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Under recruiting rule, SEC's loss is ACC's gain

ACC football teams could benefit on National Signing Day next week and in the future because of a recruiting rule adopted by the SEC.

Last summer, SEC presidents and chancellors unanimously passed legislation prohibiting their programs from signing more than 25 players per cycle in an attempt to curb the practice of oversigning.

ESPN recruiting analyst Tom Luginbill said several SEC coaches predict as many as 30 players per year that would have signed with SEC schools will now sign elsewhere. And where will those 30 decorated prep stars sign? Luginbill believes most will turn to the SEC's neighbor: the ACC, which has no oversigning rule.

"This new SEC oversigning rule could create a real shift in power when you consider the caliber of player that may normally sign in the SEC," Luginbill said. "If they no longer have room to be signed, that player is going to go somewhere. Where do you think he's going to go? If he's in the South, he's going to go to the ACC. That could really aid and enhance a lot of teams that are considered to be at the forefront in the ACC, a Florida State, a Clemson, Miami and North Carolina."

The rule could be helpful in redistributing defensive talent.

The SEC has won six straight national titles in large part due to dominance in the defensive front seven. Eight of the last 10 national champions have produced at least one defensive lineman who went on to become a first-round pick in the NFL draft.

"By and large, what you have seen from dominant defensive teams is where those kids are coming from is the Southeast," Luginbill said. "It's been a fruitful landscape. ... If some of the (SEC signing losses) happen to be defensive linemen or offensive linemen, that's naturally going to take away to some degree the power right now that the SEC holds."

Alabama commitment Justin Taylor became the first case study in the SEC's new oversigning rule.

Alabama has 27 commitments for its 2012 class, and Alabama coach Nick Saban has told Taylor there will not be a scholarship available for him in 2012. Saban promised Taylor a scholarship for 2013.

Will Taylor attend Alabama or sign elsewhere in 2012?

"I'm still getting my head together," Taylor told Sports Illustrated earlier this month.

For years, many programs in the SEC signed more players than they had scholarships available.

The NCAA allows each program to enroll 25 new scholarship football players each academic year, but it has no rule limiting how many players can sign.

From 2007-10, Alabama signed 113 players to letters of intent despite just 85 scholarships existing in football. Many SEC programs created a sort of NFL-style training camp environment, creatively cutting players who signed letters of intent to trim down rosters to 85. Medical exemptions were handed out liberally, and some scholarships were simply not renewed.

Why would the SEC want to change a strategy that had helped make it the strongest conference in football?

While all 12 SEC coaches voted in favor of keeping the status quo last summer, SEC presidents voted unanimously to change the system. On Feb. 1, Sports Illustrated published a letter from Florida president Bernie Machen condemning the practice.

"These schools play roulette with the lives of talented young people," Machen wrote. "If they run out of scholarships, too bad. The letter-of-intent signed by the university the previous February is voided. Technically, it's legal to do this. Morally, it is reprehensible."

The top six oversigning schools from 2011 all hailed from the SEC, including South Carolina at No. 6. Clemson ranked seventh.

ACC commissioner John Swofford told reporters this summer his conference has not looked at addressing oversigning.

"That really has not been much of a topic in our league because that really hasn't been much of a problem in our league," Swofford said.