Unlike in the NFL, recruiting is the only option for coaches looking to steer a college program in the right direction. That change can occur slowly, but recruiting trends tell an interesting tale.

There is a reason Alabama has been on top of the college football world with Nick Saban, one of the country’s best recruiters, at the helm. Stringing together back-to-back successful recruiting classes will help a school compete at the highest level, while continued misses will set a program back.

As National Signing Day approaches, it’s time to look at which teams are putting together better recruiting classes than in 2016 and which programs are headed in the wrong direction.


  • 2017 – No. 1 overall, No. 1 SEC
  • 2016 – No. 1 overall, No. 1 SEC

The Crimson Tide are in place to secure their seventh straight No. 1 recruiting class under Nick Saban. Last year’s class was heavy on offensive and defensive line prospects, but the top two recruits were linebackers Ben Davis and Mack Wilson. The 2017 class is heavy on elite linebacker talent, led by 5-star Dylan Moses, but the jewel of this class is running back Najee Harris.

The 2016 class had three 5-star prospects, while the 2017 class has five 5-star prospects in the fold. It’s hard to improve upon being No. 1, but this year’s class might be just a bit better.

⇑ Verdict: Slightly better


  • 2017 – No. 28 overall, No. 10 SEC
  • 2016 – No. 23 overall, No. 9 SEC

The main difference between Arkansas’ 2016 and 2017 classes is the lack of a 5-star prospect such as McTelvin Agim. The nation’s No. 2 strong-side defensive end prospect in 2016, Agim was the Razorbacks’ first 5-star prospect since 2009.

Arkansas is going light on the defensive line this year and instead focusing on wide receivers and defensive backs. The Razorbacks need to reload their receiving corps, and there are some promising recruits in the bunch, but this class doesn’t hold the same level of potential without a 5-star prospect.

⇓ Verdict: Worse


  • 2017 – No. 10 overall, No. 5 SEC
  • 2016 – No. 9 overall, No. 5 SEC

Auburn is putting together yet another very good recruiting class. The biggest difference might be the acquisition of Jarrett Stidham, a quarterback who should provide the perfect balance of running and passing that Gus Malzahn has been seeking. Stidham left Baylor after one season and sat this past year while taking online courses through a community college.

Nov 21, 2015; Stillwater, OK, USA; Baylor Bears quarterback Jarrett Stidham (3) tries to avoid the tackle of Oklahoma State Cowboys linebacker Jordan Burton (20) in the second quarter at Boone Pickens Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports

Credit: Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports

Last year, the Tigers loaded up on defensive line prospects and it’s paid off for them. This class is heavy on offensive talent, but the loss of top JUCO running back Octavius Matthews hurts. Still, if Stidham lives up to his potential, 2017 could be an important class.

⇑ Verdict: Better


  • 2017 – No. 30 overall, No. 11 SEC
  • 2016 – No. 12 overall, No. 6 SEC

Jim McElwain has taken Florida to the SEC championship game in each of his first two years at the helm, but he hasn’t had the same level of success on the recruiting trail. With only 14 prospects currently committed to the 2017 class, the Gators will need a big finish to turn things around.

The 2016 class had some players who contributed immediately, and there are likely to be more members of that class making an impact this season. Unless Florida has a big National Signing Day, 2017 will go down as a disappointment.

⇓ Verdict: Worse


  • 2017 – No. 3 overall, No. 2 SEC
  • 2016 – No. 8 overall, No. 4 SEC

It’s hard for new coaches to make up ground on the recruiting trail, but Kirby Smart proved his reputation as a stellar recruiter wasn’t just hype when he reeled in a top 10 class for the Bulldogs. In his first full season as Georgia’s head coach, Smart has built one of the top recruiting classes in the country.

Jacob Eason and Isaac Nauta made big impressions as true freshmen, but the 2017 class is loaded with offensive linemen that Georgia desperately needs. If they can have the same type of impact in Year 1, this will be an important class for the Bulldogs.

⇑ Verdict: Better


  • 2017 – No. 23 overall, No. 8 SEC
  • 2016 – No. 34 overall, No. 12 SEC

Kentucky is putting together one of its best classes in recent memory. After a nice finish to the 2016 season, the Wildcats should make more noise in the SEC East next season.

Four-star athlete Lynn Bowden and 4-star wide receiver JaVonte Richardson are two of the more explosive prospects in this class, and they should help provide some balance to Kentucky’s run-heavy offense.

