JOE BIDDLE: SEC coaches have love fest on Signing Day

The college football recruiting season is in the books and coaches all over the world are oh, so happy with the fruits of their labor.

SEC coaches are particularly giddy — with reason. They dominated the top 10 rankings by the various recruiting Web sites.

Alabama claimed the No. 1 ranking, for the fourth straight season. One service had them signing seven 5-star players. has seven SEC teams ranked in the top nine, 10 in the top 20, including Kentucky at No. 17.

You never hear a college football coach admit his recruiting class was an abysmal failure. I don't blame them. They, or no one else, can claim with certainty as to how their team's class will measure up. Coaches are in love with their latest recruiting class.

OK, so Alabama signed more than a fist full of 5-star high school players and the No. 1 ranking. Nick Saban's legend seems safe.

Vanderbilt Coach Derek Mason is just as happy as Saban, however, for different reasons. Mason was hired late in the recruiting process, after former coach James Franklin bolted for what he considered the greener Penn State pastures. He took five former Vanderbilt verbal commitments with him, leaving the Commodores farther behind the 8-ball.

But Mason and his staff pulled off the real American Hustle. Sunday night they had nine verbal commitments. Four days later, they had 22 young men sign letters of intent.

“It was two weeks of fast and furious recruiting,'' Mason admitted. He had no choice.

Mason landed two quarterbacks. Wade Freeback is 6-5, 210 pounds and played for Florida prep power St. Thomas Aquinas High School where ESPN labeled him a 4-star recruit.

They also got Shawn Stankavage, a 6-2, 182-pounder out of Raleigh, N.C. His high school coach says he has Johnny Manziel moves in the pocket. That's a start.

“We need men here at Vanderbilt, men that embody what we're about – that's working to win championships,'' Mason said.

A month ago the Commodores were ranked No. 90 by one service. Now they are ranked from No. 46 to No. 50, an incredible jump considering the circumstances.

Now you must remember it was Signing Day, a red-letter day in the world of recruiting. Accolades are often sprinkled with embellished hopes and dreams – from Alabama to Asuza Pacific.

Mason's goal was to bring in as many recruits as he considered SEC quality in as quickly as he could. There was no time to count pimples.

At Tennessee, Coach Butch Jones had a different assignment. He and his staff signed more than 30 players. Many of them had committed verbally months ago. A number of them enrolled in school in December. On signing day, they gained two recruits, lost only one.

Jones landed a top five recruiting class. The highest ranking was No. 4 to a high of No. 7. It not only has numbers, but quality. Jones promised playing time opportunities and that is often attractive to players who don't want to sit on the bench for two-three years to get on the field.

Vols fans are anxious to see what their rookie class can do and for good reason. The fan base has grown weary of having three head coaches since Phillip Fulmer was forced out. They hope Jones can erase the memories of Lane Kiffin and Derek Dooley.

Jones took a giant step toward constructing a fence around Tennessee. Normally not a recruiting hotbed, the state was particularly rich in prospects this year and next year could be even better.

The Vols coaching staff is already almost four months deep in the class of 2015. Results of their efforts will show up sooner than later on the field and on the scoreboard.

And Butch Jones will still come to work every day with his hair on fire.

Contact Sports Columnist Joe Biddle at

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