Daily Archives: February 8, 2018

This could be the start of something big: 2018 recruiting and the SEC balance of power

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,

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47 Comments

Filed under Georgia Football, Recruiting, SEC Football

Today, in “damn, son, I don’t think I would have said that”

Patrick Surtain Jr.’s decision to sign with Alabama blew a hole in LSU’s recruiting plans, one that it didn’t recover from yesterday, as the Tigers failed to sign a cornerback in its 2018 class.  The social media reaction from LSU fans to the way things went hasn’t been kind, to say the least.  I doubt this is going to make those folks any more understanding.

LSU coach Ed Orgeron says he already has considered ways to adjust his recruiting approach based on the new calendar. He wants to make sure he still has enough scholarships available for the prospects who are waiting until February.

“We will be more selective in the beginning of the recruiting period next year,” Orgeron said. “We will be more selective with our scholarships at that time. We will fill specific needs then.”

This has not been the world’s greatest offseason for Orgeron, who parted ways with a highly paid offensive coordinator after only one year on the job, at the cost of a huge buyout.  Quarterback is a serious question.  LSU went 9-4, 6-2 last season, numbers not much different from what Miles was putting up at the end of his tenure there.  Admitting that you have to up your recruiting game, something that is generally regarded to be his greatest strength, isn’t a great way to reassure the faithful that better times are ahead.

15 Comments

Filed under Coach O Needs Another Red Bull, Recruiting

Jeremy Pruitt and “Tuscaloosa Pixie Dust”

I’m going to say it again:  Jeremy Pruitt’s biggest problem going forward at Tennessee won’t be the Nick Saban comparisons.  It’ll be the Kirby Smart comparisons.

Pruitt comes across as a man who spends zero energy attempting to be something he’s not. He’s a good, old-fashioned football coach, and his demeanor feels like manna from heaven following a five-year period spent covering a man who had the audacity to tell me a cow pie was chocolate ice cream and the naivety to think I would eat it.

In that light, Pruitt’s performance Wednesday was enjoyable to experience. He went to bat for the players on his current roster and the players he’d just signed, but he didn’t deny that his staff went for the fences in this class and came up short in a recruiting cycle that was stacked against him and his staff for many legitimate reasons. That’s a fine line to walk, but I believe Pruitt walked it well.

After speaking to the press Wednesday afternoon, Pruitt and his staff went to the Tennessee Theater in downtown Knoxville and spoke perhaps even more candidly to a loud and proud crowd that seemed equally happy to hear a more honest voice from a Vols football coach.

Pruitt said he didn’t care about recruiting rankings, but then he stuck his neck out and boldly declared that he and his staff would produce different results with a full year on the recruiting trail. He said without hesitation that Tennessee would have a class at the “very top” of the national rankings next season, and he said it with so much conviction that I believe he really believed it.

It’s going to be a tough haul.  Richt left the Georgia program in better shape for Smart than Booch did for Pruitt.  Georgia, as we’ve just seen, is much more fertile recruiting grounds than Tennessee will ever be, and Smart has also shown that he’s going to devote all his effort into making sure the in state program is the first choice for those recruits he wants for his program.  Kirby’s transitional class was much better than the 2018 Tennessee class appears to be, at least on paper.  And “very top” has a specific meaning to me, and, more importantly, to the Urnge hordes.  Pruitt’s got his work cut out for him.

For Pruitt to succeed at the level Vol fans want, it won’t be enough for him to be as good as Smart.  He’s going to have to be better.  If he’s not, he’s going to hear about it.

29 Comments

Filed under Because Nothing Sucks Like A Big Orange

“But I don’t think the people of Mississippi would want to lose the SEC over this.”

Mississippi legislators ask themselves the tricky political question about whether their constituents are more passionate about Southeastern Conference football or packing heat at football games.  Tough call.

10 Comments

Filed under Political Wankery, SEC Football

Relax. Kirby can count.

I saw a few questions yesterday about how Georgia wound up signing more than 25 in the 2018 class.  We don’t know for sure at this moment if there are any academic question marks in the bunch that would affect the final edition, so that may be one possibility.  Another, and more likely, is back-counting.  Seth Emerson explains.

Think of it this way: A program can sign 125 players over a five-year span. That’s a fairly hard number. But within those five years you can play with the numbers, mainly by back-counting early enrollees, so that in some years you can sign more than 25 players. (And as a result in future years, you will have to sign less than 25.)

What is back-counting? That’s the process by which an early enrollee counts toward the previous year, assuming there is room to do so. Justin Fields, for instance, can count toward Georgia’s 2017 class.

There’s some danger that my numbers are off here – journalism majors are not known for math – but follow me here: Georgia signed 21 players in 2016, which would leave four spots open, but six enrolled early. That potentially could leave room for 10 to back-count to 2016. Georgia then signed 26 last year, six of whom enrolled early. So if you back-counted those six, that left room to sign up to 31 players this year … at least under my interpretation of the rules.

One change: The NCAA tweaked the signing rules last year to limit programs to only five back-counters. But even assuming that, UGA still had room to go up to 30 this year, again, by my interpretation of the rules.

Bottom line:  don’t sweat the 25-man limit.

The bigger issue is the overall 85-scholarship player ceiling, and there, Georgia is over.  For now.

Here’s what I do know: A program can only have 85 players on scholarship at one time. That’s a hard number. And Georgia has been near the limit and will be again in 2018.

My numbers, after the early departures of Roquan Smith and Trenton Thompson, the transfer of Jacob Eason, and the medical disqualification for Rashad Roundtree, had Georgia at 63 scholarships. (Here’s my most recent look at Georgia’s scholarship numbers, back in December.)

So if Georgia signs 26 players, then that puts it four over the limit. But with plenty of time to reach 85. Georgia was just over the limit last spring too.

Can you say roster management?  I thought you could.  This is one area I can definitely say Kirby Smart is on the mother.  Georgia will be fine when crunch time arrives.

20 Comments

Filed under Georgia Football, Recruiting

Psst! Buddy! You wanna couple of d-linemen?

While I think Dabo Swinney is somewhat full of it when it comes to his stance on player compensation, I do think he makes a valid point about the transfer debate currently embroiling the NCAA when he says,

The funny thing with this is that the legitimate problems with liberalizing the transfer rules are coming from the student-athletes’ side, but from the coaches’.  Poaching, illegal contact, package deal offerings to get a job — those are all sleazy moves initiated by the professionals.  (By the way, note the irony of a coach offering up player transfers to obtain a job transfer for himself.  Nice.)

The hardest part of coming up with new transfer rules will be figuring out a punishment format for coaches who abuse the system, methinks.

13 Comments

Filed under The NCAA

Marching through Georgia (Tech)

Here’s how Smart described the momentum that finished out last season and carried into yesterday:

Note where he starts.

Some of you may not think the Tech game matters much anymore, but then, you’re not the Georgia head coach.  “We run this state” matters.

28 Comments

Filed under Georgia Football, Georgia Tech Football