NSD 2020: Biggest question for each SEC team
The Late Signing Period is becoming less eventful every year since the advent of the Early Signing Period in December, but most programs still have a few questions to answer heading into February. We go around the Southeastern Conference identifying each program's biggest question heading into next week.
ALABAMA: Who can ‘Bama close with on the defensive line?
There is still a major need in this recruiting class for Alabama, and it is on the defensive line. The Crimson Tide signed four defensive linemen in the Early Signing Period, but there is still some work to be done. Alabama has been trending late for Rivals100 defensive tackle McKinnley Jackson, and they are right in the thick of it for strongside end Alfred Collins. LSU and Texas A&M among others are the competition for Jackson, while it is Oklahoma and Texas for Collins.
ARKANSAS: Can the Hawgs pull off a shocker with a big name?
New Hogs coach Sam Pittman has been swinging for the fences as he tries to piece together his first full class as head coach. Pittman and his staff were behind the eight-ball after getting a late start, but that hasn’t stopped him from going after some big names.
So who can they land? The biggest name on the board is probably four-star Alabama wide receiver commit Javon Baker, who recently took an official visit. But there are other names in play, including quarterback Malik Hornsby and offensive lineman Marcus Henderson. Arkansas is likely to be active late, and adding some major star power to their list will only help Pittman get off to a good start in Fayetteville.
AUBURN: Who’ll protect Bo Nix?
Auburn has filled all of its needs in the 2020 class except one. And it’s a big one. The Tigers need a left tackle and need one badly. Starter Prince Tega Wanogho is gone and there isn’t a clear-cut replacement on the roster.
That’s where Broderick Jones would come into play. He’s committed to Georgia, has been for a long, long time, but he continues to listen to Auburn. Jones, whom Gus Malzahn visited with on Monday, is scheduled to take an official visit to Auburn this weekend. It won’t be easy to change his mind, but Auburn has a chance.
FLORIDA: Which in-state stars will sign with the Gators?
Florida had a rough close to the Early Signing Period after missing on some big names, but the Gators are right back in the mix for several stars down the stretch. The question is, who stays and who goes?
Four-stars Leonard Manuel and Marc Britt are both committed to the Gators and have been for a while, but each is looking at other options. Manuel isn’t likely to sign on Signing Day. Will Florida hold him a spot? How about Britt? Will he make it official with Florida or end up flipping elsewhere. Florida also looks like the favorite to land Rivals100 defensive back Avantae Williams. The Deland, Fla., native is looking to stay close to home and right now it seems as if Florida is in a prime position to land his commitment on Signing Day.
GEORGIA: Can the Dawgs keep the committed offensive linemen?
Things look good on paper for those that don’t follow recruiting on closely as others. Those that do track it daily know the Bulldogs still have some work to do to close this class out on the offensive line. Five-star offensive tackle Broderick Jones and four-star center Sedrick Van Pran are committed, but neither signed in December and both are still exploring their options. For Kirby Smart and the Bulldogs to have a strong finish next week, they must ink both of these linemen.
KENTUCKY: Can the ‘Cats close with another Ohio star?
The lifeblood of Kentucky’s program over the past few years has been quality talent from the state of Ohio. And while Kentucky is all but done with the class of 2020, one of the big remaining targets is Rivals250 running back Michael Drennen. The four-star all-purpose back and Ohio native has been viewed as a ‘Cats lean for a while and UK appears to be in position to land his signature on Signing Day. A few Pac-12 programs are still making a run at Drennen but assuming Kentucky hangs on to land his signature, it would be a great way to close the cycle.
LSU: Can the Tigers take Burch from the Gamecocks?
Some expected five-star defensive lineman Jordan Burch to sign with LSU in December. Burch ended up not signing with anyone, but announced his commitment to South Carolina. The No. 1 player in the Palmetto State was back in Baton Rouge over the weekend, so could the Tigers land Burch when it counts? He is going to be tough to pull out of his home state, but this is one fight Ed Orgeron and his staff are not going to give up on until they have to.
MISSISSIPPI STATE: Who fills the spots up front?
The majority of the Mississippi State class is in place after over 20 players signed in December, so there will not be too many additions to this class next week. A need still there is on the offensive line. The Bulldogs signed a couple up front last month and they would like to add at least one, maybe two Feb. 5. Khalil Benson and Dylan Spencer are two to keep an eye on.
MISSOURI: Who will pressure the quarterback?
During the coaching transition from Barry Odom to Eliah Drinkwitz, Missouri lost three defensive line commitments. The Tigers' new head coach and his staff have done a solid job replenishing the defensive front: adding commitments from Montra Edwards, Benjamin Key and, most recently, Johnny Walker. Adding another edge rusher is key heading into signing day and they are set to host Eddie Watkins for his final official visit this weekend. Missouri is among the finalists for the three-star prospect, along with West Virginia and Arizona.
OLE MISS: Will Kiffin pull a shocker on Signing Day?
Lane Kiffin did not push to sign recruits in December just to sign them in December, he waited, asked some to be patient and he is now looking to close strong next Wednesday. Do not rule out a major surprise to go down in Oxford.
Could the Rebels land No. 1 running back Zachary Evans? What about taking four-star wide receiver Leonard Manuel away from Florida? There is going to be some major news coming out of Ole Miss next week. Just how big will it be and who will it involve are the questions.
SOUTH CAROLINA: What will Jordan Burch do?
South Carolina fans rejoiced when five-star defensive lineman Jordan Burch elected to commit to the Gamecocks during the Early Signing Period on national TV. But then Burch didn’t send in his National Letter of Intent, leaving another month of drama and intrigue. Burch recently visited LSU, his second trip to Baton Rouge and some are projecting he will flip to the national champs. Embattled coach Will Muschamp needs Burch, and his teammate Alex Huntley, to complete a quality class and losing Burch late would be a crushing blow.
TENNESSEE: Can the Vols land Zachary Evans?
Tennessee came out of nowhere to get into the mix for Evans and now it appears that the Vols are one of the finalists. Evans has had one of the most notable recruitments in the modern era, having already signed with Georgia only to be released from his National Letter of Intent by the Dawgs at his request. Evans was on campus for an official visit this past weekend and this is shaping up to be a Tennessee-Ole Miss battle down the stretch. Adding Evans to pair with newly-minted five-star quarterback Harrison Bailey would be huge for Jeremy Pruitt and company.
TEXAS A&M: Can Jimbo beat Nick Saban for McKinnley Jackson?
During their years going head-to-head for recruits, Nick Saban and Jimbo Fisher have each had their share of victories. And with both in the same division in the SEC, there have been quite a few battles over the past two years.
This year, it’s the Aggies and the Tide going head-to-head for McKinnley Jackson. The big-time defensive lineman is giving both schools, along with LSU, a long look and with both coaches pulling out all the stops down the stretch, it will be fun to watch how it plays out. Obviously both schools could use a player of his talent, but he would fit very nicely into the middle of the Aggies defense.
VANDERBILT: Can the Commodores keep Kaufman?
Vanderbilt did an excellent job evaluating and recruiting Rivals250 defensive back Donovan Kaufman early in the process. But his strong senior season opened the door to plenty of new suitors, including Florida State. Now the Commodores are fighting to keep him in the class after the Seminoles have made a strong pitch.
Vanderbilt is pitching the loyalty card and that makes sense, but Seminoles head coach Mike Norvell also recruited Kaufman hard while at Memphis. Will he stick with the Commodores or bolt for the Seminoles? Losing Kaufman would be a tough blow to Vanderbilt’s 2020 class.