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SEC recruiting stranglehold on top prospects, classes looks to be loosening

SEC road records
Ray Carlin/USA TODAY Sports

Georgia’s national team recruiting title was the 10th in a row for an SEC school, but for the second year in a row, the SEC’s share of the 100 best players dropped.

Georgia became the fourth SEC school to win a recruiting title in the past decade; LSU wore the crown in 2009, Florida in 2010 and Alabama every year from 2011-17. But the SEC saw a precipitous drop in the number of top-100 players it signed, mostly because of a resurgence by Texas on the recruiting trail. The league’s percentage of five-star prospects dropped for the second year in a row, as well.

In the team rankings, the SEC had just two schools in the top 10 this year, Georgia and No. 7 Alabama. Consider that in each of the past five years, the league had two teams in the top four; in four of those years, it had two schools in the top three and twice the SEC had teams finish 1-2.

RELATED: How did each SEC team do on the 2018 recruiting trail? Let us tell you

This is the first year since 2012 that the SEC had fewer than four schools in the top 10. In 2012, it was three, followed by six in 2013, seven in ’14, five in ’15, five in ’16 and four in ’17.

This year, the ACC, Big Ten and Big 12 also had two schools in the top 10 (the Big Ten actually had two in the top five). The Pac-12 had one, and Notre Dame was the other.

As for classes in the top 20, the SEC has remained steady: eight in 2016, seven in 2017 and eight again this year.

When it comes to marquee recruits, the SEC has signed 110 top-100 players in the past three recruiting classes (2016-18) – 39 more than any other league. But that number is dropping. After signing 42 of the top 100 in 2016, SEC schools signed 39 in 2017 and just 29 this year.

Second-most in the past three classes is the Big Ten, with 61.

Here’s a look at where the top-100 players have signed.

SEC: 110 (29 in 2018, 39 in 2017 and 42 in 2016)
Big Ten: 61 (19 in 2018, 21 in 2017, 21 in 2016)
ACC: 50 (19 in 2018, 16 in 2017, 16 in 2016)
Pac-12: 44 (15 in 2018, 17 in 2017, 12 in 2016)
Big 12: 23 (13 in 2018, 4 in 2017, 6 in 2016)
Others: 11 (5 in 2018, 3 in 2017, 3 in 2016)

Of note is the Big 12’s good 2018 showing, as league schools signed three more top-100 prospects this year than they did in the past two classes combined. That’s because Texas and Oklahoma ramped up their efforts this year, signing a combined seven top-100 guys; that’s as many as both signed combined in 2016 and ’17.

As for five-star prospects, the SEC signed 10 of the 29 available this year – 34.5 percent, the most of any league. But in the preceding five classes, that number was close to 50 percent (81 of 164). This year, ACC and Big Ten schools signed six each, Pac-12 schools four and Big 12 schools three.

The five-star numbers from the past few years show that other leagues are closing the gap. Here’s a closer look:

Some other recruiting facts and figures from the 2018 recruiting cycle:

• FBS schools sign about 3,000 football players each season and there generally are about 30 five-star prospects annually, meaning about 1 percent of the players signed are five-star recruits. This year, there are 374 consensus four- and five-star recruits – about 13 percent of the prospects.

• Georgia signed eight of the nation’s top 31 prospects, but Ohio State had the most top-100 signees, with 13. Georgia signed 12. Alabama and Florida signed four each, LSU signed three, Auburn and Texas A&M two each and Ole Miss and Tennessee one each.

• SEC schools did especially well in the interior of the offensive line, signing five of the top 11 guards and six of the top 12 centers. Georgia signed two of the top three guards by itself. The Big Ten did the best at offensive tackle, signing four of the top nine and five of the top 11 (the SEC signed just two of the top 11).

• SEC schools did a poor job of signing highly rated defensive tackles, signing just one of the top 10 (and that was player No. 10). Big Ten schools, on the other hand, signed four of the top six defensive tackles (Ohio State alone signed three), and ACC schools signed three of the top nine.

RELATED: Uhh, what? It’s true: Georgia’s 2019 recruiting class could surpass its 2018 group

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