Ole Miss isn’t a national, or even regional, power in college football.
The Rebels have been to just three bowls since 2003, and didn’t go to one in 2010 or 2011. They haven’t won a SEC championship since 1963.
And this program was the biggest story on national signing day. Ole Miss cleaned up, getting the top player in defensive end Robert Nkemdiche, top receiver Laquon Treadwell, top offensive lineman Laremy Tunsil and another top-100 recruit in safety Antonio Conner. Even LeBron James was impressed.
And with all that attention and all those potential stars, the attention of King James and everyone else, Ole Miss’ recruiting class ranked just fourth … in the SEC.
If you want to know why the SEC wins the final college football game of the season every year, it’s because the conference wins signing day every year too. All you have to do is check out Rivals.com’s rankings. Six of the top 10 classes were from the SEC.
Yahoo! Sports’ Dan Wetzel did a thorough job breaking down the SEC’s dominance on signing day, pointing out that even Kentucky, a pretty bad SEC program with a new coaching staff, ranked 13th among recruiting classes but 28th nationally. Dominance might not even be a strong enough word to describe what the SEC did on signing day.
“I’ve never seen anything like it,” Kentucky coach Mark Stoops told Wetzel.
It’s a tough cycle to break. The SEC gets the reputation for playing the best football, then the best players want to go play there, and the league gets even stronger. There’s no end to it in sight either (for the record Alabama, Florida and LSU had the first, third and fifth best classes in the nation, edging out Ole Miss at No. 7).
So we know who the winners were, but there were other winners of signing day, and some losers too:
Vanderbilt: Though we’ve said plenty about the SEC, one school deserved a separate Vanderbilt coach James Franklin (USA Today Sports Images)mention. The Commodores had the 19th-ranked recruiting class in the nation according to Rivals, most notably two spots ahead of Oregon at No. 21.
Vanderbilt isn’t the kind of school that lands classes like that, but James Franklin is doing a great job. Getting receiver Jordan Cunningham, who came to Vanderbilt because of the academics, when Cunningham would have been happily welcomed at almost any school in FBS, was the biggest win for the Commodores.
Michigan and Ohio State: If signing day victories translate to the fall, the years of Michigan and Ohio State watching other Big Ten schools go to the Rose Bowl might be ending soon (and Ohio State was already on that path after going undefeated in Urban Meyer’s first year). The Buckeyes finished with the second-ranked recruiting class by Rivals, and Michigan was sixth. Ohio State in particular seems like the one non-SEC school that is positioning itself to legitimately compete for a BCS title, with Meyer bringing in elite talent like he did at Florida.
Reuben Foster: Because, one more time, the five-star linebacker’s Nick Saban getup won signing day …
Notre Dame: The Fighting Irish landed the fourth-ranked class, and coach Brian Kelly said the Irish’s BCS Championship Game appearance didn’t have much to do with it. Appearing on ESPNU, Kelly said most of the class was put together before Notre Dame ascended to No. 1, although the title game appearance may have helped keep the class together. What that means is Notre Dame’s recruiting should get even better.
“You keep moving the bar higher and higher and higher when you recruit these kind of young men in this class, and we think we’ve got that, where we’ll have an influx of players that will continue to push the entire program, and that’s why we’re excited about these kids,” Kelly said during his press conference at Notre Dame.
Gus Malzahn: No new coach had a better day. Auburn’s class ranked 10th, and what’s most notable is the defensive line. The new linemen include Carl Lawson (No. 1 DE), Montravius Adams (No. 3 DT) and Elijah Daniel (No. 8 DE). If those three pan out, the Tigers’ defensive front will be a force. Overall, it was a great start for Malzahn and his staff at Auburn.
USC: The day wasn’t too bad for USC. The Trojans got five five-star recruits, more than any other school. So there is reason to be excited. But some USC fans are up in arms. There wasn’t the typical depth to the class as of Wednesday evening, because of some high-profile players de-committing before signing day. What might be troubling for USC is that UCLA passed it this year. The Bruins’ class ranked 10th. USC was 13th. That’s not a great sign, especially after the Bruins pasted the Trojans on the field last season.
Georgia: USC wasn’t the only school that wondered what might have been. The Bulldogs missed out at the last minute on five-star players Tunsil and Adams, along with high four-star running back Alvin Kamara. The Bulldogs didn’t have a terrible day, but it could have been much better.
Missouri: Remember how we mentioned that Kentucky’s class ranked 13th in the SEC? Well, that means someone had to be 14th, and that someone was Missouri.
The Tigers landed no five-star players and just one four-star player. The class ranked 48th overall in Rivals’ rankings, which in a vacuum isn’t the end of the world. But when the other 13 teams in the conference are all more than 20 spots higher in the rankings, it’s a terrible sign for a team that didn’t adjust too well to its first season in the SEC last year.