Signing Day Blitz: Ranking the SEC
The SEC has 10 of its 12 teams ranked in the Rivals.com top 25 after National Signing Day. Check out the breakdown of the conference in a special edition of the SEC Blitz.
Headliner: Rueben Randle could have the same impact in Baton Rouge that Julio Jones had in Tuscaloosa and A.J. Green had in Athens.
Sleeper: Defensive end Bennie Logan is an absolute beast on the defensive line.
Overview: This is an unbelievable class with in-state stars like Randle, defensive tackles Chris Davenport and Josh Downs, running back Michael Ford, linebacker Barkevious Mingo, offensive linemen Carneal Ainsworth and Chris Faulk and out-of-staters like quarterback Russell Shepard, linebacker Kevin Minter, athlete Drayton Calhoun, safety Craig Loston, defensive lineman Michael Brockers and offensive lineman Stavion Lowe. It's an outstanding class, balanced with speed and athleticism across the board.
Headliner: Quarterback Aaron Murray is a great passer and has terrific leadership skills.
Sleeper: Shawn Williams is one of the more underrated safeties in the nation.
Overview: Once again, coach Mark Richt and his staff recruited one of the nation's very best classes. Not only did they land Murray, but the Bulldogs also inked another big-time quarterback with a big-time arm in Zach Mettenberger. Also coming to Athens is the Georgia touchdown king in running back Washaun Ealey. Wide receiver Rantavious Wooten is a playmaker from south Florida who should make a splash. Georgia is once again solid in the trenches with players like Chris Burnette, Abry Jones, Dallas Lee, Austin Long and Montez Robinson. The back seven is solid with the headliner being speedy cornerback Branden Smith. The Bulldogs landed wide receiver Marlon Brown on Signing Day to top off another very good class.
Headliner: Linebacker Jelani Jenkins is only 16 years old and hasn't scratched the surface of how good he can become.
Sleeper: You normally don't say four-star prospects are sleepers, but because of all the great running backs in Florida, Mike Gillislee is a sleeper.
Overview: It has been an interesting year in recruiting for the national champions. The Gators have done well at their need positions, especially offensive line where they landed five - including big-time tackle prospect Xavier Nixon. Florida needed linebackers and pulled in Jon Bostic and Jenkins. Wide receiver Andre Debose is one of the most electrifying players in the nation. Gary Brown is a five-star gem at defensive tackle and is quick for a big man. Florida's young depth at corner hurt in recruiting with some great prospects like Greg Reid. The national champs were also hurt on Signing Day with the defections of wide receiver Nu'Keese Richardson and athlete Marsalis Teague. Both signed with rival Tennessee.
Headliner: Stephon Gilmore is a player who could be a star on either side of the ball.
Sleeper: There are several here, but keep an eye on hard-hitting D.J. Swearinger.
Overview: South Carolina may have the fifth-rated class in the SEC, but the Gamecocks find themselves in the top 15 overall with another good group from top to bottom. They landed two potential standout running backs from Florida in Ben Axon and Jarvis Giles. There is a nice group of receivers headed to Columbia, led by Alshon Jeffery, Lamar Scruggs and DeAngelo Smith. They beat USC and Tennessee for Jeffery on Signing Day. Defensively, this group is led by some outstanding athletes everywhere like defensive linemen Ronald Byrd, Leon Mackey, Duane Chisolm and Chaz Sutton, potential linebacker prospects like Matt Coffee, Damario Jeffery and Devonte Holloman and secondary guys like Gilmore and Corey Addison.
Headliner: Darius Winston was the most coveted in-state prospect since Darren McFadden, and he will be a lock-down cornerback for coach Bobby Petrino.
Sleeper: Brandon Mitchell is a big, athletic quarterback who was an LSU basketball commitment as a sophomore, so he stayed under the football radar. He could end up at other positions, but his upside is extremely high.
Overview: With limited talent in the state of Arkansas this year, the Arkansas staff scoured the heartland and the southeast for top prospects and brought in a nationally ranked class. Winston and offensive lineman Colby Berna were big pickups to ensure that the top in-state players stayed home. The Razorbacks managed to beat out Texas for one of its own in Texarkana (Texas) Texas High wide receiver Cobi Hamilton, a big, athletic wide receiver. The Razorbacks also dipped into Louisiana to steal former Michigan commit DeQuinta Jones out of Bastrop, La.
Headliner: Five-star defensive back Janzen Jackson was a huge late additions to the class.
