One of the most exciting days of the year in the college football world has come and gone and the Sun Belt Conference has done their best to get some playmakers. Here we’ll give a rundown of the league’s recruiting efforts where some of the cellar dwellers are making moves to the top and describe to you who were the winners and losers as we head into the 2017 season.
When Texas State nabbed Everett Withers to make the move to the FBS level from James Madison, I’m not sure anyone believed he would become the best recruiter in the Sun Belt immediately. However, he has done just that for the Bobcats’ program as Texas State has the best class of the Sun Belt and come in at 87th overall according to the 247 composite. Texas State is hauling in 12 three-star prospects led by Houston cornerback Kieston Roach. Texas State should move up from the Sun Belt cellar very quickly. The Bobcats did damage in the Lone Star State by hauling in 20 Texas prospects.
Troy joined the top of the league last season and was a game away from sharing the conference title with Appalachian State and Arkansas State. This year the Trojans pulled in the second best class in the league. Troy has slowly climbed the ladder with Neal Brown both in between the white lines and on the recruiting trail.
The Trojans have gone from 7th, to 4th, and now 2nd in recruiting rankings over the past three years. All that may be left to accomplish is a Sun Belt championship.
After disappointing seasons in the Peach State, both Georgia schools bounced back strong and put together respectable signing classes. It was an ugly first season for Tyson Summers but the Eagles recovered quickly getting the league’s third best class.
It’s a step back from the top class of 2015, but GSU will be one of the most talented teams in the Sun Belt for the next few seasons. Meanwhile, the hire of Shawn Elliott and the renovations of Turner Field paid huge dividends for Georgia State as they were nipping on the heels of their in-state conference rival.
Second year head coach Matt Viator is making a big moves after hauling in his first full class. The Warhawks have collected nine three star prospects and dipped into the JUCO ranks and brought on four player that are already on campus and ready to compete in spring practice. Much like Texas State, the future is bright in Monroe.
Deep in the middle of the pack are the three programs that have combined for at least a share of five of that last six conference titles. Louisiana-Lafayette has fallen on some hard times recently, but getting to the New Orleans Bowl again helped Mark Hudspeth and Co. pull 6 three-stars out of a 16 player class.
Appalachian State claimed their first Sun Belt title last season and they surprisingly fell far down the charts on NSD. However, the biggest surprise is what happened in Jonesboro. Arkansas State, who was coming off a share of their fifth Sun Belt title in six seasons, finished 8th in the league and just 119th overall. With the success that all these coaches have had, you have to wonder if they’ve started looking ahead to greener pastures.
The rest of the Sun Belt
Coming up in the rear, expectedly, is New Mexico State and Idaho. However, it is a mild surprise to see South Alabama joining them at the bottom. It was a very small class for the Jaguars, finishing ninth coming off of a bowl appearance is never a good sign. Meanwhile, New Mexico State always struggles to attract prospects, so Doug Martin is going to take his chances with a lot of JUCOs. Finally Idaho comes in dead last but that should be no surprise as this will be their final year as an FBS program.