Daily Archives: February 10, 2018

The new recruiting sheriff’s in town, part two

I’m certainly no recruiting guru, just a blogger who tries to makes sense of bigger picture stuff and trends on some occasions.  That being said, it pleases me when I find some validation out there from folks who do follow recruiting more thoroughly than I do.

For me, the most important take away from the 2018 recruiting classes in the short term is that Georgia has seriously impacted the balance of power in the SEC East.  As Alex Kirshner noted, this is actually a continuation of a trend that began with Smart’s arrival…

This time a year ago, Georgia was emerging as the far-and-away best recruiter in the lesser of the SEC’s two divisions. The Dawgs had the country’s No. 6 class in 2016, an incredible finish for a team that had just changed coaches (from Mark Richt to Kirby Smart) two months before National Signing Day. In 2017, they jumped up to No. 3, signing almost as many blue-chip recruits as the rest of the East combined.

… and has only accelerated with each succeeding class.

Then the 2018 recruiting cycle happened.

Georgia finished Signing Day with the second-highest-rated class in the history of recruiting rankings.

The Dawgs were No. 2 behind Ohio State heading into the day, but they went ahead and nabbed five-star cornerback Tyson Campbell and four-star receiver Tommy Bush. They flipped the country’s No. 2 outside linebacker, Quay Walker, from Alabama (via an amusing ceremonial fake-out) and another four-star backer, Otis Reese, from Michigan.

It’s the first time in eight years a non-Alabama team has taken the country’s No. 1 perch.

Kirby didn’t have much competition in the SEC on the recruiting front before the coaching changes at Florida and Tennessee and while those two schools had decent transitional classes with Mullen and Pruitt, neither had as good a showing as Smart’s first class.  (Granted, some of that disparity came as a result of Richt leaving a much firmer foundation for Smart to build on than what either Mullen or Pruitt had to start with, but, still.)

Bud Elliott describes the gap.

2. Imagine being a fan of Florida or Tennessee right now.

New coaching hires are supposed to come with a large dose of optimism.

Florida signed the No. 14 class, with 12 four-star players, Tennessee signed the No. 20 class, with eight four-stars.

And I won’t say that the honeymoon period is over in Gainesville or Knoxville, but a heavy dose of patience is going to be needed because the talent gap between Georgia and its two biggest division rivals is as big as it has been in 40 years.

  • Georgia has signed more four- and five-star recruits in the last two years (42) than Florida and Tennessee combined (36).
  • Georgia has signed more four- and five-star recruits in the last two classes (42) than Florida (37) or Tennessee (39) on their own has in the last four years.
  • Georgia’s roster is several years of recruiting ahead of the Gators and Vols.

The vast majority of elite players signed in the new Early Signing Period. That means that teams that made coaching changes got hosed. And it came at the perfect time for Georgia.

Florida’s class will be better in 2019, as will Tennessee’s thanks to not having to adjust to a coaching change. But Florida needs to hit home runs in 2019 and 2020 to close the gap with Georgia, and Tennessee is probably an additional year behind.

Dan Mullen and Jeremy Pruitt have a lot of work to do.

Bud’s right; Kirby Smart has been the recipient of some very fortuitous timing.  It’s to his credit, though, that he was fully prepared to take advantage.  Luck is the residue of design, and all that.

It’s worth noting that Smart’s also screwed with the perception of recruiting success in the division.  As Elliott put it, describing Mullen’s first class (which is actually pretty good, considering), “It feels weird talking about a top-15 class as something other than a success, but Georgia has simply raised the bar.”

Pruitt’s already gone on record immediately after this year’s signing day to proclaim that Tennessee’s next signing class will be very highly ranked (lucky for him, there’s a bumper crop of in state high school talent in the 2019 class).  To some extent, raised expectations kind of forced his hand there.  Smart’s made that a tougher row to hoe.  What kind of reaction should we expect from the Vol and Gator fan bases if their teams don’t sign top five classes nest year?  Or from Phil Fulmer?

Now, again, all I’m looking at here is the near horizon.  Things can and do change over the longer haul.  Pruitt does have a reputation as a great recruiter, but is handicapped in most years by a relatively slimmer in state talent base to draw from than Smart does.  Dan Mullen remembers what it was like in the day when it was Florida raking in the monster recruiting classes year after year.  It’s not unreasonable to expect a Gator bounce back.

But even that won’t be overnight.  Over the next two or three seasons, it’s hard to see how, barring epic misfortune, Georgia won’t enjoy a sizable talent advantage over its SEC East neighbors.  And if there’s one thing the Process has taught us, it’s that depth rules in this conference.