Overview: Jackson delayed his decision a day, but he is clearly worth the wait for the Volunteers. He picked Tennessee over LSU. Jerod Askew is an aggressive and physical linebacker who will have a chance to shine under Monte Kiffin. Other talented defenders headed to Knoxville are linebackers Marlon Walls and Nigel Mitchell-Thornton and corners Mike Edwards and Eric Gordon. Offensively, the Vols are getting help at receiver with James Green and across the offensive front with Kevin Revis and JerQuari Schofield. Although Tennessee lost some prospects on Signing Day, they lured wide receiver Nu'Keese Richardson and athlete Marsalis Teague away from the Florida Gators. They also landed two defensive standouts in linebacker Greg King and safety Darren Myles. Long-term recruiting success should be in their future with Ed Orgeron, Eddie Gran, Lance Thompson and Frank Wilson having a full year to build future classes.
Headliner: Leading up to Signing Day, coach Houston Nutt faced some criticism for his lack of an impact within the state of Mississippi, but landing Patrick Patterson – the top player in the state – provided a resounding response.
Sleeper: Diminutive to say the least, Korvic Neat is an absolute rocket with the ball in his hands and may be one of the most exciting players in the SEC from the day he sets foot on campus.
Overview: No team had a more impressive close than Ole Miss. Signing Day saw the Rebels welcome in Florida linebacker Mike Marry, four-star quarterback Raymond Cotton, Mississippi's top prospect in Patterson and Michael Oher's heir apparent, Bobby Massie. The exciting day only added to a group that already included some very highly touted prospects like defensive tackle Corey Gaines and outside linebacker D.T. Shackelford.
Headliner: Quarterback Tyrik Rollison could be the steal of this class. He has a terrific arm and he can run.
Sleeper: Safety Daren Bates has good range and plays well in run support.
Overview: This class starts with the signal-caller, as Rollison is one of the most gifted dual-threat quarterbacks in the nation. The running game should get a big boost from Onterio McCalebb and a late find in Dontae Aycock. Signing Day brought the Tigers two gifted receivers in DeAngelo Benton and Emory Blake. Brandon Jacobs is a big back who could also play linebacker. Tight end Philip Lutzenkirchen has great hands and should be a great piece in the Gus Malzahn offense. Up front, Auburn landed a couple of massive offensive linemen in John Sullen and Andre Harris. Jamar Travis, Reggie Taylor and Eltoro Freeman lead the way defensively.
Headliner: Mississippi State has been in need of a quality starting quarterback for a long time, and Tyler Russell could be it after he led his Meridian (Miss.) High team to the 5A state championship as a senior.
Sleeper: William Shumpert could be a fullback or an undersized defensive lineman on the next level. But regardless of where he plays, Shumpert is just a football player and the type of guy you want by your side in the trenches.
Overview: Despite being faced with the obstacles of a 4-8 season and a postseason coaching change, Mississippi State has put together a terrific class that has its strength from within the state borders. The top players of the class – Russell, wide receivers Chad Bumphis and Chris Smith, defensive linemen Fletcher Cox and Josh Boyd and versatile athlete Dennis Thames – are all Mississippi natives and are all extremely athletic additions to the Bulldogs' roster. The Bulldogs also picked up one of the top junior college prospects in the country in Pernell McPhee and got some versatility in athletes like Cameron Lawrence and Nickoe Whitley.
Headliner: Junior college standout Chris Matthews is a big receiver who could come in and make a splash in Lexington.
Sleeper: LaRod King is a big and talented receiver who can make big plays.
Overview: The Wildcats have quietly assembled a very good class. It starts with the quarterbacks, and Kentucky has landed two good ones in Morgan Newton and Ryan Mossakowski. Running back Donald Russell could be a steal from Florida, while the Wildcats have some good receivers in Matthews and King. Offensive linemen Sam Simpson and Larry Warford will bring some beef to their interior line. Defensively, Qua Huzzie and Tristian Johnson are two good ones from Georgia. The Wildcats also signed two good athletes from the Peach State in Terrell Mitchell and Brian Adams. Kentucky went to 12 different states to put this class together.
Headliner: It's always big when Vanderbilt can dip into Florida and land one of the state's top prospects as the Commodores did with Mason Johnston, an athletic pass-catching tight end who received interest from all over the country.
Sleeper: Eric Samuels' recruitment never really got going after an early commitment to the Commodores, but there may not be a player in Vanderbilt's class with more potential as an athlete.
Overview: Though it is small in numbers, Vanderbilt's 2009 class is a talented, quality group. It begins with the running back position, where Vanderbilt hasn't had a 1,000-yard rusher since 1995. That could change with the arrival of Warren Norman and Zac Stacy, two speedy and versatile backs. Among their future blockers is Wesley Johnson, a local product with the potential to be a star with the right development. The Commodores also got help at cornerback with two highly recruited prospects in Trey Wilson and Eddie Foster. Add Charlie Goro to the list – a Parade All-American at quarterback – and Vanderbilt has one of its best classes in years.