Ranking the 10 States with the Most Talent in College Football Right Now

Greg WallaceFeatured ColumnistMarch 15, 2017

Ranking the 10 States with the Most Talent in College Football Right Now

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    Oklahoma quarterback Baker Mayfield is just one of a number of talented Texas products in college football right now.
    Oklahoma quarterback Baker Mayfield is just one of a number of talented Texas products in college football right now.Butch Dill/Associated Press

    It's no surprise that college football talent is concentrated in a small group of states, rather than evenly spread all over the nation.

    Recruiters are far more likely to flock to Texas and Florida, not Maine and Wyoming; larger, warmer states typically have higher concentrations of talent than smaller, colder, less-populated areas.

    But does that mean those states have the most talent in college football right now? Let's take a look.

    Here's a look at the top 10 states currently pumping the highest levels of overall talent into college football right now.

    Factors considered include the most productive players in the game in 2016 as well as recruiting rankings provided by Scout.com.

10. North Carolina

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    Dexter Lawrence played a big role in Clemson's 2016 national title run.
    Dexter Lawrence played a big role in Clemson's 2016 national title run.Elise Amendola/Associated Press

    North Carolina consistently finds its way into the sports spotlight this time of year, but the Old North State's football isn't too shabby, either.

    Head coach Larry Fedora has transformed North Carolina into a consistent ACC Coastal contender, with quarterback Mitch Trubisky projected as a high first-round pick in this spring's NFL draft.

    Duke and N.C. State are also regular postseason contenders, and the state is a regular source of top-100 and top-200 talent for teams within and outside its borders.

    The state has had just two top-50 talents in the last three recruiting cycles, but Wake Forest native Dexter Lawrence made a major impact last fall as a Clemson freshman defensive tackle. He's poised to become one of the nation's best defensive linemen and looks like a surefire NFL draft prospect.

9. Alabama

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    Bo Scarbrough is poised to be one of the nation's top tailbacks.
    Bo Scarbrough is poised to be one of the nation's top tailbacks.Streeter Lecka/Getty Images

    It's hard to imagine another state that takes college football as seriously as Alabama does.

    The Alabama-Auburn rivalry is discussed and analyzed 365 days per year in local restaurants, bars and on sports radio, culminating in the annual Iron Bowl.

    Alabamians love their pigskin, and thanks to Nick Saban (who has won four national titles and nearly a fifth in a decade as the Crimson Tide head coach) fans have plenty to cheer about.

    Auburn fans? Maybe not quite as much recently, although the Tigers do have a national title and runner-up finish in the past decade.

    The state has a strong talent base, although its smaller population size means it's a little behind some more prominent neighbors. Alabama recruits nationally, but it still dots its roster with blue-chip in-state prospects such as tailback Bo Scarbrough and defensive lineman Da'Ron Payne.

     

8. Pennsylvania

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    Saquon Barkley is one of the nation's most explosive tailbacks.
    Saquon Barkley is one of the nation's most explosive tailbacks.Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images

    Last fall, the Keystone State experienced a football renaissance, thanks to Penn State.

    The Nittany Lions emerged from a period of mediocrity following the tumultuous end of the Joe Paterno era with an 11-win season and a Big Ten title. With an excellent base returning, they figure to be at, or near, the top of the league again this fall.

    They're poised to continue taking advantage of an entrenched football culture. Over the last three years, Pennsylvania has had four top-50 recruits, and three have signed with the Nittany Lions.

    Meanwhile, in-state native Saquon Barkley, a top-125 recruit in his own right, has emerged as a star, rushing for 1,496 yards and 18 touchdowns as a sophomore.

    Pittsburgh is improving under coach Pat Narduzzi, and it will be tough to wrest top-shelf recruits away from Happy Valley.

