football Edit

SEC Championship Game: Where the stars came from

Mark Pszonak contributed to this report.

The SEC Championship Game is a battle between two recruiting juggernauts. Here are key players on each side and how we liked them out of high school.

ASK FARRELL: Will keeping Clay Helton help or hurt USC recruiting?

CLASS OF 2020 RANKINGS: Rivals250 | Position | Team | State

CLASS OF 2021 RANKINGS: Rivals100 | Position | Team | State



Joe Burrow
Joe Burrow (AP Images)

The skinny: Burrow committed to Ohio State during the spring of his junior year over Maryland and Iowa State. He served as a back-up to J.T. Barrett and then lost the starting job to Dwayne Haskins before deciding to transfer to LSU.

After an average first season in Baton Rouge, Burrow has surprised everyone this fall by become the front-runner for the Heisman Trophy. Passing for 4,366 yards and 44 touchdown passes, while completing passes at a 78.3 percent clip, Burrow has the Tigers’ offense producing at an extremely high level.

Farrell’s take: Burrow was a mid-range three-star out of Ohio who had good size but was erratic with his accuracy and mechanics. He did everything well but nothing great, so to see him emerge as such a dominant passer all these years later is fun.

The skinny: Due to academic issues, Jefferson’s recruitment never fully took off. But with two older brothers having played at LSU, the Tigers were always the firm leader. So when he was finally able to get his academics in order, a commitment happened in late June, several months after his Signing Day. With Burrow having a Heisman-level season, Jefferson, with 81 receptions for 1,092 yards and 13 touchdowns, and Ja’Marr Chase (see below) are both taking advantage.

Farrell’s take: Jefferson was a late throw-in for the LSU class because of academic issues and many schools backed off. The Tigers were very smart in believing in him and he’s shown that he was very underrated coming out of high school. A two-star who is playing like a four-star at least and a huge key to the LSU offense.

The skinny: There was plenty of drama during Chase’s recruiting process, which included commitments to Kansas and Florida, and near commitments to TCU and Auburn, before he finally committed and signed with the in-state Tigers on National Signing Day.

After a promising, yet somewhat uneventful, true freshman season in Baton Rouge, Chase has become the big play receiver many expected this fall. Having totaled 1,457 yards and 17 touchdowns on 70 receptions, he is poised to be one of the top players in the country in 2020.

Farrell’s take: A tall, rangy and skinny wide receiver with great ball skills and speed, Chase was ranked in the national top 75 for a reason and we are seeing why. He’s a home run hitter and he and Jefferson are a tough duo to check.

The skinny: With offers from Vanderbilt, Tulane, Ball State and Cincinnati, Edwards-Hilaire committed to LSU after taking a visit to Baton Rouge with his family in February of his junior year. He was later offered by Oklahoma and Iowa State, but stuck with the Tigers despite a change at offensive coordinator.

As with Burrow, Edwards-Helaire’s improvement this season came as a bit of a surprise by many. But he has complemented the Tigers’ explosive passing attack nicely by adding 1,233 yards and 16 touchdowns on the ground.

Farrell’s take: Edwards-Helaire was a short, stocky running back out of high school who had solid speed and bounced off tackles. He’s taken that to the next level at LSU and uses his natural leverage to his advantage very well. He’s hard to get a hit on, always has been.

The skinny: Delpit committed to LSU over Alabama, Clemson and Florida in August while at The Opening.

He enjoyed an All-American caliber season in 2018 and while his production has not met the same levels this fall, he is still considered one of the top defensive backs in the country and a first-round draft pick in 2020.

Farrell’s take: Delpit was highly ranked as the No. 70 player in the country, but he was also someone I thought we might have undervalued and it’s showing that we did. He has length, good size and great instincts overall. Now he’s become one of the best all-around defenders in the country. Delpit is a star already and will be a legend by the time he leaves Baton Rouge despite a slow start to this season.



Jake Fromm
Jake Fromm (AP Images)

The skinny: Fromm initially committed to Alabama, but then flipped to Georgia during the spring after his junior season.

After their surprising loss to South Carolina earlier this season, the Bulldogs have churned out win after win. And while Fromm’s production has not met most expectations, his unquestioned leadership continues to produce big plays when needed.

Farrell’s take: Fromm became a five-star late in the process, earning that fifth star after a great week at the U.S. Army All-American Bowl, and was a huge flip for Kirby Smart from Alabama. He was a kid we felt was a “gamer” who might not have as many natural skills as some other five-star quarterbacks but had more of the intangibles. His efficiency and maturity were off the charts as a freshman and he led his team to the title game, so bigger things were expected last year and he delivered.

The skinny: Thomas trimmed his list to Georgia, Clemson and Notre Dame prior to committing to the Bulldogs at The Opening.

In Athens, Thomas made an immediate impact by starting 13 games as a true freshman. Since then he continued to impress in 2018 and in 2019 has fully positioned himself as one of the top offensive linemen in the 2020 NFL Draft while helping the anchor the powerful Bulldogs’ offensive line.

Farrell’s take: As a Rivals100 prospect and top-10 offensive tackle nationally, we liked Thomas quite a bit and he got stronger as the rankings cycle progressed. He became more physical with each evaluation and was especially impressive at the U.S. Army All-American Bowl week where he shot up into our final Rivals100.

He had a good frame, excellent reach and good feet, but what he’s done as a starter since day one at Georgia is still way ahead of schedule. He’s been a big part of the Dawgs' recent success.

The skinny: While he already held a pile of offers, Georgia became the immediate favorite when the Bulldogs threw their hat into the ring. He trimmed his list down to Georgia, Penn State, Clemson, Florida State and Alabama, but then did the expected and committed to the Bulldogs in January.

Swift, who began to reach his potential last season with 1,049 yards and 10 touchdowns on the ground, has improved his game this fall with 1,203 yards and seven touchdowns while adding an eighth touchdown through the air.

Farrell’s take: Swift was just shy of a fifth star in 2017 ranked as the No. 3 running back and No. 35 player in the country. He reminded me a bit of Nick Chubb coming out of high school although he caught the ball a bit better. He’s the key to the offense.

The skinny: LeCounte committed to the Bulldogs over Ohio State, Alabama, Auburn, Florida a week after Kirby Smart was named the head coach. He did end up taking a late official visit to check out the Buckeyes but never truly wavered on his commitment.

LeCounte has become the defensive playmaker for the Bulldogs this season with 53 tackles, 4.5 tackles for a loss, two interceptions, three fumble recoveries and two forced fumbles.

Farrell’s take: LeCounte was a highly-rated safety who lacked great size but was a fearless tackle who loved to hit. He was excellent in coverage and had good ball skills and he’s panned out to be a star on defense for the Dawgs.

The skinny: Reed initially signed with Tulsa but then transferred to Georgia after Kirby Smart took over the program.

Currently in his third and final season in Athens, Reed has established himself as one of the elite defensive backs in the country while totaling 48 tackles, two tackles for a loss, one interception, seven pass break-ups, one forced fumble and a fumble recovery, which was returned for a touchdown.

Farrell’s take: Reed is a ball hawk and has a knack for being in the right place at the right time. Out of high school, he was just a raw athlete with some upside and good genes (his father is Jake Reed, formerly of the Vikings) but he’s become his own man and the leader of the defense.