- David Ching, ESPN Staff Writer
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We covered several bases last week in breaking down SEC recruiting trends across the last decade, including the best states and cities for SEC talent, plus the high schools where teams in the Western Division and Eastern Division frequently look for players.
But are there states that are particularly fertile for prospects at certain positions? Texas falls into that category at quarterback, as you'll see below. And if we include all 3,442 conference signees between 2006 and 2015 who are factored into these results, how does a typical SEC recruiting class break down?
Let’s take a look at some of the results, drawn from the positions listed on the prospects’ ESPN.com recruiting profiles (which were not always the positions they played in college):
As last week’s stories showed, Georgia (with 582 SEC signees) was easily the leading spot for SEC talent over the last decade, producing more than twice as many prospects as most SEC states and easily outdistancing the two closest, Florida (520) and Texas (419).
The Peach State ranked among the top two SEC states at every position except quarterback (where it was third) and was the top producer of players designated as athletes, running backs (where it tied with Florida), defensive linemen, linebackers and tight ends.
Honestly, you could win Super Bowls with a team composed solely of Georgians who played in the SEC in the last decade. The defense in particular would be nearly unstoppable -- which makes sense because Georgia produced 31 more defensive linemen than the next state (117 to Florida's 86) and 27 more linebackers (81 to Florida's 54).
Players from Mark Richt’s Georgia program would make up the biggest chunk of this imaginary roster. Think of guys like Kansas City’s Justin Houston, St. Louis’ Alec Ogletree, Cincinnati’s Geno Atkins, Miami’s Reshad Jones, Philadelphia’s Brandon Boykin, Buffalo’s Cordy Glenn, Pittsburgh’s Jarvis Jones and Carolina’s Charles Johnson. All of those guys except Glenn play on the defensive side of the ball.
Then you have Georgians who went to other SEC schools such as Auburn’s Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback Cam Newton, Tennessee safety Eric Berry and offensive lineman Ja’Wuan James, Alabama offensive lineman Chance Warmack and recent Kentucky first-round draft pick Bud Dupree. The list could go on and on, but the point is that you could easily stock an NFL roster with Georgians and it would look like an all-star team.
Florida, meanwhile, was in the top two for every position and was the top SEC state for defensive backs, offensive linemen, running backs and receivers – which only substantiates the perception that Florida is a great spot to look for athleticism at the offensive skill positions and in the secondary.
For their size, Alabama, Mississippi and Louisiana are also extremely fertile recruiting territories. They ranked fourth, fifth and sixth in number of SEC signees (Alabama had 318, Mississippi 275 and Louisiana 255), trailing only states with substantially larger populations, Georgia (582), Florida (520) and Texas (419).
If you attempt to identify the secret to Alabama’s success in the Nick Saban era, a nasty defensive front seven has to rank among the leading factors. Thus it makes sense that Alabama ranked in the top three among SEC states in both defensive linemen and linebackers produced.
Alabama signed the bulk of the stars at those positions (led by Rolando McClain and C.J. Mosley at linebacker and Marcell Dareus and Courtney Upshaw on the defensive line), but Auburn got its share as well (namely defensive linemen Dee Ford and Nick Fairley). Plus, other SEC programs plucked star front-seven personnel out of the state such as Arkansas with Trey Flowers, LSU with Kwon Alexander and Ole Miss with Deterrian Shackelford.
Its net total of SEC signees doesn’t measure up to that of the big states, but Louisiana has years when its high-end talent is off the charts. With just 4.65 million listed as the U.S. Census Bureau’s 2014 population estimate for the state, it’s an eye-opener to see how many coveted prospects come from bayou country in some recruiting cycles.
Between 2007 and 2014, Louisiana had eight players whom ESPN rated among the top 10 overall prospects, including the No. 1 prospect in 2007 (USC’s Joe McKnight) and 2014 (LSU’s Leonard Fournette). McKnight was the only one who didn't sign with an SEC program.
The state’s 2014 class was particularly special. In it, you not only had Fournette, but also ESPN’s No. 1 offensive tackle (Alabama’s Cam Robinson), the No. 1 athlete (Texas A&M’s Speedy Noil), the No. 1 wide receiver (LSU’s Malachi Dupre) and the No. 1 offensive guard (LSU’s Garrett Brumfield). Overall, Louisiana produced 18 players who were members of that year’s ESPN 300.
And 2016 might be just as good. For the upcoming signing class, Louisiana has six of the top 38 prospects listed on the 2016 ESPN 300: No. 5 Willie Allen, No. 8 Rashard Lawrence, No. 19 Edwin Alexander, No. 31 Kristian Fulton, No. 33 Shyheim Carter and No. 38 Shea Patterson.
