- David Ching, ESPN Staff Writer
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Following Thursday's look at SEC West recruiting trends, today we examine the seven teams from the Eastern Division.
After reviewing each SEC recruiting class between 2006 and 2015, here is some of what we learned, including the percentage of in-state signees for each program, the high school programs where they most frequently have landed prospects and the out-of-state destinations that have been most fertile for each program.
Much like conference mates Texas A&M and Georgia, Florida’s home state is large and fertile enough that the Gators don’t have to venture far from home to complete their recruiting classes. The Gators rank third in the conference in in-state signees (60.3 percent, trailing only A&M’s 78.8 and Georgia’s 62), including many of the stars from their Urban Meyer-led heyday. Only five of Florida's 10 first-round NFL draft picks since 2008 (Heisman Trophy winner Tim Tebow, defensive end Dante Fowler Jr., defensive back Matt Elam and offensive linemen Mike and Maurkice Pouncey) hailed from Florida, but the Sunshine State has produced a ton of notable Gators – and 376 signees for other SEC schools – in the last decade.
Signees: 237 (143 in-state)
Percentage of signees from in state: 60.3
Top in-state high school and key players: Eight players – Lakeland (Mike and Maurkice Pouncey)
Next-best state: Georgia (26 players)
Top out-of-state high school and key player: Three players – Crest, North Carolina (Brandon Spikes)
No SEC state is better represented on the conference’s rosters than Georgia. The state produced 582 SEC signees in the last decade, 435 of whom went to out-of-state programs within the conference. And yet Mark Richt’s Bulldogs still rank second in the SEC with 62 percent of their signees coming from within their home state. That's how much talent exists in Georgia. Richt’s Bulldogs frequently supplemented substantial homegrown talent with offensive skill players from elsewhere – think quarterback Matthew Stafford (Texas), receiver A.J. Green (South Carolina) and running backs Knowshon Moreno (New Jersey) and Todd Gurley (North Carolina) – but the Bulldogs’ roster will always be loaded with players from their fertile home state.
Signees: 237 (147 in-state)
Percentage of signees from in state: 62.0
Top in-state high school and key player: Six players – Tucker (Asher Allen)
Next-best state: Florida (36 players)
Top out-of-state high school and key player: Four players – Bolles School, Jacksonville, Florida (John Theus)
Kentucky coach Mark Stoops and his staff have it tough. Their state produced just 60 SEC signees in the last decade, 49 of whom went to Kentucky. Only Vanderbilt (17.5 percent) signed a smaller percentage of in-state prospects than Kentucky’s 19.2. In fact, Kentucky signed more players from Georgia (50) in the last decade than it did from Kentucky. In Georgia, an interesting trend continued between the Wildcats and LaGrange High School. Kentucky signed seven Grangers in the last decade, having previously looked to the school to land All-SEC linebackers Wesley Woodyard and Braxton Kelley. Kentucky even added longtime LaGrange head coach Steve Pardue to its coaching staff in 2011.
Signees: 255 (49 in-state)
Percentage of signees from in state: 19.2
Top in-state high school and key player: Four players – Louisville Central (Corey Peters)
Next-best state: Georgia (50 players)
Top out-of-state high school and key player: Seven players – LaGrange, Georgia (Randall Burden)
Gary Pinkel’s program ranked eighth in the SEC by signing 32.9 percent in-state recruits over the last decade. Geography (and the fact that Missouri didn’t join the SEC until 2012) certainly had something to do with this, but no other SEC program was much of a factor in Missouri. Some of the Tigers’ best players – such as quarterback Blaine Gabbert, defensive linemen Sheldon Richardson, Kony Ealy and Markus Golden and receivers Jeremy Maclin and Dorial Green-Beckham – hailed from Missouri, but the Tigers also looked heavily to Texas (65 signees, 10 fewer than they signed from Missouri) in the decade.
Signees: 228 (75 in-state)
Percentage of signees from in state: 32.9
Top in-state high school and key player: Five players – Lee’s Summit West (Evan Boehm)
Next-best state: Texas (66 players)
Top out-of-state high school and key player: Four players – Gilmer, Texas (Braylon Webb)
Although their biggest stars under Steve Spurrier, namely defensive lineman Jadeveon Clowney, running back Marcus Lattimore and receiver Alshon Jeffery, hailed from South Carolina, Spurrier’s staff frequently looked outside their state for talent. With 70 signees from Georgia (one fewer than the Gamecocks signed from their home state), the Peach State has been enormously valuable as South Carolina established itself as an Eastern Division power. Georgians such as quarterback Connor Shaw, defensive lineman Eric Norwood and running back Mike Davis have been enormously valuable in the last several seasons. Florida has also been useful for Spurrier’s crew, producing 49 signees since 2006.
Signees: 245 (71 in-state)
Percentage of signees from in state: 29.0
Top in-state high school and key player: Five players: South Pointe (Jadeveon Clowney)
Next-best state: Georgia (70 players)
Top out-of-state high school and key player: Six players – Stephenson, Georgia (Mike Davis)
Both Tennessee (26.4 percent) and Vanderbilt (17.5) rank among the SEC programs with the fewest in-state signees, thanks in part to their home state producing less top-tier talent than many of the surrounding Southern states. Out-of-state SEC programs don’t hit Tennessee particularly hard, either. Ole Miss, which is located only an hour away from the Tennessee state line, has the most signees, with 26 since 2006. Meanwhile, the Vols frequently looked to nearby states such as Georgia (48 signees, including the Berry brothers, offensive lineman Ja’Wuan James and quarterback Joshua Dobbs) and Florida (32) to fill in their recruiting classes.
Signees: 250 (66 in-state)
Percentage of signees from in state: 26.4
Top in-state high school and key player: Three players – Montgomery Bell Academy (Jashon Robertson)
Next-best state: Georgia (48 players)
Top out-of-state high school and key player: Four players – Creekside, Georgia (Eric Berry)
By many measures, Vanderbilt is nothing like its SEC mates. The conference’s only private school typically attracts a different breed of student, whether it’s an athlete or nonathlete. The Commodores reside in a state that is not particularly loaded with SEC-caliber talent, so it’s hardly a surprise that they look all over to fill their recruiting classes. Vandy signed more players from Georgia (44) than Tennessee (37) and also hit Florida (29) and Alabama (23) hard over the last decade. It did so out of necessity, and the trend doesn’t appear likely to end under Derek Mason. Just five of Vandy’s 18 signees in 2015 came from Tennessee.
Signees: 212 (37 in-state)
Percentage of signees from in state: 17.5
Top in-state high school and key players: Two players – Brentwood Academy (Thad McHaney)/Ensworth School (Donovan Sheffield)/Memphis University School (John Stokes)/Montgomery Bell Academy (Wesley Johnson)/Oakland (Emmanuel Smith)/Smyrna (Adam Smotherman)/Whitehaven (Darrius Sims)
Next-best state: Georgia (44 players)