jumped out to a fast start last year, sitting atop the rankings through much of
the summer and fall before recruiting juggernauts like Alabama and Ohio State
pushed past the Aggies.
A&M is sitting on top of the rankings
again in the Summer for the Class of 2014, but this Aggie team has a different
feel to it on the recruiting trails. This Aggie team feels like the new IT team
in the South and Southwest. Texas A&M finished 6th in the nation
in 2013 after signing 16 four and five star prospects including four players
ranked in the Top 100 overall. A&M already has five Top 100 prospects
committed for 2014 including the nation’s No. 1 quarterback Kyle Allen
(6’3/200) of Scottsdale, Ariz.
Johnny Manziel may only last at Texas A&M
for one more year, but the Aggies are here to stay. It’s up to Texas, who
finished 23rd nationally in 2013 to return to prominence and keep the
Aggies in check.
wasn’t just Texas A&M
Texas A&M wasn’t the only hot team in
the Class of 2013 who set a new high in the Team Rankings, Ole Miss also cracked
the Top 10 for the first time led by the Nation’s No. 1 prospect defensive
lineman Robert Nkemdiche (6’4/280) of Loganville, Ga., and the No. 1 offensive
line prospect Laremy Tunsil (6’6/295) of Lake City, Fla. The recruiting
momentum has carried over to the Class of 2014, and while Ole Miss is still
sitting at a respectable No. 15
on the Team Rankings, the Rebels did their best
work in January last year to finish in the Top 10.
With so many top prospects that mention Ole
Miss among their favorites around the country, it won’t be a surprise to see
the Rebels crashing the Top 10 for the second consecutive year after having
never been there before.
the Surprise team this year?
We’re used to seeing Kentucky on top of the
Team Rankings… in basketball. But it’s nearly July, and there the Wildcats sit in
the Top 10 on the football rankings with a class that includes five four-star
players including in-state quarterback star Drew Barker (6’4/205) of Conner
High School in Hebron.
Five four-star players may seem like a good
week for Alabama, but by comparison, Kentucky had only signed nine high school
position players ranked four-stars or better from 2004 thru 2012 spanning nine
What’s the big different for the Wildcats
in the Class of 2014? Other than the obvious new energetic coaching staff led by
Head Coach Mark Stoops, there has been a tangible difference in recruiting
philosophy. Nearly every previous staff at Kentucky focused on recruiting
players from the South, a good philosophy considering the amount of talent
straight down I-75. But just a little over an hour north on the same Interstate
is the nation’s No. 5 talent producing state: Ohio.
Kentucky is not going to go into a team’s
home state and beat them for recruits. They’re not beating Georgia in Georgia,
the Big Three in Florida, or Ohio State in Ohio, but what the Wildcats are
finding out, is that it’s a lot easier to recruit against Cincinnati, Indiana,
Purdue, Wisconsin, and Illinois in Ohio than it is to beat Auburn, Clemson, Ole
Miss, North Carolina, Arkansas, and every other Big 10, Big East and ACC school
in Georgia and Florida.
Kentucky already has eight public commitments
from the state of Ohio while signing just 14 total players from the Buckeye
State in the 10 years prior to Stoops’ arrival. That doesn’t mean the
Wildcats have abandoned recruiting the south as Kentucky still has six players
from Florida and Georgia, but there has definitely been a shift in area
philosophy… for the better.
going on out West?
It’s too early to say there has been a
complete power shift in Los Angeles from USC to UCLA , but the sanctions levied
against the Trojans coupled with new blood at UCLA has definitely shifted
momentum in a big way.
Jim Mora and UCLA finished with a Top 5 class in 2014, and that was before
adding an after Signing Day transfer from 5-Star defensive tackle Eddie Vanderdoes (6’4/305) of Auburn, Calif. who signed with Notre Dame.
With a victory over USC in his first try and
a Top 5 class in his first full season, there is a lot of reason for Bruins fans
to be confident about Jim Mora the future of his program.
But what about the Trojans?