Mississippi, meanwhile, was another of the top destinations for athletes – players whose positional versatility in high school led ESPN’s evaluators to list them in the general “athlete” category rather than pigeonhole them into a position they might not play in college. Included in that group are multiple players who developed into stars at Mississippi State (linebacker Benardrick McKinney, cornerback Johnthan Banks and receiver Chad Bumphis) and Ole Miss (defensive backs Cody Prewitt and Senquez Golson).
Not bad for three small Southern states whose combined populations are barely larger than the 10 million-plus in Georgia and are considerably smaller than those of Florida (19.9 million) or Texas (27 million).
Texas the spot for QBs
By now it’s a well-known fact that Texas is where you look for quarterback talent, and the SEC certainly didn’t ignore that trend.
SEC schools signed 38 quarterbacks from Texas between 2006 and 2015, easily the most of any SEC state. In fact, only four SEC states produced as many as 10 quarterbacks (Florida was second with 25, followed by Georgia with 19 and Alabama with 15). That’s a sizable disparity between Texas and everybody else.
Some of the conference’s biggest names at the position over the last decade hailed from the Lone Star State, too. You have a Heisman Trophy winner inTexas A&M’s Johnny Manziel, a No. 1 overall NFL draft pick in Georgia’s Matthew Stafford and another first-round pick in A&M’s Ryan Tannehill. Plus a couple of guys who led their teams to division titles (Missouri’s James Franklin) or, even better, SEC and BCS titles (Alabama’s Greg McElroy). And for good measure, let’s not forget Arkansas’ Ryan Mallett and Ole Miss’ Jevan Snead.
The average SEC recruiting class
Obviously the number of players that programs recruit at one position will fluctuate annually based on need. For instance, LSU will look to replenish its depth at linebacker in the 2016 class because of attrition, early entries into the NFL draft and recruiting misses in recent years.
But if we take a longer view at a decade’s worth of classes at the 14 SEC schools, we can gain a clearer view of the general trends these programs follow in assembling their signing classes.
With 3,442 players included here from between 2006 and 2015, that breaks down to 24.58 signees per SEC class. That’s right at the traditional 25-man limit that schools aim for in each class.
By position, it should come as no surprise – quality depth along the line of scrimmage is one of the most important ingredients in SEC success, after all – that the offensive and defensive lines represented the largest groups of signees. The defensive line ranked first with 4.64 signees per class (18.9 percent of all SEC signees), followed by the offensive line with 3.87 (15.8 percent).
Breakdown by position and state
The home states of football recruits by states in the SEC blueprint that signed with SEC schools, broken down by position (2006-15):
Athletes: Georgia 47, Florida 44, Mississippi 38, Alabama 19, Texas 19, Tennessee 16, Louisiana 14, Missouri 7, South Carolina 6, Kentucky 5, Arkansas 5
Defensive backs: Florida 91, Georgia 87, Texas 80, Louisiana 51, Mississippi 44, Alabama 40, South Carolina 23, Tennessee 22, Missouri 5, Arkansas 5, Kentucky 3
Defensive linemen: Georgia 117, Florida 86, Alabama 73, Texas 71, Louisiana 52, Mississippi 43, South Carolina 35, Tennessee 31, Missouri 16, Kentucky 14, Arkansas 11
Linebackers: Georgia 81, Florida 54, Alabama 51, Texas 46, Louisiana 27, Mississippi 24, Tennessee 21, Missouri 9, Arkansas 8, South Carolina 8, Kentucky 5
Offensive linemen: Florida 72, Georgia 70, Texas 63, Mississippi 47, Alabama 46, Tennessee 38, Louisiana 30, South Carolina 23, Missouri 19, Arkansas 15, Kentucky 11
Quarterbacks: Texas 38, Florida 25, Georgia 19, Alabama 15, Tennessee 9, Louisiana 8, Missouri 8, Arkansas 8, Mississippi 6, South Carolina 6, Kentucky 4
Running backs: Florida 48, Georgia 48, Texas 28, Mississippi 25, Louisiana 22, Tennessee 20, Alabama 19, Arkansas 12, Missouri 10, South Carolina 7, Kentucky 6
Specialists: Georgia 14, Florida 11, Texas 8, Tennessee 8, Mississippi 7, Alabama 4, Arkansas 3, South Carolina 2, Louisiana 1, Missouri 1, Kentucky 1
Tight ends: Georgia 28, Florida 20, Tennessee 16, Texas 15, Alabama 15, Arkansas 15, Louisiana 10, Mississippi 8, Missouri 6, Kentucky 6, South Carolina 5
Wide receivers: Florida 69, Georgia 61, Texas 51, Louisiana 40, Alabama 36, Mississippi 33, South Carolina 20, Tssee 17, Arkansas 16, Missouri 10, Kentucky 5