Few people would argue that the top college football-producing states are California, Florida and Texas, in no particular order. They're the well-established recruiting hotbeds, regions that churn out blue-chip prospects with unparalleled regularity. No matter which boasts the most talent from year to year, one thing seems clear: California, Florida and Texas are in a class of their own.
Well, at least they were. A closer look at the numbers reveals that another state is quickly gaining traction as a football recruiting manufacturer. Georgia is close to expanding the Big Three to a Big Four.
"I'm not sure Georgia's getting the respect they deserve," said Loganville Grayson coach Mickey Conn. "I think we've got the best football in the country, in my opinion. We may not have as many teams as Texas and California, but we have more players than most people have any clue about."
That perception is changing. The Peach State is getting some long overdue respect.
To get a sense of which states rank just behind California, Florida and Texas, Rivals polled seven recruiting analysts to rank their next five states in order. Georgia was the unanimous pick as the No. 4 state. Ohio finished as a clear-cut fifth choice, Louisiana and Virginia tied for sixth place and Alabama came in eighth.
"The last two or three years of talent in that state has been off the hook," Rivals.com national recruiting analyst Mike Farrell said.
The numbers abet that claim. Three of the 17 five-star prospects in the class of 2013 are from Georgia: Loganville Grayson defensive end
In fact, it's part of a larger trend. Georgia high schools have produced 125 four- and five-star recruits over the last five years. By comparison, Ohio has produced 83, Louisiana 62, Alabama 60 and Pennsylvania 54.
Even more telling: Ohio had 15,000 more students playing high school football than Georgia did in 2010-11, according to the National Federation of High School Associations. Yet Georgia produced 88 more prospects rated three stars or higher than Ohio did over the last two recruiting cycles (2011 and 2012).
"When you look at the numbers, it's overwhelming in Georgia's favor," said Farrell. "But I think there was always some question. Is it Georgia? Is it Louisiana? Is it Ohio?''
There's little doubt anymore. Farrell said Georgia began to cement its claim to the No. 4 spot after its 2011 class featured eight of the nation's top 56 prospects, including Columbus Carver running back Isaiah Crowell and Thomasville Thomas County Central defensive end Ray Drew. Momentum hasn't slowed down since.
"That year propelled into last year, which propelled into this year," Farrell said. "The 2011, 2012 and now 2013 [classes] have seen such a different caliber of talent in Georgia that pushed them to my immediate answer for No. 4 now."
Consensus is growing that Georgia has risen to the No. 4 recruiting hotbed. But a bigger question is in play: Is the state ready to challenge the Big Three for football superiority?
At least one coach thinks so. Conn pointed out some recent head-to-head victories by Georgia high schools over programs in Florida and California to make his case that the Peach State deserves more attention. And he'll have additional chances this year: Grayson is scheduled to play Miami Central -- last year's Florida Class 6A runner-up -- on Aug. 31.
"You're on the right track putting us in that [No. 4] category, but I think we're as good as or better than any of the states, in my opinion," Conn said.
For now, Georgia is No. 4. Here's a rundown of all the states that received multiple votes in our survey, along with the case for and against each.