Rivals.com released its final recruit rankings for the 2013 signing class on Monday. Little surprise, as the SEC flexed its muscles with the addition of new five star recruits and the news one conference member will land No. 1 overall recruit, Robert Nkemdiche.
Nkemdiche visited Florida over the weekend, and has the Gators in his top three with just over two weeks until National Signing Day. UF head coach Will Muschamp has already put together an impressive class that tops Rivals.com’s rankings. Among Muschamp’s haul is linebacker Alex Anzalone, who flipped his commitment from Notre Dame at the 11th hour and in today’s reordered rankings achieved five star status. Anzalone is the Gators’ second five star recruit in this class, along with defensive back Vernon Hargreaves.
Nkemdiche’s other suitors — LSU and Ole Miss — both rank in Rivals’ top 10 at 5 and 10. The trio of SEC programs jockeying to land the talented Nkemdiche account for half of the conference’s teams slotted in the top 10, along with Georgia, Texas A&M and two-time defending national champion Alabama.
The SEC’s dominance of the college football landscape begins on the recruiting trail. Florida, LSU and Alabama have routinely landed highly touted signing class — not coincidentally, all have BCS championships in the last six years. LSU’s 2013 class got a huge profile boost with both defensive back Tre’Davious White and defensive end Frank Herron each gaining five star scores. In fact, Les Miles’ Tigers now outscore Florida in average star rating.
To keep pace with these SEC heavyweights, the conference’s next tiers down have had to improve their recruiting game.
Ole Miss looks like the forerunner this season. Hugh Freeze has compiled an impressive corps of commitments, including five star wide receiver Laquon Treadwell, and three four star recruits already signed to letters of intent. Egg Bowl rival Mississippi State boasts its own five star prospect courtesy of today’s reordering. Defensive end Chris Jones joined the ranks of the nation’s most elite prospects.
Vanderbilt is getting in on the action. Looking to build off a historic, nine-win campaign, head coach James Franklin is amassing a sizable signing class that includes a pair of four star commits — big for a university that has long occupied the conference’s cellar. Vandy’s emergence only strengthens the overall profile of the already-revered league.
Few understand the pressure cooker of SEC country recruiting like Urban Meyer, who led Florida to national championships in 2006 and 2008. Meyer inherited an impressive cache of talent from Ron Zook and parlayed that into his first title, and had to work hard to maintain that same level for his subsequent four seasons in the program.
Meyer’s new home, Ohio State, is shaping up as one of this year’s NSD winners. But the Buckeyes are working hard to add to an impressive class. Safety Vonn Bell was among those upgraded to five star status on Monday. He recently visited Ohio State, one of a handful of finalists for his letter of intent. SEC programs Alabama and Tennessee are in competition for Bell, as well.
His commitment to Ohio State would be a huge symbolic victory for Meyer, who has dipped directly into the SEC’s regional talent pool to build this class. Four star defensive end Joey Bosa comes from Florida, for example.
The Buckeyes, rival Michigan and BCS runner-up Notre Dame are challenging SEC recruiting supremacy in this final push up to NSD. Notre Dame lost Anzalone, but recently gained five star defensive back Max Redfield after his decommitment from USC. Brian Kelly is also trying to woo two other former Trojan verbal commitments, Kylie Fitts and Eddie Vanderdoes.
Vanderdoes impressed scouts with his performance in the Army All-America game on Jan. 5 to gain both 11 spots and five star recognition from Rivals. The agile defensive tackle paid a visit to USC over the weekend that reportedly went well for the cardinal-and-gold.
He told ReignOfTroy.com:
“I had a lot of fun down there with all the guys on the team and the commits. I spent a lot of time with Coach [Ed] Orgeron and Coach [Lane] Kiffin talking about the plan for me and the need for me. It went really well.”
The Trojans face competition from crosstown rival UCLA for Vanderdoes, as well. Bruin head coach Jim Mora is following up the success of his first recruiting class with another impressive group that includes 13 four star recruits. The addition of Vanderdoes would give UCLA its five star cap to the class.
Among Rivals.com’s new additions to the five star category that might draw the most attention is quarterback Christian Hackenberg. The Fork Union, Va. product is a Pro Set player, so it only makes sense he would commit to a coaching staff with an NFL track record. Surprising is that this newly five star minted quarterback is headed to Penn State, where, if he plays as a true freshman, Hackenberg can only participate in the postseason his senior season — and only if he stays at PSU for four years.
Head coach Bill O’Brien spurned advances from the NFL following the Nittany Lions’ surprising 8-4 campaign. His decision to stay in Happy Valley promises at least one season working with the highly talented Hackenberg, as well as top 100 ranked four star commitments, offensive lineman Brendan Mahon and tight end Adam Breneman.