I get this, Coach Smart, I really do.
Obviously, I’m excited about the class, and I know all you guys want to talk about the ranking. That really does not float my boat or this staff’s boat. I don’t think that’s what’s important. What’s more important is the quality of kids we were able to get, both academically and athletically.
It’s what I expect a head coach to say after any signing day. For all I know, you really believe it.
While I would never suggest that recruiting rankings are an absolute science, they are a decent road map to show where the talent in any given season is heading. And from that standpoint, the ranking matters, particularly in comparison with the rest of the conference.
Here’s the link to the current 247Sports composite team rankings for the SEC. The gap between #1 Georgia and #3 Auburn is larger than the gap between Auburn and the conference’s eleventh-ranked team, Kentucky. Beyond that, notice a significant trend to this year’s results.
There are two SEC teams in the first list. There are five in the second. And, sure, while a little of the second result can be explained by transitional staffs at Tennessee and Arkansas, the fact remains that those programs have to play football with the rosters they’ve assembled.
The discrepancy is even more apparent when you look at the élite talent assembled in this year’s classes.
SEC’s 5-star signees
- Alabama — Eyabi Anoma (6-5, 235), DE, Baltimore, Md.
- Alabama – Patrick Surtain Jr. (6-1.25, 199), CB, Fort Lauderdale, Fla.
- Georgia — Justin Fields (6-3, 221), QB, Kennesaw, Ga.
- Georgia — Zamir White (6-1, 220), RB, Laurinburg, N.C.
- Georgia — Jamaree Salyer (6-4, 342), G, Atlanta
- Georgia — Adam Anderson (6-4, 214), OLB, Rome, Ga.
- Georgia — Cade Mays (6-6, 318), T, Knoxville, Tenn.
- Georgia — Brenton Cox (6-4.5, 247), DE, Stockbridge, Ga.
- Georgia – Tyson Campbell (6-2.5, 180), CB, Fort Lauderdale, Fla.
- LSU — Terrace Marshall (6-2.5, 192), WR, Bossier City, La.
4-star signees: Auburn 16, Georgia 14, Alabama 11, LSU 11, Florida 10, Texas A&M 10, South Carolina 8, Tennessee 7, Mississippi State 6, Ole Miss 3, Vanderbilt 3, Kentucky 3, Arkansas 2
It’s hard to deny there is a growing talent gap between the very top of the conference and the rest.
Now, one great class does not a behemoth make. Just ask Dan Mullen. You can say Georgia isn’t Alabama until it puts together a similar run of dominance at the top of the recruiting rankings, and you’d be right. (You can also make the point about developing the talent once it arrives on campus, but I’ll give Georgia’s staff the benefit of the doubt on that one after last season.) But you have to start somewhere to make such a run, and the Dawgs appear to have taken those steps.
The point here is that when Saban started his run, Florida was a dominant, talented program and LSU was hitting its stride, too. The SEC’s upper echelon, which included Georgia, regularly had multiple teams in the national top ten recruiting classes. This year, there are only two. (It should be noted that there are five more in the top twenty.)
My point here isn’t that we’ve just seen game, set, match. It’s that we need to watch and see if a few years later, this is nothing but an outlier, or the start of a significant shift in the balance of conference power. In that regard,