Schools    792 NFL Draft Picks

 

Uh-oh.  The Big Ten has a helluva lot of tradition.  With major media centers spread throughout the league, it also gets an enormous amount of publicity.  And while the league might seem a bit pretentious to those outside the region — the “Leaders” and “Legends” divisions, for example — it’s rich history of great football and great academics justifies its still strong reputation.  But that doesn’t mean the future is bright for Jim Delany’s conference.  When it comes to NFL-caliber athletes, there just aren’t that many of them that come from the Big Ten’s nine-state footprint.

But things could be worse…

 

   Big 12 States    Schools In State    Draft Picks By HS State ’92-’11
   Texas    Baylor, TCU (2012), Texas, Texas Tech    493
   Oklahoma    Oklahoma, Oklahoma St.    63
   Iowa    Iowa State    38
   Kansas    Kansas, Kansas St.    27
   W. Virginia    W. Virginia (2012)    10
   5 States    10 Schools    631 NFL Draft Picks

 

In-fighting, uneven revenue splits, and one school’s dominance over the political landscape of the Big 12 have driven away Colorado, Missouri, Nebraska and Texas A&M in recent years.  That has left the Big 12 on life support.  ESPN and Fox television money will keep the conference alive for — it’s believed — at least six more seasons, but at some point the Big 12 will need to expand or disband.  It is a Texas-centric league at the moment that covers but a five-state area.  It’s current footprint has produced 1,300 fewer NFL draft picks between 1992 and 2011 than the SEC.  And now the Southeastern Conference’s addition of A&M gives Slive’s conference a foothold in the Big 12′s last remaining stronghold.  In World War II terms, College Station is Normandy and the Lone Star State is the rest of Europe.

 

Above, we mentioned census data.  Now let’s take some of those numbers into account.  Indeed, Delany himself mentioned recent surveys when discussion possible Big Ten expansion over the past two summers.  More people are moving to the South and to the West.  More people are leaving the Midwest.

Looking at the most recent growth rates from the US Census Bureau (2010-2011), it’s easy to see which states are growing fastest:

 

Texas — growing at 2.1% (Big 12, SEC)

Utah — growing at 1.9% (Pac-12)

Colorado — growing at 1.7% (Pac-12)

Washington — growing at 1.5% (Pac-12)

Arizona — growing at 1.4% (Pac-12)

Florida — growing at 1.3% (ACC, SEC)

Georgia — growing at 1.3% (ACC, SEC)

N. Carolina — growing at 1.2% (ACC)

Virginia — growing at 1.1% (ACC)

California — growing at 1.1% (Pac-12)

S. Carolina — growing at 1.1% (ACC, SEC)

 

And now here’s a look at the states growing slowest (or actually declining in population):

 

Michigan — declining at -.08% (Big Ten)

Ohio — growing at .07% (Big Ten)

W. Virginia — growing at .13% (Big 12)

Illinois — growing at .3% (Big Ten)

Pennsylvania — growing at .3% (ACC, Big Ten)

Missouri — growing at .3% (SEC)

Mississippi — growing at .3% (SEC)

Wisconsin — growing at .4% (Big Ten)

New York — growing at .4% (ACC)

Alabama — growing at .4% (SEC)

Indiana — growing at .5% (Big Ten)

Iowa — growing at .5% (Big Ten, Big 12)

 

The Big Ten and Big 12 states are growing at tiny rates (or declining) and there’s been no expansion moves made to offset those trends.  The Pac-12 region is growing.  The South is a mixed bag, but both the  ACC and SEC have expanded in order to counteract any potential negative shifts.

NFL draft history plus the current migration patterns of modern Americans suggest that the SEC will continue to dominate in terms of football talent produced for years to come.  As noted above, there will be blips on the radar from time to time, but the numbers and trends should make it rather clear to any objective observer that the Southeastern Conference — followed by the ACC and the Pac-12 — appear to be in good shape moving forward.  The Big Ten, on the other hand, appears to have to some work to do if it wants to dominate football as it did for much of the 20th century.  The Big 12?  Well, the word “doomed” comes to mind… unless there’s some serious outward expansion either to the West or South.  Unfortunately for that league, several of its schools have been headed in the other directions the past few years.  And what schools in the Pac-12, SEC or ACC would want to go from growth zones into a dead zone?

In Part Three of our Stat Analysis series we’ll examine the recent talent production of all 14 SEC members.

(Kudos to USAToday.com for this wonderful little draft-tracking tool.)

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Part One: The SEC’s Talent Pool Is The Deepest Yet Again

With yet another NFL draft in our rearview mirror, it’s clear once more that professional GMs, scouts and coaches prefer athletes from the Southeastern Conference when it comes to building their own rosters.  To followers of pro football and the SEC there’s nothing surprising about that fact.  It’s obvious.  It’s consistently true.

To followers of other leagues, however, it’s a difficult point to accept.  ”Well, you people think your football is just so much better than everyone else’s.”  Uh, well, yeah.  Year-in and year-out it is.

As we wrote last week you can judge that by the teams winning BCS titles — six in a row have come from Mike Slive’s league.  Or you can judge that by talent produced — six straight years in which the SEC has led the way in NFL draft picks.

You can also tally up the numbers from the past six years and get a big picture glimpse of just how many more NFL-caliber athletes have come from the SEC than from rival BCS leagues over that span.  We’ve done that for you below.

