College football recruiting always leaves a few odds and ends to clear up — you can’t cover all the highs and lows in a day. The 2019 Alabama recruiting class has been micro analyzed, of course, but there are still a few final thoughts about recruiting and the perception of recruiting to explore as it pertains to the Southeastern Conference.
Teams (or more precisely, fan bases) that seemed happy when the dust settled: Alabama, Georgia, LSU, Texas A&M, Florida, Tennessee, Arkansas and the two Mississippi schools.
Teams that seemed to get a little unsettled dust in their eye and shed a tear or two of uncertainty: Auburn, South Carolina, Kentucky and Missouri.
Teams that are in a different cloud of dust entirely: Vanderbilt.
It’s not quite fair to say the post-recruiting mood at any given campus is purely perception. Coaches know if they get enough players to survive. But there are a lot of what color commentators like to call “intangibles.”
Alabama got the most four- and five-star players and was ranked No. 1 in three of the four metrics that garner the most attention. “Recruiting championships” are now decided the way national championships were settled for the first 120 years or so of college football — somebody says so, and if someone else says something different, you can claim that if you want. Central Florida’s recruiting class was ranked No. 56 in the country but if the Colley Matrix somehow ranks them No. 1, it will be parade time in Orlando again.
For instance, no matter how many future NFL players Alabama signs in a year, there is always someone the Crimson Tide didn’t get. Combine that with the general post-Clemson angst, and even a No. 1 class comes with a few grumbles. Georgia fans are probably more excited the Bulldogs were No. 1 in one poll, because February is historically a better month in Athens than January.
The mission for Alabama and Georgia, though, is to maintain. The fastest cars require the most fuel. Then there is a tier of teams that wants to reach that level: LSU, Texas A&M and Auburn in the West, Tennessee and Florida in the East are the historic challengers (given the Aggies’ short tenure in the SEC.)
Tennessee is in a major rebuild, Florida and Texas A&M are in mid-rebuild (neither fell far as Tennessee) — all with second-year coaches. So they get the “right direction” bump. LSU is just looking for that win over Alabama and keeps stacking talent.
Auburn is always more difficult to figure. Their fans didn’t seem pleased with a slow finish, in terms of big-name talent. The jury still seems to be out on Gus Malzahn. But unpredictability seems to be the element in which Auburn thrives.
There is one other thing that relates to Auburn and the entire SEC. For all the mighty accolades that the league earned in recruiting, it didn’t seem like anyone signed a “franchise” quarterback. Certainly there wasn’t a big name like Jake Fromm or Tua Tagovailoa or, for that matter, Justin Fields. Yet if you sign that kind of quarterback, it affects every other aspect of your program. And while there doesn’t seem to be a sure thing in this year’s quarterback class, Bo Nix probably has a good a chance as anyone at being “that guy.”
The other schools are looking to better themselves — Kentucky did it last year, Mississippi State has done it over the last three or four years — but they aren’t going to do it simply by recruiting. It also takes some chemistry, and some players to exceed their ranking.
The final SEC recruiting rankings looked more or less like you’d expect them to look. The rich (or the should-be-rich like Florida) got richer. The rest of the league at least did its best to keep up.
Reach Cecil Hurt at firstname.lastname@example.org or 205-722-0225.