Rating the SEC recruiting classes

By Jess Nicholas, TideFans.com Editor-In-Chief

Feb. 3, 2012


1. Alabama

Key signings: S Landon Collins, WR Eddie Williams, CB Geno Smith

Underrated: DL Darren Lake, DL Dakota Ball

Total talent level (Ex, Vg, Av, Fr, Pr): Ex

Needs filled: Ex

Analysis: For the second straight year, Alabama made defensive line a priority and followed through on it. The Tide added four defensive tackles (Dalvin Tomlinson, Dakota Ball, Darren Lake, Alphonse Taylor) and two defensive ends (Caleb Gulledge, Ryan Anderson). But it was the linebacker corps where the Tide really shined, picking up four top pure linebackers and another, Anderson, who can flex between linebacker and end. Alabama then nailed down the best wide receiver corps in the country, headed by Eddie Williams and Amari Cooper. The Tide added talent in the offensive backfield, got two JUCO cornerbacks and a third, freshman Geno Smith, who might be the best of the bunch, and also bit the bullet and signed another placekicker. The only potential soft spot is offensive line, where Alabama got one front-line player, T Brandon Greene, and a handful of long-term prospects. But offensive line wasn’t a position of dire need, either. Overall, Alabama handled the process effectively, the flap over a grayshirt offer to DT Darius Philon the only real misstep. National champions are built on classes like these.


2. LSU

Key signings: OL Vadal Alexander, WR Avery Johnson, OL Derek Edinburgh

Underrated: LB Kwon Alexander, WR Kavahra Holmes

Total talent level (Ex, Vg, Av, Fr, Pr): Vg

Needs filled: Vg

Analysis: Unlike in previous years, there is a huge gap from Alabama down to the next SEC class. LSU ranks 8th nationally in NARCAS’ system, but in the end the Tigers didn’t do badly despite missing on S Landon Collins and QB Gunner Kiel. LSU put together a strong offensive line class, a position of clear need, by inking Vadal Alexander and Derek Edinburgh. LSU also got an intriguing prospect in QB/TE Jeremy Liggins, who surprised many by going to a team that didn’t run the spread-option. The Tigers picked up several linebackers, the most intriguing of them Kwon Alexander, who selected LSU over a grayshirt offer from Alabama. Alexander would have been one of the most sought-after prospects of the year if not for an injury he sustained his senior season. Where LSU fell a bit short was along the defensive line. Although getting E Danielle Hunter, a spitting image of current Tiger Bar’Kevious Mingo, LSU struck out in the hunt for defensive tackles.


3. Florida

Key signings: OL D.J. Humphries, DE Dante Fowler Jr., RB Matt Jones

Underrated: DE Alex McCalister, DE Quinteze Williams

Total talent level (Ex, Vg, Av, Fr, Pr): Ex

Needs filled: Av

Analysis: Although more talented top-to-bottom than LSU’s group, Florida struck out in a big way at one position of need (wide receiver) and didn’t get the numbers it needed at another (running back). In a class that should have been about skill players, Florida instead chose to load up on defensive ends and tight ends. The headliner was OT D.J. Humphries, who was chased by every SEC school. Dante Fowler Jr. looks ready to play now, but the most intriguing end the Gators signed was Alex McCalister who has the frame to grow into a monster off the corner. Getting RB Matt Jones saved the Gators from pulling a complete whiff at the running back position, but Florida needed to take two or three backs and failed to do so. The Gators’ wide receiver haul looks more at home at Kentucky or Ole Miss.


4. South Carolina

Key signings: TE Jerell Adams, WR Shaq Roland, RB Mike Davis

Underrated: CB Rico McWilliams, OL Cody Waldrop

Total talent level (Ex, Vg, Av, Fr, Pr): Vg

Needs filled: Vg

Analysis: Steve Spurrier continues to prove this whole South Carolina thing isn’t a fluke or some kind of late-mid-life crisis. The Gamecocks booked a solid class, headlined by wideout Shaq Roland and one of the best available tight ends, prep-schooler Jerell Adams. Running back Mike Davis will give South Carolina a legitimate second option if Marcus Lattimore gets hurt at any point in the season. Spurrier obviously recognized he had a talent issue at offensive line, and brought onboard a total of five new ones. South Carolina also went about rebuilding its secondary, but a couple of items were left conspicuous by their lack of signees: defensive line and quarterback. Brendan Nosovitch, the one quarterback Spurrier did sign, looks like another in a long line of lanky, reasonably-skilled prospects but ultimately, not a top-shelf signal-caller. Still, this class is good enough to keep the Gamecocks at or near the top of the division standings.


