Rating the SEC recruiting classes

Filed under: Football,Previews,Recruiting |


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

Feb. 6, 2013


1. Alabama

Key signings: DL A’Shawn Robinson, RB Altee Tenpenny, QB Cooper Bateman

Underrated: WR ArDarius Stewart, DE Tim Williams

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

Needs filled: Ex

Analysis: Alabama had a near-perfect recruiting effort, filling its needs from top to bottom and grabbing the nation’s top running back class and arguably its top wide receiver class – perhaps for the second year in a row. Alabama had to get a quarterback, and ended up with three – Cooper Bateman, Parker McLeod and preferred walk-on Luke Del Rio. The Tide needed big defensive linemen, and answered the call by picking up A’Shawn Robinson, Darius Paige and Dee Liner. Alabama added a major-league get at middle linebacker (Reuben Foster), four cornerbacks and potentially an ideal H-back (O.J. Howard). Alabama’s only real miss came as a result of its pursuit of safety Antonio Conner. Not only did the Tide lose Conner, the only pure safety it pursued, to Ole Miss, but Alabama might have spent more time with Vonn Bell, who eventually ended up at Ohio State. Even so, the loss of Conner was just a blip on the screen. The takeaway from this class was that Alabama brought in a massive haul of line-of-scrimmage players, grabbed a top-flight quarterback and enough skill position players that there was a substantial gap from the Tide back to second place.


2. Ole Miss

Key signings: OL Laremy Tunsil, DE Robert Nkemdiche, WR Laquon Treadwell

Underrated: TE Arshad Jackson, LB Marcus Robinson

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

Needs filled: Ex

Analysis: On paper, this is the kind of class elite teams sign, which is what made Ole Miss the target of plenty of media attention, and not all of it positive. Head coach Hugh Freeze fanned the flames when he curiously took to Twitter to basically deny cheating, thereby breaking one of the principal rules of public relations – never proactively deny something if you didn’t really do it. Overall, there’s plenty to like here. The Rebels grabbed the nation’s best defensive end and wide receiver, and got one of its best offensive linemen. The Rebels bolstered depth at tight end, quarterback and gave its secondary a serious upgrade, nabbing S Antonio Conner and re-nabbing CB/S Snoop Brassell after a detour through junior college. One class alone won’t be enough to vault Ole Miss into the realm of the SEC West contenders, but this was certainly a great start. Qualifying might pose a problem for several signees, however, as might the increased media attention the Rebels are sure to get after signing a class such as this.


3. Florida

Key signings: CB Vernon Hargreaves III, WR Ahmad Fullwood, DE Alex Anzalone

Underrated: DT Jarran Reed, RB Adam Lane

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

Needs filled: Vg

Analysis: Florida, overall, did a fine job of bringing in talent, but this is a class more solid than spectacular and, in NARCAS’ estimation, there is a distinct line of division between this class and the Ole Miss class above it. The Gators needed to address three major areas of need, and managed to fill two of them, defensive line and wide receiver. The Gators had few downfield options in the passing game, but netting Ahmad Fullwood and Demarcus Robinson will go a long way toward filling that hole. Along the defensive line, Florida snagged a good mix of size (Jarran Reed, Jaynard Bostwick) and speed (Alex Anzalone, Joey Ivie). But the Gators will have to deal with an offensive line class that is distinctly blue-collar and full of projects. The most exciting name there is probably Trenton Brown, if for no other reason than his raw size (6’7”, 350 pounds). Florida’s returning offensive line isn’t the greatest, and the Gators ideally would liked to have brought in someone ready to play now.


4. LSU

Key signings: DE Frank Herron, LB Kendall Beckwith, CB Tre’Davious White

Underrated: WR Quantavius Leslie, DT Maquedius Bain

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

Needs filled: Vg

Analysis: This wasn’t the eye-popping class LSU fans have grown accustomed to in recent years, but it’s solid, it addresses needs and the red-chippers LSU signed mostly look like good development types with high ceilings. This class is on par with Florida’s and could easily move above it as the years go by. DE Frank Herron was the star of the class and might start as a freshman, while the Tigers once again put together a solid offensive line group. If there’s a quibble, it comes in the defensive backfield, where only CB Tre’Davious White looks ready to jump into immediate, high-level playing time. Players like CB Jeryl Brazil and S Rashard Robinson certainly have the look of future stars, but might take awhile to develop. As quiet as LSU seemed throughout the recruiting process, the Tigers certainly closed well down the stretch and their fans should be happy with the results.


