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SEC Recruiting Notebook: Lock Helps Missouri Bolster Offense

sec-recruiting-notebook-gfxMissouri’s offense received a big lift this week when it received commitments from quarterback Drew Lock from Lee’s Summit (Mo.) High School and running back Natereace Strong from East St. Louis (Ill.) High School.

Lock, who’s ranked the nation’s No. 5 pro-style quarterback by Rivals, chose Missouri over Tennessee. Kentucky, Ole Miss, Michigan State, Ohio State and Texas also offered Lock a scholarship.

Lock said during a press conference Wednesday night that Missouri led throughout the recruiting process. His father, Andy Lock, played on the offensive line for the Tigers from 1986-89.

“I don’t feel like I could have played anywhere but Missouri because I feel like that’s where their heart lies, and that’s where my heart lies, too,” Drew Lock said. “(Lock’s father) did walk out into that stadium. To think that so many years later, I’m going to get the chance to actually do that, it’s surreal.”

Missouri’s recruiting on the offensive side of the ball is off to a strong start in the 2015 class.

The commitment from Strong, who’s ranked the nation’s No. 21 running back by Rivals, is the third running back commitment for the Tigers. He told Rivals he believes he will fit in nicely to Missouri’s offense.

“Their offense is a good offense – they are powerful and physical,” Strong said. “They put up numbers and I want to be in an offense that puts up numbers because that will help me get to the next level and that’s where I want to be.”

Lock plans to help Missouri put up those numbers. The Tigers’ recent quarterbacks, including Chase Daniel, James Franklin and Maty Mauk, have shown the ability to throw and run. Lock believes he can follow in that line.

“I would definitely say that my label is a pocket passer,” Lock said. “But I feel like I can bring so much more to the University of Missouri and the college level. I can get out and make plays if I need to, if the pocket breaks down. That’s something I take pride in.”

Lock has always taken pride in his family’s connection to Missouri. Andy Lock recalled a conversation he had with Drew about the future of the quarterback position at Missouri.

“Drew, would you be comfortable with somebody else quarterbacking the University of Missouri for three or four years, however long you get to play?” Andy remembered. “He goes, ‘Absolutely not.’ I said, ‘There you go. You just answered your own question.’

“That right there. He kind of went, ‘No, Dad, I’m not OK with that because I love that school and my family loves that school so, no, it would hurt me.’”

And Missouri is glad Lock will be there to help the Tigers.

 

Tennessee continues in-state run

Athlete Jauan Jennings gave Tennessee good news when he committed to the Vols on Monday.

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SEC Commitment Comparator – 3/25/14

blue_poker_chipsIt’s roughly 10 months until National Signing Day; do you know how your favorite football program stacks up?

Below is our much too early commitment comparator for the class of 2015.  Only, it really isn’t much too early.  As the recruiting process speeds up and prospects commit earlier and earlier, those schools that get out to an early jump on the competition typically gain momentum throughout the process.  Using social media, committed players often work as recruiting agents for their schools of choice, luring in friends and contacts from camps and all-star teams.

As always, we’ve used the star ratings provided by Rivals.com to put together our own quickie update.  For now, we’ll look only at quantity (total points) and quality (average points per commit).  For each star Rivals has assigned, we’ve awarded a point.  Where Rivals hasn’t provided a star grade (because they haven’t viewed tape of a prospect yet), we have awarded a lone point anyway because we’re softies.

So where does your team rank in comparison with its SEC foes?  Here’s your answer…

 

  School   Commits   5-stars   4-stars   3-stars   2-stars   1- & 0-stars   Total Points   Avg. Pts/Commit
  Texas A&M   9   0   8   1   0   0   35   3.88
  Alabama   8   0   7   1   0   0   31   3.88
  LSU   9   2   1   5   1   0   31   3.44
  Tennessee   9   0   4   4   1   0   30   3.33
  Miss. State   9   0   2   5   0   2   25   2.77
  S. Carolina   7   1   3   2   0   1   24   3.42
  Arkansas   7   0   4   2   0   1   23   3.28
  Georgia   5   0   4   0   0   1   17   3.40
  Ole Miss   4   0   1   3   0   0   13   3.25
  Auburn   5   0   1   2   0   2   12   2.40
  Florida   5   0   0   3   0   2   11   2.20
  Kentucky   2   0   0   2   0   0   6   3.00
  Vanderbilt   2   0   1   0   0   1   5   2.50
  Missouri   2   0   0   1   0   1   4   2.00

 

As a reminder, Alabama and Tennessee finished among the top four in the SEC in total points last signing day.  Alabama, LSU, Tennessee and Texas A&M also finished among the top five in the league in average points per commit.  The takeaway?  The top schools in the 2013/14 recruiting field are off to hot starts for 2014/15 as well.