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Filed under Because Nothing Sucks Like A Big Orange, Gators, Gators..., Georgia Football, Recruiting, SEC Football

The new recruiting sheriff’s in town, part one

Over at al.com, they’ve noted the recruiting off-years at the two big in state programs and are looking for some answers.

By anybody’s standards but their own, Alabama and Auburn both reeled in excellent recruiting classes this year.

The Crimson Tide brought in a 19-man class (its smallest since the probation days) that ranked No. 7 nationally and second in the SEC. The Tigers landed a 24-man class that ranked No. 12 nationally and third in the SEC.

But it was definitely a fall-off from recent years.

Alabama’s streak of seven straight No. 1 classes ended, while its overall ranking was its lowest since 2007. That was Nick Saban’s first year, when he and his staff had only a month to put together a class.

Auburn’s No. 12 finish was its first outside the Top 10 in Gus Malzahn’s tenure, and its lowest since finishing No. 23 in 2009. That was Gene Chizik’s first year, after the turmoil of Tommy Tuberville’s resignation and Chizik’s controversial hire.

So how did this happen?

Here’s answer number one:

1. Kirby Smart has built a recruiting machine at Georgia: The Bulldogs signed the country’s No. 1 class, with seven 5-star prospects, 14 4-stars and seven of the country’s Top 23 players.  Smart’s success at locking down his state has especially hurt Auburn, which has long had a history of pilfering top players from the state of Georgia (think Carl Lawson, Phillip Lutzenkirchen and Carlos Rogers, to name three). But he also beat Alabama head-to-head on at least two Top 50 players this year: Georgia linebacker Quay Walker and Florida cornerback Tyson Campbell.

Speaking of Auburn, does anyone know where Rodney Garner’s spending his time on the recruiting trail these days?  He sure had a quiet time in his old stomping grounds this past year.

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Filed under Alabama, Auburn's Cast of Thousands, Georgia Football, Recruiting

Projected 2018 S&P+ rankings

Georgia is up to sixth in Bill Connelly’s preliminary rankings for the coming season.  The analysis is what you’d expect:  stellar showings in recruiting (2nd) and returning production (5th), dragged down by the weighted five-year average (28th).

Going forward, this should be about as low as it gets, then.

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Filed under Georgia Football, Stats Geek!

Sounds like a plan, man.

I speculated a couple of weeks ago that one likely approach athletic directors might take in a future when financial growth began to top out would be to adopt a professional approach to their fan base.  The trend on the professional level is to shrink overall stadium seating in the newest stadium venues.  The goals in doing so are two-fold:  one, fewer overall seats means less supply, which means the value of those seats to the buying public increases; and, two, replacing general seating with premium seating is another way to enhance the per seat revenues.

Now, we may have our first canary in the coal mine chirp sounding from, of all places, Gainesville, Florida.

Florida athletic director Scott Stricklin has a long-term plan to give The Swamp a much-needed face-lift.

Stricklin wants to “find ways to upgrade the overall quality” of the fan experience inside the outdated football stadium.

He said there is some “low-hanging fruit” that could include improved wireless, an enhanced sound system and upgraded visual boards. He also said restrooms and concession stands would be remodeled throughout the facility.

But the biggest — and most expensive — part of the makeover would include revamped seating.

“There was a time when, probably when the north end zone (section) was done in the early ’90s, when seat count is all anyone cared about,” Stricklin said last week. “Just cram as many people as possible in there. Obviously that is not (the case) when you talk to people who do facilities and stadiums these days.

“That’s not as important as quality and making sure you’re creating an environment that people want to come and participate in. The days of fans being OK sitting three hours on a piece of aluminum, I think, are gone. So we’ve got to find ways to upgrade the overall quality.”

Florida’s last major renovation to The Swamp was completed in 2003. The $50 million expansion included the addition of 2,900 club seats and luxury suites. Little has been done inside Florida Field since.

Stricklin said part of the plan would be to aesthetically overhaul the 90,000-seat stadium, which could reduce capacity and create premium seating closer to the field.

What a coincidence… upgrading the overall quality and increasing revenues.  (From Strickland’s point of view, increasing revenues is upgrading the overall quality.)

The reason, by the way, that once upon a time seat count was what folks cared about most is because it was important to athletic directors to make sure that as much of the fan base could attend games as possible.  It’s nice that people who do facilities and stadiums these days are much more enlightened about what truly matters.

(h/t)

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Filed under Gators, Gators..., It's Just Bidness