February 5th, 2014 08:42 PM║ Posted By: John Pennington ║ Permalink
║ Schools: Alabama, Arkansas, Auburn, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, LSU, Mississippi State, Missouri, Ole Miss, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas A&M, Vanderbilt
Tags: Alabama, Rivals, SEC, Vanderbilt
1. Since we’ll be putting together various comparisons of the SEC’s classes over the next couple of days, we sure wish everyone was working off the same page. As of 6pm ET, for example, the University of Tennessee listed the names of 33 young men as being signees and/or early enrollees. This after ESPN spent the entire day talking about the Vols’ 35-man class. Ah, but ESPN.com listed the Vols with 36 commitments, not 35. A quick check of Rivals.com listed the class as being just 31 members strong. And The Knoxville News Sentinel claimed it was 32 large. Unfortunately for us, it won’t just be the SEC’s biggest class that sends us digging through various lists this evening. So for the record, we intend to use the numbers and names provided by the schools themselves. Period. When you read our comparisons tomorrow please remember that there will be no purposeful inflating or deflating of any school’s numbers due to our love/hatred for that school. That is all.
2. Speaking of Tennessee, the Volunteers are the latest great example of just how soft the SEC’s 25-man signing cap really is. Since the day the league passed its oversigning, ahem, legislation, we’ve always referred to it as a “soft” cap. Heck, even before it passed — when coaches were unanimously barking about the evils of the cap — we were calling it a soft cap. Back-counting is still allowed. Forward-counting is allowed for early enrollees. Redshirting, grayshirting and something called blueshirting are all still legal. There are a few hundred ways to juggle the numbers, especially if you’ve had attrition in your program. (The kind caused by three coaching changes since 2008, eh, Vol fans?) Former Ole Miss’ coach Houston Nutt once signed 30+ players and was so beaten up over it that he actually apologized for the size of his class at the SEC Meetings in Destin. Then came the league’s 25-man cap as a result. Since then, several SEC programs have gone right around the “rule” ever since. In other words, don’t expect Butch Jones (or any other SEC coaches) to have to apologize for oversigning this spring in Destin. The league has its faux oversigning rule in place and that’s good enough. Or something like that.
3. With the SEC’s soft cap in place, we wonder if new Vanderbilt coach Derek Mason might have been better off holding on to four or five scholarships until next season. The new Commodore coach basically doubled Vanderbilt’s class — after James Franklin’s departure had halved it — in a two-week window. For that matter, Vandy had just 10 commitments one week ago today. But today the Dores wound up with 22 signatures. That’s some impressive work by the first-year head coach. However — and, yes, we know that 2-star players can become stars, too — eight of Mason’s signees were of the 2-star variety. And while they can turn into All-Americans, the odds of a 3- or 4-star becoming a big-time player are better than those stacked against the 2-star guys. Here’s what we’re getting at: If Mason could ink so many players in so short a time, would he have been better off holding onto a few of those scholarships and then using them to back-count next February when he’s had a full year to build relationships and recruit? There’s no right or wrong answer to that one, we just think the question is a legitimate one.
4. How about the job Mark Stoops did at Kentucky? He signed 27 or 28 players depending on the list you look at (someone sound the oversigning alarm) and the Cats’ class included 10 4-star prospects. That’s some John Calipari-style recruiting right there. UK even went into Stoops’ home state of Ohio and made off with 11 signees. For decades folks like yours truly have said the Wildcats would have to start yanking kids from their neighbor to the north if they were to really build a competitive program. Stoops appears to be all over that one.
5. Speaking of Calipari, Les Miles has started a conveyor belt of his own down on the Bayou. Each January a chunk of his team turns pro early. Each February he replaces those early departees with a fresh batch of blue-chippers. The Tigers jumped all the way to #2 in all of the major national rankings today. Conveyor belt, folks. Out go young stars, in come younger stars. The circle of life. Hakuna matata.
6. Alabama signed six 5-star recruits. Six. That according to Rivals’ rankings, but we feel theirs have proven to be the most accurate over time. As good as Nick Saban’s recruiting has been over the years, six 5-star recruits is almost obscene. Among those mega-stars are the #1 player in the state of Virginia, the #2 player in state of Texas and the #3 player in the state of Louisiana. The other three 5-star fellows ranked first, third and fourth in the state of Alabama, including top linebacker prospect Rashaan Evans of Auburn High School. Te Tigers beat the Tide last season, won the SEC and came within a minute of winning the BCS title. Yet Saban and crew were still able to march deep into WDE! country and make off with a kid most everyone had penciled in as a Tiger. Just a tremendous show of force for Bama today.
7. Missouri was coming off an SEC East title today, yet the Tigers wound up with what’s on paper a rather disappointing class. Gary Pinkel, however — much like Bobby Petrino did during his Arkansas stay — has proven that he’s one of the very few coaches who can say “we don’t worry about star rankings” and actually mean it. The Tigers have never battled for top 10 signing classes yet they’ve managed to reach the actual top 10 on numerous occasions, including last season in the “you folks will never win here” SEC. Rankings, schmankings.
Finally, here are the national rankings from several recruiting services as of 8:15 pm ET:
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