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SEC Recruiting Notebook: Five-Star Jefferson ‘Giving Everyone A Chance’

sec-recruiting-notebook-gfxCeCe Jefferson has more college options than he can count.

The defensive tackle from Baker County High School in Glen St. Mary, Fla., holds offer from schools such as Alabama, Auburn, Florida, LSU, Tennessee, Florida State, Ohio State and Southern California. That’s just the start of it.

The amount of interest Jefferson is receiving is the reason he plans to keep his options open and wait until national signing day to announce his decision.

“I am still fairly even and that is why I decided to make my commitment on national signing day and don’t have a top five or anything,” Jefferson told Rivals.com. “I am just giving everyone a chance to prove to me why I should go to their school. The more visits I take the better I will know what I like and don’t like.”

Jefferson, who’s ranked the nation’s No. 2 defensive tackle by Rivals, has already begun taking unofficial visits. He has recently taken trips to Florida, Florida State and Georgia.

Jefferson’s visit to Florida last weekend came with a similar message from the Gators’ staff: he is a top priority in the 2015 class.

“They made it real sure they let me know that Florida is going to be coming at me hardest,” Jefferson said. “They said to keep a lookout for them because they are going to come to one or two of my football games and I better get used to them because they are going to recruit me to the end.”

So will Georgia. New Bulldogs defensive coordinator Jeremy Pruitt has developed a strong relationship with Jefferson dating back to Pruitt’s previous stop at Florida State. Jefferson visited Georgia’s campus for the first time earlier this month.

“It was my first time up there and they set the bar real high,” Jefferson said. “I talked with coach Pruitt about his change from Florida State to Georgia and obviously he saw something in their program that made him want to go.

“They showed me a real good time and a lot of great facilities and Coach (Mark) Richt is a real good guy. I wouldn’t mind playing for Georgia.”

Other schools are just hoping to remain in the mix as they try to improve their standing with Jefferson, who doesn’t claim a ranking of any of the schools he’s considering.

Jefferson told Rivals he plans to visit Alabama, Auburn, LSU and North Carolina during the spring. That will only be the start of it.

 

Livington likes the Wildcats

Kentucky continues to make a favorable impression on offensive/defensive lineman Levon Livingston from Ballou High School in Washington, D.C.

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SEC Recruiting Notebook: Defensive End Jennings Chooses Alabama

sec-recruiting-notebook-gfxDefensive end Anfernee Jennings from Dadeville (Ala.) High School committed to Alabama on Thursday.

Jennings received a scholarship offer from the Crimson Tide during a visit to Tuscaloosa last weekend. He only needed a few days to pull the trigger on his commitment.

“I just felt like it was time,” Jennings told AL.com. “(Alabama) is the place that suits me and where I fit in the best. Not only will they help me become a greater football player, but become the man I would love to be later on in life.

“I kept praying about it and will continue to.”

Jennings, whose offer list includes Arkansas, Mississippi State, Vanderbilt, Arizona State and Louisville, will continue to consider other schools. He said he plans to take all five official visits this fall, according to AL.com.

Alabama will continue to recruit Jennings to keep him from going elsewhere. He was a key target for the Crimson Tide after coaches were able to evaluate him in person, according to Andrew Bone of TideSports.com. He wrote in part:

“(Jennings) has the ability to do a lot of different things. He can play defensive end or linebacker. He has been coached well throughout his high school career.  He knows and understands the game.  He knows how to shoot his hands and fight off blocks.  He is an aggressive defender coming off the ball.”

Jennings is the eighth prospect to commit to Alabama’s 2015 class, which is ranked No. 2 in the nation behind Texas A&M in the Rivals Team Rankings.

