It goes to show what a great coaching and recruiting job that Phillip Fulmer and before him Johnny Majors did for 33 years at Tennessee. Tennnessee is only behind Kentucky in high school talent but Tennessee has always been great at recruiting nationwide. They in my opinion have finally found there guy in Butch Jones. This year they will be lucky to win 6 games but starting next year watch Tennessee slowly come back to being Tennessee again.
In our effort to rank the SEC’s best football programs, we’ve created four categories with which to grade each school. The first one we’ll break down for you is one we’ve titled “Recruiting Base.” Obviously, recruiting is the fuel that keeps the top programs running smoothly. The more fuel sources in a school’s neighborhood, the better.
For that reason, we’ve chosen to look at the number of NFL-caliber players produced in each SEC program’s homestate. Granted, some schools are close enough to other states that borders and boundaries aren’t a major issue — Tennessee is closer to Georgia than it is to Memphis inside its own state, for example — but measuring homestate talent still has value.
The best breakdown of past NFL drafts in database form can be found at the USA Today website under the label: “NFL draft: Finding the talent.” The data covers only up through the 2012 draft — rather than this past April’s selection party — but we’re looking for long-term trends anyway. So below you will find the number of in-state high school products from each SEC state who went on to be drafted into the National Football League between 1993 and 2012:
Recruiting Base: NFL Picks Over Recent 20 Years (1993-2012)
It’s no surprise that when it comes to talent-rich states, none within the SEC footprint can come close to matching Texas and Florida. Those states basically double the next closest state in terms of pros produced. The next best state, Georgia, is the only other SEC state that has produced more than 200 NFL draft picks over the 20-year span in question.
On the poorer end of the spectrum, Missouri, Arkansas and Kentucky bring up the rear. The state of Tennessee has also produced fewer than 100 NFL draft picks from its high schools over those two decades.
While the talent inside a state is important, we wanted to also recognize the fact that strong recruiters can overcome a weak home base… or truly dominate a strong one. Also, we are looking to grade the best SEC program at this moment. With those goals in mind, we turned to Rivals.com, the oldest of the websites providing nationally-recognized recruiting rankings. Below you will find the total number of 4- and 5-star prospects (according to Rivals.com) who have signed with SEC schools over the past five signing periods:
Recruiting Base: 4- and 5-Star Signees Over Last 5 Years (2009-2013)
Alabama has pulled away on the recruiting trail, signing an average of two more high-caliber prospects per year than the next best SEC member, Florida. LSU, Auburn and Georgia appear on the list next.
Down the line, Missouri, Kentucky and Vanderbilt have signed the fewest blue-chippers over the past five signing days.
Still to come, we have 18 more sub-categories to bring you as well as an explanation of our scoring method as we near our final rankings of the league’s best football program. Stay tuned.