Some states are well known for producing an unusually high number of gifted players at a particular position.
Take Texas, whose status as a cradle of modern-day quarterbacks is unquestionable. SEC coaches have obviously taken notice of the Lone Star State’s QB fertility, as the conference’s 14 programs signed more quarterback prospects (42) from that state than any other since ESPN Recruiting launched in 2006. In fact, 21 percent of the SEC’s quarterback signees during that period (42 of 200) hailed from Texas, well ahead of the next-closest states, Florida (14.5 percent) and Georgia (9.5).
Do similar trends exist at other positions among SEC schools? Typically not to that extent, but there is a general trend that will not surprise those who read last summer’s SEC blog series on the states that produce the most SEC talent: Georgia and Florida are almost always near the top of the list.
Today and tomorrow we’ll further examine which states have been most fertile for SEC recruiters -- starting with offensive players today and then shifting to defense on Friday -- by breaking down the total group of 3,762 signees between 2006 and 2016 by position.
Before we get started, a few notes:
First, we tallied players not by the position they actually played in college, but by the position where ESPN listed them as recruits. For instance, Auburn’s Nick Fairley was listed as an offensive lineman, although he eventually won the 2010 Lombardi Award as a defensive lineman.
Second, all Texas A&M and Missouri signees counted as SEC players even though the Aggies and Tigers joined the conference in 2012.
Third, some players were counted twice, like when quarterback Zach Mettenberger initially signed with Georgia before completing his career at LSU.
With that said, here’s what we discovered by position for each SEC state:
When it comes to Texas quarterbacks, the 42 total SEC signees is not the only impressive thing. Their quality is, too.
Included in the group are a Heisman Trophy winner (Texas A&M’s Johnny Manziel), a No. 1 overall draft pick (Georgia’s Matthew Stafford) and other prolific starters like Arkansas’ Ryan Mallett, Texas A&M’s Ryan Tannehill, Alabama’s Greg McElroy and Ole Miss' Jevan Snead.
Although there are some busts among the state of Florida’s 29 quarterback signees, the group also includes SEC all-time leading passer Aaron Murray (Georgia) and 2007 Heisman Trophy winner Tim Tebow, who helped Florida win BCS crowns in 2006 and 2008.
Also of note, California (12 QB signees) fared better than seven SEC states. The Californians have not been especially prolific, although Tyler Bray (Tennessee) and Jordan Rodgers (Vanderbilt) enjoyed some success and 2015 Alabama signee Blake Barnett could still make some noise at the nation’s most dominant program.
South Carolina 6
Florida and Georgia trade the lead for the rest of the offensive positions, and they’re neck-and-neck here.
Both states have churned out unbelievable backfield talent over the last decade. Among Florida’s standouts are Trent Richardson (Alabama), Tre Mason (Auburn), Alex Collins (Arkansas), Dexter McCluster (Ole Miss), Sony Michel (Georgia) and Florida Gators Kelvin Taylor, Matt Jones and Mike Gillislee.
Also of note, 2015 Heisman Trophy winner Derrick Henry (Alabama) is not included in Florida’s RB group since ESPN listed him as an athlete when he signed in 2013. We’ll discuss the athlete group with the defensive players tomorrow.
The Georgians on the list don’t match Florida’s star power, but its notables include Nick Chubb (Georgia), Mike Davis (South Carolina), Kenyan Drake (Alabama), Peyton Barber (Auburn) and Alvin Kamara (Alabama/Tennessee).
South Carolina 7
Athlete-rich Florida holds a substantial lead here, although the number of star wideouts from the state is relatively small. Alabama’s all-everything receiver Amari Cooper is the most notable name, but there are a lot of busts on the list, as well.
In general, the positional leaderboards roughly mirror the population trends within SEC states. Texas, Florida and Georgia are the most populous states and also produced the most signees. However, some smaller states stand out at particular positions, like Louisiana does at wide receiver.
Louisiana sits fourth with 44 wideout signees, its best showing at any offensive position. That's not bad considering Louisiana is eighth among the SEC’s 11 states in total population according to U.S. Census Bureau estimates. Home-state LSU signed 27 of those 44 players, a group that includes Odell Beckham Jr., Jarvis Landry, Rueben Randle, Malachi Dupre, Travin Dural and Trindon Holliday.
South Carolina 24
Georgia holds a sizable lead here, producing 32 tight end signees and sending them to 10 different conference schools. Among them: Evan Engram (Ole Miss) and Philip Lutzenkirchen (Auburn).
Talent-deficient Tennessee ranks higher on this list than it does at most positions, but the only standout among tight end signees from the Volunteer State -- Ole Miss’ Greg Hardy -- actually played defense in college.
Arkansas, the least-populous SEC state, has also turned out more SEC tight ends than most of its counterparts, tying Alabama for fourth with 15. Included in that group are Hunter Henry and Jeremy Sprinkle, last season’s standout duo for the home-state Razorbacks.
South Carolina 5
Nestled behind the big three here is Mississippi, the second-least-populous SEC state.
It helps that the state has a network of junior college football programs that aid the state’s linemen in their development, but the talent is also there in the high school ranks. Among the notable offensive linemen to come out of Mississippi are Mississippi State’s Derek Sherrod and Gabe Jackson and Ole Miss’ John Jerry.
Leading the way is Georgia, which produced a number of future college and pro stars up front. Among them: Chance Warmack and James Carpenter (Alabama), Cordy Glenn (Georgia), Ja'Wuan James (Tennessee) and Vadal Alexander (LSU).
South Carolina 24