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Thursday, August 22, 2013
SEC leads latest recruiting rankings

By Tom Luginbill and Craig Haubert

The debate over top individual classes is a fierce and long standing one in the world of recruiting, but a look at how conferences stack up against each other on the recruiting trail can offer great insight as well. The SEC has been dominant on the field and on the recruiting trail -- it's nabbed the top class four out of the last five years. For 2014, the SEC is making a push to claim the top class again with multiple teams ranked in the top 10 of ESPN RecruitingNation's class rankings. The SEC is not the only conference enjoying recruiting success though, as several others are showing similar depth.

1. SEC

The SEC remains in the top spot. Home to the last seven BCS champions as well having a footprint located in a deep pool of talent, the SEC continues to lead the way on the recruiting trail. Thirteen of the conference’s 14 teams have a class rated in the top 40. The conference has six of the top 10 led by Alabama, which has the nation’s top-rated class. All but one team in the conference has a verbal from at least one ESPN 300 prospect and 10 teams have secured four or more. The SEC remains on top of college football, both on the field and on the recruiting trail.

2. ACC

The ACC has not enjoyed the same type of recent on-field success as the SEC, but a big part of the conference's footprint also resides in the talent-rich Southeast, allowing it to have success on the recruiting trail. The conference has eight teams within the top 40 and while the SEC has three teams rated in the top five, the other two spots are filled by ACC programs, with Florida State at No. 2 and Miami (Fla.) at No. 4.

3. Big Ten

Michigan and Ohio State continue to lead the pack in the Big Ten as the conference's two highest-rated classes. Michigan has a class that features nine ESPN 300 prospects -- led by Jabrill Peppers, the No. 2-rated player in the country -- and sits just outside the top five at No. 6, while Ohio State sits just outside the top 10 at No. 11. The Wolverines and Buckeyes are not the only programs representing the conference on the recruiting trail though, as five other teams have classes ranked in the top 40, with Penn State and Northwestern both sitting within the top 25.

4. Big 12

With access to the state of Texas, which offers a deep talent pool to recruit from and is a key feeder for the majority of the conference, the Big 12 is building some strong classes for 2014. Five teams have a class ranked in the top 40, with three of them within the top 25. Texas is ranked in the top 10 and has verbals from seven ESPN 300 prospects. Baylor, which has a commitment from the state of Texas’ top-ranked offensive player, has a class inside the top 20, while Oklahoma, Texas Tech and Oklahoma State are all also currently represented in the class rankings.

5. Pac-12

Things overall have been a little slower on the recruiting trail for the Pac-12, but the action is beginning to pick up out West. The conference doesn’t have a team with a top 25 class, but does have four programs in the top 40. Stanford, with a verbal from No. 1 QB-PP Keller Chryst, currently leads the way for the conference. With eight teams with 10 or fewer commitments at this stage, the Pac-12 is a conference that could still make a move up as classes continue to fill out.

6. American

The conference has a new name and a fairly new look member-wise, as conference realignment hit the former Big East hard. The American Athletic Conference does have two programs ranked within the top 40 in Louisville and Rutgers, but both are headed to new conferences next year. There are some good prospects committed to other teams in the conference, but, outside of the Cardinals and Scarlet Knights, only South Florida and SMU currently have a verbal from a four-star prospect. While the conference has a new name, perception is still a big problem, and having the two teams with the most recruiting success on their way out won't help change that perception any time soon.

7. Mountain West

With increasing exposure and stature, the Mountain West has been able to secure some good talent. Boise State has put together one of the stronger non-BCS classes thus far, led by four-star running back Squally Canada, who also has one of the top names in the 2014 class. San Diego State has also built a solid class to help lead the conference, led by a pair of promising QB prospects, while San Jose State recently picked up a promising signal-caller of its own in No. 30 rated QB-PP Ian Fieber.

8. C-USA

This is a conference with a large footprint, sitting in fertile talent areas. Most of the member programs reside within the Southeast and the conference stretches into Texas, where four teams reside. In addition to rich talent pools, back-to-back top-15 picks in the NFL draft and Top 25 AP finishes by member programs in 2010 and 2011 have helped draw some attention and lure some good talent. Louisiana Tech has verbals from a promising DE as well as a top QB, and Marshall scored a nice pickup in high three-star RB Keion Davis. Tulsa has a verbal from a top-30 pocket passer while Southern Miss has a verbal from a top-40 QB. Rice has a class with 21 commitments, led by a high three-star RB.

9. MAC

Western Michigan has been very active building one of the stronger Non-BCS classes thus far as it has well over 20 commitments at this point. The Broncos are led by top-20 pocket passer Chance Stewart, a nice in-state pickup. Akron’s class is much smaller, but it also landed a promising QB in Chandler Kincade. Seven other programs have secured double-digit commitments thus far.

10. Sun Belt

The conference does have some upside due to its recruiting footprint and the surprising rise of many team's profiles, including Western Kentucky, Louisiana-Monroe and Louisiana-Lafeyette. However, the conference remains at the bottom looking up.