10 Bold Predictions for the SEC on 2015 College Football Recruiting Trail
The SEC's dominance on the field has coincided with the league's penchant for winning big on the recruiting trail in February.
With six SEC teams currently holding down spots in 247Sports' team rankings, it looks like business as usual for the league's powers in the 2015 cycle.
To the surprise of no one, Alabama is in the driver's seat to finish with another top-rated class. However, Texas A&M is on the Tide's heels, and schools such as Georgia, Auburn, South Carolina and Tennessee have put together classes that rank among the nation's elite.
With national signing day less than six months away, what are some of the key storylines for SEC fans to observe, and how will the league fare down the stretch of recruiting season?
10. SEC Schools Will Sign at Least Half of Nation's 5-Star Players
As detailed by JC Shurburtt of 247Sports, the SEC is lapping the field with 11 current commitments from the group of 37 prospects deemed as 5-star recruits in 2015.
Shurburtt also points out that of the uncommitted 5-star players, SEC schools are the prohibitive favorite for 10 of them—which means that the league has a great chance to sign more than 50 percent of the 5-star recruits in the 2015 class.
While recruiting is famous for the twists and turns that occur in the days and weeks leading up to signing day, once again, it appears that a majority of the elite talents in the 2015 class will land in the nation’s toughest conference next fall.
9. Streak of Signing Nation's Top Player Will End
As Shurburtt notes, the SEC has signed the nation's top-rated prospect in each of the last five recruiting cycles.
However, considering that current No. 1 Josh Sweat has only one SEC school—Georgia—among his final five schools, the SEC's streak is in serious jeopardy.
Florida State, Ohio State, Oregon and Virginia Tech join the Bulldogs in Sweat's final group, with the Seminoles and Hokies as the current favorites on Sweat's Crystal Ball page.
Georgia is still in the thick of the race for Sweat, and pairing him with recent defensive line commits Trent Thompson and Jonathan Ledbetter would almost be unfair. However, at this point, the odds are more in favor of Sweat landing at a non-SEC school.
8. Kendall Sheffield Will Sign with Alabama
After landing 5-star Texas standouts A'Shawn Robinson in 2013 and Tony Brown last season, Nick Saban is beginning to make a habit of cherry-picking blue-chip recruits in the Lone Star State.
This year, Saban has his eyes on 5-star corner Kendall Sheffield.
As BamaOnline's Charles Power reported (subscription required), Sheffield—who doubles as a standout in track—has paid attention to the way Brown has been able to shuffle between the two sports since enrolling at Alabama in January.
"I was with Tony a lot," Sheffield said. "He said he liked Alabama and talked about how he's doing both- playing football and running track. He said it was the best decision that he's made. He said Coach Saban is good coach, is very technical, and very disciplined, too."
While Texas A&M will be tough to beat, Saban's track record with recruiting standout defensive backs may be enough to put the Tide over the top with Sheffield.
7. Florida State Will Flip at Least One SEC Commit or Heavy Lean
Jimbo Fisher's Florida State squad ended the SEC's national title streak, and the 'Noles have been one of the most consistent non-SEC recruiting forces since Fisher took over in Tallahassee.
This year will be no different, with the 'Noles looking to capitalize off their national title run last season.
FSU already has 19 commitments, but it is heavily involved with players either committed or leaning toward SEC schools.
Alabama receiver commit Calvin Ridley and Florida defensive end leans Byron Cowart and CeCe Jefferson are among the players who have been frequent visitors to Tallahassee this season. Mississippi State safety pledge Jamal Peters is another target who FSU is pursuing heavily.
Given Fisher's status as an ace recruiter and the 'Noles current alpha male status on the field, expect FSU to poach at least one big-time recruit at the expense of an SEC power.
6. Kentucky Will Ink Second Straight Top 25 Class
Kentucky is used to making waves in recruiting, but the accolades are normally reserved for John Calipari's hoops squad.
With the arrival of Mark Stoops following the 2012 season, the Wildcats won their share of battles en route to inking the nation's No. 22 class in 2014.
