In SEC recruiting game, focus of most teams starts in own backyard

A national view of SEC recruiting midpoints. See the maps below for zoomed-in versions.

A national view of SEC recruiting midpoints. See the maps below for zoomed-in versions.

KNOXVILLE, Tennessee — Most SEC schools keep their focus close to home when signing recruits. That’s why the number of top prospects nearby is such an accurate predictor of a team’s success.

Consider this map a sneak peek of a story I’m working on for later in the month. I charted the high school of each recruit signed by an SEC school to produce the “geographic midpoint” for each team and the league as a whole.

(Yes, you know my obsession with geographic midpoints.)

The results weren’t that startling.

Collectively, the midpoint of every SEC prospect signed in 2014 was near Fayette, Ala., only about 45 miles south of the geographic midpoint of all 14 SEC campuses in Haleyville, Ala.

Only three teams travel a great distance from their home base, and I bet you could have guessed them before I charted this map: Missouri, Arkansas and Vanderbilt.

Vanderbilt added a handful of California prospects, which pushed its midpoint west.

Vanderbilt added a handful of California prospects, which pushed its midpoint west.

Vanderbilt was much more pronounced because new coach Derek Mason added some California recruits and lost some in-state signees.

Although the Vols continue to recruit nationally, the midpoint of the class hasn't been this close to Knoxville in years.

Although the Vols continue to recruit nationally, the midpoint of the class hasn’t been this close to Knoxville in years.

What about the Vols? As we’ve written before, Tennessee has moved north under coach Butch Jones, but the new midpoint is in line with the SEC average. (That little pink line on the map points to the “expected midpoint” for each team based on the SEC average).

What schools are outliers, compared to the rest of the league?

Obviously Arkansas, Missouri and Vandy have to recruit nationally out of necessity. Both Arkansas and Missouri recruit aggressively in south Florida, which pushes their midpoint south and east.

Texas A&M and LSU, generally, stick to their own fertile territories without spending too much time fighting others in Atlanta or Florida. That’s reflected in their midpoints.

Alabama recruits nationally despite its talent-rich state, and prospects from Iowa, Colorado and Minnesota helped push the Tide’s midpoint north this year.

The green map marker circled in white is Fayette, Ala., the geographic midpoint of every SEC recruit signed in 2014. That's only 45 miles southwest of Haleyville, Ala., (the green circle), which is the geographic midpoint of all 14 SEC campuses.

The green map marker circled in white is Fayette, Ala., the geographic midpoint of every SEC recruit signed in 2014. That’s only 45 miles southwest of Haleyville, Ala., (the green circle), which is the geographic midpoint of all 14 SEC campuses.

Both Ole Miss and Mississippi State have nearby midpoints. The Bulldogs’ midpoint is in Macon, Miss., which is just 38 miles from Starkville.

I thought this was interesting: Florida and Georgia have very similar recruiting midpoints. The Gators did have plenty of south Florida recruits, but their 2014 class had much more of a national flavor than you might expect. Recruits from Brooklyn, N.Y., and Wyoming pushed the midpoint north and west.

Georgia, meanwhile, had a smaller class (after signing more than 30 last year) and had a strong south Florida presence. (You’ll recall that Tennessee didn’t sign a south Florida prospect for the first time in five years).

What does all this mean?

* Even for a conference in the southeast corner of the United States, most teams still push even further south.

* Texas A&M and Missouri have expanded the geographic boundaries of the conference, but the Aggies rule Texas and don’t have to venture far from there.

* Next to Texas A&M, LSU has the strongest commitment to owning its home base.

* Even teams with strong local bases have a balanced national recruiting strategy.

* If you cover recruiting in the southeast, you should buy a house in Fayette, Ala.

Any other stuff I missed? Let me know.