Still, better to have momentum at this time of year than not. And there are plenty of SEC teams — some that might surprise you — that have some strong momentum at this point.
Below you’ll find an updated overview of how the SEC’s football programs are performing out on the recruiting trail as we hit mid-June and race toward a new football season. As usual, we’ve used the star ratings provided by Rivals.com as our launch point. For each star Rivals assigns, we award a point. Except we also give 0-star recruits — those kids who haven’t even been graded yet — a point. Hey, we’re nice guys.
We’ll once again examine the SEC’s commitment lists in three ways, grading each according to quantity, quality, and high-caliber talent. We start with quantity…
|School||Commits||5-stars||4-stars||3-stars||2-stars||1- & 0-stars||Total Points|
Now we turn our attention to quality, ranking each program according to the average number of points per committed player…
Next we look at high-caliber talent, only counting those commitments worth four or five points…
|School||Commits||4- & 5-stars|
Finally, we provide an overall MrSEC.com ranking for all 14 schools by assigning points to each school for its placement on the three charts above. The fewer the points (meaning the higher the finish in a category) the better. Also, we’ll discuss each program’s work to date at the end of this story…
|MrSEC Rank||School||Quantity||Quality||High-Caliber||Total Points|
So what do these charts tell us?
* That Kevin Sumlin — with a lot of help from the magic of Johnny Manziel last season and the Southeastern Conference brand to sell — appears to be the man who’ll finally start pumping beaucoup talent out of the A&M well. We’ve said it so often that everyone should know it by heart, but Texas A&M is LSU before Nick Saban arrived. And that’s a program with limitless potential just waiting to be tapped.
* The charts also tell us that Alabama and LSU — and most likely Florida and Georgia as well — are going to continue to score top 10 classes in the national recruiting rankings. All four schools have histories of finishing with strong flurries. There’s no reason to expect anything less this year. Don’t be surprised if those four schools — along with A&M — land the most 4- and 5-star players when all’s said in done next February.
* The charts tell us that three of the SEC’s new coaches are already selling prospects on their vision. When Tennessee hired Butch Jones and he brought with him a number of ex-Central Michigan and ex-Cincinnati coaches, many Vol fans wondered if the Big Orange would be able to recruit SEC-caliber athletes. With 15 commitments from eight different states and the District of Columbia, I think the answer is becoming clear. On the Plains, Gus Malzahn perhaps had the easiest recruiting pitch to make — “Guys, this here’s a BCS Championship ring that I won at Auburn just a couple of years ago.” The Tigers have all 3- and 4-star recruits at the moment and a penchant for closing fast. The most surprising work turned in so far, however, has to be that of new Kentucky coach Mark Stoops. He had no recent BCS title to sell. His program can’t sell a winning tradition as Auburn and Tennessee can. Yet he’s done exactly what a UK coach has to do to have success — mine Ohio for talent. And Stoops has raided his own home state for eight of the Big Blue’s 16 commitments. A tremendous start for the new Wildcat coach.
* The charts suggest that Hugh Freeze will put together another solid class to go with last year’s top 10 group. Ole Miss’ coach has admitted that he had some built-in advantages on the recruiting trail last year. He capitalized on those advantages. And now he’s continued the momentum into his second summer on the job.
* Bret Bielema hasn’t reeled in the same number of commits as the SEC’s other first-year coaches, but his track record at Wisconsin as well as Arkansas’ recent success under Bobby Petrino suggest he’ll put together a solid class. Still, if Bielema wants to win playing smashmouth football, he’s going to need to recruit with the SEC heavies. Petrino’s system ensured that he could points on the board with lesser-rated recruits. Bielema will need to recruit better athletes.
* Vanderbilt and South Carolina are currently ranked near the bottom of the league along with Arkansas in our tally. Carolina has finished strong in February under Spurrier and the Gamecocks will likely do the same this year. As for Vandy, James Franklin continues to sign more 3- and 4-star players than previous Commodore coaches. For a coach trying to lay a foundation at a school with no tradition to speak of — at least not since the 1930s — that’s good enough for now.
* Mississippi State fans have to be disappointed. They have put their faith in Dan Mullen and he has rewarded them with bowl trips and multiple Egg Bowl wins. But knowing how seriously the folks in Mississippi take that Egg Bowl rivalry, there can’t be many cowbell-ringers who are happy to see Ole Miss ahead of State in the recruiting rankings for a second-straight year… especially after the Rebels snapped MSU’s win streak over UM last fall.
* What can we say about Missouri? Gary Pinkel had built his program in the Big XII with a number of Texas recruits. Now in the SEC, the Tigers have zero Texas commits to date. Their attempts to put down a pipeline to the Atlanta area have been — to date — fruitless as well. Only one commit for Mizzou hails from Texas, Georgia or Florida. That’s not a good sign. Pinkel needs to win some fans and some recruits back to his side this fall.