Kentucky's 2015 class has 13 commitments and is currently rated No. 28, just on the doorstep of the top 25.
Considering that the Wildcats are heavily in the mix for top players such as in-state 5-star running back Damien Harris and 4-star twins Andrew and David Dowell from Ohio, UK has a strong chance of landing a top-25 class for the second straight season.
5. Texas A&M Will Lose out on Malik Jefferson to Texas
While Johnny Manziel helped usher Texas A&M into the national spotlight, the efforts of head coach Kevin Sumlin and his staff on the recruiting trail have elevated the Aggies to become the dominant program in the Lone Star State.
After inking the nation's No. 16 class in 2012, the Aggies rose to No. 9 in 2013 and finished No. 5 last season. Currently, only Alabama has assembled a better class in the 2015 cycle.
One of the biggest prizes left on the board for the Aggies is in-state 5-star linebacker Malik Jefferson. While the Aggies are the leaders on Jefferson's Crystal Ball page, Texas is making a move for the 6'2", 215-pounder, according to Shurburtt.
This particular battle between the Aggies and the Longhorns is shaping up to be one of the more intriguing recruitments of this cycle. Considering the current fortunes of both programs, Jefferson projects as a must-get for Texas head coach Charlie Strong.
4. SEC Will Finish with at Least Five Teams in Top 10 Class Rankings
Considering that all six SEC schools that currently have top-10 classes have at least 19 commitments, there's little room for each of those teams to move up.
By contrast, powerhouses such as USC, Oregon, Texas, Ohio State and UCLA all have less than 15 pledges—which means there will be plenty of movement within the rankings as signing day approaches.
Even as other schools make runs, SEC powers such as Florida (11 commitments) and LSU (15 commitments) are capable of landing enough elite prospects to challenge for a top-10 class.
When the dust settles on the 2015 class, expect the SEC to command at least half of the nation's top-10 classes for the third consecutive season.
3. Florida Will Not Finish with Top-10 Class
Since 2006, the average rank of Florida's recruiting classes has been sixth. In that same period, the Gators have finished outside the top 10 just once.
However, after last year's 4-8 debacle, the Gators are off to a slow start for the 2015 class. Will Muschamp and his staff have netted only 11 commitments and currently have the nation's No. 26 class.
If the Gators bounce back on the field this fall, their class could gain serious steam in the weeks leading up to signing day. However, with Florida State and Miami getting off to strong starts in-state, the damage already done may be too late for Florida to salvage a top-10 class.
2. SEC Will Finish with at Least Seven Coaches in Top 10 of Recruiter Rankings
Part of the reason for the SEC's excellence on the recruiting trail is because of the quality of coaching staffs assembled throughout the league.
A glance at the 247Sports top recruiter rankings shows SEC assistants claiming the top five spots and eight of the top 10.
Nick Saban's staff has dominated these rankings in recent years and is doing so again with offensive line coach Mario Cristobal and linebackers coach Lance Thompson leading the charge this season.
With ace recruiters such as Auburn's Dameyune Craig, Georgia's Bryan McClendon and Alabama's Kirby Smart among the notable names outside the top 10, expect the league to finish strong and net at least seven assistants in the top 10 of final recruiter rankings.
1. Alabama Will Land No. 1 Class for Fifth Consecutive Year
Nick Saban's club failed to capture the school's 16th national title last season. Instead, the Tide had to settle for claiming their fourth consecutive top-rated recruiting class.
With 20 commitments already in the fold for the 2015 cycle, the Tide hold a comfortable edge over fellow Western Division rival Texas A&M in the race to claim the No. 1 spot.
While several powers are capable of making a run toward knocking the Tide off their perch, Saban's proven ability to close strong will help Alabama reign supreme in February for the fifth consecutive season.
Sanjay Kirpalani is a National Recruiting Analyst for Bleacher Report. Unless otherwise noted, all recruiting information courtesy of 247Sports.
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