SEC Spotlight: Grading the Early Signing Period
Southeast Analyst Chad Simmons is handing out grades to SEC recruiting classes following the Early Signing Period for the class of 2021. Considering the challenges all coaches had to deal with while recruiting during a pandemic, there is plenty of praise to go around for teams throughout the conference as five teams landed in the top 10 nationally and nine in the top 25.
ALABAMA (No. 1 SEC, No. 1 nationally)
Analysis: Alabama knows how to recruit, and it knows how to close. When Nick Saban comes calling, prospects listen, and the Crimson Tide closed with a bang flipping JoJo Earle and Keunu Koht from LSU. Their class is stacked again with three five-stars, 16 four-stars and 13 of the top 75 players in the country. Headlining this class are two elite offensive tackles, JC Latham and Tommy Brockermeyer. This could go down as one of Alabama's best classes ever.
ARKANSAS (No. 9 SEC, No. 22 nationally)
Analysis: The first full class for Sam Pittman is a real success. He and his staff signed 22 prospects last week from eight different states. They kept offensive tackle Terry Wells, the No. 1 player in Arkansas home, and finished with four of the state's top eight prospects. Two of the 22 signees are four-stars, and those are Florida athlete Raheim Sanders and Texas wide receiver Ketron Jackson. With this class combined with the play this season gives Arkansas some real momentum this off-season.
AUBURN (No. 13 SEC, No. 52 nationally)
Analysis: With no head coach in place, it is hard for Auburn to have a successful Early Signing Period. The Tigers' 2021 class is ranked No. 13 in the SEC, and that doesn’t happen on the Plains. Some prospects held off on signing early, and Auburn did lose former commit Armoni Goodwin to LSU, but with all that said, they kept four-star defensive tackle Lee Hunter and four-star safety Ahmari Harvey in this class. There was chatter that both could end up at other schools late.
A new head coach will be in place in the near future, and he will hope to close strong in February, but either way, this class will not resemble what Auburn fans are used to seeing.
FLORIDA (No. 5 SEC, No. 8 nationally)
Analysis: Florida signed a full class of 25, and the Gators are still fighting to get Terrion Arnold, an elite defensive back that will sign in February. Dan Mullen and his program went back and forth with Alabama in the SEC Championship game, and this may be his best class from top to bottom.
The success starts in state with five-star Corey Collier and four-star Jason Marshall, two elite defensive backs. Then you add top 100 defensive lineman Tyreak Sapp. The biggest win outside Florida could be four-star rush end Jeremiah Williams. He went back and forth between Auburn and Florida, but the Gators locked him in.
GEORGIA (No. 3 SEC, No. 4 nationally)
Analysis: Landing top linebacker Xavian Sorey was the big news on Signing Day this year for Georgia. The Bulldogs did miss on a couple top targets that made late decisions, but Kirby Smart's program again signed a top-five class. In-state five-stars Amarius Mims and Brock Vandagriff headline this class, but the success continued in its home state with Micah Morris, Smael Mondon, Nyland Green and others.
KENTUCKY (No. 12 SEC, No. 45 nationally)
Analysis: Mark Stoops and the Wildcats signed 17, and it looks to be specifically strong on the offensive side of the ball. Many of the top signees play on that side of the ball with No. 1 prospect in Kentucky Jager Burton (offensive guard) leading the way. Then you look to Alabama, where the Wildcats held off numerous other programs to land four-star wide receiver Christian Lewis. Kentucky recruits Georgia hard each cycle, and they landed three good ones this time -- linebacker Martez Thrower, defensive back Devonte Ross and wide receiver Chauncey Magwood.
LSU (No. 2 SEC, No. 3 nationally)
What a three-day span it was for Ed Orgeron and the Tigers. They lost Keanu Koht and JoJo Earle to Alabama, but flipped Malik Nabers from Mississippi State, beat Florida for four-star defensive lineman Bryce Langston and kept Maason Smith, the No. 1 prospect in the country, at home. That put LSU at No. 3 in the Rivals.com Team Recruiting Rankings.
MISSISSIPPI STATE (No. 10 SEC, No. 31 nationally)
Mike Leach and the Bulldogs received bad news Dec. 16 when they lost Nabers to LSU and MJ Daniels to Ole Miss, but coaches in Starkville had a lot to smile about last week too. They kept four-star wide receiver Antonio Harmon home, they landed former South Carolina commit Simeon Price, and they picked up a total of six new commitments between Dec. 16-17. The average rivals ratings is 3.16, and the Bulldogs rank No. 10 in the conference, but the numbers are tight from 7-11, so the class is solid.
MISSOURI (No. 8 SEC, No. 20 nationally)
Analysis: Missouri signed 20 last week and its class ranks No. 20 in the country. Defensive line was clearly a focus of this class and Eli Drinkwitz and the Tigers succeeded in addressing that need. Out of the 20 signees, seven are listed as defensive ends or defensive tackles. The highest-ranked signees on the defensive line are Kyran Montgomery of Indiana and Travion Ford of Missouri.
OLE MISS (No. 7 SEC, No. 17 nationally)
Analysis: There is some excitement in Oxford. Lane Kiffin made the ‘Flipmas Season’ phrase popular, and he flipped Daniels from Mississippi State, Hudson Wolfe from Tennessee and Luke Altmyer from Florida State late in the process. He and his staff signed a top-20 class and there is a lot of buzz about the Rebels and prospects talking about playing for Kiffin. This class included prospects from 11 different states, and hit on numerous top needs.
SOUTH CAROLINA (No. 14 SEC, outside top 100 nationally)
Analysis: There was some turnover from the time Will Muschamp was fired to when Shane Beamer was hired, and this is a very small group, so the 2021 class is not going to be a strong one for the Gamecocks. They signed eight this cycle, and their only four-star is quarterback Colten Gauthier. Beamer is in a tough spot, and he will likely sign a low number hoping to lure some transfers in, but after the Early Signing Period, South Carolina does not rank in the top 100 of the Rivals Team Recruiting Rankings.
TENNESSEE (No. 6 SEC, No. 14 nationally)
Analysis: There were a lot of changes in Tennessee’s class late. The Vols had a huge run in the spring with a list of top commitments, but the biggest news late was Terrence Lewis decommitting and Dylon Brooks deciding not to sign early. Jeremy Pruitt did ink dual-threat quarterback Kaidon Salter, which was a big signee this cycle. The other four-stars in this class are defensive tackle KaTron Evans, athlete Kaemon Marley and linebacker Aaron Willis. It could be an active Feb. 3 for the Vol fans.
TEXAS A&M (No. 4 SEC, No. 6 nationally)
Analysis: The SEC's status as the best recruiting conference can best be explained by Texas A&M, which signed a 2021 class that ranks No. 4 in its league and No. 6 in the country. Of their 19 signees, two are five-stars and 11 are four-stars.
VANDERBILT (No. 11 SEC, No. 32 nationally)
Analysis: Derek Mason was fired by Vanderbilt on Nov. 30 and Clark Lea was hired to take over in Nashville last week. The class stayed together for the most part, and the Commodores ended up signing 19 prospects in the early period. If they can hold on to their No. 31 ranking, it will be their best recruiting class since 2013.