Spring has given way to summer in SEC country, which means that it's a good time to take a look at where recruiting for football's class of 2008 stands a mere 7 months before signing day (I can't believe I just typed that. I feel dirty.) While 7 months is awfully far into the future to forecast the activities and proclivities of 17 year old boys (much like, say, 7 minutes), most of the traditional powers have by now determined who they'll be targetting and even gotten verbal commitments from some of their top targets.
Believe me, this recruiting season has some oddity to it as well. But I'll get to that on Monday. This is merely foreshadowing, and a cheap excuse to have you humming David Bowie tunes all weekend. You can thank me later.
As things have gotten clearer, some interesting trends and storylines have emerged. I'll cover some of these today and some others on Monday. With today's emphasis on the SEC and Monday's on the national recruiting picture. With no further ado, here's what we know so far about recruiting in the SEC:
1) The Dawgs really are nailing it. Seriously. Last year UGA 's class breakdown by Rivals' star category looked like this: 12 4-star recruits, 10 3-star recruits and 1 2-star recruit. That's an average of 3.2 stars per player. That class also included no elite 5-star players. Also conspicuously absent from that class? All but two of Rivals' top 12 players in Georgia.
But what a difference a year makes. The Dawgs currently have 14 commitments for the class of 2008, 2 5-stars, 7 4-stars, 4 3-stars, and kicker Blair Walsh, who is rated #4 in the nation at his position, but garners only 2 stars from Rivals. That's an average of 3.7 stars per player. Even more impressive may be that Georgia has pledges from 5 out of the top 6 players in Rivals' pre-spring top 12 in Georgia for this year. The other, Jefferson County's A.J. Harmon, appears leaning toward either Georgia or Clemson. And Coach Garner appears to be far from done with the recruiting efforts. The Dawgs are still actively pursuing a slew of targets. While national recruiting championships are overrated, they don't hurt either. This group is 4-5 big pieces away from being in the hunt for one.
2) The rest of the SEC East, not so much. Florida has only the pledge of 4-star Gainesville defensive end Earl Okine. Tennessee Has only one 4-star recruit (Maryville tight end Aaron Douglas), five 3-star recruits and a couple of guys with 2 stars or less. South Carolina recently got a commitment from UGA verbal A.J. Green's teammate, quarterback Reid McCollum (who rates 3-stars with the Rivals prognosticators). He joins two other 3-star high schoolers and unrated JUCO defensive end Jarriel King (who signed with Spurrier out of high school but wound up at Georgia Military College for a couple of years). Kentucky coach Rich Brooks has been meaning to get around to recruiting, but just hasn't had time. He has no verbal pledges at all.
While this is all encouraging, I would not count on it to last. Florida will get their share, and there are more than likely a few high profile players who have made their mind up about playing for the Gators' emotional leader. Phil Fulmer usually closes pretty strong, though with the talent base in Tennessee, he has to work very, very hard to do that. SCar fans still seem to think that Spurrier will haul in monster recruiting classes year after year. I'll believe it when I see it, though last year's class was easily the strongest for the chickens in recent memory.
3) Nick Saban is kicking your ass and he doesn't care who knows it. And by "your" I mean Auburn fans and by "ass" I mean Tommy Tuberville. Seriously, Slick Nick has pulled in commitments from five 4-star players already. All are from the Yellowhammer state. In fact, all of the Armani Bear's 10 commitments are from Alabama with the exception of kicker and West Virginia native Corey Smith. I assume this is because many kickers also play soccer, and soccer is a communist sport. They don't play communist sports in Alabama. End of story. The Barners by comparison have six commitments, none rated higher than 3-stars. Even more surprisingly, not a single one is from the state of Alabama. Not. Even. One.
4) Houston Nutt: making knock-off silk purses out of sows' ears. I've already pointed out that Arkansas football's biggest threat is a certain segment of U of A fandom. I also implied in that article that said fans may not be helping Coach Nutt's recruiting cred. I still intuitively feel that, I just don't really have the numbers to back it up. Nutt isn't doing all that bad, with one 4-star offensive lineman, four 3-star players, and two 2-star or unrated players. However, he has gotten a pledge from unfortunately named quarterback Kale Pick. It could be worse though, he could be named Nutt. Or Johnson. Or Dick.
5) Ed Orgeron is recruiting a ton of players. I just can't pick any of them out of a lineup. Seriously, Rivals, YouTube, Google video. I defy you to find videographic evidence that any of Ed the Undead's recruits have ever even been on a football field. The Orgeron has eleven verbals for the class of 2008. Only three of them are rated 3 stars or higher by Rivals. This means one of three things: 1) Rivals analysts are generally good in player evaluation, except when they see Orgeron and run away screaming before actually seeing any football, 2) the Orgeron is a better evaluater of talent than not only the recruiting services, but also the other coaches in the SEC and Big 12 against whom he's working, or 3) it takes a lot more than a two for one khakis sale to get people to Oxford. By contrast . . .
6) Maybe StarkVegas ain't so bad. No, that was just a tease. It is that bad. Sly Croom has four verbal pledges, two of whom are actually from the state of Mississippi. None of them rates above a 3-star ranking with Rivals. Vanderbilt also has four commits. They're all extremely bright and well-rounded young men who are about to lose a lot of football games. So there's that too.
Sly Croom, pondering this new-fangled invention called the forward pass, and his longing to find a quarterback who can throw one.
7) Les is more. More likely to be recruiting in-state, that is. Les Miles and LSU signed one of the top classes in the country last season, despite having much of their prime recruiting territory either underwater or under marshall law for a large part of the recruiting cycle. However, 7 of LSU's 9 commitments for 2008 call Louisiana home. That's good news for the Tigers, and bad news for their competitors. Large parts of the state will likely never be exactly the same, but this may be a sign that people are still returning, and bringing their kids with them. That doesn't have a whole lot to do with recruiting, it's just good to know.
I'll be back on Monday to look at the national recruiting picture. Until then. . .