 

Dean chooses Arkansas

Defensive end Daytrieon Dean committed to Arkansas last weekend.

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SEC Recruiting Notebook: Florida’s Class Grows By Four

sec-recruiting-notebook-gfxFlorida’s junior day last weekend helped the Gators added four commitments to their class of 2015.

Florida received commitments from the following in-state prospects in the last week: wide receivers Deondre Farrier from Orlando and Tristan Payton from Jacksonville, offensive lineman Tyler Jordan from Jacksonville and linebacker Camrin Knight from Tallahassee.

“It feels great to be a Gator,” Payton told the Orlando Sentinel. “I remember liking Tim Tebow … and Percy Harvin was my favorite.”

Payton has become a favorite receiver of First Coast quarterback De’Andre Johnson, who’s committed to Florida State.

“He’s a ‘Nole,” Payton said of Johnson. “He was proud of me with the decision I made and stuff like that, but he was all in my face talking about, ‘Go Noles.’ But not too much. When I came over here I didn’t have any offers or anything, so he was proud of me  for getting that offer from Florida.”

Florida was the first SEC school to offer Knight, who had already received official invitations from schools such as Cincinnati, Georgia Tech and North Carolina. Florida’s proximity helped the Gators land Knight.

“I chose Florida because it’s close to home,” Knight told Rivals.com. “It’s like two and a half hours away, it’s a nice school, has nice facilities and I like what they are going to do this upcoming season.”

Florida, which has five commitments for the 2015 class, will continue to try to build recruiting momentum before the season begins. Several highly-touted prospects, including quarterback Dwayne Lawson from Tampa, Fla., and receiver Preston Williams from Hampton, Ga., visited Florida recently.

Williams told Rivals he is “100 percent” committed to Tennessee but plans to visit other schools to make sure. Gainesville was the most recent stop.

“It was a great experience,” Williams said of his Florida trip. “I like Florida a lot. They showed me everything. I saw the whole city and I really saw more what they have on campus.”

Lawson liked what he saw when he visited Florida. He told Rivals the Gators and Tennessee are standing out along with Central Florida and Ohio State. All four schools have offered Lawson.

“Those schools really do a good job recruiting me,” he said. “They show me the most love. They message me whenever they have time and they come to my school when they are allowed to.”

Lawson’s decision could come sooner than he originally planned. He said he will likely take unofficial visits to Tennessee, Central Florida and Ohio State before he chooses a school.

“I don’t really know what I should do right now,” Lawson said. “I think I need to talk to my coaches a little bit more about it before I do anything. I was going to wait until National Signing Day, but I don’t think that would be the best idea right now. I know some schools are going to want to know who their guy is.”

 

Sullivan chooses Auburn

Auburn received a commitment last weekend from linebacker Elijah Sullivan from Tucker (Ga.) High School.

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Top Five Quarterback Signees For 2014

RECAPJohnny Manziel, AJ McCarron and Aaron Murray are all gone.

And that’s just the start of it. The SEC will look very different at the quarterback position next season thanks to the departure of so much talent.

The good news for the league is there will be plenty of talented quarterbacks arriving this fall.

Here are the top five quarterback signees in the SEC in the 2014 class.

1. Kyle Allen – Texas A&M

Allen enrolled early at Texas A&M with the hope of competing for the Aggies’ starting job. He won’t be the same kind of quarterback as Johnny Manziel, but that’s OK. Allen (6-3, 200) has all the tools to be a big-time college quarterback. Allen was ranked the nation’s No. 1 pro-style quarterback by ESPN, Rivals, Scout and 247Sports. He earns our No. 1 spot as well.

2. Sean White – Auburn

White turned heads last summer when he was named the Elite 11 MVP. Former NFL quarterback and ESPN analyst Trent Dilfer said White “paints a picture” when he throws the ball. White (6-1, 200) will likely have to wait his turn behind returning starter Nick Marshall and Jeremy Johnson, who showed plenty of ability as a freshman last season. But White will be in good hands as he learns from coach Gus Malzahn.

