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SEC breakdown: Key 2018 targets

Zamir White

Signing Day 2017 is drawing closer every week, but that hasn't stopped many of the programs in the SEC from showing attention to the top prospects in the class of 2018. Each week schools host many underclassman players for visits and it's likely that commitments will start rolling in soon. In this week's breakdown we take a look at each school and which 2018 prospect will be a key figure in their respective recruiting efforts.

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Alabama has had a seemingly endless parade of top-tier running backs in recent years and the staff in Tuscaloosa has already identified White as a prime target in the class of 2018. White has drawn comparisons to former state of North Carolina star Todd Gurley and many believe he can be one of the best backs in recent years.


A Rivals250 prospect, Muhammad has incredible length and is adding weight by the month. He’s a dynamic tight end that functions well as a target in the passing game, as he possesses a nice burst for a player of his size. He has the frame to be an elite blocker as well, as his long arms will serve him well as he adds strength. Arkansas sees him as a nice, versatile fit for its offense.


A case could also be made for quarterback Joey Gatewood, but he’s already in the fold as a commit. With Ross, the Tigers have targeted the most complete wide receiver in their own state. His length, size and explosiveness make him a special blend of physical tools. Auburn will likely need to find a way to beat out Alabama and others for his commitment.


Quarterbacks are valued above all other positions and there’s a reason the Gators have already put the press on Sitkowski, with whom the UF staff has long been impressed. Reaching into the northeast for a quarterback isn’t the easiest move for SEC schools, but it’s not as though landing Sitkowski is some kind of long shot. The Gators are very much in the mix.


The Bulldogs have made Lawrence their No. 1 priority in the class for the better part of a year and he recently trimmed his list to two schools: Georgia and Clemson. It was expected that he would make an announcement by now, but Lawrence has elected to take a few more visits before making an announcement. Lawrence is the best quarterback prospect to come out of the state since Deshaun Watson and the new staff in Athens doesn't want to let him slip out of state.


There aren't more than a handful of SEC-caliber players in the state of Kentucky any given year so if the Wildcats are going to compete in the conference they need to get players like Dingle in the fold. A transfer from the Nashville area, Dingle is already off to a great start to his junior year and has a Kentucky offer in hand. It will be up to the 'Cats staff to reel him in and convince him of staying in his newly-adopted home state.


The Tigers already have one of the nation's top defensive backs in the class of 2018, Kelvin Joseph, on their commitment list but Marshall would be just as big of a get for the offensive side of the ball. Marshall is a tall, rangy wide receiver with great speed as well. Several programs are trying to lure him out of state, but LSU is the favorite and landing him would be a major addition to the program.


Heath is already committed to Mississippi State, so now it’s all about hanging on for the long haul until Signing Day 2018. Of course, a solid season on the field would help strengthen Heath’s commitment, as there are plenty of other schools that will attempt to change his mind the coming year.


When you’re the only power conference school in a state short on top-end talent, keeping Rivals250 players such as Trout home because paramount. Trout has shown that he already fits in with top-level prospects from across the nation on the camp circuit and has made a name for himself by standing out on Friday nights. He already has his share of scholarship offers, so Mizzou has a fight on its hands.


Ole Miss has targeted a number of highly ranked underclassmen, but have done more work with Emerson than the rest. The Rebels still have work to do, as they aren’t seen as the favorite to land his commitment, but there’s plenty of time to catch schools like Ohio State, Tennessee and Alabama.


There are plenty of people in South Carolina who are already comparing Thomas to former five-star Jadeveon Clowney and while the two have different skill sets, their importance to the Gamecocks remains the same. Clowney was a huge recruiting coup for the school and helped usher in an era of unmatched success. South Carolina fans are hoping Thomas does the same. He's been a regular on campus over the past year and right now the Gamecocks look like the team to beat.


Emerson could easily go here as he's an in-state star and the Vols already have a commitment from one the nation's top prospects in the class, offensive lineman Cade Mays. But after missing on Emory Jones and Lawrence, Fields has become the school's No. 1 target at the quarterback position. With the way the school has recruited the position in recent years, Fields would have an opportunity to compete for the job within his first few years on campus.


Preston is a tall, physical wide receiver who fits the mold of past Aggies stars at the position. He's already high on the school and the impressive start to the season can only help Texas A&M's position. Assuming things continue to go well, he could be on the Aggies' commit list sooner rather than later.


The Commodores were one of the first schools to offer King, who plays a nearby Ensworth High School. The four-star defender plays several sports and is a star in each and once his junior film starts making the rounds he will likely be sought after by schools from all over the country. It would be a major victory for Vanderbilt to keep him close to home.