It’s fun for SEC fans to follow the recruiting cycle. It gives us something to do between bowl games and spring practice. And this year, National Signing Day is Feb. 1. But you have that marked on your calendar, don’t you?
It’s important to remember that a high rating from our friends at 247Sports or any other recruiting service is not an automatic indicator of team or player success on the college level.
This is especially true at quarterback. Looking back over a 10-year span, the average success rate for quarterback recruits in the SEC is under 40 percent.
Part of the reason for that low figure can be traced to sheer volume, as coaching staffs might take two or three QB prospects in a given class, hoping to develop one.
Some misses can be attributed to circumstances. Zach Mettenberger was a whiff for Georgia, but a hit later at LSU.
Almost all transfers count as recruiting miscues, and there are plenty of those among college quarterbacks. Still, some SEC schools pick and choose quarterbacks a little better than others.
Here’s a look at the top five SEC schools in recruiting quarterbacks over the past 10 years.
The Bulldogs swung and missed a few times with high-profile recruits. Christian LeMay (2011) transferred to Jacksonville State, but at least Brice Ramsey (2013) found a niche as a punter for the Bulldogs.
Georgia hits were solid, though. Matthew Stafford (2006) went on to become the first pick of the 2009 NFL Draft while Aaron Murray (2009) and Hutson Mason (2010) had success at the position for the Bulldogs.
The most recent addition to the list is Jacob Eason, who had a solid freshman campaign. A lot would have to go wrong for Eason not to be a recruiting win by the time his eligibility is done.
It’s hard to stack up national championships without decent quarterback play, and the Tide churned out their fair share of talented signal callers.
Greg McElroy (2006) won a championship and finished his tenure in Tuscaloosa with top-5 numbers in career yardage and touchdowns. A.J. McCarron (2009) not only married well, but he smashed school records for yards and touchdowns while having a hand in three titles.
Blake Sims (2010) was recruited as an athlete but won the starting job for the 2014 season and a College Football Playoff run.
It’s safe to say that Jalen Hurts (2016) can go down as a recruiting success story, too. Still, 9 of the 14 quarterbacks recruited in the past 10 seasons ended their careers someplace else.
The Bulldogs signed 10 quarterbacks in the past 10 years and had some some level of success with four of them.
Chris Relf (2007) played quite a bit as a junior and senior, winding up with 3,297 yards and 28 touchdowns in his career. Tyler Russell (2009) waited his turn behind Relf and threw for 5,441 yards and 42 scores — both of which rank inside the top four in school history.
Dak Prescott (2011) came in during the tail end of Russell’s career and proceeded to rewrite the Bulldogs’ record book. He is first all-time in passing yards (9,376) and touchdowns (70), and is second in rushing touchdowns with 41.
Nick Fitzgerald (2014) is the latest quarterbacking success story in Starkville, and the rising junior enjoyed a strong debut season in 2016.
In picking quarterbacks, Auburn is a little like the slugger in baseball who swings as hard as he can at everything. Sometimes, he misses badly, spinning himself into the dirt. Others, he launches majestic blasts that defy physics as the ball whistles out of sight.
In 2010, Cam Newton signed with Auburn and lit the college football world on fire. He won the Heisman Trophy and led the Tigers to a national title. Think Mickey Mantle hitting the ball out of Yankee Stadium; that’s how big a hit Newton was.
Nick Marshall (2013) was not as highly touted as counterpart Jeremy Johnson but far surpassed him in production standpoint. Marshall signed as an athlete, but excelled as a quarterback. He passed for 4,508 yards and 34 touchdowns over two seasons while adding 1,866 yards and 23 more TDs on the ground.
Both Newton and Marshall arrived through junior colleges, which could be a good omen for transfer Jarrett Stidham in this year’s class.
Kodi Burns (2007) and Chris Todd (2008) go down as hits, too. But players like Tyrik Rollison (2009), Kiehl Frazier (2011) and Zeke Pike (2012) failed to make the expected impact.
Based on recent events, this ranking might come as an absolute stunner.
Jarrett Lee (2007) was 14-4 as a starter with nice overall numbers, but he often backed up Jordan Jefferson, who came to LSU a year later.
Jefferson, a 2008 recruit, won 24 games as a starter and threw for 4,733 yards — but he couldn’t find a way to move the ball against Alabama in the 2012 BCS title game.
Mettenberger (2011) arrived via the junior college ranks and was 19-6 as a starter. He’s also the only quarterback in school history to top 2,500 yards in back-to-back seasons.
Brandon Harris (2014) has fallen on hard times of late, but he played in each of his three seasons in Baton Rouge and has a career touchdown-to-interception ratio of 20-to-10.
The Tigers missed on a few, like Stephen Rivers (2011) and Hayden Rettig (2013), but they hit on almost 45 percent of their quarterback recruits at the position in the past decade.