First, let’s look at the overall number of picks from the six BCS conferences — ACC, Big East, Big Ten, Big 12, Pac-12 and SEC.  Below are the year-by-year numbers for draft picks from 2007 through 2012.  And that timeframe coincides with the Southeastern Conference’s six-in-a-row national crowns, by the way:

 

   Conference    2012    2011    2010    2009    2008    2007    Total
   SEC    42    38    49    37    35    41    242
   ACC    31    35    31    33    34    31    195
   Big Ten    37    29    34    28    28    31    187
   Pac-12    25    32    28    32    34    28    179
   Big 12    31    30    30    28    30    28    177
   Big East    12    22    18    27    19    16    114

 

As you can see, the ACC, Big Ten, Pac-12 and Big 12 are separated by just 18 picks over a six-year span.  The Big East lags far behind — a whopping 63 draft choices fewer than the rest of that group.  But at the top of the chart the SEC leads the way by a country mile.  The league has had 47 more draft picks than the other big four conferences that are bunched together in the middle.

At some point, a team from another conference will unseat the SEC in a BCS Championship Game or in whatever college football adopts as its new playoff format.  But on the whole, more NFL-type athletes are produced from the SEC.  There’s no arguing that fact.

We could have taken this study back further, too.  The SEC, for example, has led or tied for leading in draft picks for 13 of the past 15 NFL drafts.  The further back you go, the bigger the SEC’s lead on other conferences grows.

But now let’s look at just the very best of the best.  Below you’ll see — for the same six-year time period — all of the first-round draft picks from each BCS league.  Anyone care to guess what you’ll find?

 

   Conference    2012    2011    2010    2009    2008    2007    Total
   SEC    9    10    7    8    6    11    51
   Big 12    5    8    9    7    1    4    34
   ACC    3    3    4    5    7    6    28
   Big Ten    4    6    3    4    4    6    27
   Pac-12    4    3    2    4    6    1    20
   Big East    2    1    3    3    2    2    13

 

When it comes to those players NFL executives most want to build their franchises around, once again, the target zone is the SEC.  The league has had 17 more first-round picks over the last six years than any other BCS league.  The Big 12, ACC, Big Ten and Pac-12 are again bunched together, separated by just 14 first-rounders between them.  And again, the Big East brings up the rear, seven picks behind the rest of that mid-range pack.

There is a reason — though fans of other leagues might try to argue it — that the Southeastern Conference is viewed as playing the best football.  That reason is simple.  It has been proven again this past week.  It’s been proven over the past 15 years.

The reason is… there’s more NFL talent in the SEC than in any other league.  Anyone wanting to debate that need not take it up with the press or rabid SEC fans, but with the personnel directors in the National Football League.  It’s their call.  And each year they place more calls to SEC players.

In Part Two of today’s Stat Analysis we’ll show why that’s not about to change anytime soon, either.

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Georgia Commit Matthews Plans To Enroll Early

Georgia safety commit Tray Matthews from Newnan (Ga.) High School announced via twitter on Sunday he plans to enroll in college in January.

Matthews isn’t the only Georgia commit in the 2013 class who already plans to enroll early. Running back Derrick Henry, quarterback Brice Ramsey, linebacker Ryne Rankin and wide receiver Tramel Terry have all indicated they plan to arrive at Georgia in January.

A large group of early enrollees should allow Georgia to bring in more than 30 players in the 2013 class.

“I know we can sign as much room as we can sign backwards and forwards, so it can be a pretty healthy class,” coach Mark Richt said on April 7.

Georgia has 15 commitments for the class of 2013.

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SEC Headlines 4/29/2012

1. Spring game at Texas A&M – why the Aggies aren’t quite ready to name a starting quarterback, but Jameill Showers looks to be the favorite.

2. The A&M game puts a wrap on spring practice in the SEC.  What have we learned across the conference in the last few months? 

3. Spring practice review, fall football preview – conference predictions from the Kansas City Star.

4. There were whispers that Ole Miss tackle Bobby Massie  might get taken at the end of the first round.  He slid all the way to the fourth.

5. The New York Giants think Auburn’s offensive lineman Brandon Mosley can play both guard and tackle.

6. “The NFL draft began and the superiority of the SEC was underscored.”

NFL draft final day roundup:

7. The league grabs six players from Georgia.  “Redemption Day.”

8. Two guys from Mississippi State

9. A couple from Florida, while a few other Gators have already signed free-agent deals.

10. Three Alabama players taken,

11. Guys with ties to the state of Arkansas,  Here’s a rundown of every Razorback player drafted in the past 10 years.

12. Seven players from the state of South Carolina,

13. One from Tennessee (plus a few free-agent signings). Former Vol and UT-Chattanooga QB B.J. Coleman is headed to Green Bay.

14. Free-agent signings from Mizzou,

15. Eight LSU players were expected to get drafted.  Only five did. Cornerback Ron Brooks only player taken on Saturday.

16. Four players drafted at Texas A&M - most since 2008.

17. Vanderbilt defensive end Tim Fugger is headed to Indianapolis.

18. Two Kentucky players get the call on Saturday.

19. Kentucky quarterback Maxwell Smith is not looking forward to watching footage of the Wildcats spring game.

20. Ranking the most valuable programs in college sports – five of the top ten in football call the SEC home, but zero of the top ten in basketball?  Why Kentucky doesn’t make the cut but Louisville does.

21. Cincinnati Reds announcer Marty Brennaman on boos for Kentucky coach John Calipari:  ”We’re a regional franchise and Kentucky is a very important part of that region. I said, ‘You people ought to be ashamed of yourselves.’ “

Extras

22. What will a four-team playoff mean for NCAA football? “The history of college sports says the money will be wasted on bigger weight rooms and adults who already have enough.”

23. Perspective on what change will mean for college football.

23. The most meaningful regular season games in pro sports?

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