Football and recruiting are viewed as the two most important sports in the southeastern United States. College football’s top programs live in this region and each year they face the challenge of guarding their prized instate talent as programs cross state borders hoping to import championship-caliber talent back to their campuses. Fans stay glued to this drama year round, tracking official visits and watching the newest class of stars form for their favorite teams. The excitement, the drama and the theatrics surrounding National Signing Day seemingly grows each season as more players make their decisions on national stages and more recruiting battles come down to the final hour.
The entire country flocks to the southeastern states for its talent, and this year it is especially true. In the state of Georgia, there are 19 different schools that have commitments from the Peach State’s top 50 recruits according to 247sports’ rankings. These 19 schools fall into 12 different states, including Georgia, Florida, Mississippi, Tennessee, Alabama, South Carolina, North Carolina, Missouri, Kentucky, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin. In Florida, it is the same story as 21 different schools from 16 different states have commits from the top 50 players in Florida heading into National Signing Day.
Different schools hit different states harder than others and programs stick to what works for them. Auburn had 25 players from Georgia on its SEC championship team this season and the Tigers have eight Peach State products dotting this year’s recruiting class, including safety Nick Ruffin, a top recruit from the state of Georgia. UGA has found its talent in Florida in recent seasons as well as its usual bevy of in-state recruits and will headline its 2014 class with five-star running back and Florida-product Sony Michel to compliment Georgia five-star running back Nick Chubb.
Clemson has the No. 14 recruiting class in the nation according to 247sports, but just one of the Tigers’ 10 highest ranked commitments is actually from the school’s home state, South Carolina. Tennessee, on the other hand has the No. 6 recruiting class in the country (according to 247sports) and secured five of the top six prospects from the Volunteer state this season. The Vols’ current class is massive and 14 players have already enrolled in Knoxville, including composite five-star running back Jalen Hurd and Station Camp (Tenn.) wide receiver Josh Malone.
In Mississippi, Ole Miss owns the top four ranked prospects in the state (Roderick Taylor, C.J. Hampton, Markell Pack and Breeland Speaks) but Mississippi State headlines its 2014 class with (Aeris Williams, Jamoral Graham, Jesse Jackson and Gerri Green), who are all ranked in the Magnolia State’s top 10 recruits by 247sports.
In Alabama, it all comes down to the decision made by five-star outside linebacker Rashaan Evans on Wednesday. Five-star cornerback Marlon Humphrey committed to the Crimson Tide on Jan. 29 and has Alabama sitting as the No. 1 recruiting class in the country. Evans, however, would be a huge pickup for Auburn if the school is able to sign the consensus pick for the top ranked outside linebacker in the country. If Evans signs with Auburn on National Signing Day, the Tigers could move into the top three overall classes.