Coaches sometimes say they remember their losses more vividly than their wins. That can be especially true in the world of SEC recruiting.
The SEC is extremely competitive, with division rivals often vying for some of the nation’s top talent. It’s inevitable that players will de-commit, sometimes ending up somewhere else in the conference. And those flips can leave teams wondering what could have been, even years later.
So SEC Country is taking a look at each SEC program’s biggest de-commitment of this decade. Whether because of the player’s ranking or where the player ended up, these are the recruiting losses that hurt for a while. And it seems many of them have come pretty recently.
A common name emerges in these stories: Alabama. So often a school thinks it has a recruit’s commitment sealed, and then Nick Saban swoops in late to flip him. Five of the de-commits on this list ended up choosing the Crimson Tide.
Alabama isn’t the only school known for flipping top recruits from other SEC schools. Texas A&M landed three of these de-commitments. LSU and Ole Miss each got one.
Now let’s break down the conference’s top de-commitments since 2010.
5-star RB Cam Akers (2017)
It’s not often Alabama loses out on one of the nation’s top running back recruits. Akers, the No. 2 tailback in the class of 2017, withdrew his commitment last year before settling on Florida State. It’s hard to feel bad for the Crimson Tide, though. The No. 1 running back and No. 1 prospect overall, Najee Harris, stuck to his commitment, which softened the blow.
4-star Kellen Diesch (2016)
Arkansas hasn’t dealt with many high-profile de-commitments in recent years. Diesch, an offensive tackle, was the biggest. Diesch committed to the Razorbacks in June 2015 but de-committed three months later. He landed at Texas A&M, which is closer to Diesch’s Trophy Club, Texas, home.
5-star LB Reuben Foster (2013)
Losing a top prospect out of your own back yard is tough. Losing him to your No. 1 rival and watching him develop into a star is even tougher.
Foster was the nation’s No. 1 inside linebacker prospect in 2013 and an Auburn native. The Tigers had his commitment seemingly locked up, getting him to flip from Alabama in 2012. But two months before National Signing Day, Foster pulled back from his pledge. Auburn had to watch as he re-committed to the Crimson Tide and became a cornerstone of Saban’s defense. Now he’s projected as a top-10 draft pick by CBS Sports.
5-star RB Dalvin Cook (2014)
Much like Foster, Cook was the No. 1 prospect in his state. And like Foster, his commitment flipped from one of the state’s two biggest football powers to the other. Cook was committed to Florida for months. Then he broke the Gators’ hearts when he made a New Year’s Eve flip to Florida State. His career with the Seminoles speaks for itself. He was a perennial Heisman contender and is considered one of the top two running backs in this year’s draft, along with LSU’s Leonard Fournette.
5-star RB Derrick Henry (2013)
Georgia has been stacked at tailback for years. But the Bulldogs came very close to landing another top SEC back, and an eventual Heisman Trophy winner, in Henry. Henry committed to Georgia the summer before his junior season. But after the Crimson Tide began pushing for him, he elected to de-commit and flip to Alabama.
He would win the Heisman and a national championship in 2015. And while Georgia is more than happy with Nick Chubb, who signed a year later, the program is still left wondering about the possibilities.
4-star QB Mac Jones (2017)
Kentucky’s highest-ranked de-commitment in recent memory came this year, and like so many other programs, it was because of Alabama. Jones, a 4-star quarterback from Jacksonville, Fla., flipped his commitment to the Crimson Tide in June. And while he probably could have competed for the starting job in Lexington as early as 2017, he could spend his whole college career on the bench at Alabama behind Jalen Hurts and Tua Tagavailoa. That’s the power Saban wields on the recruiting trail.
5-star LB Dylan Moses (2017)
Moses, the nation’s No. 1 outside linebacker, enrolled at Alabama this month. But he was once the centerpiece of LSU’s 2017 class. The Tigers currently have the nation’s No. 7 class overall but have yet to find a replacement for Moses at linebacker.
Meanwhile, if Alabama’s recent history is any indication, Saban could very well turn Moses into an All-American and first-round draft pick. That will be tough for LSU to watch.
4-star DT Jarran Reed (2014)
Another recruit lost to Saban, Reed was one of the nation’s top JUCO prospects. He went through a few commitments, first choosing North Carolina, then flipping to the Rebels, then flipping to Florida. Reed eventually settled on the Crimson Tide, where he was on a national title team. Reed became a second-round NFL Draft pick and plays for the Seattle Seahawks.
4-star LB Anthony Hines (2017)
Mississippi State has a difficult task in recruiting in a sparsely populated state. So when the Bulldogs land one of the nation’s top recruits, it’s a big deal. The Bulldogs had a commitment from Hines, the nation’s No. 1 inside linebacker, when he was a high school freshman in Plano, Texas. However, they couldn’t hold onto him as more offers came in. He settled on Texas A&M.
4-star OG Germain Ifedi (2012)
Missouri has long had a recruiting pipeline in Texas. Grabbing Ifedi was big for the Tigers, but Ifedli flipped to Texas A&M in October 2011. It was a big loss. Ifedi became a first-round draft pick by the Seahawks.
4-star DE Arden Key (2015)
Key was a force for LSU the past two seasons, which has to sting for South Carolina. He was committed to the Gamecocks until a month before signing day, when he picked the Tigers. Key had 55 tackles and 12.5 for loss, including 11.0 sacks, as a sophomore in 2016. He is even mentioned as a fringe Heisman candidate in 2017, which is buzz South Carolina would have loved to have.
5-star WR Tee Higgins (2017)
Tennessee missed out on this No. 1 in-state recruit. Higgins gave his verbal to the Vols in August 2015 but opened up his recruitment after an unofficial visit to Clemson the following January. That would prove telling, as Higgins would commit to the Tigers in July. Now instead of helping Trey Smith headline Tennessee’s class, Higgins is the top commit for the reigning national champions.
5-star OT Gregory Little (2016)
Texas schools have had trouble keeping the state’s top talent at home in recent years, and Little is the perfect example. He was the state’s No. 1 recruit and the third-ranked prospect in the nation, and he was committed to Texas A&M for more than a year. But Little decided to join an all-star class at Ole Miss, which finished with the fifth-highest-ranked group in the nation.
4-star QB K.J. Carta-Samuels (2014)
Vanderbilt’s academic requirements make it hard to bring in the nation’s top players. The Commodores seemingly had one in Carta-Samuels, who was committed for about a year and a half. Then head coach James Franklin left for Penn State. Less than two weeks later, Carta-Samuels, from San Jose, Calif., decided to stay on the West Coast at Washington. He is now backing up Jake Browning.
All ratings and rankings come from the 247Sports Composite unless otherwise noted.