3. Will Grier - Florida

Grier was Florida’s most important prospect in the 2014 class. The early enrollee could see the field early depending on how Jeff Driskel plays when he returns from his leg injury this fall. Grier (6-2, 190) is exactly what Florida needs – a talented passer with the ability to run. He rushed for close to 3,000 yards during his high school career. Grier will have quarterback competition in his own class after Florida stole Treon Harris away from Florida State on signing day.

4. Brandon Harris – LSU

Harris will bring versatility to LSU’s offense. Coach Les Miles raved on signing day about Harris’ ability to throw the ball down field and make plays with his feet. Harris (6-3, 180) was ranked the nation’s No. 5 dual-threat quarterback by Rivals. Harris enrolled at LSU for one reason: “to compete and start as a freshman,” he said last summer. He’ll have a chance to do that this fall.

5. David Cornwell – Alabama

Like most quarterbacks on this list, Cornwell enrolled early to get a head start on his college career. Cornwell made it clear earlier this month he plans to compete for the starting quarterback position this fall. Incoming transfer Jacob Coker might have the upperhand in the competition, but Cornwell will have an opportunity. Cornwell (6-5, 240) is a big prospect with a tremendous arm. His skill set should fit in perfectly with coach Nick Saban’s offense.

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SEC Recruiting Notebook: Texas A&M’s Continues To Grow

sec-recruiting-notebook-gfxIt didn’t seem like a big deal when Texas A&M signed one the nation’s top-ranked classes on Feb. 5.

But it should be considering where the Aggies’ recruiting was earlier this decade.

Texas A&M, which signed 21 prospects in the 2014 class, landed seven of the top 25 players in the state of Texas, according to Rivals.com. Texas, which typically signs the best in-state haul, ended up with six of the top 25 in-state players.

How quickly have things changed? Just three years ago, Texas A&M didn’t sign one of the top 25 in-state players in the 2011 class. That was former head coach Mike Sherman’s final class with the Aggies.

It’s clear coach Kevin Sumlin has made a tremendous impact on Texas A&M’s recruiting. And that’s around the country, not just inside the state of Texas.

Texas A&M went to Scottsdale, Ariz., to land quarterback Kyle Allen, who’s ranked the nation’s No. 1 pro-style quarterback in the 2014 class by Rivals. Sumlin was able to convince New Orleans wide receiver Speedy Noil to turn down an offer from LSU in favor of Texas A&M.

Sumlin has quickly changed Texas A&M’s perception from a program that’s underachieving to a program that’s on the rise.

“I think we’ve been able to get over the hump … with more guys than we probably used to,” Sumlin said on signing day. “As I’ve said to the guys we’re recruiting, ‘There’s a reason why guys are coming here.’ It’s not one thing, it’s a lot of things, which has given us some momentum … Certainly in the state of Texas, we’ve really, really made some strides.”

Those strides have extended to the 2015 class.

Texas A&M has already landed seven commitments for next year’s class. All seven of those prospects reside in the state of Texas.

“It feels like home when I go down there,” 2015 defensive tackle Daylon Mack told Rivals when he committed to Texas A&M in October. “It’s just feels like the right decision in so many ways. In my heart I know it will be.”

The rest of the SEC knows it will have to battle Texas A&M for the nation’s top prospects as long as Sumlin is leading the way.

 

Bridges chooses Auburn

Auburn received a commitment this week from cornerback Tony Bridges from Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College in Perkinston, Miss.

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SEC Recruiting Notebook: Time For 2015

sec-recruiting-notebook-gfxThe end of signing day doesn’t mean the end of recruiting.

National signing day came and went on Wednesday, which means one class is finished and the next one is just beginning. Except the 2015 recruiting period was already well underway.

All 14 SEC schools have at least one commitment for the 2015 class. Half of the league has five or more commitments for 2015.

It’s the latest trend as recruiting continues to speed up. Coaches continue to push for early commitments, which allows schools to recruit into the future. After all, schools are already evaluating younger players while recruiting the upcoming class.

There’s also more pressure for coaches to evaluate and send out offers. A school often stands a better chance of landing a prospect if it’s one of the first schools to offer him.

Defensive back Terry Godwin from Callaway High School in Hogansville, Ga., committed to Georgia’s 2015 class in January. The Bulldogs’ early offer gave them an advantage in their pursuit of Godwin.

