Whether you’re talking Alabama or Vanderbilt, every single SEC school takes some amount of pride in having a strong in-state recruiting presence.
Teams landing top talent from their own backyards often correlates to wins, good relationships with local high schools and, eventually, continued recruiting success in future cycles. Rinse and repeat. In 2016, LSU secured the nation’s No. 3 recruiting class largely by dominating the trail within Louisiana state lines. Alabama pulled off a similar feat in 2008 — Nick Saban’s first full recruiting cycle with the Crimson Tide — and it’s widely recognized as the class that launched the program’s legendary run of four national titles in seven years.
With National Signing Day fast approaching, the debate of which SEC team recruits best on the home front tends to resurface on social media and in the forums. To help settle this, SEC Country logged every single one of the conference’s in-state signings from 2005-16, and then divided schools into four classifications in part using data compiled by Pete Volk of SB Nation. Not all states are created equal when it comes to talent pools, after all.
- Tier I: States with 750 or more signees with at least a 3-star rating, 2011-15
- Tier II: States with 200-750 signees with at least a 3-star rating, 2011-15
- Tier III: States with 110-200 signees with at least a 3-star rating, 2011-15
- Tier IV: States with less than 110 signees with at least a 3-star rating, 2011-15
So without further ado, let’s dig into some SEC recruiting numbers.
All ratings and rankings according to the 247Sports Composite.
Category I: Elite talent grounds (Texas, Florida and Georgia)
|Top-3 signees||Top 10||Top 25||Top 50|
Along with California, these three states make up the country’s premier hotbeds of high school football talent. There aren’t any others even in the same ballpark (Ohio came the closest with 462 3-star-plus signees from 2011-15).
Top-3 signings: Justin Anderson, Reshad Jones, Caleb King, Richard Samuel, DeAngelo Tyson, Branden Smith, Alec Ogletree, Isaiah Crowell, Ray Drew, Josh Harvey-Clemons, Jordan Jenkins, Lorenzo Carter, Nick Chubb, Trenton Thompson, Mecole Hardman Jr.
Prominent misses: Eric Berry (Tennessee), Cam Newton (Florida), Cameron Heyward (Ohio State), Omoregie Uzzi (Georgia Tech), Kevin Minter (LSU), Ja’Wuan James (Tennessee), Stephon Tuitt (Notre Dame), Mike Davis (South Carolina), Vadal Alexander (LSU), Robert Nkemdiche (Ole Miss), Montravius Adams (Auburn), Carl Lawson (Auburn), Deshaun Watson (Clemson)
Best class: 2011 (5 of the top-10 signees, 13 of the top 25)
2017 outlook: 14 of Georgia’s top-25 rated prospects are committed to the Bulldogs; Richard LeCounte III (No. 1), Jake Fromm (No. 5), DeAngelo Gibbs (No. 8) and Jeremiah Holloman (No. 10) already have enrolled
Recent signing days have been marked by the Bulldogs bemoaning the loss of a top in-state recruit to an SEC rival. And to be fair, Georgia has missed out on some huge names, most notably title-winning quarterbacks Cam Newton and Deshaun Watson. But looking at the whole picture, UGA has performed far better in its own state than both Florida and Texas A&M — two schools forced to compete with the likes of Florida State, Miami, Texas and other national powers on a yearly basis. Georgia has no such in-state competition; Georgia Tech rarely goes after the same type of recruits targeted by the Bulldogs.
The good news for Georgia fans concerned about their school cornering in-state talent: Kirby Smart has assembled a 2017 recruiting class that should rival or surpass the acclaim earned by the so-called “Dream Team” Class of 2011. The group could improve further on signing day, as 5-star defensive tackle Aubrey Solomon, 4-star linebacker Leonard Warner and 4-star defensive end Markaviest Bryant — all top-20 Georgia recruits — have yet to make a public commitment.
