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Early Signing Period: SEC Report Card

Denver Harris
Denver Harris (Rivals.com)

Elite high school prospects want to play against the best of the best at the collegiate level to showcase their skills for NFL scouts. As shown over the last 15 years with 11 national championships, the SEC is where the best action is.

Once again, all the top recruits are heading into the SEC as shown in the Rivals’ team recruiting rankings. Here's a breakdown of the league.

SEC TEAM RANKINGS

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Texas A&M (first overall)

Walter Nolen
Walter Nolen (Nick Lucero/Rivals.com)

Jimbo Fisher may be a polarizing figure among college football fans, but high school kids are responding to his ways. Regardless of the opinion, one cannot deny he is stocking the talent shelves. Fisher’s 2020 and 2021 classes ended sixth overall. After the Early Signing Period, the Aggies are the temporary kings of recruiting.

The staff signed 27 players comprised of 20 four-star talents. The class was topped off by three five-stars, defensive tackle Walter Nolen, receiver Evan Stewart, and defensive back Denver Harris.

Grade: A+

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Alabama (second SEC, second nationally)

The Crimson Tide are always in the discussion of signing a top class and are in the mix again resting at No. 2 nationally. Tying A&M with a national best 20 four-stars, Alabama signed one five-star, in-state defensive end Jeremiah Alexander. Because Alabama recruits so well, just one five-star may seem like a letdown after inking five a year ago on the way to the top-rated class.

Of the 24 players tied to Alabama’s class, one three-star, end Walter Bob, has not signed. There might be room for Bama to add more talent come National Signing Day.

Grade: A

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Georgia (third SEC, third nationally)

Keithian Alexander
Keithian Alexander (SoonerScoop.com/Josh McCuistion)

Since the 2021 class wrapped up back in February, it seems that Georgia had control of the recruiting race. But as the Early Signing Period neared, the Bulldogs recruiting haul reshuffled losing some four-star talent in the process. Once the dust settled on a wild Early Signing Period, UGA had amassed a best with five five-star players and 14 four-star prospects.

After the display of force throughout the 2021 season on defense, four of the five-star signed are headed to that side of the ball once on campus, end Mykel Williams, tackle Keithian Alexander, Jaheim Singletary and end Marvin Jones Jr.

Grade: A

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Kentucky (fourth SEC, 10th nationally)

Barion Brown
Barion Brown (Chad Simmons / Rivals.com)

Rounding out the top 10 were the Wildcats. Head coach Mark Stoops and staff turned in one of the best recruiting classes in school history signing 20 players, including 11 four-star players. The bulk of the four-star talent headed to Lexington are at receiver and on the defensive side of the ball. The turnaround from a year ago was dramatic after signing 18 that included three four-star talents.

Grade: A-

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Tennessee (fifth SEC, 11th nationally)

Justin Williams
Justin Williams (Nick Lucero/Rivals.com)

If there was a ranking for how strongly a team closed for the Early Signing Period, the Volunteers would be in the top five. Burning the midnight oil, Tennessee’s staff spent November and part of December bringing top targets on campus for official visits and hit the streets stopping at schools while making in-home visits.

The max effort paid off signing 20 including seven four-stars and 13 three-star players. Like Kentucky, Tennessee may have room to add more players on the first Wednesday of February.

Grade: B+

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Auburn (sixth SEC, 13th nationally)

The Tigers were another team playing the waiting game along the recruiting trail that closed hard on NSD. As various four-star talents were weighing options and taking visits, much of Auburn’s class was put together in the closing days of the open period. In the end, Auburn signed 12 four-stars, fourth-best in the conference, with seven three-stars. Going along Rivals’ star ranking, the Tigers had a top-10 class averaging 3.63 stars.

Grade: B+

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Arkansas (seventh SEC, 15th nationally)

E'Marion Harris (middle)
E'Marion Harris (middle) (5H Photography)

The Razorbacks were another team that made a big push along the recruiting trail from the 2021 to the ’22 haul. A year ago, Arkansas signed 22 with only two four-star players. This class holds six four-stars with seven three-stars (5.7s) just missing the ranking bump. A tip of the hat to offensive coordinator Kendal Briles; he is responsible for four of the four-stars that signed.

