Oklahoma came into SEC country and got an elite QB recruit, but is there a trend developing?
A tweet from someone who just completed his sophomore year of high school forced me to take a deeper look at something.
Let me explain.
When 5-star 2021 quarterback and Bogart, Ga., native Brock Vandagriff announced his commitment to Oklahoma on Thursday, it got me thinking. Even though Vandagriff is a year and a half away from the 2021 Early Signing Period, it certainly wouldn’t be the first time an elite Georgia quarterback recruit elected not only to avoid the in-state Dawgs, but the SEC altogether.
Remember that Trevor Lawrence guy? Does the name “Deshaun Watson” ring a bell? How about Davis Mills?
And that’s just the elite quarterbacks from the state of Georgia … and not including Justin Fields.
So my questions were simple. One, are elite quarterbacks leaving SEC country at an alarming rate? Also, is the SEC failing to sign elite quarterbacks in general?
In order to answer those questions, I went back and found the top 5 quarterbacks from each class from 2012-21. That’s 10 classes for a total of 50 quarterbacks. Of that group, I found that 18 were from states in which an SEC school was located (that includes Texas). Of those 18, 10 enrolled at or are verbally committed to non-SEC schools. Six went to SEC schools and 2 are 2020/21 recruits who are undecided.
(Just in case you forgot, all of the recruiting rankings we use at SDS are based on the 247sports composite unless otherwise noted.)
So if we want to omit the 2 undecided quarterback recruits from SEC country, that means only 6 of 16 elite quarterback recruits (top 5 in their respective class among QBs) signed with an SEC school.
Here are those players:
The irony is that 3 of those 6 transferred to non-SEC schools.
So who were the elite quarterback recruits who got away from the SEC in 2012-21? Here’s that complete list:
Alford and Stidham wound up transferring to SEC schools to finish college. There are some stingers on that group, which features 3 guys who won national titles, a Heisman Trophy winner and a 2-time Heisman finalist.
That’s probably why this feels like a trend. Watson, Winston and Lawrence could all be considered among the best quarterbacks of the decade when 2019 wraps up.
Is there one among the group of elite SEC quarterback recruits who stayed home? Fromm could enter that conversation with a national title in 2019, but that’s not a given. And Murray technically stayed home and will be considered among the decade’s top quarterbacks, but obviously his success didn’t come until after he left the SEC.
So what does this mean?
Well, maybe a few things. If the SEC doesn’t land any of the 4 elite signal-callers from the SEC footprint in the 2020/21 classes, that would create an interesting 5-year mark. Of the 10 top 5 quarterbacks who are also from the SEC in 2017-21, only 3 would have stayed in the SEC. That, in my opinion, would be worth monitoring if it continued, though I doubt it will.
I think it says a lot about the region that 36% of the top 5 quarterback recruits in a 10-year stretch hailed from a state with an SEC school (18 of 50). And for what it’s worth, it’s not like the SEC is whiffing on all the elite quarterback recruits. Many are just going outside the conference’s geographical footprint to get them.
Of a possible 40 top 5 quarterback recruits from 2012-19 — the 2020 and 2021 classes haven’t signed yet — the SEC signed 12 of them (30%). Of the 26 top 5 quarterbacks from 2012-19 who weren’t from the SEC’s geographical footprint, 6 (23%) signed with an SEC school. Go figure that of those 6, Tua Tagovailoa was the only one who didn’t leave his SEC school (Cooper Bateman, Kyle Allen, Will Grier, Blake Barnett and Jacob Eason all left the SEC school they signed with).
To me, numbers like that are more a reminder of how national recruiting is, especially at the quarterback position. It probably helps that all of these showcases and 7-on-7 tournaments across the country have somewhat leveled the playing field for coaches to recruit an elite quarterback from any part of the country. Maybe staying local has been diminished somewhat in the 2010s decade.
In case you wondering, I did the numbers for the Pac-12, too. I found that there were 20 top 5 quarterback recruits from 2012-21 who hailed from a state with a Pac-12 school. Of those 20 elite quarterback recruits, 10 stayed in the Pac-12 and 10 left. That’s still a lot of elite quarterbacks leaving the Pac-12 footprint. Granted, none of them were as “one that got away” like Winston, Watson or Lawrence.
For what it’s worth, I’m not saying Vendagriff committing to Oklahoma is some slap in the face to the SEC that says the conference can’t keep elite quarterbacks anymore. If I had to guess, I’d say the Vendagriff decided “oh, you know what? I’m gonna go play football for the guy who just produced a pair of Heisman Trophy winners and No. 1 overall picks.”
Bravo, kid. You made a grownup decision.
And by doing so, you made this grownup decide to do a whole lotta math in the middle of summer.