Recruiting rankings matter.
They are not a guarantee of future success but they are the foundation every national championship has been built upon. It takes great coaching, development and luck to win a title, but having better players is the only way to start.
In fact, the data backing up the value of recruiting rankings is impenetrable. For example, look at last year’s rosters. According to the rankings, three of the four best rosters in America belonged to Alabama, Florida State and Ohio State.
These rankings do not take into account attrition but that should be a constant for all teams and conferences equally. So strictly based on recruiting evaluations from 247Sports, here is how the rosters in the SEC rank.
Ranking College Football's Rosters in 2015:
SEC dominates recruiting trail
Part of the reason the SEC is the best league in college football is the players. When looking at recruiting rankings from 2011-15, five of the top eight rosters in the nation are from the SEC along with Florida State (No. 2), Ohio State (No. 3) and USC (No. 5). The SEC also features eight of the top 16 and 11 of the top 26 units in the nation. Finally, Vanderbilt ranks last in the SEC in terms of talent but would be eighth in the ACC, Big 12 or Big Ten. Eight different SEC teams have landed a top-10 class in the last five cycles.
Gary Pinkel and Co.
There may not be any coaching staff in the nation that gets more out of less than the Mizzou Tigers. The Tigers rank 40th in the nation and 13th in the SEC in terms of talent with an average national ranking of 39.0 over the last four seasons. Yet, the Tigers' conference record over that span (21-12) is better than nine other SEC teams and their 14-2 SEC record since entering the league ties Alabama for tops in the league.
Les Miles and Mark Richt
Over the last four years, Miles (23-9) and Richt (25-7) are second to only Nick Saban in SEC wins (28-4). Yet, Georgia has no SEC titles to show for it and LSU has just one (2011) and has dropped in the standings every year since. These are two of the top six rosters in the nation and the pressure should be on both staffs to produce in a big way in ’15.
What to make of South Carolina
Steve Spurrier has been given the benefit of the doubt for most of his career. And rightly so. But with no star power returning on either side of the ball and a roster ranked eighth in the league (albeit 16th nationally), it's fair to question whether or not the Gamecocks have reached their peak. This team isn’t that far removed from three unprecedented 11-win seasons in a row. But none of those teams played in Atlanta and everyone around them in the East appears to be improving rapidly. This is a huge prove-it season for the Head Ball Coach.
There are plenty of reasons for optimism for both Ole Miss and Mississippi State in 2015. But even after two breakthrough seasons, the Rebels (11-21) and Bulldogs (15-17) are a combined 26-38 in SEC play over the last four years. Both programs have surged in the recruiting rankings over the last three years and expectations have followed suit. That said, Ole Miss still ranks just ninth in the SEC in terms of talent and HailState is way back in 11th — or last in the SEC West.
Big Orange rising
This one isn't rocket science. Expectations in Knoxville are beginning to soar. This roster is 12th in the nation in terms of talent and third in the SEC East after back-to-back elite classes. This is still a team that hasn’t won more than three SEC games since Lane Kiffin was in charge in 2009 and is extremely young. The 7-25 SEC record is better than only Kentucky over the last four years but that should soon change under Jones’ leadership.
Watch out for them Aggies
Kevin Sumlin has lit the recruiting trail on fire since Texas A&M moved to the SEC, landing three straight classes in the top 11. Expectations were unreasonably high entering last season but should be warranted this fall. The Aggies are one year ahead of Tennessee in terms of building a championship roster and should be more of a breakout candidate than the Vols.