SEC football programs are so good at recruiting that it seems they rarely lose out — except to each other — when they pursue the nation’s top high school players.
That is especially true in SEC territory — generally the Southeast but expanded into Arkansas, Missouri and Texas in the past few decades — where the league’s 14 schools dominate.
This year’s Early Signing Period, ending Friday, was another coup for the conference. But the SEC’s monarchy is not an absolute rule.
Every year, lots of talented players from the SEC’s footprint get away and sign with schools in the Midwest, Central or West (or Southeast schools not in the SEC).
Here are the 10 best recruits from the Early Signing Period who got away from SEC schools and chose programs from other conferences (all rankings according to 247Sports)
WR Garrett Wilson, Ohio State (No. 16 overall recruit)
Hold on, I hear you saying already. Wilson is from Austin, Texas, the epicenter of Texas Longhorns country. So how is this a miss for the SEC? Because now more than ever, thanks to coach Jimbo Fisher, no part of the Lone Star State is considered off limits for Texas A&M recruiters or fans. Not even Burnt Orange Town. Wilson got offers from A&M, Alabama, Missouri and other SEC schools, but he stuck with the Buckeyes through their controversial season and impending coaching change.
CB Andrew Booth, Clemson (No. 19)
The 5-star recruit out of Lawrenceville, Ga., made unofficial visits to Alabama, Auburn, Georgia, South Carolina and Tennessee but became a Clemson commit in July and never wavered, signing with the Tigers on Wednesday.
WR Theo Wease, Oklahoma (No. 21)
This is another one on the fringe of the SEC’s footprint. Wease, a 5-star recruit out of Allen, Texas, signed with the Sooners on Wednesday. He had official visits with LSU and USC, but those came after his April verbal commitment with Oklahoma.
WR Frank Ladson, Clemson (No. 27)
Score another one for Dabo Swinney and company. Winning recruiting battles like this has helped turn Clemson into what it is — an ACC program which keeps up with the SEC’s best. Miami product Ladson committed to Florida in March 2017 but decommitted in December 2017, and, though he had an unofficial visit at UF in 2018, it seemed Clemson led the way throughout 2018 until getting his signature.
C Harry Miller, Ohio State (No. 31)
Miller, ranked No. 2 at his position in the country, played in high school in Buford, Ga., about 50 miles west of Athens. Miller made unofficial visits to Georgia, but Ohio State was the leader for a long time in his recruitment. He signed with the Buckeyes on Wednesday, the first day of the Early Signing Period.
DT Chris Hinton, Michigan (No. 49)
The Wolverines snagged one of their best recruits this year in Hinton, out of Greater Atlanta Christian School in Norcross, Ga. Hinton took his official visits in the north and chose Michigan over Ohio State; SEC schools made offers but did not appear to gain much traction.
WR Jordan Whittington, Texas (No. 53)
His hometown of Cuero, Texas, is slightly closer to Austin than to College Station, but it’s in hotly contested territory. Whittington paid two unofficial visits to Texas A&M and one to Florida, but he committed to Texas in March and signed with the Longhorns on Wednesday.
WR Trejan Bridges, Oklahoma (No. 59)
Bridges, from Carrollton, Texas, made an unofficial visit to Texas A&M in early 2017. But Oklahoma seemed to be the leader for a long time, securing his commitment in September 2017. He signed with the Sooners on Wednesday.
WR Jeremiah Payton, Miami (No. 69)
The standout from Fletcher High in Neptune Beach, Fla., really never seemed very likely to sign anywhere else. He was a Hurricanes commit about a year ago and, according to reports, all but shut down his recruitment at that point. The Jacksonville-area product is Miami’s top-rated recruit.
TE Austin Stogner, Oklahoma (No. 72)
The No. 3-rated tight end in the country, from Plano, Texas, paid some consideration to Texas A&M; College Station is about 200 miles south of Plano. Oklahoma was in the lead for a long time and secured his signature on Wednesday.