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SEC Breakdown: The league's most important targets

Shaun Wade
Shaun Wade

MORE SEC: Media Days recap | Freeze defends Ole Miss | High expectations for Vols

Every college football program, from Eastern Michigan to Alabama, has one or two targets in every class that are viewed as vitally important to land. The reasons are varied - positional need, asserting or reasserting in-state dominance, establishing a pipeline - but the sense of urgency is the same across the spectrum.

Below, we break down the must-have recruiting target for each team in the SEC.



Why his commitment is crucial: Alabama coaches are smitten with Ray, who is being looked at as one of the team’s top targets in the region. Other prospects on the Tide’s board are higher ranked, but Ray’s proximity to the Alabama campus can’t be discarded. Nick Saban does a masterful job of keeping in-state talent in Alabama, so losing Ray would hurt. Ray has the build of a college-ready player and shined against top competition at The Opening earlier this month.


Why his commitment is crucial: Brown may not carry a particularly lofty ranking, but Arkansas has been in heavy pursuit of him for some time. When a school like Arkansas pours a ton of resources into landing an in-state product, it hurts moral and perception if it fails to land his commitment. Brown, who is also considering Alabama among others and could decide on a school this month, is likely looked at as a must-have by Razorbacks coaches.


Why his commitment is crucial: Bishop is listed as an athlete, but the fact that he could play quarterback makes him important. Auburn needs a quarterback in the worst way, and Bishop could do a bit to feed that need. Auburn will certainly land many higher-ranked prospects, but Bishop's versatility combined with the possible quarterback factor make the Georgia-based prospect a critical target.


Why his commitment is crucial: Wade is committed to Ohio State, but Florida remains a player in his recruitment. Wade’s commitment to the Buckeyes has never been seen as particularly solid. After losing Vernon Hargreaves III to the NFL, the Gators are set to lose Jalen Tabor and possibly Quincy Wilson at the end of the season, making restocking high-level cornerbacks imperative. The fact that Wade, a five-star prospect, is an in-state product makes his commitment even more critical.


Why his commitment is crucial: Georgia recently nabbed a commitment from a four-star running back but the plan all along was to get two highly-ranked players at the position in this class. The Georgia coaching staff has always had Swift near or at the top of their board at the position and his ties with wide receiver target Mark Webb also makes him even more of a priority.


Why his commitment is crucial: Wills is not only one of the best players in the state of Kentucky, he's one of the top offensive linemen in the country. Add in the fact that he's been a regular on Kentucky's campus and lives right down the street and it's easy to see why he's a priority for the school. Notre Dame and Alabama are pushing for his commitment but Kentucky is in good shape heading into the fall.


Why his commitment is crucial: The one-time LSU commit has been on the recruiting scene since he was in middle school and it's always been assumed he would end up staying close to home with the Tigers. But he's since gone to IMG Academy in Florida and continues to look at a number of other options, including Alabama. A player of his ability and notoriety would be a big boost to the Tigers' class.


Why his commitment is crucial: Akers is the top player in Mississippi and Ole Miss has a knack for snatching up those players. The Rebels often find themselves standing toe-to-toe with LSU for important prospects, and that could be the situation when it comes to Akers. The Mississippi-based running back is a special talent, which makes his commitment important enough. If the Rebels can land a player of his notoriety despite looming NCAA allegations, it might do wonders to ease the mind of other prospects.


Why his commitment is crucial: If ever there was a time for Mississippi State to start to shift the balance of in-state recruiting power, this is probably it. Landing Avery wouldn’t represent a wholesale change in pecking order, but it would be definitely be a nice start. With Ole Miss under NCAA investigation, the Bulldogs should have a chance to beat their chief rival in a head-to-head battle for the Grenada (Miss.) High School safety. Landing Avery won’t make national headlines, but it would be a solid win.


Why his commitment is crucial: The state of Missouri isn’t exactly a recruiting hotbed, so the Tigers need to lap up top prospects when they appear in their state. Mizzou has done a decent job of this in the past, but will be tested when in comes to the recruiting of Hayes, a Rivals250 offensive lineman. Hayes has burst onto the recruiting scene this offseason after an impressive showing on the camp circuit. Mizzou is definitely in play for Hayes, but it will be big loss should the Tigers fail to lock him up on National Signing Day.


Why his commitment is crucial: Smith is a big-bodied wide receiver and the kind of player that the state of South Carolina doesn't produce on a regular basis. He has family ties to Clemson, but South Carolina has made him a priority throughout the process. If the Gamecocks staff can beat out the Tigers to land his commitment, it would be a big message to other major targets on South Carolina's board.


Why his commitment is crucial: With Tennessee likely to lose both of its starting running backs to the NFL following this season, the Vols will have a big hole to fill at the position. That's where Chandler, an in-state prospect coveted by the school, comes into play. He fits not only a need but is also one of the state's best. Butch Jones and his staff have made it a priority in recent years to keep the best talent close to home.


Why his commitment is crucial: Jones was committed to Baylor earlier in the cycle and ever since he opened his recruitment, Texas A&M has seemed like his probable destination. But Notre Dame is also heavily in the mix and it would be quite a blow to the Aggies if he were to spurn the school twice in the same cycle.


Why his commitment is crucial: The Rivals250 offensive lineman has only been in the United States for a few years after relocating from Nigeria and he's found a home in Nashville. The question for the Commodores is, can they keep him home in the city for another four years? He's visited Vanderbilt several times but also has offers and heavy interest from Tennessee, Alabama and several other programs.