When it comes to recruiting, there’s Alabama and there’s everybody else playing for second. It seems that way on the field each season and it is certainly evident on the first Wednesday of every February when Nick Saban puts together yet another ho-hum No. 1 overall recruiting class.
How high of a level are the Crimson Tide operating on? Well, when you are so loaded that you are grayshirting top 100 recruits, you know things are going pretty well in Tuscaloosa.
Despite another banner day for the defending SEC champions though, the rest of the league once again impressed when it came to reeling in the talent. Schools from the conference stacked half of the top 10 in the class rankings and nine of the 14 programs cracked the overall top 25. Nobody surged as much as Georgia did, with Saban protegé Kirby Smart cleaning up in the state while cherry-picking some great players elsewhere too. Only Alabama and Florida State signed more five-stars than the Bulldogs and the Tide and Michigan were the only two programs in the same league when it came to top 100 players. LSU closed strong in Ed Orgeron’s first recruiting class as head coach of the Tigers and SEC West stalwarts Auburn and Texas A&M continued to add depth with top 12 classes.
Top recruits (all rankings via 247Sports Composite): No. 3 overall Najee Harris (RB, Alabama), No. 4 overall Alex Leatherwood (OT, Alabama), No. 13 Dylan Moses (LB, Alabama), No. 14 Trey Smith (OT, Tennessee), No. 16 Isaiah Wilson (OT, Georgia)
Top 25 classes: No. 1 Alabama, No. 3 Georgia, No. 7 LSU, No. 9 Auburn, No. 10 Florida, No. 12 Texas A&M, No. 17 Tennessee, No. 21 South Carolina, No. 24 Mississippi State
Biggest storyline: Georgia finds plenty of success to keep the Tide from rolling away
Alabama’s recruiting domination is no surprise but it’s the Tide’s former defensive coordinator who made one of the biggest splashes on Signing Day by landing a top three class. Of course it’s not too hard to recruit at a school like Georgia in such a fertile recruiting area but the fact that Smart and company were able to haul in the group they did is still impressive. Adding this group to the young team that is returning for 2017 should ratchet up expectations even further in Athens going forward.
Biggest surprise: Ole Miss’ dramatic departure from the top 25
The Rebels have been a mainstay in the top 15 ever since Hugh Freeze took over the program but the specter of impending NCAA sanctions really hampered the team’s recruiting efforts in 2017. Ole Miss found itself in the 30’s of the team rankings, right behind Kentucky with fewer four- and three-star players than the Wildcats. Freeze didn’t exactly sound like a happy camper on Wednesday and there’s no secret why that is.
Don’t sleep on: Auburn
Their in-state rival took home all the headlines but don’t overlook the work that Gus Malzahn did despite not having an offensive coordinator for several weeks. Baylor transfer Jarrett Stidham will rightfully get the most attention and he could be one of the most talented QB’s to head to the Plains since a recent Heisman Trophy winner. In addition, the Tigers landed five-star offensive tackle Calvin Ashley and came out of nowhere to snag Markaviest Bryant from several of their SEC rivals.
We’ll see about: Florida, Tennessee, South Carolina
Georgia was the top, um, dawg in the rankings among SEC East teams but the other half of the league still managed to put together some fairly highly ranked classes. Florida closed very strong on Wednesday to sneak into the top 10 with some late flips, but the Gators still missed on adding an impact defensive tackle and landed only one top-tier offensive lineman. The Vols had the No. 1 offensive tackle enroll early but didn’t quite have the momentum of past years on the recruiting trail. South Carolina was among the surprises in the top 25 team rankings but the question with the Gamecocks and the other two divisional rivals listed above is if that is all going to be enough to close the gap on the SEC West.