Top-3 signings: Tim Tebow, James Wilson, Deonte Thompson, Gary Brown, Matt Elam, Vernon Hargreaves III, Martez Ivey
Prominent misses: CJ Spiller (Clemson), Patrick Peterson (LSU), Trent Richardson (Alabama), Aaron Murray (Georgia), Karlos Williams (Florida State), Duke Johnson (Miami), Ha Ha Clinton-Dix (Alabama), Laremy Tunsil (Ole Miss), Dalvin Cook (Florida State), Sony Michel (Georgia), Sammy Watkins (Clemson), Amari Cooper (Alabama), Derrick Henry (Alabama), Calvin Ridley (Alabama), Artavis Scott (Clemson)
Best class: 2007 (7 of the top-10 signees)
2017 outlook: Excluding IMG Academy products, only three of the top 25 Sunshine State recruits are committed to the Gators
Also-ran: Texas A&M
Top-3 signings: Martellus Bennett, Ricky Seals-Jones, Myles Garrett, Daylon Mack
Prominent misses: Malcolm Kelly (Oklahoma), Jamaal Charles (Texas), Henry Melton (Texas), Matthew Stafford (Georgia), Ryan Mallett (Michigan), Dez Bryant (Oklahoma State), Andrew Luck (Stanford), Jackson Jeffcoat (Texas), Malcom Brown (Texas), Jamal Adams (LSU), Ed Oliver (Houston), Jalen Hurts (Alabama)
Best class: 2013 (7 of the top-25 signees)
2017 outlook: Only one top-25 Texas recruit has committed to Texas A&M so far (4-star linebacker Anthony Hines, an early enrollee)
Category II: Plenty o’ prospects (Louisiana and Alabama)
|Top-3 signees||Top 10||Top 25||Top 50|
Louisiana and Alabama produced 333 and 277 prospects rated 3-star or higher from 2011-15, respectively. Both states are downright dominated by their resident SEC schools.
**I give LSU an asterisk here for two reasons. One, the Tigers don’t have to contend with another SEC school within state borders. Two, Alabama has such a strong recruiting footprint that it can recruit nationally, from Hawaii and California to Virginia, New York and Washington D.C. But since we’re talking in-state recruiting only, LSU has technically signed more recruits.
Top-3 signings: Ryan Perrilloux, Al Jones, Al Woods, Charles Scott, Jai Eugene, DeAngelo Benton, Chad Jones, Chase Clement, Chris Tolliver, Rueben Randle, Chris Davenport, Michael Ford, Eric Reid, Tharold Simon, La’El Collins, Anthony Johnson, Jarvis Landry, Tre’Davious White, Kendell Beckwith, Leonard Fournette, Tyron Johnson, Derrius Guice, Donte Jackson, Kristian Fulton, Rashard Lawrence, Michael Divinity
Prominent misses: Joe McKnight (USC), Eddie Lacy (Alabama), Greg Robinson (Auburn), Landon Collins (Alabama), Tim Williams (Alabama), Cam Robinson (Alabama)
Best class: 2016 (9 of the top 10, 14 of the top 25)
2017 outlook: Five of the top-10 rated prospects in Louisiana are uncommitted. LSU has pledges from top recruit Tyler Shelvin (4-star DT) and No. 10 recruit Lowell Narcisse (4-star dual-threat), but the Tigers are also in danger of missing on a pair of elite outside linebackers: Alabama commit Christopher Allen and Georgia Tech commit Bruce Jordan-Swilling.
The Boot is chock full of blue-chip talent, and despite former Tigers coach Nick Saban making recruiting inroads there in recent years, historically it’s been very hard for other schools to swipe top in-state prospects away from LSU. No school across any of the four groupings has signed more top-3 prospects (26), and the list is littered with NFL players — Rueben Randle, Eric Reid, La’El Collins, Jarvis Landry and Leonard Fournette, among several others. There were very few high-profile misses to hurt the Tigers’ performance here, too.
