The cliché goes something like this: Recruiting is a marathon, never-ending and prone to dramatic pendulum swings. The SEC’s 2018 cycle might be one of the stronger examples of that in recent memory.
The calendar has flipped to July, and The Opening Finals have all but wrapped up in Oregon, where a quick glance at the rosters might cause some alarm for SEC football fans. Of the 166 recruits in attendance, only 11 are pledged to SEC schools, compared to 16 Big Ten commits and a whopping 24 ACC-bound prospects. Miami alone has 10 committed players at the Nike-sponsored showcase.
However, let us take this moment to remind everyone that we remain at an early, early stage in the 2018 cycle. The SEC is off to a sluggish start, with several factors contributing to the ACC’s startling lead, but there’s no reason for fans to be concerned. Why?
So many blanks still need to be filled
While the early signing period promises to accelerate the recruiting calendar somewhat, tons of top prospects are uncommitted. In fact, more than half (87) of the recruits at The Opening haven’t picked a school, and 17 of the top 30 prospects in the Class of 2018 are in the same boat.
The state of Georgia alone is home to 20 uncommitted blue-chip prospects, including a pair of uncommitted 5-stars (Justin Fields and Jamaree Salyer). Many of those players are expected to commit to SEC schools. California native Matt Corral, another highly coveted 5-star quarterback, is also expected to play in the SEC.
Anyone who follows recruiting knows about the many twists and turns, particularly during the final weeks leading up to signing day. July is, of course, a huge month for camps and, by extension, a time when we often see big-time commitments. Have a little patience, folks.
Alabama and Georgia can be selective
The Bulldogs and Crimson Tide are 13th and 10th in the SEC, respectively, in the 247Sports composite 2018 class rankings. Georgia has only seven commits, while Alabama — the top recruiter in the country for more than half a decade — only holds five pledges. (Update: Make that six after the commitment of 4-star defensive end Stephon Wynn.)
Here’s what Chris Kirschner, SEC Country’s Alabama recruiting reporter, had to say on that subject:
“I was told by someone close to the program that the team is expecting around 13-15 commitments by the time August rolls around,” Kirschner said. “Obviously it’s at five right now, so that would mean they’re expecting July to be a very busy month for commitments.”
As for Georgia, Kirby Smart and his staff just landed a commitment from 5-star running back Zamir White, whom many expect will be a star right away. Fields, the 5-star dual-threat from Kennesaw, Ga., could join him and finally give the Bulldogs a quarterback for 2018.
Both programs are expected to sign small classes, as well. Nick Saban revealed in May he only expects to take 22 players. DawgNation’s Jeff Sentell expects the Bulldogs to “arrive in the 23-signee ballpark,” with the final number possibly being lower than that.
Thus, these two recruiting heavyweights can afford to be choosy when it comes to priority targets.
Ole Miss is fighting an uphill battle
Two years removed from securing a top-5 class, and five years removed from their legendary 2013 signing class, the Rebels are finding recruiting much tougher with the NCAA breathing down their necks. Hugh Freeze went so far as to call last year’s class a “penalty” because of how badly the prolonged investigation has poisoned recruiting efforts.
With Freeze’s future in doubt, don’t expect Ole Miss to fare much better in 2018. The Rebels have nine commitments, but none of them are among the top-300 prospects in the country.
Clemson and FSU recruiting well is nothing new; Miami is here to play
The Canes sending 10 commits to The Opening is, well, an eye-opener. But let’s not forget that The U is positioned in one of the most talent-rich parts of the country, and second-year coach Mark Richt — a Miami alumnus who grew up in Boca Raton, Fla. — knows the Sunshine State well.
The result: Miami has 18 commits, including 14 Florida products, in its 2018 class, which currently ranks No. 2 in the nation.
Richt always recruited well at Georgia, so this shouldn’t shock you. The speed with which he seems to have gotten The U back on its feet is impressive, though.
Of the ACC’s 14 remaining representatives at The Opening, eight are committed to Clemson — including the No. 1 and No. 2 overall prospects for 2018 — or Florida State. Both schools have traditionally been two of the SEC’s top recruiting rivals (this was the case last year), and the Tigers just beat Alabama for a national championship.
Excluding Miami, FSU and Clemson, the rest of the ACC claims only 10 commitments from blue-chip prospects, none of them 5-stars. The SEC has seven schools that hold three or more blue-chip pledges.
So to say the ACC suddenly has pole position in the recruiting world? Let’s not get carried away.
Perhaps the ACC can claim a lead for now, but the SEC has more than enough time to catch up as Georgia, Alabama, Florida and Auburn flesh out their 2018 classes.
Last year, six SEC schools had higher-ranked classes than all but one ACC school (Florida State), and the Seminoles are that conference’s only program to secure a top-10 class in three straight cycles. The SEC has three that have done so (Alabama, Georgia, Auburn).
So historically, there’s reason to believe the SEC will once again win the proverbial Power 5 recruiting race, with Alabama reigning supreme for the umpteenth time. There’s miles to go before we hit the finish line.