While in-state recruiting will always be the key to every Southeastern Conference program’s success, there are certain out-of-state areas that are important to each based on recent trends in the area.
Georgia native Kirby Smart has led Alabama's recruiting efforts in the Peach State under Nick Saban.
Every SEC program recruits Florida and Georgia relatively hard, but there are certain areas within those states that are more important to certain programs than the entire state itself.
The states of North Carolina and Ohio, which don’t have SEC programs within the borders, also are important to certain programs.
Here’s a look at the most important out-of-state areas for each SEC school.
The State of Georgia. Prior to Nick Saban’s arrival in Tuscaloosa, it was rare for the Tide to recruit to the east at all. Alabama has always done well in Mississippi and in Florida (particularly the Panhandle), but the talent-rich Peach State was not a top priority until Saban and staff’s arrival. With Georgia native Kirby Smart leading the way, Alabama competes for the top talent in the state on an annual basis. In the Classes of 2012 and 2013, both of which were geographically balanced, Alabama signed seven Georgia prospects rated four stars or better by 247Sports. Also, two of the three current 2014 Tide commits (cornerback Kalvarez Bassett and safety Chris Williams) are from one of Georgia’s top high school programs- Camden County. Both rate four stars according to 247Composite.
The State of Texas. Given its history in the Southwest Conference its proximity to the state, there is little doubt that the Razorbacks need to recruit the Lone Star State reasonably well to have the roster to compete in the SEC. That doesn’t mean they have to go get the top prospects from Texas year-in and year-out. It ultimately means they need to evaluate well in that state and get their share. The past two classes- 2012 and 2013- Arkansas has signed nine prospects from the Lone Star State, including four-star running back Jonathan Williams (Allen) in 2012. Under new coach Bret Bielema, obviously south Florida will be a priority, but Texas will always be most important.
Five-star defensive tackle Montravius Adams was a huge signee for Auburn out of the state of Georgia in the Class of 2013.
The State of Georgia. Auburn University is only 45 minutes from the Georgia line and Columbus, which is an excellent minor talent pocket along with LaGrange/Troup (49 minutes) in west Georgia. So proximity means that the Tigers should do quite well going across the border and landing prospects. Also, the talent-rich Atlanta metro area is filled with Auburn alums and fans and is also just a short drive down I-85 and in rural south Georgia, the Tigers also can play the proximity card. Also, AU alum Rodney Garner just completed a long stint at UGA and is one of the best recruiters to ever work the state. Auburn landed two five-star defensive linemen out of the Peach State in the 2013 class- Montravius Adams and Carl Lawson- and should continue to recruit the state successfully in the coming cycles.
The State of North Carolina. Sounds odd to say, but the Gators have a tradition during the past decade or so of landing top talent out of the Tar Heel State. From Chris Leak (2003) to Brandon Spikes (2006) to D.J. Humphries and Jonathan Bullard (2012), Florida has successfully jumped two states (only one if you count the short border Georgia shares with North Carolina) and been able to obtain five-star talent. Given that the Gators are located within one of the most talent-laden states in the country, this is a nice thing they’ve got going. Current quarterback commit Will Grier (Davidson Day) is the latest talented North Carolinian Florida has obtained.
Tramel Terry was the top prospect in the state of South Carolina for the 2013 cycle and has enrolled at Georgia.
The Carolinas. The Bulldogs have two of the nation’s best running backs in Todd Gurley and Keith Marshall. Both hail from North Carolina. Then, there are players like A.J. Green, Tim Jennings and Richard Seymour who have hailed from South Carolina and had great careers at UGA. The Bulldogs also signed the top prospect from the Palmetto State in the 2013 class, Top247 wide receiver Tramel Terry. Like the Gators, Georgia is located in a talent-rich state, so it doesn’t have to rely on signing a great deal of talent from elsewhere. With that, given the increased competition from other programs for top Georgia talent, it’s important to go to the east and northeast and pick some prospects off. You could argue that the state of Florida is also important for UGA, but the Carolinas seem to provide more difference-makers that make their way to Athens.
The State of Ohio. There’s little doubt that Florida and Georgia also will be very important for the Wildcats, which are faced with perhaps the least amount of in-state talent to draw from than any program in the SEC, but given that Ohio is deep every single cycle and it’s a place UK can offer something a lot of other programs that have in-roads in the Buckeye State can’t- a chance to play in the SEC- it makes since that Kentucky tries to raid its northern bordering state. New head coach Mark Stoops, a Youngstown, Ohio native, and his staff (namely tight ends coach Vince Marrow) have ties to the state and have already begun to recruit it quite well. The Cats signed three prospects from Ohio in the 2013 cycle, including four-star athlete Marcus McWilson, a versatile prospect from Youngstown that they flipped from Nebraska. Linebacker Dorian Hendrix (Dayton, Ohio/Wayne) committed to the Wildcats last week over a handful of Big Ten offers.
The State of Texas. LSU typically corners the market in talent-rich Louisiana, but the state of Texas has been very, very good to the Tigers in recent cycles and for the 2014 class, which already has five-star safety Edward Paris part of the list, it has a chance to be a special icing on the cake that is the 2014 class in Louisiana (best in years). In addition to the Joseph Addais and Matt Flynns of the world, the Lone Star State sent Jalen Mills (2012 class) over to start as a true freshman this past season at cornerback. LSU did not sign a prospect from Texas in the 2013 cycle, causing some to speculate that perhaps Texas A&M’s addition to the league and successful season had caused some prospects that would normally head to Baton Rouge to remain in-state, but considering how 2014 is shaping up, the Tigers still figure to get their share. There’s enough to go around.
