The correlation between the number of five-stars signed by SEC schools and the trend of SEC programs winning national championships since 2006 is uncanny, something that cannot be ignored.
Something that ties together so closely that it would be hard to believe it did not tie itself together. And if thatâ€™s true, then the SEC is going nowhere for at least the next few seasons and could actually become even more dominant.
In the early years of Rivals dating back to 2002 until Nick Saban was hired as Alabamaâ€™s coach in Jan. 2007, there was only one instance where there were double-digit five-star signees in the SEC, and that came in 2003 with 10 of 25 five-stars going to that conference, or 40 percent of them.
In 2002 and 2006, nine five-stars signed with SEC programs. In 2004, only four of 25 did. The next recruiting cycle only five of 28 went to that conference.
And then the Saban Era started and, admittedly, it did not start off gangbusters. Arriving in Tuscaloosa with about a month until National Signing Day, that first SEC class of 2007 signed just 27 percent of five-stars.
It then started picking up. It was 30 percent in 2008, followed by 45 percent and 38 percent the following two years and then 42 percent again in 2011. It then dipped back down for the final time in 2012 as only eight of 32 five-stars (or 25 percent) signed with SEC programs. That class was led by five-star receiver Dorial Green-Beckham, who signed with Missouri before the Tigers were in the SEC.
Since 2013, though, when Saban really had it rolling at Alabama and now Missouri and Texas A&M were included in the conference, the SEC has completely steamrolled college football recruiting when it comes to signing five-star prospects.
Forty-two percent of five-stars signed with SEC programs in 2013 and things only picked up from there as 51 percent signed in 2014 and then 50 percent the following recruiting cycle. Some of those prospects included Robert Nkemdiche, Vernon Hargreaves, Jonathan Allen, Laremy Tunsil, Daâ€™Shawn Hand, Myles Garrett, Leonard Fournette, Byron Cowart and others.
The decently hot pace continues through the next few recruiting cycles when SEC teams signed 42, 32 and 36 percent of five-stars. It took another dramatic leg up the last two cycles as programs in that conference landed 60 percent of five-stars in 2019.
And in 2020, 19 of 34 five-stars (or 56 percent) are signed or committed to SEC schools. If five-star running back Zachary Evans picks Ole Miss, Georgia, Tennessee or another program in that conference then it would be 20 of 34, or 59 percent again.
To put all those numbers in better perspective, hereâ€™s another way to think about it: In the five years before Saban took over at Alabama, the SEC signed 33 percent of five-stars or more only once. In the 14 recruiting classes since Saban got to Tuscaloosa, only four times was the 33 percent threshold not met including the first two years as Saban was building the Crimson Tide up.
In seven recruiting classes since 2014, SEC teams have signed at least half – half! – of five-star prospects.
And the results have shown on the field. Before 2006, SEC squads won national championships, but it was scattershot. They blended in with other programs that went on runs or conferences that reached the highest levels of college football.
However, after 2006 – once Saban got to Alabama lifting all boats across the conference on the field and in recruiting – the scene has changed in dramatic fashion.
Since 2006, there have been 14 national championships played. Ten have been won by the SEC. The other four by Clemson (twice), Florida State and Ohio State, recruiting giants all.
The numbers are clear: Signing five-star prospects is a clear indicator that you will have opportunities to play for national championships.
And if any the recent numbers are indicative of anything – 60 percent of five-stars in 2019 and nearly 60 this recruiting cycle – more titles are coming the SECâ€™s way.
“Itâ€™s a fact that great coaches will make other coaches step up their game in recruiting,” says Rivals national recruiting director Mike Farrell. “Itâ€™s clear that things changed in the SEC when Urban Meyer entered the league, and things took a bigger step forward when Saban took over at Alabama. Meyer made everyone step up their recruiting game and Saban simply dominated the SEC.
“People always talk about SEC bias and all of that but as programs like USC, Miami, Florida State and Texas all fell at different times, Alabama and the rest of the SEC powers continued to thrive. There is no SEC bias in rankings, itâ€™s just that they recruit better than anyone else except for Clemson and Ohio State these days. And thatâ€™s because of the bar Meyer and Saban set.”