Let 2016 stand as the shining example that if the high school crop is good enough, the Tigers can finish with a top-5 class by almost solely focusing on recruits within state lines. Alabama finishes as a close second, but the coaching staff has been less concerned with recruiting the home state in recent years. After all, why scoop up 3-stars in ‘Bama when you can sign 5-stars from California?
Top-3 signings: Chris Keys, Andre Smith, Kerry Murphy, Julio Jones, Tyler Love, B.J. Scott, Dre Kirkpatrick, Nico Johnson, DJ Fluker, Dee Milliner, C.J. Mosley, Jarrick Williams, Marvin Shinn, Brent Calloway, T.J. Yeldon, Reuben Foster, O.J. Howard, Marlon Humphrey, Rashaan Evans, Da’Ron Payne, Lester Cotton, Ben Davis, Mack Wilson
Prominent misses: Michael Johnson (Georgia Tech), Dee Ford (Auburn), Ben Jones (Georgia), Ameer Abdullah (Nebraska), Jameis Winston (Florida State), Beniquez Brown (Mississippi State), Zach Cunningham (Vanderbilt)
Best class: 2008 (7 of the top 10, 16 of the top 25)
2017 outlook: The Crimson Tide, projected to finish with the country’s top signing class once again, holds pledges from four top-10 Alabama prospects: Chadarius Townsend (enrolled), Markail Benton, Brian Robinson and Kendall Randolph.
Top-3 signings: Rex Sharpe, Gabe McKenzie,Tim Hawthorne, Michael McNeil, Ryan Pugh, Roc Thomas, Kerryon Johnson, Marlon Davidson
Prominent misses: Michael Johnson (Georgia Tech), Andre Smith (Alabama), Rolando McClain (Alabama), Julio Jones (Alabama), Ben Jones (Georgia), Dre Kirkpatrick (Alabama), D.J. Fluker (Alabama), AJ McCarron (Alabama), Dee Milliner (Alabama), Jameis Winston (Florida State), Reggie Ragland (Alabama), Ryan Anderson (Alabama), Reuben Foster (Alabama), Marlon Humphrey (Alabama), Jake Bentley (South Carolina)
Best class: 2011 (5 of the top 10, 10 of the top 25)
2017 outlook: Auburn projects to wind up with another top-10 class, and half of those prospects are in-state guys, including No. 2 recruit Tadarian Moultry (4-star LB) and No. 5 recruit Austin Troxell (4-star OT)
Category III: Smaller stomping grounds (Tennessee, South Carolina and Mississippi)
|Top-3 signees||Top 10||Top 25||Top 50|
Winner: Mississippi State
Top-3 signings: Derek Pegues, Robert Elliott, Chad Bumphis, Fletcher Cox, Damien Robinson, Quay Evans, Chris Jones, Jamal Peters, Leo Lewis, Jeffery Simmons
Prominent misses: Justin Woodall (Alabama), Stevan Ridley (LSU), DeAndre Brown (Southern Miss), Anthony Steen (Alabama), Shon Coleman (Auburn), Donte Moncrief (Ole Miss), C.J. Johnson (Ole Miss), Senquez Golson (Ole Miss), Jalen Collins (LSU)
Best class: 2009 (6 of the top 10, 12 of the top 25)
2017 outlook: Half of Mississippi State’s 20-member class is from the Magnolia State, including 12 early enrollees and 9 of the top-100 ranked JUCO prospects
Though the Rebels finished with more top-three signings, their hit rate with those prospects isn’t great whereas Mississippi State has done a better job of developing under-the-radar Mississippi talent. Just look at the likes of Derek Sherrod, Johnthan Banks, Gabe Jackson and Richie Brown. Since Dan Mullen took over as coach in 2009, the Bulldogs have signed double-digit prospects from their own backyard in all but two years (2013, 2016).
But MSU looks poised to rebound from that 2016 performance in a big way this February, as the school has already accepted 12 mid-year enrollees who are in-state products, although it should be noted that 9 of those players come from an in-state junior college.
