National Signing Day preview: SEC
This is part four in a series of conference profiles that looks at some of the current recruits for the respective schools. National Signing Day is Wednesday, February 3. As of now, these are verbal commitments, which are non-binding. The order of the teams reflects the strength of the class based on the points system applied by Rivals.com, which gives a certain amount of points to five-star, four-star, three-star prospects, etc.
Florida: Who’s the head coach right now? It doesn’t even matter, as talent flocks to Gainesville no matter who is calling the shots. The Gators currently have a filthy 16 of 26 commits on the ESPNU 150 list — including five five-star recruits and 13 four-star players. No quarterback should ever want to throw the ball against UF’s secondary, one getting stronger with the additions of Under Armour All-American and five-star safeties Demar Dorsey and Jonathan Dowling. You want shutdown CBs? Try four-star recruits Josh Shaw and Jaylen Watkins. Five-star ATH Ronald Powell is the Gators’ most disruptive recruit on defense — a guy that could probably play NFL-caliber TE but should settle in nicely as a DE. DTs Dominique Easley and Sharrif Floyd will join Powell on the athletic line. And we haven’t even talked about the offense yet. Mack Brown is one of the best RBs in the nation in terms of home-run speed and big-play ability. Three current pure WR recruits are four-star prospects, including 6-3 Quinton Dunbar, while Under Armour All-American OT Ian Silberman is one of the more athletic tackles in the entire 2010 class. Bottom line: even if half of this class struggles to adjust to the college level, this is still one incredible load of talent. And we haven’t even hit Wednesday yet.
Auburn: Yes, the Tigers and not the Crimson Tide of Alabama are currently ranked second in the SEC. It seems like eons ago Tigers fans were vehemently against the Gene Chizik hire, but the move is looking golden these days. Five-star recruit Michael Dyer, the country’s top RB prospect, highlights the class as a guy who can physically wear down the opposition with his running style despite being only 5-8. Dyer’s power, speed and balance make him the complete package in the backfield. The other two five-star recruits — yes, the Tigers have three, two more than the Tide as of now — are QB Cameron Newton and OL Shon Coleman. All you need to know about Newton is that he’s a 6-6, 247-pound dual-threat QB — a load to bring him off his feet and an annoyance to track down. Athletes Trovon Reed, Antonio Goodwin and Shaun Kitchens add some versatility to the mix at Auburn, while DE LaDarius Owens and OLB Jawara White are four-star recruits that will help the defense. Now, if the Tigers are able to snag RB Marcus Lattimore from the grips of South Carolina, you are talking about a dynamite class for 2010. At worst, the class right now is outstanding.
Alabama: The Tide is on pace to sign a third consecutive top-three recruiting class under Nick Saban. The guy just keeps bringing in top talent to Tuscaloosa on both sides of the ball. This class is headlined by two of the country’s top CBs in DeMarcus Milliner and John Fulton, as well as Under Armour All-American DEs Adrian Hubbard and Alfy Hill. Milliner spent most of his high school career playing free safety but has the speed and technique to be a shutdown corner. Alabama has the nation's top in QB Phillip Sims, who can throw as well as run. ATH Keenan Allen can excel both at WR or DB for the Tide, while four-star RB Jalston Fowler is a load to bring down. Fellow four-star recruit Corey Grant brings speed to the Tide backfield. ‘Bama is still in the running for mammoth OT James Stone from Nashville, and don’t be surprised if you see one or two more late recruits headed to Tuscaloosa.
LSU: The Tigers seemed to lose their edge defensively over the last year or two, so bringing in high-level help for their secondary should pay dividends. Eric Reid and Tharold Simon are physically imposing top-10 safety recruits with good range — Simon stands at 6-4. Surprisingly, the Tigers only have two natural LBs in the fold as of now, both of which are three-star recruits. They lost WR Justin Hunter recently to Tennessee, but red-zone threat James Wright should help cancel that loss out. Four-star TE Travis Dickson could be used as an H-back or FB — or even DE. Evan Washington is a tall, four-star OT who could one day be protecting four-star QB Zach Lee, a pocket-passer with a nice arm. Should still be a top-10 class when all is said and done.
Tennessee: The Vols are the wild-card of the SEC. Although Lane Kiffin’s departure to USC did create initial uncertainty in Knoxville—and did lead to four verbal commits being lost — Derek Dooley’s class should be fine. The new Vols head coach already has seven commits on campus and in class, and he received great news when huge OT Ja'Waun James switched his commitment from Alabama. The Under Armour All-American is mobile enough to be a dominant tackle. The Justin Hunter get from LSU, as mentioned above, is big, as well as four-star QB Tyler Bray. Once he puts weight on his 6-6 frame, Bray could light up SEC scoreboards. Under Armour All-American DE Corey Miller will help the line. Currently holding onto eight four-star players, the Vols could come out of the Kiffin mess feeling pretty good about themselves.
