The SEC remains the biggest and baddest conference in the land, anecdotally at least.
On the field, however, the conference’s stranglehold has slipped. The standard-bearer, Alabama, was beaten by Clemson in the national championship game. It seems the conference’s hold on the game slips a little more each season, especially given the fact that the SEC East can’t hold a candle to the West division.
But on the recruiting trail, how does the SEC stack up against the rest of the country? You know how the individual classes rank and that the conference had the highest-ranked average class, but what if the SEC’s signees had to take on a team made up of everybody else?
Let’s go by position group.
Everyone Else takes this one. Tua Tagovailoa will likely keep the Alabama machine humming, whenever he takes over from Jalen Hurts, but the depth of the rest includes Ohio State’s Tate Martell and Texas’ Sam Ehlinger. Texas coach Tom Herman loves him some Ehlinger.
We’ll give Everyone Else the nod, and because Alabama and Florida State hog two players on each side, the delineation comes between the remaining three. USC’s Stephen Carr is the crown jewel of a stupendous Trojan recruiting class, and he gives Everyone Else a second five-star to the SEC’s one.
Point goes to the rest of the nation again. That stable is deep, with three five-stars. Another USC man, Joseph Lewis, was integral in the Signing Day close and is the third-ranked WR on this board.
Note who gobbled up WRs for the SEC, though. There is a perception that the Tide will be shaky at the position heading into 2017. “Need” is a relative term for college football’s evil empire, but they addressed it.
The diamond in the rough is Miami’s Jeff Thomas. The Canes closed about as well as anyone, and Thomas is a lightning bolt who reminds us of the Canes stars of yesteryear.
Revenge of the nerds? Sure seems like it. Stanford snapped up the best TE in the nation, Colby Parkinson, and Notre Dame signed Nos. 2 and 3 in Brock Wright and Cole Kent. In fact, in the 247Sports Composite rankings, you don’t even get to a TE headed to an SEC school until Major Tennison at No. 9.
The strength of the SEC has always been in the trenches. This cycle, it’s still true. Stanford mashes with the best of them, and the Cardinal getting two of the best OTs in the country is notable. But the SEC gets the other four five-star talents in the nation.
Interior offensive linemen
Everyone Else takes over. Doubly damning for the SEC’s haul, Florida’s T.J. Slaton might not be staying on this side of the ball.
If the No. 1 player in the nation signs with UCLA and nobody is around to hear it, does it make a sound? Jaelan Phillips is one of four five-star DEs to escape the clutches of the SEC. He’s an impressive end with incredible length. SEC schools weren’t able to pry A.J. Epenesa from the Heartland, either.
In a year in which there weren’t a ton of elite defensive tackles, the SEC missed out on the best two.
LSU was in the running for Wilson up until the end. USC grabbed two of the top five DTs in the country, and it was imperative to their close to land Jay Tufele, the No. 3 DT in the nation. Stealing him from the clutches of Pac-12 South foe Utah was big.
The SEC wins this, headlined by Alabama landing Moses. But the conference was able to land depth at the position as well, with the second-best LB Everyone Else signed just barely being able to crack the SEC’s top five.
Observe which team isn’t on the SEC’s side. There’s no Alabama in the SEC’s column, which Nick Saban even echoed in an otherwise fairly self-congratulatory post-Signing Day media session. As you’ve seen from the tables above, Alabama’s in every one besides this one. If the Tide aren’t landing a top-level prospect, it means the SEC may miss out on the most elite of the elite.
Everyone Else gobbled up the top-five CBs in the country.
The SEC takes the safety corps, thanks to two teams. LSU likes to lay claim to the DBU mantle, so their appearance here isn’t rare. But this is the cherry on top for UGA coach Kirby Smart, himself a former DB. The Dawgs recruited at an elite level and gobbled up high-level prospects like no team in the East was able to do.
The final verdict
Everyone Else wins by the score of 8-3, a similar margin to the prior year’s version of this exercise.
The SEC won at safety, offensive tackle, and linebacker. It’s not like it is significantly far behind in the other categories, either. A look at defensive tackle shows just how close they were to swinging that position category.
Perhaps the most hotly contested position is quarterback. Yes, the league technically lags behind Everyone Else, but that’s not important. What is important is how these players end up panning out at a spot that the league has been lampooned for being unable to produce. And the league’s QB play could be good again, and soon.
No, this doesn’t mean the sky is falling in the SEC. But it does show how elite the upper crust of the conference is, recruiting-wise. LSU, Alabama, and Georgia — essentially on their own — competed with all the other heavy-hitting recruiting teams in the nation.