After the ink dried on Feb. 5, Southeastern Conference teams added 341 players for an average of 23.4 new players per team. Scouring the names and hometowns of these signees will yield one simple fact: SEC rosters will be little more “peachy” in 2014.
With 53 players claiming Georgia as their home state (including junior college players), the Peach State produced the most SEC signees in 2014. Rounding out the top five are Florida (48), Mississippi (37), Texas (35) and Alabama (27). Outpacing the state of Florida is no small task, considering the population difference and Florida’s undeniable talent level, but this feat is not all that surprising.
Georgia high schools have branched out offensively, moving away from the Wing-T and creating more opportunities for quarterbacks and receivers to make plays. Offensive linemen are learning to pass block rather than simply run downhill and stick the nearest linebacker. Defenders, in turn, are learning how to read more complicated offensive patterns and using their athleticism to react to more than “three yards and a cloud of dust.” Advanced weight training techniques have infiltrated even the most rural programs, making an already talented state bigger, stronger and faster.
The home-state Georgia Bulldogs recognize this and signed the most, 11. The Auburn Tigers, located minutes from the Georgia border, followed close behind with 10. The Vanderbilt Commodores signed more players from Georgia than any other state and the South Carolina Gamecocks secured five of their 21 signatures from their western neighbor. Even the Missouri Tigers, hundreds of miles away, were able to sign three. In fact, the only teams devoid of a Georgia signee were the LSU Tigers, Texas A&M Aggies and the Florida Gators.
The 2014 SEC recruiting class was one of the strongest ever, claiming 10 of the top 20 classes according to Rivals.com. The conference’s success has reached national proportions and recruits are responding from all over. Players from 27 different states and Washington, D.C. decided that the hallowed gridirons of the SEC would be their home, a diverse haul for a conference known to stay home for talent.
The Alabama Crimson Tide claimed the top spot again with a diverse array of players from 15 different states. The Tennessee Volunteers ventured into 12 states and Washington, D.C. for 31 new additions. The Gators’ class is represented by 11 states, including one player from Wyoming. The Kentucky Wildcats signed 11 players from Ohio, which is almost triple what they signed from the state of Kentucky. Missouri and Vanderbilt reached out to 10 states, including four players from California for the traditionally diverse Commodores.
Regardless of this diversity, the pigskin-playing population of Georgia has assumed the Signing Day throne in 2014. With evolving high school talent and the close proximity to places like Auburn, Tuscaloosa, Nashville, Knoxville and Columbia, SC, Georgia-born players will find a home in more places than just Athens for years to come. If this trend continues and the SEC remains on top of the recruiting rankings, the rest of the country will start asking, “just what are they putting in the water down in Georgia?”