New SEC coaches deliver mixed results on signing day
KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (AP) —
The new coaches in the Southeastern Conference got their first opportunity to compete with one another over the last two months on the recruiting trail.
All had to navigate the new recruiting calendar and none brought in top 10 classes, according to a composite ranking of recruiting sites compiled by 247Sports .
Six SEC teams have new coaches this year if you include Mississippi's Matt Luke, who served as interim coach last fall. The others are Arkansas' Chad Morris , Florida's Dan Mullen , Mississippi State's Joe Moorhead , Tennessee's Jeremy Pruitt and Texas A&M's Jimbo Fisher.
Most of the coaches got their jobs just a few weeks before the new December signing period. Pruitt said about half the members of the Volunteers' 20 signees hadn't even visited Tennessee's campus until the weekend after he took the job in early December.
"There was just no time in December (for new coaches) to get things done before the early signing period," said Mike Farrell, the director of recruiting for Rivals. "A lot of them were hiring staff, transitioning from one team to another."
Indeed, Arkansas added only eight players during the early signing period — less than half the total of most Power Five programs. Morris added eight more players Wednesday.
Mullen fared the best of the new coaches with a class that ranked 14th as of early Wednesday evening. Fisher made a late surge to get the Aggies to 17th. Tennessee was hovering around the bottom of the top 20, while Mississippi State and Ole Miss were just inside the top 30. Arkansas was outside the top 50.
That left them far behind some of the SEC's more established programs. Georgia led the national team recruiting rankings to end the seven-year reign of Alabama, which ranked sixth. Auburn was 12th nationally and third in the SEC.
"I'd say Jimbo Fisher at Texas A&M is probably the guy who kind of wins this cycle among new coaches in the SEC because he was a late hire, it took him a while to get his coaching staff together and the way they closed is really going to springboard them into 2019," said Barton Simmons, the director of scouting for 247Sports. "It really already has."
The new SEC coaches are turning their focus toward 2019 when they have more time to sell recruits on their new schools.
Some notable national signing day events involving SEC schools.
GEORGIA ON THEIR MINDS: The Bulldogs signed the nation's No. 12 overall prospect according to the 247Sports Composite in cornerback Tyson Campbell on Wednesday and also got linebackers Quay Walker (No. 31) and Otis Reese (No. 87) to make signing day switches. Walker had been committed to Alabama, while Reese flipped from Michigan to Georgia. The Bulldogs have eight Rivals five-star prospects to tie the record held by Southern California's 2004 class .
STREAK SNAPPED: After finishing top the 247Sports Composite team recruiting standings for seven straight years, Alabama finally fell from the top spot and could end up outside the top five. Alabama beat out LSU for cornerback Patrick Surtain Jr., who was ranked sixth in the 247Sports Composite and was the nation's top-rated unsigned prospect. But the No. 1 recruit in the state of Alabama — wide receiver Justyn Ross of Phenix City — signed with Clemson instead.
LSU'S TOUGH FINISH: The loss of Surtain to Alabama capped a relatively disappointing recruiting season for LSU. The Tigers were 15th in the 247Sports Composite late Wednesday afternoon. The Tigers had finished no lower than seventh from 2013-17. LSU did sign a pair of top-100 recruits Wednesday in safety Kelvin Joseph (No. 42) and wide receiver JaMarr Chase (No. 84).
OVERCOMING ADVERSITY: Ole Miss was struggling to finish in the top 30 of the national team rankings, but that's actually a pretty remarkable achievement for a program facing NCAA sanctions that include a 2018 bowl ban and a coach who didn't have the interim tag removed from his title until late November. "That's a very good job that I don't think a lot of people are noticing," Farrell said.
INSTANT IMPACT: Simmons mentioned Surtain and Campbell as two recruits who should make impacts right away, which should fortify the Alabama and Georgia defensive backfields. "Those are guys that I think are very real candidates to be starters on national championship-caliber teams," Simmons said.
AP Sports Writer Kurt Voigt in Fayetteville, Arkansas contributed to this report.