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Athlon Sports analyzes where the best high school football players in the nation are coming from
The phrase “SEC Speed” instantly conjures images of glory, victory and pride for one region in the country and thoughts of depression, agony and exasperation for every other part of the nation. But after claiming their seventh national championship in a row, the SEC has a right to claim the best programs, players and coaches.
But why is that?
Yes, the SEC fanbases, power boosters and administrations are more dedicated and committed to winning — from top (Alabama) to bottom (Kentucky) — than any other conference in America. It also means they will do whatever it takes to win, at times, pushing more envelopes than anywhere else as well.
Simply put, the Southeast cares more about college football than any other region of the country. However, it helps that most of the country’s best high school athletes hail from one area of the nation as well.
Over the last five seasons, the Athlon Consensus 100 has compiled the most accurate and truest representation of the best high school football players in the nation. It averages out each of the expert online scouting services — Rivals, Scout, 247 Sports and ESPN to name a few — in an effort to create a composite ranking that is the best on the web.
With the exception of the first year (2008) of the AC100 in which Athlon Sports only ranked 100 prospects, Athlon Sports has ranked over 200 players per year by combining this variety of expert rankings. With that in mind, I have counted, dissected and analyzed where all 900 of those prospects have come from and have learned the following:
The Big 3 Dominates
As expected, Texas, Florida and California are the biggest and most powerful states for high school talent. It has always been this way and I can’t see that changing anytime soon. Of the 900 counted players, more than a third (379) came from just those three states with Florida topping all states in the rankings with 153 Top 200 players. The Sunshine State might produce the rawest talent, but Texas high school football is easily the most important. The state is more committed to big-time prep football (See "Varsity Blues" or "Friday Night Lights") than anywhere else in the nation and the athletes are better prepared for college ball at the highest level. California trails both Texas and Florida in both categories.
The Peach State Has Emerged
This also is no secret, but the state of Georgia has elevated itself as the clear-cut No. 4 in the rankings. With 67 elite prospects over the last five years, The Peach State is well ahead of other solid states (Ohio, Alabama, Pennsylvania, Louisiana, Virginia) in terms of total numbers of top prospects. It is no wonder why so many SEC and ACC programs make a living within the state of Georgia.
The Southeast Rules the Roost
Outside of Texas and California, the Southeastern region dominates the state rankings. The traditional Southeastern states claim three of the top six, four of the top 8, five of the top 10 and seven of the top 14 nationally in terms of talent production. If you consider the new footprint states of the SEC, Texas and Missouri, the SEC now has a major program in nine of the top 20 states for talent in the nation. Only Arkansas (ranked No. 26) and Kentucky (ranked No. 29) are SEC states not ranked in the top 20 over the last five cycles.
The Big Ten Is Smarter Than We Think
Many thought adding Maryland and Rutgers to the Big Ten was an odd move for all parties. This couldn’t be further from the truth. Maryland/D.C. and New Jersey were Nos. 15 and 16 in terms of talent production over the last five seasons and both have historically been underrated in terms of delivering elite athletes. Those two recruiting territories would rank No. 5 and No. 6 respectively in the Big Ten footprint behind Ohio, Pennsylvania, Michigan and Illinois in terms of prospects, and ahead of current Big Ten states Iowa, Indiana, Wisconsin, Minnesota and Nebraska. For the record, 16 prospects hail from Maryland and two come from D.C. but for all intents and purposes, these two are considered one.
West Virginia, Idaho and Hawaii were the only three states that claimed just a single top 200 prospect over the last five years. Ten others were completely shutout. Alaska, Delaware, Maine, Montana, New Hampshire, North Dakota, Rhode Island, South Dakota, Vermont and Wyoming produced not a single top 200 player over the last five seasons. Quick, name the biggest, most successful FBS program in any of those states? Bueller? Bueller?
Here is the statistical breakdown of exactly where the best high school football players have come from over the last five years:
* - Alaska, Delaware, Maine, Montana, New Hampshire, North Dakota, Rhode Island, South Dakota, Vermont and Wyoming produced no Top 200 prospects in the last five years.