Grade: A

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Mississippi State (eighth SEC, 16th nationally)

Trevion Williams
Trevion Williams

The Bulldogs were another SEC team that saw a spike in recruiting talent from one cycle to the next. The 2021 grouping ranked 23rd overall with five four-stars and 17 three-stars. Seven four-stars were signed this time around.

Mississippi State has 14 three-star players although three have yet to sign their National Letter of Intent. The additions of talent to this class may continue. With the way head coach Mike Leach goes about things, recruiting rankings may not define this effort.

Grade: B

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Missouri (ninth SEC, 19th nationally)

Once National Signing Day ends, this Missouri class could jump further up the board. The Tigers are holding at No. 18 thanks largely to the signing of five-star receiver Luther Burden. Five four-stars have signed, with Nebraska offensive lineman Deshawn Woods committed. Should Missouri decide to sign a full class of 25 players, nine more prospects could be headed to Columbia in 2022.

Grade: B-

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South Carolina (10th SEC, 21st nationally)

There are different ways to look at a recruiting class, and the correct way to view it does not happen until three of four years after all have signed. South Carolina fans may not like having the 10th-rated 2022 class in the SEC, but if the 21 signed recruits have been scouted properly, this haul could be a great foundation for head coach Shane Beamer going forward. A big emphasis was put on the defensive side of the ball with 13 signed. If all the guys fit the scheme, this class may be better than advertised.

Grade: C+

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LSU (11th SEC, 27th nationally)

Walker Howard
Walker Howard (Sam Spiegelman)

Not since 2018 have LSU fans seen their beloved Tigers ranked outside the top 10 in recruiting. In 2018, then head coach Ed Orgeron was still making the transition to head Tiger just one year away from a 15-0 season capped with a national championship.

LSU is in transition again now being guided by former Notre Dame head coach Brian Kelly. Holding at No. 27 overall with 13 signees, Kelly and Co. have a lot of ground to make up before February to keep pace in the SEC.

On the positive, there is a great foundation here with six four-stars and five-star quarterback Walker Howard.

Grade: C-

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Ole Miss (12th SEC, 32nd nationally)

Taylor Groves
Taylor Groves (Nick Lucero/Rivals.com)

Seeing the Rebels with the 33rd class is a head scratcher. Mississippi closed the 2021 regular season ranked No. 8 in the country with a 10-2 record behind a prolific offense that can light up any team in the country.

The 2021 recruiting class was solid slotted at No. 17 after signing 25 four-stars. The dropoff is large currently with four four-stars and 13 three-star recruits. The great oddity, three of the four-stars are defensive players.

Grade: D

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Vanderbilt (13th SEC, 34th nationally)

AJ Swann
AJ Swann (Nick Lucero/Rivals.com)

From one recruiting class to the next, Commodore fans are unsure what to expect. Solid classes can be signed, as seen a year ago in Clark Lea’s first attempt in Nashville, sliding in at No. 38. At the conclusion of the Early Signing Period, Vanderbilt is ranked 35th with 24 players (two three-stars unsigned). Expect this ranking to drop with high-profile teams behind Vandy ready to load up in the late period.

Grade: C-

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Florida (14th SEC, 46th nationally)

Shemar James
Shemar James (Chad Simmons / Rivals.com)

Gator fans are in an unfamiliar spot with the No. 46 recruiting class in the nation. The upheaval on the sidelines in Gainesville first parting ways with defensive coordinator Todd Grantham and later head coach Dan Mullen left this class in shambles when Billy Napier took over.

On the bright side for Florida, with just 10 players in this haul, there is room to add more. The current group includes five-star linebacker Shemar James along with four-star defensive backs Kamari Wilson and Devin Moore, defensive tackle Chris McClellan and offensive lineman Tony Livingston.

Grade: D

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MORE ON EARLY SIGNING PERIOD: Focus shifts to February | Notable prospects signing late | Five surprises | Five disappointments | Winners and losers | The Gorney awards | Travis Hunter spurns Florida State, signs with Jackson State | Breaking down team rankings | Where will Deion's next job be? | How teams announced their signees | Top 10 storylines of Late Signing Period | Ten best still available | NSD Blog | Ten biggest flips of NSD | Top Group of Five signees | Decompressing after a hectic Early Signing Period