5. Tennessee

Key signings: WR Cordarrelle Patterson, WR Jason Croom, DT Danny O’Brien

Underrated: QB Nathan Peterman, DT Daniel McCullers

Total talent level (Ex, Vg, Av, Fr, Pr): Vg

Needs filled: Av

Analysis: There’s something about Tennessee and wide receivers. Derek Dooley’s staff signed no fewer than 7 players who can play the position. Two of those players, Cordarrelle Patterson and Jason Croom, headline the class. They’re both big, fast players with good vertical leaping ability, making them the typical Tennessee bellcow receiver. Tennessee also nabbed QB Nathan Peterman, who was fast rising in the eyes of several analysts toward the end of the year. Tennessee also acquitted itself well with its defensive line class, which includes tackle prospect Danny O’Brien and JUCOs Daniel McCullers and Darrington Sentimore, a former Alabama player. But the Volunteers had trouble at running back, where it picked up Alden Hill, who has concerns over his speed, and Quenshaun Watson, who is too small to be an every-down back in the SEC. Tennessee completely struck out at offensive line, getting literally no one. McCullers could play offensive tackle in a pinch, but that’s not why UT got him.


6. Georgia

Key signings: RB Keith Marshall, OT John Theus, DE Jordan Jenkins

Underrated: QB Faton Bauta, FB Quayvon Hicks

Total talent level (Ex, Vg, Av, Fr, Pr): Vg

Needs filled: Av

Analysis: Smaller numbers affected Georgia’s ability to fill holes, but the Bulldogs did a fine job getting some much needed talent at the top of the class. RB Keith Marshall should contend for a starting job thanks to Isaiah Crowell’s meanderings. DE Jordan Jenkins should play right away, and OT John Theus could work himself into a starting job thanks to injuries and graduation. Georgia also nabbed an intriguing quarterback prospect in Faton Bauta, plus one of the best pure fullbacks available, Quayvon Hicks. OLB Josh Harvey-Clemons hasn’t signed yet and Florida is a factor, but even if he goes to the Gators, it wouldn’t affect the Bulldog class ranking one way or another. Where Georgia fell short was in its receiver class, which contained only one red-chip player, Blake Tibbs, and at linebacker, where Harvey-Clemons was the only target.


7. Auburn

Key signings: OL Avery Young, WR Ricardo Louis, RB Jovon Robinson

Underrated: TE Darrion Hutcherson, DE Gimel President

Total talent level (Ex, Vg, Av, Fr, Pr): Vg

Needs filled: Av

Analysis: The players Auburn pulled in are mostly good ones; the Tigers simply didn’t get enough of them. Auburn didn’t fill its scholarship allotment thanks to a process that started trending downhill the moment RB T.J. Yeldon flipped to Alabama. Auburn did pick up OL Avery Young on Signing Day and managed to keep on-again-off-again commitment Ricardo Louis in the fold. The most important task for Auburn – which is moving away from a pure spread and more towards a multiple-style offense – was to get a running back that weighed more than a Pomeranian. Auburn accomplished that goal when it got Jovon Robinson, who has the strength and speed to be an effective inside runner. He has as good a shot as any at starting this fall. Auburn’s offensive line class was one of the best in the nation, as the Tigers picked up 5 players there. Auburn also got high-upside TE Darrion Hutcherson and DE Gimel President, who could grow into a beast at tackle. Auburn is hoping so, because the Tigers otherwise struck out on defensive line recruiting, which was a huge need. The Tigers got only one true tackle, Tyler Nero, and most of its linebacker class are players who will need at least one year in the weightroom. There’s also the question of what to do with spread system QB Zeke Pike, whose stock plummeted down the stretch and who committed to Auburn with the idea of running Gus Malzahn’s offense.


