While most of the focus on National Signing Day revolved around which lucky teams would bring aboard the top uncommitted prospects in the country, Ole Miss was at the center of a much different conversation.
That got us thinking about the biggest one-year risers and fallers in the conference over the last 15 years.
You may not have known it heading into National Signing Day, but the Rebels were staring at a historic tumble in the recruiting rankings.
The Rebels’ class for 2017, according to Rivals.com, finished at No. 39 just a year after piecing together a top 10 class.
Numbers can pour salt on wounds, but they can also put things in perspective. Ole Miss became just the third SEC team since 2000 to have a top 10 class before falling out of the top 30 the next year, based on Rivals’ rankings.
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There were only five other instances in which a team even fell from top 10 to out of the top 20.
Overall, the Rebels’ 31-spot drop is tied for the third-biggest year-to-year plummet for any SEC team over the last 10 recruiting cycles.
Here’s a look at the biggest declines dating even further back to 2003, which includes the only nine times that an SEC school experienced a fall of at least 30 in the rankings.
The next-biggest slide this year was Vanderbilt, which fell nine spots from No. 54 to No. 63.
Of course, let’s give Hugh Freeze some credit. Things could have been much worse for the Rebels, who recovered on signing day by securing 4-star recruits in LB Mohamed Sanogo (who will join previously committed LB Breon Dixon), ATH Kam White and a late-day gift in the form of DE Chester Graves, the top-rated player in the state of Missouri according to some services.
Who was the biggest riser for 2016? That would be South Carolina, and that’s not too much of a surprise. A popular line associated with Will Muschamp coming from the mouths/keyboards of his detractors just as much as his supporters is, “No one said the man can’t recruit.”
That was evidenced by the fact that the Gamecocks jumped an SEC-best 11 spots. That was a much-needed leap after South Carolina was pegged at No. 27 in 2016, tied for its lowest ranking over the last 15 years.
Muschamp did a particularly good job landing some promising pass-catchers for young gunslinger Jake Bentley. The Gamecocks are bringing in seven 4-star recruits, three are receivers (Chad Terrell, OrTre Smith, Shi Smith), one is a tight end (Will Register) and the other is an athlete (Jamyest Williams).
The other two are defensive tackles (Aaron Sterling and M.J. Webb).
We mentioned earlier how there were eight instances in which a team fell from top 10 to out of the top 20. Well, there were seven that went the opposite way, rising out of the top 20 to the top 10, and South Carolina was one of them exactly 10 years ago.
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Steve Spurrier was entering his third season at South Carolina, which enjoyed its highest-ranked class (sixth) over the last 15 years in 2007. That crop included several notable 4-stars like QB Stephen Garcia, 4-star DEs Melvin Ingram and Travian Robertson and 4-star TE Weslye Saunders.
The class was also filled with good DBs such as 5-star Chris Culliver, 4-star Akeem Auguste and 3-star Antonio Allen.
The highest of those ascensions came that same recruiting cycle when Tennessee was tabbed with the third-ranked class in the country. That 2007 season, Phil Fulmer’s second-to-last year in Knoxville, culminated with the Vols’ most recent 10-win campaign. UT has made the list two other times since then.
Meanwhile, Ole Miss is on that list twice: once to represent the only team to climb into the top 10 from out of the top 40 (2013). The other time was actually last year before experiencing its aforementioned disappointing finish this cycle.
Here’s a look at the biggest risers since 2003.
Vanderbilt made a trio of big leaps, including the biggest of them all in 2004 (23rd from 83rd). The Commodores had another one in James Franklin’s second season in Nashville in 2012 (30th from 75th).
Auburn experienced a big leap after Tommy Tuberville’s squad went an undefeated 13-0 in 2004 (and you know the story of that season as the Tigers were robbed of playing for a national championship while USC’s title was later vacated).
Mark Stoops’ first haul in Lexington (2013) took Kentucky to 29th from 67th.
We’ve come to expect good things from Alabama and Georgia on the recruiting trail over this span. Neither has experienced a drop of greater than 10 spots or more in any of the last 15 years.
The Tide’s biggest drop was a measly four spots (2009-10), while the Bulldogs’ biggest came that same year in the form of 10 spots.
However, UGA is the only school to rank among the top 20 in all 15 years. Florida (2015) and LSU (2005) would also be in that category if not for a couple missteps.