“Ever since they offered me, they’ve been there since day one,” he told UGASports.com. “They’ve helped me focus on school work and the recruiting process. They’ve let me know what to look for in schools.”

Of course, prospects who commit early still have plenty of time to change their minds. Godwin admitted he still plans to visit other schools. Many other committed 2015 prospects will do the same before they sign with a school next February.

The SEC is off to a hot start with the top 2015 prospects in the country. Twenty-two of the Rivals100 prospects for next year’s class are already committed. The SEC has landed 13 of those prospects.

Here’s a look at the number of 2015 commitments for each SEC school.

Alabama – 7
Arkansas – 5
Auburn – 2
Florida – 1
Georgia – 3
Kentucky – 2
LSU – 6
Ole Miss – 4
Mississippi State – 5
Missouri – 1
South Carolina – 5
Tennessee – 7
Texas A&M – 7
Vanderbilt – 1

There’s a long way to go until the next national signing day on Feb. 4, 2015. But most of the SEC is well on its way to putting a class together.

 

Bielema: It’s the path, not the stars

Arkansas’ 2014 class finished near the bottom of the SEC rankings.

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MrSEC.com 2014 Signing Class Rankings

blue_poker_chipsNational Signing Day has come and gone though the final tallies aren’t quite final yet.  Yesterday was just the beginning of the signing period, and while most faxed in their letter of intent, a few stragglers are still out there waiting to be corralled.

Across the SEC, the official signing lists differed a bit from the Rivals.com listings, whose rankings we use as the basis for our own examination of the league’s signing classes.  Below are nine differences in those lists and what they mean for our scoring.

 

Alabama — Quarterback Jake Coker has transferred in from Florida State and Alabama counts him while Rivals (as of 11pm ET) did not.  We do.  He was a 3-star prospect coming out of high school and that’s how we’ve scored him in the rankings below.

Georgia — Offensive lineman Dyshon Sims isn’t on Rivals’ list but he is on UGA’s.  We count him and that’s another 4-star signee for the Dawgs.

Kentucky — Juco defensive back Michael Mathis committed to Kentucky in September.  Rivals lists him as an yet-to-sign commitment.  But late additions by the Wildcats have likely cost the young man a spot on Mark Stoops’ roster.  Welcome to the crappy side of college football recruiting.  UK doesn’t count the 2-star Mathis as a Cat, so we won’t either.

LSU — Linebacker Deondre Clark is expected by most to sign with with the Tigers on Thursday.  If he signs with Oklahoma instead, you can mentally remove his 4-star ranking from LSU’s score below.

Ole Miss — Athlete DJ Law out of Florida apparently signed with three different schools yesterday.  The Rebels announced his letter of intent first so it’s assumed he’ll wind up in Oxford.  If he does not, remove a 3-star player from the Rebs.  (UPDATE — Ole Miss has since decided to release DJ Law from his LOI and that is reflected in our rankings below.)

Ole Miss — Rivals doesn’t count former UCLA signee Christian Morris among the Mississippi signees, but the school does.  So the 4-star player makes our listing.

Tennessee — Defensive back Bryson Durden is the SEC’s only 0-star signee.  Rivals doesn’t list him as a Tennessee signee, but the school does.  As usual, we give 0-star guys one point in our scoring system.  Signing a 0-star prospect, however, hurts the Vols’ “quality” ranking in the chart below which in turn prevents them from holding the #2 overall ranking in our standings all by their lonesome.  (UPDATE — OK, Vol fans, we’ll change it.  As we stated last night, our plan was to use the official list of newcomers put out by each school as our guide.  Tennessee included Durden so even though he was a preferred walk-on, we included him as a UT add.  And we’ve since been slammed with emails screaming, “But he’s a preferred walk-on!”  So, we’ll bend our rule on this one occasion because technically Durden was not a signee.  And even though he’s on UT’s list of new players, we won’t count him.)

Tennessee — Rivals doesn’t count Dimarya Mixon as a Vol signee.  He signed with Nebraska last year, but is now in Knoxville.  Since UT counts him, we count the 3-star defensive end as well.

Texas A&M — Rivals does not count JJ Gustafson among the Aggie recruits though A&M lists him on their website.  We count him.  He’s a 3-star signee.