B.J. Hammond, a 6-foot-4 receiver, was one of four Alabama prospects to sign with Mississippi State in the 2013 class.
The State of Alabama. It’s hard to beat Alabama or Auburn on an in-state prospect that either wants. That being said, there are always talented prospects in the Yellowhammer State that either neither can take because of space or that the two simply miss on. Given Starkville’s proximity to the state (it rests 49 miles from the border, 82 from Tuscaloosa), the Bulldogs tend to be an excellent third option for many talented Alabama prospects. In the Classes of 2012 and 2013 combined, Mississippi State signed six prospects from Alabama, second only to Mississippi in terms of home states of MSU signees.
The State of Texas. One of the reasons the Tigers wanted to continue playing fellow conference newcomer and former Big 12 member Texas A&M was to maintain a presence in the talent-rich Lone Star State. In the Classes of 2011-2013, Missouri has signed 15 prospects from Texas, more than any other state outside of its own. What perhaps is interesting about this number, however, is that in the first full cycle after Mizzou joined the SEC, that number dropped from six (2011, 2012) to three (2013). Also of note is that during the current recruiting cycle (2014), The Tigers have 21 known offers out in the state of Georgia, compared with only seven in Texas. Could this be a sign of a shift? Perhaps so, but for right now until the Tigers play through a few years in the league, they have a greater chance of success in Texas.
Four-star Mark Dodson was one of the top Memphis-area signees for Ole Miss, which is less than 90 miles from Memphis and less than that from its suburbs, in the 2013 class.
Memphis. OK, so Memphis isn’t “really” out-of-state for Ole Miss. The city is located within the borders of the state of Tennessee, but the city is 84 miles from Oxford, Miss., compared to 348 to Knoxville. That being said, there isn’t always the qualified talent in the state of Mississippi (as is evidenced by the Rebels casting a wide national net under Hugh Freeze) and you have to split the talent with Mississippi State (Bulldogs signed five of the top eight for the 2013 cycle) so going outside of the state is important and Memphis is right there and typically has some excellent talent. The Rebels landed three of the top 11 prospects from the city that signed with SEC programs in the 2013 cycle.
Atlanta. The Gamecocks don’t have a huge presence elsewhere in the state of Georgia, but in Metro Atlanta, they have made a living the last two recruiting cycles. In the 2013 class, five prospects from the Atlanta area including four-star defensive tackle Kelsey Griffin (Mill Creek) inked with the Gamecocks. In the 2012 cycle, South Carolina enrolled seven prospects from Greater Atlanta, including Top247 running back Mike Davis (Stephenson) and Top247 defensive back Chaz Elder (Banneker). Veteran Gamecock recruiters G.A. Mangus and Lorenzo Ward lead the charge in the area for the Gamecocks. Mangus is a native of the city and Ward has extensive ties to the area.
South Florida. The Vols are in a tough spot with regards to recruiting. The state of Tennessee does not produce a large amount of talent on an annual basis and much of that is in Memphis, which is closer to several other SEC programs. The 2014 cycle, which features five-star Vols running back commit Jalen Hurd and four-star Vols commit Todd Kelly, is one of the better cycles on record in the state in some time as far as top-end talent and Tennessee is taking care of business there. Going out-of-state and even national like Tennessee used to do when it was winning championships is a tough sell with the rise of programs like South Carolina and Ole Miss and also Alabama, Auburn, LSU, Florida and a host of other programs recruiting at a high level. So the question becomes where does Tennessee go to sign enough talent? Dade, Broward and Palm Beach Counties in south Florida are a great place to do that. Just ask Arkansas and any other program (Rutgers, Louisville, West Virginia) that has made it a priority. If Tennessee can make in-roads there, it can get enough players, particularly at the skill positions (i.e. speed) to contend and get back to being able to recruit regionally and nationally at a high level. A strong case also could be made for Atlanta. Even some of the high-end three star prospects and four-star prospects the Vols have been in on there have elected to head elsewhere in recent cycles and there is loads of competition for top Atlanta prospects (as as been documented here), so that may have to wait. Having a great cycle in-state for 2014 is the first major step, though, toward Butch Jones and staff upgrading a roster that has depleted over time.
Top247 defensive end Gerald Willis is one of Texas A&M's top Louisiana targets for the 2014 cycle.
The State of Louisiana. Like the other SEC programs located within the borders of major talent-producing states (Florida, Georgia and LSU), the Aggies don’t have to go out-of-state to build a roster that can win championships in the league. For example, all 10 of Texas A&M’s commits in the current top 2014 class are from the Lone Star State. That being said, they are a strong option for top Pelican State prospects that may just want to leave home and not go to LSU or that may end up just slightly below the Tigers’ offer board. A&M signed three Louisiana prospects in the 2013 cycle and currently has 14 known offers out to prospects in that state for 2014, more than any other outside of Texas.
Atlanta. The Commodores have a strong presence throughout the state of Georgia, but six of Vanderbilt’s seven signees in the 2013 class hail from the Atlanta area, including U.S. Army All-American Bowl quarterback Johnathon McCrary of Cedar Grove who has already enrolled at VU. The Commodores also picked up three-star athlete Dallas Rivers (Stephenson) and three-star cornerback Bryce Lewis (Parkview) for the 2014 cycle during the weekend and there is a buzz about Vanderbilt among the recruits in the metro area. Given the abundance of talent in Atlanta and its proximity to Nashville (four hours), this is an area that has been and will be very good to the Commodores, who recruit nationally, but also are somewhat focused in the state of Tennessee (three signees from Memphis alone in 2013).