National and local media did an excellent job
of convincing the general public that the Trojans were doing a terrific job of
not just surviving, but thriving through the NCAA sanctions as USC posted a 10-2
record in 2011, but the reality was that the true sanctions, the scholarship
reductions of 10 per year, had not yet begun to hurt the team.
Much of the focus in January of 2013 for the
Trojans was who USC didn’t sign as there were several high profile defectors including
Vanderdoes and the nation’s No. 2 cornerback Jalen Ramsey (6’0/190) of
Brentwood, Tenn. But under the circumstances, USC signed an unbelievable class
of talented players getting 12 signatures from players who were all ranked
four-star or higher.
However with a 7-6 record in 2012 with a
senior quarterback and a team that had yet to feel the full effect of 45
scholarships to offer over a three year span, coupled with high profile
defections in January, and USC had the look of a team headed in the wrong
USC was burned late last year with a high
pressure pitch on players to grab what was a limited number of scholarships only
to see them decommit as they moved farther along the recruiting process. While
the Trojans have had their difficulties on the field and on the recruiting
trails the last six months, USC appears to be taking a more cautious approach to
the 2014 class with only five public commitments. Some of the prospective
recruits may be taking a wait and see approach on their own to see how USC
bounces back from the 2012 season, but there’s no doubt the high pressure
approach employed by USC in 2012 has been put on the back burner.
Ohio State, Notre Dame, and …???
The talent in the Midwest is being
concentrated in a select few schools. Ohio State, Michigan and Notre Dame all
finished in the Top 5 in the Class of 2013 Team Rankings, but the next two
Midwest or Northern teams in the rankings were Pittsburgh at No. 21 and Rutgers
at No. 31.
Yes Nebraska at No. 11 is in the Big Ten, but
they’re considered Midwest as much as Texas A&M is considered South, which
is not really at all. With Penn State getting hammered by the NCAA, recent
coaching changes as Wisconsin and Illinois, it was a dismal year for recruiting
in the Midwest unless it was the Big Three.
Is that going to change in 2014?
Well, Ohio State, Michigan and Notre Dame aren’t going anywhere as all three
are currently in the Top 6 again. But Wisconsin has a solid group of in-state
prospects that they’ve already locked down with four four-star players, twice
as many as 2013 already. Michigan State is recruiting well after finishing an
un-Spartanlike 45th in 2013, and Penn State is holding its own with a
trio of four-star commitments while still suffering from NCAA sanctions.
Teams like Iowa and Wisconsin have always
outperformed their recruiting rankings, but as Michigan and Ohio State keep
concentrating the talent in Ann Arbor and Columbus, if the rest of the Big Ten
doesn’t pick up the pace, it’s going to be the Big Two.
Anyone going to Stop Alabama?
There might be one force that can stop
Alabama right now, and that’s Alabama.
We haven’t seen a run like Alabama’s since the mighty Nebraska teams
of the 90’s, but Alabama has a much more fertile recruiting base in order to
sustain such excellence while Nebraska faltered.
Is Alabama going to win every BCS Championship for the next five years? Of
course not (I think), but we’re to the point now where a 10-3 season like
Alabama’s 2010 campaign can be considered low-tide, pardon the pun. It’s
remarkable to maintain that level of consistency in the SEC. Just ask rival
Auburn who won the BCS Championship in said 2010 campaign, only to go winless in
conference just two short years later.
Nick Saban has always been a great developer of talent, and the Crimson Tide
select as much as they recruit these days. The 2013 Class mathematically
finished behind Ohio State and Michigan, but among the Scout analysts, they were
a unanimous No. 1 fitting in this era of BCS formulas.
to look for as we Countdown to Signing Day?
- Where does Leonard Fournette sign?
Where does upstart Kentucky finish? Top 20?
- Will anyone north of Knoxville finish Top 20 not named Ohio State, Michigan, or
Can USC bounce back?
- Can Texas?
We have another six months of recruiting
including an exciting 2013 season to find the answers.
Scott began with Scout as the Southeast Regional Manager in 2002. In addition to his recruiting responsibilities, Scott developed and ran the National Scout Combine series from 2005 thru 2008. Scott has been Director of Scouting since 2006 and oversees the Recruiting Rankings for Scout.