Originally posted Jan. 26th at http://knoxvegasvols.com/articles/sec-recruiting-breaking-down-the-sec-s-class-of-2011
Any time a conference dominates the landscape of a collegiate sport the way the SEC has dominated college football, the question arises: What makes them better than the rest?
The answer to that question isn't exactly definitive, because some will say that it is coaching and others may say that it has to do with geography, but the one thing that can't be debated is that the success of the SEC in the last decade and a half has at least started on the recruiting trails.
As a whole, the conference has won the last five national titles and has won seven of the total 13 championships awarded in the BCS era (no other conference has more than two) It is an impressive feat, but further investigation of what has made the conference so good in the past 15 years reveals an even more impressive dominance on the recruiting trail.
Since Rivals.com came out with their inaugural team rankings in 2002 the SEC has placed a minimum of six teams in the top 25 in recruiting every single season, and placed as many as 10 teams in the top 25 in 2009. In 2007, the Southeastern Conference had an astonishing seven of their member institutions in the top 10!
And in 2011, we can expect more of the same, as the SEC currently has nine teams in the nation's top 25 in recruiting. Here are the highlights of the conference's best classes.
Alabama (No. 1)
Right now Alabama is in a battle with Texas for the mythical recruiting national championship. Alabama currently sits with 21 commitments and is locked in a battle with South Carolina for the nation's top prospect, Jadeveon Clowney. The Tide also have five-star prospects Cyrus Kouandjio (OT) and Isaiah Crowell (RB) left on their board.
Key Commit: five-star RB Demetrius Hart
LSU (No. 4)
LSU also has 21 commitments currently in the Class of 2011, and is led by a trio of five-star commits from the state of Louisiana (great year for top talent in the Bayou.) Right now the biggest name left on their board is five star DE Ray Drew, but they also are working hard on four-star prospects Timmy Jernigan and Jermauria Rasco.
Key Commit: five-star DT Anthony Johnson
Auburn (No. 8)
The defending national champions come in at No. 8 nationally and No. 3 in the SEC. The Tigers got a recent commitment from five-star LB Kris Frost, and hope to make some more noise before national signing day by adding a big names like Cyrus Kouandjio or four-star DB Enrique Florence (suspected Auburn lean.) This week they also look for a commitment from four-star TE Brandon Fulse, as Fulse is set to choose between the Tigers and Tennessee tomorrow.
Key Commit: four-star QB Kiehl Frazier/five-star LB Kris Frost (toss-up)
Georgia (No. 9)
The Bulldogs struggled on the field this season, especially in the absence of star WR A.J. Green, but they have absolutely killed it on the recruiting trail in 2011. The class got a huge boost last week when the Bulldogs got a commitment from the nation's No. 1 CB Malcolm Mitchell and four-star TE Jay Rome on the same day, but the Dawgs aren't done. Mark Richt has UGA in the thick of things for in-state five-star Isaiah Crowell and Ray Drew.
Key Commit: four-star CB Malcolm Mitchell
Mississippi (No. 14)
Houston Nutt did not have a very good season, going 4-8 and finishing last in the SEC West, but that hasn't stopped Nutt from putting together a solid class this season. That class got a whole lot better this week when they received a commitment from five-star LB C.J. Johnson, who had a huge week at the Army All-American game. I don't know how much more room the Rebels have in this class but they hope to have a shot with four-star WR Nickolas Brassell.
Key Commit: five-star LB C.J. Johnson
Tennessee (No. 17)
In Derek Dooley's first full recruiting class, the Volunteers have quietly put together the second best class in the SEC East, and they have done that while addressing several areas of weakness. Look for the Vols to make a big push towards the top 11-13 between now and signing day, with a bevy of huge names left on the board. Including in-state four-star OL Antonio Richardson and GA four-star DT Gabe Wright.
Key Commit: four-star LB A.J. Johnson
Florida (No. 19)
Florida arguably has the most room to move (up or down) of the remaining people on the board, but they will have to battle their recent coaching staff change. One prospect Florida fans seem to be really excited about is the nation's top rated pro-style quarterback, Jeff Driskel. In order for the Gators to close strong they are going to need to hear good news from five-star LB Curtis Grant and four-star DT Timmy Jernigan.
Key Commit: four-star QB Jeff Driskel
South Carolina (No. 21)
The Gamecocks currently have an amazing 30 commitments, and have put together a solid class to this point. However, I think most fans of South Caroina will be quick to point out that this class will be considered a failure if they don't get Jadeveon Clowney, the nation's top prospect. Clowney is a dynamic prospect who is likely an instant impact off the edge for the Cocks who have to deal with the loss of DE Cliff Matthews.
Key Commit: four-star OL Brandon Shell
Arkansas (No. 22)
Bobby Petrino has quietly put together a class that is certainly respectable, but with 28 commitments the Razorbacks may not have a ton of room left in this class (they do have three backcounts.) One of the major players left on their board is four-star DT Mickey Johnson, but Johnson has been tough to get a read on and also has some serious grade concerns.
Key Commit: four-star QB Brandon Allen
Remaining Schools: Mississippi State (No. 37), Kentucky (NR), Vanderbilt (NR)
Update: Since I originally posted this article Georgia got a huge commitment from five-star DE Ray Drew and Auburn added a few big commitments, highlighted by four-star TE Brandon Fulse. Florida also got a commitment from four-star LB Graham Stewart and jumped Tennessee in the rankings, and some of the national rankings have changed a little bit.
Ryan Wooden is currently serving as a Recruiting Analyst for http://knoxvegasvols.com/ For more recruiting updates and Tennessee related content be sure to check it out. Also follow me on twitter at http://twitter.com/ryan_wooden.