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SEC Notebook: SEC Network The League’s Latest Recruiting Tool

sec-recruiting-notebook-gfxThe SEC announced its new network on Thursday in a big way because the league wanted to make it a big deal.

And it is a big deal. It’s big in terms of money, impact and attention the league will receive.

It will also be beneficial in recruiting.

Prospects already know the SEC is the strongest conference in college football. They’ve seen it win the most BCS championships (seven straight) and produce the most NFL draft picks (63 this year, more than double the next highest conference).

Recruits also know ESPN. It’s their No. 1 option when it comes to sports viewing. And while Fox Sports 1 is on the way and CBS and NBC continue to grow television options to challenge ESPN, the truth is the Worldwide Leader will continue to be No. 1 for the foreseeable future.

So with ESPN and the SEC extending their relationship to 2034, that should should only create opportunities for the league to sell itself to the best prospects in the Southeast and nation.

“It’s all about exposure and (the SEC network gives us) more exposure in the footprint of our 11 states in the Southeast,” Florida coach Will Muschamp said, according to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. “Of course, we target the Southeast and Texas pretty hard, as far as our recruiting is concerned, as well as doing some national recruiting. The more exposure you get, the better it’s going to be for recruiting obviously, and also your fan base.”

It also helps that the SEC already has a strong lead in recruiting against the rest of the country. The conference finished with five of the top 10 and 10 of the top 25 teams in the 2013 class rankings by Rivals.

The SEC already has five of the top 10 teams listed in the 2014 class rankings. That doesn’t include Alabama, which is ranked No. 17 and will surely climb when the commitments start to roll in for the Crimson Tide.

But the SEC still has room to grow in terms of talent. Schools like Ole Miss and Vanderbilt are recruiting at higher levels than we’ve ever seen and Tennessee, a once dominant recruiter in the SEC, is beginning to have success again on the recruiting trail.

And all 14 schools in the SEC plan to use the conference’s new network, which won’t launch until August 2014, as part of their sales pitch to prospects.

“We’ve had our own network at CBS and several games on ESPN,” Alabama coach Nick Saban said. “We had a great partnership with them. And now we’re going to improve on that. It’s going to be even better in the future.”

It’s hard to argue against Saban. The SEC had 12 prospects selected in the first round of the NFL draft last week. Who says that record won’t be broken in the future?

With Texas A&M’s early success in the SEC and big plans for the future, expect prospects from one of the country’s most talent-rich states to show more interest in playing in the SEC. Especially when they all have more access to watch the SEC in football and other sports.

As Georgia coach Mark Richt said Thursday, the impact of the SEC network is “going to be huge, really.” And he’s right.

 

Tennessee lands a big one

That’s a literal and figurative statement.

Tennessee received a commitment Thursday from offensive lineman Orlando Brown Jr. from Peachtree Ridge High School in Duluth, Ga. He chose the Vols over offers from such schools as Alabama, Arkansas, Auburn, Florida, Georgia, Michigan and Oklahoma.

Tennessee made an early impression on Brown, the son of the late NFL offensive lineman Orlando Brown Sr.

“I went up there for the first time on a Junior Day and it was just the best thing I’ve ever experienced,” Brown told Volquest.com.

Brown’s body has experienced a major change in the last three years. The 6-foot-7, 340-pounder said Thursday he’s lost 110 pounds in three years, a transformation he says has made him more mobile.

Brown’s commitment comes at a good time for Tennessee. The Vols have made the offensive line a priority in recruiting thanks to low numbers at the position in the last two signing classes.

Tennessee’s momentum with its 2014 class, which now has 12 commitments, was a factor in Brown’s decision.

“When the players are recruiting, it definitely helps a lot,” Brown said. “That helped me. I wasn’t even going to come up for a visit to Tennessee. But I heard their facilities were good, they had a good coaching staff, so I thought I’d give it a shot.”

Tennessee’s glad he did.

 

Examining the letter of intent

The recruitment of Arkansas running back signee Alex Collins became a national topic in February.

That’s when signing day arrived and Arkansas had yet to receive its national letter of intent from Collins, who attends South Plantation High School in Plantation, Fla.

Collins’ signing was delayed because his mother refused to sign his letter of intent. Any prospect under the age of 21 is required to have his parent or legal guardian sign the letter of intent.

Collins eventually was able to send his letter to Arkansas thanks to his father’s signature, but the time in between had to be worrisome for Arkansas. What if Collins changed his mind and followed his mother’s advice to stay close to home? That would have been a big blow to the Razorbacks.

That led to a discussion about the rule. Should it be changed to allow prospects to sign anywhere without the signature of a parent or guardian? Arkansas coach Bret Bielema doesn’t believe so.

“I think that’s a great rule,” he told the AJC.

Bielema praised Collins for the way he handled the negative situation and he’s probably right about the parental signature rule being a good one. But a better question should be why some prospects even bother to sign a letter of intent.

They’re hardly beneficial to most prospects, especially star players like Collins who have offers from around the country.

The problem with the letter of intent is it gives all the power to the school and almost none to the prospect.

A letter of intent requires a prospect to spend a full academic year at the institution. But it doesn’t require the school to guarantee the prospect with a spot on the team.

Former Kentucky basketball player Brandon Knight signed a financial aid agreement instead of a letter of intent before he arrived at Kentucky in 2010. It still guaranteed him a scholarship at the school but also gave him flexibility if he decided he wanted to go elsewhere.

Prospects like Collins should consider doing the same. It would help them avoid the mess that often follows the national letter of intent and would still take care of them financially when they arrive at whichever school they desire.

 

Barker set to announce

Quarterback Drew Barker from Conner High School in Burlington, Ky., said via Facebook that he will announce his college decision on May 10 during a ceremony at his school.

Barker has strongly considered Kentucky, South Carolina and Tennessee and has offers from Ole Miss, Vanderbilt, Louisville, Miami and others.

The most recent prediction page from ESPN RecruitingNation gave Tennessee the edge in Barker’s recruitment. Here’s a portion of ESPN’s scouting report of Barker.

“Barker is a physical presence. He possesses very good size, both height and bulk. He is more physically mature than most prospects and can be a load to handle against this level of competition. He has very good playing strength and above average movement and mobility. He is a good athlete, but lacks elite speed and suddenness. Barker has shown that he can make a decision in rhythm while in the pocket and later decisions while on the move. He also makes good zone-read decisions on option runs out of the shotgun.”

 


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