Josh Kendall

Ranking the SEC recruiting classes: Who won? Who lost?

'The program got better': Muschamp recaps USC signing class

South Carolina football coach Will Muschamp discusses the Gamecocks' 2018 signing class and its 13 midyear enrollees.
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South Carolina football coach Will Muschamp discusses the Gamecocks' 2018 signing class and its 13 midyear enrollees.

We’ll start with our yearly reminder that recruiting rankings do matter.

Yes, there are always three-star and even two-star recruits who end up being stars. And yes, there are always five-star recruits who don’t pan out. And yes, college football coaches know football and football players better than recruiting services analysts.

However, the evidence is overwhelming that recruiting highly ranked classes correlates with success at the highest level in college football. There’s no use arguing against that point. With that in mind, let’s rank the SEC’s classes now that almost all the heavy lifting is done in the first year of the NCAA’s early signing period.

1. Georgia

23 players signed

The Bulldogs have the nation’s No. 1 class, according to 247Sports.com’s composite ranking system (which we’ll use for all our numbers here), and they dominated the rest of the league. Georgia signed six, five-star recruits and difference makers at almost every key position, including quarterback, running back and offensive line. Kirby Smart’s team signed three of the nation’s top 10 players, six of its top 22 and nine of its top 100.

(To complicate matters even further for Will Muschamp and South Carolina, the Bulldogs and Clemson, the Gamecocks two most bitter rivals, signed seven of the nation’s top 10 prospects on Wednesday.)

2. Alabama

17 players signed

It’s very odd to see the Crimson Tide outside of the top five in recruiting. Heck, even the top overall spot. Alabama had won the recruiting national title every year since 2011. At the moment, it sits No. 6. The worst news for the rest of the SEC is that the Tide’s top three signees all are defensive linemen.

3. Florida

15 players signed

The Gators are ranked lower than Auburn, but new head coach Dan Mullen gets a bump here because he got his quarterback, the most important piece of any class but especially so for the offensive-minded Mullen. Despite working on a short schedule due to the coaching change, Florida flipped four-star quarterback Emory Jones from Ohio State to lead a class ranked No. 14 in the nation.

4. Auburn

20 players signed

The Tigers have the 10th-ranked class in the country and got a quarterback they really, really like in four-star Florida product Joey Gatewood. Auburn has only signed two offensive linemen so far, though.

5. LSU

20 players signed

The Tigers are doing Tigers things in signing the nation’s No. 15 class. LSU’s top four recruits are in the defensive front seven, including two four-star defensive tackles. However, Ed Orgeron was hired in large part due to his recruiting moxie, and LSU has the ability to be a top 10 recruiter on an almost yearly basis.

6. South Carolina

20 players signed

This ranking fits right in with where the Gamecocks are ranked by 247Sports.com, sixth-best in the SEC. It’s a good class, but it’s also a reminder that no one builds a program in a vacuum. When Georgia is recruiting the way it is in the division, more and more pressure falls on Will Muschamp and company on the recruiting trail.

7. Mississippi State

21 players signed

This is where you get to the point of the rankings where conference teams clearly are falling further and further behind the SEC’s elite recruiters. The Bulldogs top three signees all are wide receivers. That may get fans excited by all the shiny skill players, but it’s a problem when you only sign one offensive linemen, like the Bulldogs did so far.

8. Tennessee

16 players signed

New head coach Jeremy Pruitt got a really late start because of how botched the Volunteers coaching search was, so it’s not fair to judge this class, at least in the early period. Still, he’s going to have to do A LOT better than this to get Tennessee back where it wants to be.

9. Kentucky

21 players signed

The Wildcats were supposed finally to have momentum in their football program. Instead, they’re still just Kentucky. Of the 21 players the Cats signed, there are three four-stars and no five-stars. In short, not enough difference makers.

10. Texas A&M

14 players signed

It’s hard to overstate the amount of pressure on new coach Jimbo Fisher because of his 10-year, $75 million contract. For that kind of money, the Aggies can’t afford to recruit classes ranked 28th in the nation, especially when they miss on their quarterback targets.

11. Ole Miss

16 players signed

The Rebels’ class is ranked 35th in the nation, but they get a little bump in these rankings for getting a four-star quarterback in Matt Corral and four-star wide receiver in Elijah Williams. How they got any talent this year after NCAA sanctions fell is kind of a mystery.

12. Vanderbilt

18 players signed

Like Kentucky, there was a moment where it looked like the Commodores were on the rise, at least relatively. Instead, Vanderbilt continues to be Vanderbilt, which is a wonderful thing in almost everything but football. The Commodores class is ranked No. 35 in the nation.

13. Missouri

20 players signed

Former Tigers head coach Gary Pinkel won back-to-back SEC East titles while stacking up recruiting classes that weren’t ranked much higher than this one (No. 42 nationally). We’ll see if Barry Odom can do the same, but we’re not optimistic.

14. Arkansas

10 players signed

The Razorbacks made a very good hire in Chad Morris, but boy does he have a lot of work to do. Arkansas’s class is the only SEC class ranked outside the top 50 nationally and it’s all the way down at No. 76. In Arkansas’ defense, it only signed 10 players.

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