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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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Updated Recruiting Rankings From 3 Different Sources

As faxes continue to fly and ball caps continue to be placed on prospects’ heads, the folks who make their living grading recruits continue to shuffle their national rankings.

Below are the most recent rankings from Rivals, Scout and 247sports…

 

  Rank   Rivals   Scout   247
  1   Alabama   Alabama   Alabama
  2   LSU   Florida State   LSU
  3   Ohio State   LSU   Ohio State
  4   Florida State   Tennessee   Florida State
  5   Tennessee   Ohio State   Texas A&M
  6   Texas A&M   Notre Dame   Tennessee
  7   Florida   Texas A&M   Auburn
  8   Georgia   Auburn   Florida
  9   Notre Dame   Florida   Georgia
  10   Auburn   Miami (FL)   Notre Dame

 

Outside the top 10, Rivals ranks Kentucky #14, Ole Miss #20 and South Carolina #25.  Scout lists Georgia #15, Ole Miss #17 and Kentucky #20.  Finally, 247sports ranks Ole Miss #14, Kentucky #21 and South Carolina #24.

 

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5-Star LB Evans Takes His Time, Picks Alabama

PLAYER UPDATEIn a bit of a surprise, Auburn, Alabama native Rashaan Evans has decided to play for Nick Saban, not Gus Malzahn.  Ranked by Rivals as the best linebacker in the country, the 5-star player took his time in making his announcement (which we think is sorta/kinda weak).

Evans recently saw coaches from both Auburn and Alabama show up at a birthday party for this grandfather.  Apparently the Bama folks made the better impression.

For Alabama it’s a case of the uber-rich getting uber-richer.

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Rivals.com Updates Its Recruiting Rankings

rankingsThe folks at Rivals.com continue to update their recruiting rankings.  Their latest top 10 is as follows:

 

1.  Alabama

2.  Ohio State

3.  Tennessee

4.  Texas A&M

5.  LSU

6.  Florida State

7.  Florida

8.  Georgia

9.  Notre Dame

10.  Auburn

 

That’s seven SEC schools in the top 10.  Two other league members — Kentucky (#14) and Ole Miss (#16) — are currently in Rivals’ top 20.

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Auburn Snares OG Smith

PLAYER UPDATEAuburn has landed big-time offensive lineman Braden Smith from the state of Kansas.  He was the #1 high school player in his home state and the 4-star guard ranks #3 at his position nationally, according to Rivals.com.

Texas A&M and TCU were also hot on Smith’s trail, but Gus Malzahn and the Tigers bagged him.

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LSU Lands 5-Star WR Dupre

PLAYER UPDATEFinally. One of the River Ridge, Louisiana four has actually decided to stay at home and play in the SEC.

Receiver Malachi Dupre — ranked as the #1 receiver in the country by ESPN; the #2 receiver by Rivals — elected to stay at home and play for LSU.  After three of his teammates elected to play West Coast football, Dupre drew the loudest cheers of the day from his classmates when he slipped on his purple and gold cap.

Great get for a Tiger offense that will have to be rebuilt this fall.

 

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Rivals, ESPN Already Adjusting Their Recruiting Rankings

rankingsThe gurus at Rivals.com and ESPN are adjusting their recruiting rankings on the fly today.  Currently, the two groups top 10 lists are as follows…

 

Rivals.com

1.  Alabama

2.  Ohio State

3.  Florida State

4.  Tennessee

5.  Texas A&M

6.  LSU

7.  Florida

8.  Notre Dame

9.  Auburn

10.  Miami

 

ESPN

1.  Alabama

2.  Texas A&M

3.  LSU

4.  Florida State

5.  Tennessee

6.  Ohio State

7.  Florida

8.  Miami

9.  Auburn

10.  Georgia

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SEC Recruiting Notebook: Elam Chooses In-State Kentucky

sec-recruiting-notebook-gfxKentucky received the news it had been waiting for on Thursday when defensive tackle Matt Elam from John Hardin High School in Elizabethtown, Ky., announced his commitment to the Wildcats.

Elam chose Kentucky over Alabama.

“The whole time I was just struggling to pick a school,” he said, according to the Lexington Herald Leader. “It’s hard to turn down Alabama, and it’s crazy that I did. But I feel my heart is at the University of Kentucky — that was the main thing.”

Elam became a main target for Kentucky’s coaching staff early in the recruiting process. The Wildcats knew keeping him from leaving the state would be difficult.

“Coach Stoops is doing something right,” John Hardin coach Chad Lewis told the Herald Leader. “He can’t build this program in one year. The way the program was … it was on a downhill slide.

“It’s going to take some time to rebuild it. The way to rebuild a program is to recruit the best players, and you have to go after the best players. When you land these type of kids, your program’s going to change.”

Kentucky coach Mark Stoops has certainly helped improve the Wildcats’ recruiting. Kentucky has 27 commitments for the 2014 class, which is ranked No. 13 in the nation by Rivals.com.

Elam’s commitment means Kentucky has landed three of the state’s top five prospects for 2014. He believes that will be a key in Stoops’ attempt to turn the program around.

“I feel like that’s one of the main reasons why I stayed is just to help out my home-state program, because to have a good program you need great players,” Elam said. “And it has to start with those in-state kids just to be the cornerstone of that. So I feel like me and Drew, we stayed home, and I feel like we’re definitely gonna help out Coach Stoops and the UK program.”

 

Humphrey chooses Alabama

Cornerback Marlon Humphrey from Hoover (Ala.) High School announced his commitment to Alabama this week.