⇑ Verdict: Better


  • 2017 – No. 6 overall, No. 3 SEC
  • 2016 – No. 3 overall, No. 2 SEC

Ed Orgeron hasn’t been in charge for long, but he’s been hitting the recruiting trail hard. The Tigers just landed No. 1 inside linebacker Jacob Phillips and are in the mix for some other top uncommitted prospects.

LSU is definitely trending in the right direction as signing day draws near, and a strong finish could help it rise in the rankings. Any school would be happy to have either of these classes, but the 2016 class had a little more depth and top-end talent.

⇓ Verdict: Worse

Mississippi State

  • 2017 – No. 27 overall, No. 9 SEC
  • 2016 – No. 28 overall, No. 11 SEC

The Bulldogs landed one of the top players in the Class of 2016 in 5-star defensive end Jeffery Simmons. Unfortunately, there wasn’t much depth behind Simmons, as many of Mississippi State’s commitments came from 3-star recruits.

This year holds much of the same for the Bulldogs, although there is a lot of veteran talent on the way. Nine of Mississippi State commitments are JUCO prospects who could see the field sooner rather than later. There isn’t a massive signing in this class, however, and the average prospect rating is lower than last year’s class.

⇓ Verdict: Worse


  • 2017 – No. 41 overall, No. 12 SEC
  • 2016 – No. 43 overall, No. 13 SEC

Missouri got a lot of solid contributions out of the members of its 2016 class. Players like Damarea Crocket, Dimetrios Mason and Cale Garrett became familiar faces on Saturdays.

In the Class of 2017, there isn’t yet a 4-star or 5-star prospect committed to the Tigers. This is a bigger class than last year, which is likely the reason for the higher rankings, but it’s hard to consider it a more talented class.

⇓ Verdict: Worse

Ole Miss

  • 2017 – No. 51 overall, No. 13 SEC
  • 2016 – No. 5 overall, No. 3 SEC

Under Hugh Freeze, the Rebels have been a formidable bunch on the recruiting trail. Ole Miss is used to landing top 10 classes, but this year is a different story.

The Rebels aren’t convincing in-state prospects to stay home, and the ongoing NCAA investigation has cast a large shadow. There are still some good players in the 2017 class, but it’s nowhere near the level that Ole Miss is used to.

⇓ Verdict: Worse

South Carolina

  • 2017 – No. 20 overall, No. 7 SEC
  • 2016 – No. 24 overall, No. 10 SEC

Will Muschamp has South Carolina headed in the right direction both on and off the field. The Gamecocks defense became one of the most formidable in their division under Muschamp, and he’s working hard to make the offense more dynamic.

Jake Bentley looks to be one of the top prospects from the 2016 class, and the 2017 class should surround him with playmakers. OrTre Smith and Shi Smith are two talented receivers, who will help add versatility to a budding receiving corps.

⇑ Verdict: Better


  • 2017 – No. 13 overall, No. 6 SEC
  • 2016 – No. 14 overall, No. 7 SEC

Due to the amount of veteran talent on the roster last season, there weren’t many players from the 2016 class who made an impact. The talent from that class shouldn’t be overlooked, however.

There are some players to like in the Vols’ 2017 recruiting class, especially 5-star lineman Trey Smith and 4-star running back Ty Chandler, but it doesn’t include the same level of depth. Tennessee’s class is one of the largest in the country, but 23 of the 28 committed prospects are 3-star recruits.

⇓ Verdict: Worse

Texas A&M

  • 2017 – No. 8 overall, No. 4 SEC
  • 2016 – No. 18 overall, No. 8 SEC

It isn’t receiving a ton of hype, but Texas A&M is quietly putting together a very good recruiting class. The Aggies have a good trio of linebackers in Anthony Hines, Santino Marchiol and Devodrick Johnson, and they will bring in some talented receivers who should compete right away.

The 2016 class had strengths of its own, most notably in the secondary, but this is a nice progression for Texas A&M.

⇑ Verdict: Better


  • 2017 – No. 61 overall, No. 14 SEC
  • 2016 – No. 53 overall, No. 14 SEC

It’s always going to be hard for Vanderbilt to compete on the recruiting trail, but if Derek Mason can build upon his team’s success in 2016, that could change down the road.

Vanderbilt’s 2017 class is among the smaller ones in the conference, and it’s comprised of only 3-star prospects. There are some nice pieces in this class, but a strong finish would go a long way. Still, it doesn’t look to have the same type of pop as last year’s class, which included 4-star cornerback Joejuan Williams.

⇓ Verdict: Worse

All rankings courtesy of the 247Sports Composite