Runner-up: Ole Miss
Top-3 signings: Jerrell Powe, Allen Walker, Cordera Eason, Chris Strong, Darius Barksdale, Patrick Patterson, Vincent Sanders, C.J. Johnson, Donte Moncrief, Nickolas Brassell, Channing Ward, Tony Conner, Kailo Moore, Rod Taylor, C.J. Hampton, Markell Pack, Javon Patterson, Benito Jones, A.J. Brown
Prominent misses: Justin Woodall (Alabama), Derek Sherrod (Mississippi St.), Stevan Ridley (LSU), DeAndre Brown (Southern Miss), Fletcher Cox (Mississippi St.), Anthony Steen (Alabama), Johnthan Banks (Mississippi St.), Gabe Jackson (Mississippi St.), Shon Coleman (Auburn), Jalen Collins (LSU), Richie Brown (Mississippi St.)
Best class: 2011 (5 of the top 10, 12 of the top 25)
2017 outlook: The cloud of a seemingly never-ending NCAA investigation still hangs over the program, and recruiting efforts have been hurt as a result; only one top-10 recruit has committed to the Rebels (4-star wideout D.D. Bowie), and top in-state talent Cam Akers has already enrolled at Florida State.
Top-3 signings: LaMarcus Coker, Jacques McClendon, Lee Smith, Chris Donald, Eric Gordon, Jacques Smith, James Stone, Antonio Richardson, Cameron Clear, Drae Bowles, Josh Malone, Jalen Hurd, Todd Kelly, Kyle Phillips, Drew Richmond, Daniel Bituli
Prominent misses: Michael Oher (Ole Miss), Patrick Turner (USC), Greg Hardy (Ole Miss), Golden Tate (Notre Dame), Landon Walker (Clemson), Harrison Smith (Notre Dame), Barrett Jones (Alabama), Dont’a Hightower (Alabama), Mikel Leshoure (Illinois), Marlon Brown (Georgia), Will Redmond (Mississippi State), Jalen Ramsey (Florida State), Donald Gray (Mississippi State), Gary Wunderlich (Ole Miss), Van Jefferson (Ole Miss)
Best class: 2014 (8 of the top-10 signees)
2017 outlook: For the first time in a long time, the state of Tennessee has produced a trio of 5-star prospects, but only one appears headed to Tennessee (No. 1 recruit Trey Smith, a mid-year enrollee; still, 6 of the top-20 in-state players are pledged to the Vols.
Also-ran: South Carolina
Top-3 signings: Cliff Matthews, C.C. Whitlock, Stephon Gilmore, Marcus Lattimore, Jadeveon Clowney, Brandon Shell, Shaq Roland, Kwinton Smith, Donnell Stanley, Shameik Blackshear, Bryan Edwards
Prominent misses: Ricky Sapp (Clemson), Clifton Geathers (Georgia), Carlos Dunlap (Florida), Da’Quan Bowers (Clemson), A.J. Green (Georgia), Andre Ellington (Clemson), Malliciah Goodman (Clemson), Martavis Bryant (Clemson), Mike Williams (Clemson)
Best class: 2009 (5 of the top 10, 9 of the top 25)
2017 outlook: Four of the top-7 rated Palmetto State recruits are committed to the Gamecocks, including 4-star wideout and early enrollee OrTre Smith (No. 1).
At least you tried: Vanderbilt
Top-10 signings: Derek King, Brian Kimbrow, Andrew Jelks, Emmanuel Smith, Josh Smith, Donovan Sheffield, Joejuan Williams
Prominent misses: Garrett Reynolds (UNC), Coty Sensabaugh (Clemson), Randall Cobb (Kentucky), Dontari Poe (Memphis), Ryan Carrethers (Arkansas State), Shaq Mason (Georgia Tech) Avery Williamson (Kentucky), Bo Wallace (Arkansas State/Ole Miss), Brent Stockstill (Cincinnati)
Best class: 2012 (2 of the top 10, 6 of the top 25)
2017 outlook: The Commodores don’t have a single in-state commit as of this writing.