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Why Does SEC Basketball Stink? The Best Southern Athletes Choose Football

gfx-by-the-numbersFor a while now we’ve speculated as to why the Southeastern Conference — so dominant in football — has fallen on hard times in basketball.  A league that was once a top-three league in conference-wide RPI season after season is now kicking around as the #6, #7 or #8 league each year.  It used to be a given that the SEC would put five or six teams into the NCAA Tournament.  Now the league hovers around the three-bid mark each year.

We’ve pointed out previously that the SEC’s basketball troubles began right about the time the league’s recent run of unparalleled football success began… which was also about the time that Mike Slive inked two game-changing television contracts with ESPN and SEC.  In our view, the money trail was key.  SEC schools chose to re-invest the cash they made from TV back into the product that the networks were paying big bucks for — football.

Look around the SEC, the stadiums and facilities for football are flat-out bigger, pricier, and nicer than those for hoops.  The SEC’s roster of football coaches is unmatched.  The roster of basketball coaches features a couple of “names” and a whole lotta guys hired as up-and-comers.

But in addition to cash, there seems to be another issue at play here.  And it too has to do with the fact that the South in general is football territory.

Looking at Rivals.com’s recent recruiting rankings for football and basketball, you’ll find that the SEC produces twice as many top football prospects as it does blue-chip hoopsters.  Yes, there are more athletes in the South, but the data suggests most of those athletes choose to pursue football over basketball.

Below are the state-by-state numbers from Rivals’ top 100 football and basketball prospects lists between 2012 and 2014, three classes.  Football is listed first, then basketball:

 

  SEC State (Football)   Rivals Top 100 2014   Rivals Top 100 2013   Rivals Top 100 2012
  Alabama   7   6   5
  Arkansas   1   1   0
  Florida   12   16   18
  Georgia   7   8   8
  Kentucky   0   1   0
  Louisiana   9   3   1
  Mississippi   0   2   1
  Missouri   1   1   3
  S. Carolina   1   0   1
  Tennessee   4   2   0
  Texas   12   12   12
  Totals   54   52   49

 

  SEC State (Basketball)   Rivals Top 100 2014   Rivals Top 100 2013   Rivals Top 100 2012
  Alabama   2   1   1
  Arkansas   0   1   1
  Florida   7   8   2
  Georgia   3   2   7
  Kentucky   1   0   0
  Louisiana   1   2   2
  Mississippi   1   0   1
  Missouri   0   0   1
  S. Carolina   2   0   1
  Tennessee   2   6   1
  Texas   7   7   11
  Totals   26   27   28

 

Eye-opening, no?  Basically half of America’s most sought-after football players come from states within the SEC footprint.  Just a quarter of the nation’s top basketball stars come from Dixie. (Even if there’s a typo in there somewhere, the numbers are pretty dadgum clear.)

Further, take Florida and Texas out of the basketball equation and the other nine SEC states have produced an average of just 13 total top 100 hoops prospects combined per season since 2012.  Take out Tennessee — meaning Memphis — and the number drops to 30 overall basketball stars from eight states or just 10 per year.

As SEC football has soared and become a brand second only in strength to the NFL, it seems that high school athletes have made the decision to put football ahead of basketball.  In areas like the Midwest and Northeast where basketball rules, the numbers are skewed the other way.

So why is the SEC struggling in basketball?  Money, we believe, plays a role.  Less overall talent in basketball than in football — as demonstrated above — also factors in in a large way.  But the overall issue can be summed pretty easily: From university administrators to high school athletes, the South is football country.

With that in mind, new SEC basketball czar Mark Whitworth will need to work on more than just scheduling to fix what ails the league.  He’ll need to work on the overall SEC basketball brand, improving it to the point that some high schoolers will start selecting the hardwood over the gridiron.  The SEC Network could aid on that front.  So, too, could the growing number of injuries — and media coverage of injuries — suffered on high school, college and pro football fields.

Either way, the SEC needs to start its basketball revolution at the grass roots level.

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SEC Recruiting Notebook: Race Heats Up For Carter

sec-recruiting-notebook-gfxLorenzo Carter’s recruitment is close to being wide open.

The defensive end from Norcross (Ga.) High School said so during an interview with the Atlanta Journal-Constitution this week following his official visit to LSU.

“With the changes going on right now and the visits I’m taking, I’ve just got to sit back and just let it all happen,” Carter said.

A lot will happen for Carter in the next week and a half leading up to signing day on Feb. 5. He’ll hear from coaches at Florida, Georgia, LSU and Florida State. He maintains all four schools still have a shot at landing him.

LSU improved its standing with Carter during his visit to Baton Rouge.

“Going into the visit they were a little behind,” Carter said. “That was just because how late they came in but I think they did a pretty good job.”

Carter, who’s ranked the nation’s No. 4 weakside defensive end by Rivals.com, will take an official visit to Florida State on Sunday. The Seminoles have plenty to offer.

“Like LSU, they send defensive linemen to the NFL,” Carter said. “And they’re national champs.”

Georgia was fortunate to hire defensive coordinator Jeremy Pruitt away from the national champs. Pruitt, who joined Georgia’s staff on Jan. 14, has made Carter a priority for Georgia’s 2014 class.

“He reassured that I’m still the No. 1 guy on his board,” Carter said.

Georgia will receive Carter’s final official visit before signing day. He told the AJC people still tell him to “stay in state and represent Georgia.” It’s difficult to tell if that pressure will influence Carter’s decision.

“I’ve still got to look at other options,” he said.

A report from 247Sports cited multiple sources calling Georgia a slight leader ahead of Florida with LSU and Florida State both trying to make up ground in Carter’s recruitment. His father, Leo Carter, was asked by the website if those sources were correct.

“To be honest, the way you stated it, I would say it is probably exactly accurate at this point,” Carter said.

 

Kentucky lands defensive back Randolph

Defensive back Kendall Randolph from Lincoln High School in Tallahassee, Fla., committed to Kentucky on Tuesday.

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