With National Signing Day behind the country, the Sun Belt Conference finalized letters of intent and can now get ready for spring practice. The Sun Belt might not have grabbed headlines Wednesday like other conferences did, but it did give us a look at how the conference will shape up for next year.
Here are the five things we learned about the Sun Belt:
Newcomers Excelled in Recruiting
The Appalachian State Mountaineers, Georgia Southern Eagles, Idaho Vandals, and New Mexico State Aggies will be starting conference play in the Sun Belt this fall. The weird thing is that the two schools that have not been in the FBS are the schools that had the best recruiting classes. Both the Eagles and Mountaineers had top-100 classes and were ranked first and second in the Sun Belt. When WKU leaves, it will be important for another team to step up and challenge Arkansas State and UL-Lafayette as the conference elites.
Unable to Grab Big Name Recruits
While the Sun Belt had some nice commitments, they were unable to pull in a big four- or five-star player. Granted, stars don’t mean everything, but it shows where a conference stands when those recruits that are close to home are going elsewhere. The Sun Belt needs a team to emerge as a clear-cut leader to give the conference some prominence.
The Sun Belt also had just 51 three-star athletes sign, which was only better than the Independents and Missouri Valley Conference, per 247Sports.
Not all was lost, however. UL-Lafayette was able to flip two-star defensive tackle LaDarrius Kidd from a Big 12 school, Texas Tech.
Panthers Are Moving On Up
The Panthers had a class that ranked just outside the Top 100 this year in recruiting at 101. The ranking may not sound like much, but this team ranked 128th nationally with its 27-man draft class. This year the Panthers brought in 24 recruits, but eight were three-star athletes, which is up from the three they had last year. They’re not ready for contention, but they are doing better on the recruiting trail, which will turn into future success.
The Fall of Troy
The Trojans used to be a dominant power in the Sun Belt. Last season, they had a six-win season that did not propel them into postseason play, despite their eligibility. Troy’s 2014 class finished off ranked 129th nationally. This is the first time that Troy has dipped below the Top 100 since 2010 (108th). This year their class scored a total of 64.29 points, with just one three-star athlete. The Trojans are a ways off from their once dominating squad, and this class might not help them get back to that position.
Still Falling Short of Other Conferences
The Sun Belt might feel that it gets disrespected from time-to-time and sometimes it does. Unfortunately its recruiting does not help matters. The Sun Belt’s 11 teams totaled 195 commits, which was only better than the Independents, who have just four teams. The Sun Belt has 11 teams in the conference, but didn’t bring in the same quantity that other conferences did with less teams. This trend has to change if the Sun Belt plans to be taken seriously.
Overall there were some good things and bad that you can take away from the Sun Belt’s recruiting. Appalachian State, Georgia Southern, and Georgia State seem to be on the up, but everyone else seems to have stayed the same or gotten worse heading into 2014. This is not a good omen for a conference that desires to be nationally respected. Growing pains are normal for a conference that has been gutted during the last, several years.
National Signing Day may not have been exciting inside the conference, but it did tell a lot.