7. Virginia

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    Virginia's Quin Blanding is one of the nation's best safety prospects.
    Virginia's Quin Blanding is one of the nation's best safety prospects.Chet Strange/Getty Images

    Virginia Tech had slipped from the national elite ranks (and the ranks of consistent 10-game winners) by the end of Frank Beamer's tenure, something that new coach Justin Fuente hopes to change.

    He's doing solid work so far. The Hokies won the ACC Coastal Division in Fuente's first season at the helm in Blacksburg, and cashed in with the class of 2017. Tech signed the nation's No. 7 overall recruit in Chesepeake, Va., safety Devon Hunter. He's the only top-50 recruit within the last three recruiting cycles to ink with the Hokies.

    Florida State signed a pair in defensive end Josh Sweat and cornerback Levonta Taylor. The Tidewater area is a bountiful region for football talent; Virginia Beach native Quin Blanding is one of the nation's best safeties for a rebuilding Virginia squad.

    If the Hokies and Cavaliers can keep more talent home, they will make a legitimate national impact.

6. Louisiana

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    Derrius Guice should be a Heisman Trophy candidate for LSU this fall.
    Derrius Guice should be a Heisman Trophy candidate for LSU this fall.Joe Robbins/Getty Images

    For Ed Orgeron, earning the full-time head coach role at LSU was a huge accomplishment. The Louisiana native gets to coach his state's flagship program and use his recruiting skills to push the Tigers back to the elite level they reached while winning national titles under Nick Saban and Les Miles.

    While LSU isn't the only FBS program in the state of Louisiana, it is the clear king and the main benefactor of the state's rich gridiron talent pool. While Alabama has made inroads on the bayou recently, Baton Rouge is the top destination for most elite players within the state's borders.

    Bruising back Leonard Fournette is sure to be the next highly touted LSU prospect to score big in the NFL draft, and the Tigers will replace the New Orleans native with a Baton Rouge product in tailback Derrius Guice, who excelled while Fournette struggled at times with leg injuries last fall.

    Of the six top-50 prospects to emerge from the state in the last three years, five chose LSU. That's a strong statement on the program's overall dominance in-state.

5. Ohio

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    Demario McCall is an excellent example of the talent available to recruiters in Ohio.
    Demario McCall is an excellent example of the talent available to recruiters in Ohio.Jamie Sabau/Getty Images

    Unlike many states on this list, Ohio doesn't boast consistently warm weather that breeds year-round development.

    However, the Buckeye State does have one big plusOhio State's nationally powerful program, led by the force of nature that is coach Urban Meyer, who has lost just six games in five seasons at OSU's helm.

    The state has fewer true elite prospects than some of its peers, but it has a deep wealth of talent.

    Ohio State and Meyer recruit nationally, but when they identify an in-state prospect they want (such as defensive end Sam Hubbard or tailback Demario McCall) it's hard to pry them away.

    Regardless, the Buckeyes can't take every prospect, with Ohio products dotting Big Ten and MAC rosters.

4. Georgia

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    Nick Chubb is an excellent representative of Georgia's football culture.
    Nick Chubb is an excellent representative of Georgia's football culture.Michael Chang/Getty Images

    Georgia is not one of the nation's largest states by area, but its geographic location in the Southeast and a strong football culture have made it a consistent producer of top college football recruits.

    Clemson has used the Peach State as a strong base, with Atlanta-area stars Deshaun Watson and Wayne Gallman crossing the state line to serve as key contributors for the Tigers' 2016 national championship team.

    Georgia is a popular destination for in-state products, too, of course; defensive tackle Trenton Thompson was the nation's No. 2 overall recruit in 2015, and tailback Nick Chubb looked more like himself after recovering from a serious knee injury that ended his sophomore season early.

    In 2015, five top-50 recruits hailed from Georgia, including offensive tackle Mitch Hyatt, the cornerstone of Clemson's offensive line.

    In 2016, there were six, and this winter, there were five, led by Stanford quarterback signee Davis Mills, the nation's No. 6 overall recruit. Georgia should remain a power in college recruiting for the foreseeable future.