The prominent misses listed above were not highly-rated recruits, but still ones that panned out at other schools. Poor ‘Dores can’t catch a break.
Category IV: Not much to see here (Arkansas, Missouri and Kentucky)
|Top-3 signees||Top 10||Top 25||Top 50|
These states might only produce about 20-25 FBS recruits in a given year, depending on the talent pool, which is why you see pretty much no difference between top-25 and top-50 signings. From 2011-15, the state of Missouri only produced 105 3-star-plus prospects, while Arkansas (89) and Kentucky (59) finished at the bottom among states with SEC schools.
Top-3 signings: Darren McFadden, Kevin Thornton, Mitch Mustain, Damian Williams, De’Anthony Curtis, Joe Adams, Tyler Wilson, Darius Winston, Colby Berna, Byran Jones, Brey Cook, Mitch Smothers, Demetrius Dean, Hunter Henry, Austin Allen, Bijhon Jackson, Juan Day, Cheyenne O’Grady, Will Gragg, McTelvin Agim, Austin Capps, T.J. Hammonds
Prominent misses: Lee Ziemba (Auburn), Michael Dyer (Auburn), Kenneth Dixon (Louisiana Tech), Damarea Crockett (Missouri)
Best class: 2008 (All 10 of the top 10, 15 of the top 25)
2017 outlook: It’s a thin group of prospects in Arkansas this year, but the Hogs hold commitments from four of the top five recruits, including 4-star safety Montaric Brown, the state’s top-rated player.
For the relatively small amount of talent that historically has emerged from Arkansas, the Razorbacks straight clean up in their home state. Not only did they sign a whopping 22 top-3 in-state prospects, coming in behind only Alabama and LSU, but they also went a perfect 10-for-10 for the Class of 2008, landing guys like Tyler Wilson and Joe Adams in Bobby Petrino’s first season at the helm. Darren McFadden, Mitch Smothers, Hunter Henry and Austin Allen have all left significant marks on the program in recent seasons, as well.
Since 2005, there are only two years in which Arkansas has not signed at least five of the state’s top-10 recruits (2010, 2016).
Simply put, Arkansas might not have the talent of Louisiana, Alabama, Georgia or Florida, but when it comes to keeping in-state recruits, few are better than the Razorbacks.
Top-3 signings: Chase Coffman, Jeremy Maclin, Michael Keck, Blaine Gabbert, Andrew Jones, Sheldon Richardson, Nick Demien, Marcus Lucas, Kony Ealy, Dorial Green-Beckham, Chase Abbington, Andy Bauer, Drew Lock, Brendan Scales
Prominent misses: Josh Freeman (Kansas State), Adrian Clayborn (Iowa), Marvin McNutt (Iowa), Donald Stephenson (Oklahoma), Montee Ball (Wisconsin), Ezekiel Elliott (Ohio State), Roderick Johnson (Florida State)
Best class: 2013 (5 of the top 10, 10 of the top 25)
2017 outlook: Mizzou only has one in-state commit right now, No. 4 Daron Davis
Top-3 signings: Micah Johnson, Aaron Boyd, Winston Guy, Tim Patterson, Darrian Miller, Patrick Towles, Thomas Chapman, Jason Hatcher, Drew Barker, Matt Elam, Eli Brown, Landon Young, Drake Jackson, Kash Daniel
Prominent misses: Luke Stocker (Tennessee), Roy Philon (Louisville), Justin Green (Illinois), DeVante Parker (Louisville), Lamar Dawson (USC), James Quick (Louisville), Damien Harris (Alabama)
Best class: 2009 (5 of the top 10, 6 of the top 12)
2017 outlook: The Wildcats have only two in-state commitments (3-star dual-threat Walker Wood and 3-star tackle Austin Dotson), but they also look poised to finish with a top-25 class overall. Good for Mark Stoops.