Georgia: It’s an interesting crossroads of sorts for head coach Mark Richt and the Bulldogs program. Fans became restless in Athens last season as they felt the team underachieved. Youth, however, will bring on growing pains. Looking at this solid list of recruits, fans should have plenty to cheer about in the coming years. There are currently eight ESPNU 150 prospects committed to UGA. A pair of four-star linemen in OG Kolton Houston and OT Brent Benedict should help pave future running lanes for four-star recruit Ken Malcome, who should develop into an every-down back. Da'Rick Rogers is a beastly five-star WR who will pose matchup problems for the SEC’s best corners. Speaking of DB’s, Alec Ogletree is one of the nation's top safety recruits and the best defender in the Dawgs’ class — a Thomas Davis type of player. Does Richt go after another offensive stud down the stretch?
Ole Miss: I expected Houston Nutt to make a bigger splash, but maybe he has something up his sleeve late. Nonetheless, there’s quality in this class, starting with ATH Clarence Jackson, who could play OLB or stay at RB. The versatile recruit leaves the state of Georgia as a potential every-down back or an east-to-west stud ‘backer. DE was a major position of need for the Rebels, so high-school teammates Carlton Martin and Bryon Bennett fit the bill in shoring up the line. They could even see action early in their careers for a line that will need help. In-state RB Nicholas Parker could eventually be an every-down back. Something still tells me Nutt could bring in a big late signing.
South Carolina: I still can’t get over the horrendous performance by the Gamecocks in their bowl loss to UConn. But, it’s a new season for the Old Ball Coach in Columbia. Does he finally get his QB in this class? And will he be around long enough to see him through the development process? Surprisingly, QB is not the area of emphasis this time around, as Spurrier has made it a point to improve play along the offensive line. Six of the Gamecocks' 21 recruits are linemen, with A.J. Cann leading the way. He’s not ready yet, as he’ll need to put on much weight. But he has good feet, is versatile and technically sound. Four-star DT Kelcy Quarles is disruptive and can get into the backfield in a hurry. Connor Shaw is the best of the two QBs that Spurrier did recruit, but the dual-threat may switch positions. The big question remains: can Carolina get Marcus Lattimore?
Mississippi State: The Bulldogs are onto something under Dan Mullen. Clearly, we all saw that his players are going to compete hard for him. It should be a joy to watch them play over the next few years with more of his type of guys coming in. He has a nice class this year, particularly in-state with four-star recruits Michael Carr and Robert Johnson. Carr is an ATH and great basketball player who could play a number of positions for Mississippi State — safety may be his best fit. Safety recruit Chris Hughes could join him in the defensive backfield, as he is adept at playing the run and the pass. Mullen must make sure he is able to hang onto Georgia RB prospect Rajion Neal.
Vanderbilt: The Commodores have translated a poor season on the field into a relatively good one in the recruiting game thus far — a Houdini act of sorts by head coach Bobby Johnson. As one of the toughest jobs in America because of academics, Johnson still has delivered a solid number of talented recruits in 2010. DTs Jared Morse and Vince Taylor are two of four DTs in the class of 22 prospects, as Johnson made it a point to get better and deeper on the offensive and defensive lines. Under Armour All-American James Kittredge from New Jersey could play multiple positions on the defensive line and could play early next year. I like RB Rajaan Bennett, but Vandy’s best recruit may be S Kenneth Ladler out of Georgia. He is rangy and is good enough to play at the line of scrimmage.
Arkansas: Don’t let the lack of upper-echelon talent fool you — this is a solid and deep class for head coach Bobby Petrino, highlighted by Under Armour All-American OT Cam Feldt from the state of Texas, who committed to the Hogs as a sophomore. He is big, mobile and comes from a winning program. Four-star recruit Jatashun Beachum is definitely an athlete, but he seems to be itching to play RB. If that happens, good luck taking the 260-pounder down to the ground. And with the talent they picked up last year at CB, this time around they get a solid S in Daunte Carr.
Kentucky: A reloading of the defense is in order for the Wildcats, who must adjust to life with new head coach Joker Phillips after Rich Brooks’ departure. DT Brice Laughlin will help on the inside, while OLB Malcolm McDuffen can double as a DE. CB Anterio Sloan may be small, but he plays bigger than his frame. Out of Kentucky’s current 23 commitments, 11 are true defenders. 5-8 RB Raymond Sanders is an intriguing three-star prospect, while TE Alex Smith is a four-star recruit with good size.
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