3. California

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    Jake Browning keyed Washington's run to the College Football Playoff.
    Jake Browning keyed Washington's run to the College Football Playoff.Maddie Meyer/Getty Images

    With a 2010 U.S. Census population of over 37 million people, California is the nation's most populous state. So it is no surprise that the warm-weather area is a college football power.

    The state has seven FBS programs, and it is a popular destination for recruiters all over the West Coast and beyond to stock their rosters with impact players.

    California native Jake Browning led Washington to the College Football Playoff last fall, and UCLA quarterback and southern California native Josh Rosen is regarded as one of the nation's top pro-style passer prospects, even after his 2016 season ended prematurely due to shoulder surgery.

    And the talent isn't stopping anytime soon. The nation's top overall recruit, Alabama signee Najee Harris, is poised to join the Crimson Tide's long line of backfield stars.

    California had seven of the nation's top 50 recruits in 2015, seven in 2016 and seven again this fall. The Golden State remains a gold mine for college football.

2. Florida

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    Louisville's Lamar Jackson is a transcendent athletic talent.
    Louisville's Lamar Jackson is a transcendent athletic talent.John Raoux/Associated Press

    While Florida, Florida State and Miami soak up plenty of attention, the state of Florida offers a little something for everyone when it comes to football.

    The state has a dynamic combination of warm weather and an ingrained football culture that stretches from the professional all the way down to the youth level, and seven FBS teams.

    College recruiters love the Sunshine State, and it delivers well beyond perceived elite levels. After all, Louisville quarterback Lamar Jackson flew below the radar before signing with the Cardinals, but he broke out as the Heisman Trophy winner last fall, dazzling with his running ability (1,571 yards and 21 touchdowns on the ground) as well as his passing.

    South Florida quarterback Quinton Flowers isn't as well-known, but he rushed for 1,530 yards and 18 scores and will be a valuable weapon for new coach Charlie Strong. Alabama's Calvin Ridley saw his numbers drop as a sophomore, but he remains one of the nation's most dangerous receivers while catching passes from Jalen Hurts. 

    Florida had seven top-50 recruits in 2017, six in 2016 (including Ole Miss quarterback Shea Patterson and Ohio State defensive end Nick Bosa) and nine in 2015.

    It might be smarter for colleges to just station an assistant here permanently, given the abundance of talent.

1. Texas

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    Oklahoma State's James Washington is one of the nation's most dynamic receivers.
    Oklahoma State's James Washington is one of the nation's most dynamic receivers.Ronald Cortes/Getty Images

    Texas has always been known as a college football hotbed, and a look at 2016's NCAA leaders shows why recruiters pay so much attention to the Lone Star State.

    Texas Tech quarterback Patrick Mahomes II, an in-state product, led the NCAA with 5,052 passing yards before declaring for the NFL draft. Texas tailback D'Onta Foreman was the nation's No. 2 rusher with 2,028 rushing yards before also heading to the NFL.

    And there's plenty more talent where that came from. The state boasts 12 FBS programs, and there's lots of depth to feed those rosters from the top of the Power Five to the mid-major level. New Texas coach Tom Herman knows keeping elite talent close to home is crucial.

    Per Wescott Eberts of Burnt Orange Nation, Herman said:

    That has to be our mission...to keep the best players in the state of Texas. We're well on our way, and our relationships with the high school coaches is phenomenal, paying great dividends. We've already started building really quality relationships with a bunch of the top players in the 2018 class.

    Eight Texas players were among Scout's top 50 recruits in 2017, 10 in 2016 and 10 in 2016. 

    Oklahoma senior quarterback Baker Mayfield is a two-time Heisman Trophy finalist, while Oklahoma State receiver James Washington is an elite pass-catcher. Texas linebacker Malik Jefferson is one of the nation's top linebackers, and Houston defensive tackle Ed Oliver was one of the country's top overall freshmen last fall.

    Expect the talent to keep flowing, with plenty of suitors to chase them in the future.