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Georgia’s Kirby Smart — Non-SEC coaches warn recruits it’s too tough
6:30 PM ET
  • Tom VanHaarenESPN Staff Writer

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    • ESPN staff writer
    • Joined ESPN in 2011
    • Graduated from Central Michigan

The SEC broke a record for most first-round picks by a conference in the NFL draft with 15 on Thursday, beating the previous record of 12 achieved by the ACC and SEC in the past.

That type of success often flows into recruiting pitches, showing prospects the proof of development and achieving the dream of making it to the NFL. That, however, is also being used against teams in the conference, according to Georgia Bulldogs coach Kirby Smart.

On The Paul Finebaum Show, Smart mentioned teams outside the conference are telling recruits the conference is too tough, too competitive and too physical, and that they might get banged up playing in the SEC.

“But that’s not the way the NFL GM’s are looking at it, and that’s not the way the NFL coaches are looking at it,” Smart said. “They want to take kids that want to compete at the highest level, that want to go play in those big-time match-ups, and that’s what the kids want. They want to go play in the biggest games in the biggest pieces, and that’s what they aspire to do.

“So, for a coach in another conference to sell, ‘Hey, it might be an easier path to come over here and go this way,’ it just speaks volumes.”

Smart said he wants recruits to see through that negative recruiting pitch and understand the success is worth it because of the conference’s competition level.

The SEC had 15 first-round picks, and the Big Ten and Big 12 were next with five, followed by the ACC with three and the Pac-12 with two.

Those numbers translate over to recruiting rankings as well, as the SEC had three of the top five recruiting classes in the 2020 cycle and six of the top 10. Those numbers and rankings, according to Smart, aren’t likely to change any time soon with the way the conference is recruiting at such a high level.

“The separation, to me, is just becoming greater, and you have to be careful when you look at what the SEC Network’s been able to do and the shows you guys do Paul, and the amount of money we’ve been able to bring in, the revenue we’ve been able to generate through the television contract, the SEC Network and all of these things,” Smart said. “It creates facilities and a lot of things that these kids want to choose and grow and play on these stages. And if you’re not careful, that separation outside of maybe two or three other programs, is getting greater, and that’s what we saw, in my opinion, last night.”

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