8. Vanderbilt

Key signings: RB Brian Kimbrow, OL Andrew Jenks, DE Caleb Azubike

Underrated: OL Adam Butler, CB Torren McGaster

Total talent level (Ex, Vg, Av, Fr, Pr): Av

Needs filled: Vg

Analysis: This is the best class Vanderbilt has signed in probably 20-30 years, and was almost good enough to vault Auburn’s class. RB Brian Kimbrow is the undisputed star of the list. He’s a speed merchant and a dynamic playmaker, but he is very small and will have to be protected lest he take too many hits. Andrew Jenks leads a fine offensive line class that is actually one of the best in the region, if not the country. The biggest prize on defense is end Caleb Azubike, who could have played anywhere and who will likely start from day one at Vandy. CB Torren McGaster was shooting up a lot of recruiting boards at year’s end. The rest of the class resembles a typical Vanderbilt class – underweight prospects who the coaches hope will fill out – with the exception of QB Patton Robinette, who is ready to play now. James Franklin did an excellent job with this group.


9. Mississippi State

Key signings: DT Quay Evans, DE Denico Autry, WR Will Redmond

Underrated: OL Charles Siddoway, S Adarrius Perkins

Total talent level (Ex, Vg, Av, Fr, Pr): Av

Needs filled: Vg

Analysis: There weren’t many standouts in this class, but like with Vanderbilt, Mississippi State put solid numbers up on the board and addressed some needs. Chief among those was offensive line, where Charles Siddoway headlines a group of five players that all appear to be ready to contribute. DL Quay Evans was the prize of the bunch, although Will Redmond, who can play either receiver or defensive back, has dangerous athleticism. The Bulldogs kept Auburn from filching LB/S Beniquez Brown at the last moment, and picked up hybrid DE/LB Richie Brown. The Bulldogs came up a bit short at quarterback and running back, however.


10. Arkansas

Key signings: RB Jonathan Williams, DE Taiwan Johnson, LB Otha Peters

Underrated: DT Darius Philon, DE Deatrich Wise

Total talent level (Ex, Vg, Av, Fr, Pr): Av

Needs filled: Av

Analysis: Arkansas didn’t lay an egg completely this year, but Bobby Petrino has got to figure out some way to improve the Razorbacks’ yearly take. Arkansas largely ignored offensive line, didn’t sign a quarterback and, at least in terms of potential, didn’t enough to replace three wide receivers whose eligibility is up. RB Jonathan Williams is a solid player, but at Arkansas he becomes the star of the class. DE Taiwan Johnson is talented but raw, as is LB Otha Peters. Most painfully, Arkansas lost WR Dorial Green-Beckham to new SEC rival Missouri.


11. Kentucky

Key signings: QB Patrick Towles, RB Justin Taylor, DT Thomas Chapman

Underrated: S Daron Blaylock, LB Khalid Henderson

Total talent level (Ex, Vg, Av, Fr, Pr): Av

Needs filled: Av

Analysis: There was no star power in this class outside of perhaps QB Patrick Towles. Towles may have to play his first year out of necessity given the state of the Kentucky program. The Wildcats did manage to get RB Justin Taylor from Alabama after the Crimson Tide ran out of room. DT Thomas Chapman was a great pickup and is someone Kentucky can build around. LB Khalid Henderson has the potential to be another one of those players. There’s not much wrong with the players Kentucky got; the Wildcats just need more of them.


12. Ole Miss

Key signings: DE Channing Ward, RB I’Tavius Mathers, OL Robert Conyers

Underrated: WR Cody Core, OL Ben Still

Total talent level (Ex, Vg, Av, Fr, Pr): Fr

Needs filled: Fr

Analysis: There’s not much to say here other than if Hugh Freeze recruits like this again, his tenure in Oxford will be short-lived. DE Channing Ward was the only player who was a consensus difference-maker among the players signed. RB I’Tavius Mathers could have the potential to be one sooner rather than later, but the other names that appear above all need redshirts. OL Robert Conyers and OL Ben Still will both be solid in time, but the key phrase there is “in time.” WR Cody Core was committed to Troy until late in the process. His performance during the week of the AL-MS High School All-Star Game opened some eyes, but at this point he’s just a possession receiver. This was the only SEC recruiting class that could be considered clearly substandard.


National Top Ten

  1. Alabama
  2. Ohio State
  3. Texas
  4. Florida State
  5. Michigan
  6. Southern Cal
  7. Miami
  8. LSU
  9. Florida
  10. UCLA

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