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Alabama claimed the SEC's best class for the third straight year.
Rivals.com, Scout.com, ESPN and 247Sports.com are the four major recruiting services who all do an excellent job evaluating, tracking and ranking all things recruiting.
But they don't always agree and that is a great thing for fans. It also means the best way to rank the best classes in the nation is to average them all together and come to a consensus. One service may value quantity while another may value quality. One service may really love one prospect while another may not feel as strongly about him. Each site has its own metric for evaluating a class. Again, this is why Athlon Sports publishes its national team recruiting rankings as an average of the four big sites combined.
After another stellar National Signing Day of winners and losers, here are the consensus SEC team rankings for 2014 — with the Crimson Tide once again dominating the stage.
• The SEC as a whole reigned supreme on National Signing Day yet again. Seven of the top nine classes in the nation hailed from the SEC, including the league’s third straight No. 1-ranked class. In fact, with Alabama’s third straight recruiting championship, the SEC can boast the No. 1 class in the land for the sixth time in seven years. Only Florida State in 2011 has been able to knock the SEC from the top slot. In addition, the SEC also claimed 10 of the top 19 classes in the nation. This league signed 117 four-star recruits and 19 five-star prospects in this class.
• Nick Saban landed his third straight recruiting national championship by landing six five-stars and 15 four-stars. All four major recruiting services agree (which isn’t an easy task) that Bama’s haul was the No. 1 group in the land. Alabama’s six five-star signees are more than the entire ACC (5), Big Ten (4), Pac-12 (3) and Big 12 (2) conferences. This is how Saban maintains a dynasty in Tuscaloosa. He lands recruiting classes that an entire conference would be lucky to sign.
• Tennessee is one of three teams to land a top 25 class in 2014 and had a losing record in '13. Kentucky and Florida are the other two. The Vols landed one of the largest groups in the nation at 35 signees and already has 14 of those players enrolled in class. The Vols actually led the SEC with 16 four-star prospects. The Gators finished eighth in the nation while the Wildcats finished 19th nationally. These three teams combined to go 11-25 and finished as the bottom three teams in the SEC East last season. This only further illustrates the ability coaches have to sell the SEC to recruits.
• Kevin Sumlin and Texas A&M continue to prove that they belong in the dangerous shark-infested waters that is SEC recruiting. The Aggies landed more five-star prospects (3) than the entire Big 12 conference combined (2), only rubbing more salt into the gaping wound that was the Aggies' departure two years ago. More importantly, Sumlin targeted needs with this class. Yes, he landed a five-star wide receiver (Speedy Noil) and quarterback (Kyle Allen) but he got the defensive help he needed. Five-star end Myles Garrett is joined by four defensive backs, two defensive tackles, two other four-star defensive ends and a four-star linebacker. Of the 21 signees in this class, A&M inked 11 highly touted defensive players. Sumlin ignored running back and tight end in this group.
• There are three tiers of quality in this conference. The top tier includes the top seven classes and the next few SEC champions are likely to come from this group. You don’t have to beat Bama on the trail to beat Bama on the field but you have to be close. The second tier is South Carolina, Ole Miss and Kentucky. All three have outstanding hauls but all three are behind the top seven. Finally, the bottom tier appears to be in rough shape relatively speaking. Arkansas, Missouri, Mississippi State and Vanderbilt actually signed excellent classes. However, all four are significantly behind the rest of the league when it comes to attracting talent in 2014.
• Derek Mason, the SEC’s only new coach in 2014, worked some minor miracles in the final weeks to move his class into the top 50. This group was in the 80s or 90s nationally when he took over after James Franklin swiped five commitments for Penn State. But Mason landed Nifae Lealao, arguably the highest-rated player in the history of the program, as well as nearly a dozen other new faces that Franklin had not offered before leaving. By flooding the market with offers, Mason was able to rebuild a top-50 class for a program unaccustomed to closing strong on Signing Day.
• It feels lackluster, but LSU, Auburn and Georgia cruised right along with elite top-10 classes nationally. Again. Les Miles used a huge year in the Pelican State to land four five-stars and both Gus Malzahn and Mark Richt closed very well with big commitments at the end of the cycle. All three classes will get lost in the shuffle but all three should be capable of competing for SEC titles.