SEC Spotlight: Top targets as Late Signing Period approaches
Last week, we featured the biggest questions still to be answered in the late signing period for the SEC. This week we take a look at the top remaining targets for each conference program that could lead to those answers.
This is a battle between two SEC foes — Alabama and LSU. Sopsher plays defensive tackle, a premium position, and he is a priority for the staff in Tuscaloosa. The Crimson Tide, and Nick Saban personally, have made Sopsher a top target for well over a year. He spent the weekend at Alabama, he had an in-home visit with Saban and some Crimson Tide staff members last week and this will be a fight to the end.
The four-star junior college linebacker had been committed to Tennessee for months, but officially re-opened his recruitment after extended flirtations with other programs, including the Razorbacks. Now Henry’s recruitment appears to be down to the Hawgs, Ole Miss and late-comer Texas, with just a visit to Austin left on his schedule. Arkansas was the main reason he decommitted, so landing him would be major win, both on the field and in national perception.
Offensive tackle is a big need for Auburn this cycle and Ira Henry has emerged as a top target for the Tigers. He was at Auburn a week ago, then spent this past weekend at Florida State. Florida is another program hanging around. Henry knows Auburn’s need at his position and he likes the fact that playing time is a real option for him early on the Plains. He does not plan to announce his decision until Signing Day, so Auburn fans will have to wait just over a week to see if they land the lineman out of St. Louis.
The Gators still have several big names on their board, including Kaiir Elam and Mark-Antony Richards, but Moore has become more of a priority over the past few months, with his impressive showing at the Under Armour Game only helping his stock. Moore committed to Dan Mullen at Mississippi State and now that he’s back on the open market. Plenty of other programs are in the mix, including rival Florida State. But the Gators' long-standing relationship with Moore might win out in the end.
This could be a couple of different prospects, but Elam is the top target in Athens because of the need for players like him in the Georgia secondary. Elam is a big cornerback with the size that Kirby Smart and his staff covet. Since Smart took over at Georgia, he has been trying to re-vamp the defensive backs room and Elam could be a key piece to the puzzle. It is a Florida—Georgia battle for this South Florida athlete that seems to be pretty tight right now. Georgia hiring Charlton Warren from Florida to coach their secondary can only help their chances.
The fact that the Wildcats are going toe-to-toe with LSU for a top player in the state of Louisiana shows just how far the program has come under head coach Mark Stoops. Lee has been on campus in Lexington several times and with his teammate and close friend Amani Gilmore already signed with Kentucky, many believe that he will make the Bluegrass State his permanent home. Lee is unpredictable though, and his recruitment could go either way over the next week. Should Kentucky reel him in, it would be one of the biggest recruiting victories in recent years.
Not only is defensive line still a need this cycle for LSU, but Sopsher is an elite talent in their home state, so that makes him that much more important to Ed Orgeron and the LSU staff. Alabama had Sopsher on campus this past weekend and LSU gets the last visit just days before Signing Day. LSU is known for defensive and Sopsher is a defensive priority personally for Coach O.
Young has been committed to Alabama since July 4, but the four-star defensive tackle out of Mississippi did not sign in December. He has been on the road each weekend this month taking visits and Mississippi State had him on campus over the weekend. The Bulldogs are viewed as a threat to the Crimson Tide, but can Joe Moorhead really take him away from Saban? We know Young is close to Mississippi State defensive line coach Brian Baker, so with Baker heading to Tuscaloosa, does this make it impossible for the Bulldogs to flip Young?
There are not many spots open at Missouri, but there is one reserved for Dublin (Ga.) defensive end Steven Linton. He took his official visit to Columbia over the weekend and he has had consistent conversation with the Tiger staff over the past month. Arizona State and Baylor are two other programs that are high on Linton’s list, but Missouri seems to have a real shot at this Peach State prospect.
Yes, there is a risk with Ealy — Major League Baseball — but he is worth the risk. Ealy is viewed as a top pick in the MLB Draft in June, so whoever signs the Rivals100 star running back will have to wait and see if they actually get him on campus this summer. He was at one-time committed to Ole Miss, and although he re-opened his recruitment earlier this month, he is still a top target for the Rebels. Ealy is a playmaker they need in their system under new offensive coordinator Rich Rodriguez. Clemson has had some momentum in this race, but Alabama, Mississippi State and Ole Miss are still very much involved.
The Gamecocks have been in a heated battle for Robinson over the past few months, with programs like Kentucky, Tennessee and Auburn all coming in and out of the picture. With each program feeling confident at different times during his recruitment, the Gamecocks appear to be the team to beat heading into Signing Day. The talented defensive back is an ideal fit for defensive coordinator Travaris Robinson’s scheme, and landing him would be a nice final piece to the puzzle for the Gamecocks.
The Vols still have a few big-name targets on the board, including Rivals100 linebacker Henry To'oto'o, but there is no bigger target, physically or metaphorically, than five-star offensive tackle Darnell Wright. The Vols have been in the driver’s seat for Wright for the better part of a year, but are still waiting for things to become official when he announces his commitment on Signing Day. West Virginia and North Carolina have both made late runs at Wright with their new coaches, but it would be a shock to see him end up anywhere but Knoxville.
The Aggies have a few higher ranked targets than Russell still on the board, but Russell is at a position of need, hence the Aggies big push over the past month. Texas A&M coaches have been regulars in the Volunteer State since the dead period ended and Russell also took a visit to College Station at the beginning of the month. Auburn, Arkansas and Tennessee are also heavily in the mix and Russell will wait until Signing Day to announce a decision.
Blake has been committed to the Commodores for a while, but he didn’t sign early and has since been looking around, taking trips to Pittsburgh and Minnesota. Blake wants to play offense at the next level but the Commodores could envision him playing on defense, which is one of the reasons he declined to sign early. Will the two sides work things out and make things official next week? Time will tell, but if not, look for Blake to be replaced by a graduate transfer as the program has been very active on the transfer market this month.