 

Clear as mud, right?  Now we can get to our rankings.  As always, we assign one point for every star that Rivals’ gurus award a prospect.  We also give 0-star prospects — there’s only one — a point because we’re swell guys.  From there we grade the league’s classes in three different categories: Quality (the total number of points brought in by each program), Quantity (the average points-per-player for each school’s class), and High-End Prospects (4- and 5-star commitments only).

After ranking each program in all three categories, we assign a point for each school’s position in each area.  The higher the standings (1st, for example), the fewer the points (1).  So the lower the score the better in our overall rankings.

Let’s start with the Quantity ranking and for kicks we’ll show you at the far right how many points each program picked up in the final week leading up to National Signing Day…

 

Quantity

  School   Signees   5-stars   4-stars   3-stars   2-stars   1- & 0-stars   Total Points   +/- Since 1/29
  Tennessee   32   2   16   14   0   0   116   0
  Alabama   27   6   13   7   1   0   105   +12
  Kentucky   28   0   10   17   1   0   93   +11
  Florida   24   1   12   11   0   0   86   +10
  Ole Miss   26   0   8   17   1   0   85   +8
  LSU   23   2   14   6   1   0   86   +18
  Auburn   23   3   11   7   2   0   84   +10
  Texas A&M   22   3   10   8   1   0   81   +2
  Missouri   28   0   2   18   8   0   78   +5
  Georgia   21   1   12   7   1   0   76   +10
  S. Carolina   21   0   10   11   0   0   73   +12
  Arkansas   24   0   3   17   4   0   71   +6
  Miss. State   23   0   2   14   7   0   64   +13
  Vanderbilt   22   0   3   11   8   0   61   +30

 

As you can see, there were five oversigners in the SEC this year: Tennessee, Alabama, Kentucky, Ole Miss and Missouri.  None of those schools are breaking any league rules.  They’re just stockpiling talent via back-counting and forward-counting.  But it’s still oversigning.

Now onto our Quality component…

 

Quality

  School   Signees   Avg. Pts/Commit   Avg. On 1/29
  Alabama   27   3.88   3.87
  LSU   23   3.73   3.77
  Texas A&M   22   3.68   3.76
  Auburn   23   3.65   3.70
  Tennessee   32   3.62   3.57
  Georgia   21   3.61   3.67
  Florida   24   3.58   3.61
  S. Carolina   21   3.47   3.38
  Kentucky   28   3.32   3.36
  Ole Miss   26   3.26   3.20
  Arkansas   24   2.95   2.95
  Miss. State   23   2.78   2.83
  Missouri   28   2.78   2.80
  Vanderbilt   22   2.77   2.95

 

The biggest point of interest here is that Tennessee would have jumped past Florida with an average points-per-signee of 3.62 had they not inked 0-star prospect Bryson Durden.  Jumping Florida would have given the Vols the #2 spots in our overall rankings all to themselves.  (UPDATE — Dropping Durden from the list vaults Tennessee past Florida and Georgia and that will lead to big changes in our overall rankings.)

And now to the high-end talent…

 

High-End Prospects

  School   Signees   4- & 5-stars   4- & 5-stars On 1/29
  Alabama   27   19   17
  Tennessee   33   18   17
  LSU   23   16   14
  Auburn   23   14   12
  Florida   24   13   12
  Georgia   21   13   11
  Texas A&M   22   13   14
  Kentucky   28   10   10
  S. Carolina   21   10   7
  Ole Miss   27   8   6
  Arkansas   24   3   3
  Vanderbilt   22   3   2
  Miss. State   23   2   2
  Missouri   28   2   2

 

Credit Alabama and Tennessee.  They already had 17 blue-chippers each before adding two more and one more respectively.  Impressive.  Just as impressive was South Carolina’s haul of three 4- and 5-star players over the last week.

And now, finally, we give you our official MrSEC.com 2014 Signing Class Rankings (barring any changes in the status of those players listed above).  Remember, each program gets a point for its finish in each of the three tables above.  The lower the score, the better the final ranking…

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MrSEC.com Final Signing Day Thoughts

random-thoughts-1Just a few quick-hitters and random thoughts for you as we wrap up National Signing Day 2014…

 

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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