5. Georgia

Key signings: DT John Atkins, CB Reggie Wilkerson, WR Jonathon Rumph

Underrated: TE Jordan Davis, OL DeVondre Seymour

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

Needs filled: Vg

Analysis: Georgia had needs all over the place, and while the Bulldogs mostly addressed those needs from a numbers perspective, the Bulldogs were hammered by Alabama and other teams in in-state recruiting and took a lot of players that will need a couple of years to get up to speed (and size). DT John Atkins will probably be asked to play right away, as will CB Reggie Wilkerson and S Tray Matthews. But the entire offensive line class looks, wholesale, like an automatic redshirt to add bulk, and the Bulldogs’ running back haul essentially comes down to one guy, A.J. Turman, and whether or not he can play as a true freshman. Overall, to turn a phrase upside down, it’s not the ones Georgia got that should be a concern to its fans; it’s the ones the Bulldogs missed, because Mark Richt’s staff let the premier in-state recruit pool slip away from Athens.


6. Texas A&M

Key signings: WR JaQuay Williams, CB Noel Ellis, DT Isaiah Golden

Underrated: QB Kenny Hill, WR Jeremy Tabuyo

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

Needs filled: Av

Analysis: Texas A&M came into this recruiting cycle needing a general talent upgrade, as much of the Aggies’ success in 2012 depended on a handful of seniors and now-departed upperclassmen, like T Luke Joeckel, and of course its star quarterback Johnny Manziel. The Aggies’ first full-year SEC recruiting class (the Aggies were part of the Big 12 for much of the 2011-2012 cycle) looks above-average on paper, but there are holes. Namely, the Aggies didn’t get enough offensive linemen, and only one of them (Ishmael Wilson) looks like a front-line talent. The Aggies did, however, replenish its wideout corps, thanks to the presence not only of superstar JaQuay Williams, but also red-chip speedster Jeremy Tabuyo, who looks from a distance like the perfect slot receiver. Time will tell whether TE Cameron Clear is the answer in this class, given that he didn’t appear to be a difference-maker in his time at Tennessee. Defensively, A&M did well up front and in the secondary, but the linebacker corps looks fairly pedestrian.


7. Auburn

Key signings: DE Carl Lawson, DT Montravius Adams, DE Elijah Daniel

Underrated: QB Jeremy Johnson, WR Dominic Walker

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

Needs filled: Av

Analysis: Auburn’s class had a few stars at the top, but the middle of the class was mediocre and not enough needs got filled. DE Carl Lawson has work to do to become an elite player, despite his placement by some recruiting services, but Auburn made up for it by getting Elijah Daniel, who could be better than advertised. Auburn went hard after receivers and running backs, an admission that the previous staff misevaluated several players, and came away with several good ones, namely WRs Earnest Robinson and Dominic Walker and an intriguing running back duo, Cameron Artis-Payne and Peyton Barber. QB signee Jeremy Johnson has a live arm and could be another Jason Campbell. Auburn’s problem was interior linemen; Adams and Ben Bradley were it on defense, and on offense it was almost a complete whiff. Deon Mix has good upside, but isn’t ready, and the Tigers’ JUCO take, Devonte Danzey, was a bit of a reach. Auburn’s biggest problem was that it lost even more ground to the SEC West front-runners, and there’s a significant gap between it and Texas A&M in sixth place.


8. South Carolina

Key signings: DT Kelsey Griffin, QB Connor Mitch, LB Larenz Bryant

Underrated: DE Davonte Cunningham, WR/CB Ali Groves

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

Needs filled: Av

Analysis: This was a good class for South Carolina, but not the one the Gamecocks needed if they want to keep pace with Florida and Georgia in the SEC East. The Gamecocks got probably the most well-rounded quarterback prospect of the Steve Spurrier era in Connor Mitch, and pulled in a strong effort along the defensive front seven, grabbing star DT Kelsey Griffin and the exciting Davonte Cunningham, among others. But South Carolina failed to sign a single pure wide receiver, getting a couple of multi-position types in Ali Groves and Jasper Sasser, and brought in only one front-line running back, David Williams, who needs to add about 20 pounds of muscle. On the plus side, this was the best offensive line group the Gamecocks have signed in several years – heavy on proven players, light on projects.


9. Vanderbilt

Key signings: LB Nigel Bowden, LB Zach Cunningham, TE Mitchell Parsons

Underrated: TE Brandon Vandenburg, RB Rapheal Webb

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

Needs filled: Av

Analysis: This class is fairly interchangeable with South Carolina’s; Vandy did a better job filling needs, but the total talent level was higher in Columbia, which makes the final difference. Vanderbilt signed exactly the kind of class it needed to sign to continue winning seven and eight games per year, which is the topping-out point for this school right now, at least on a consistent basis. The linebacker tandem of Nigel Bowden and Zach Cunningham upgrades the defense immediately, while the Commodores grabbed one of the better tight end hauls in the country. RB Rapheal Webb, who might have ended up at Florida had Urban Meyer’s staff still been in charge, gives the Commodores a speed boost without sacrificing a lot of size. Vandy also added two good quarterback prospects (Johnathon McCrary, Chad Kanoff), but signed only one offensive lineman (Delando Crooks) and nabbed only one interior defensive lineman (Jay Woods). Signing linemen has been the bane of many a Vanderbilt coach over the years.


10. Mississippi State

Key signings: DE Chris Jones, QB Cord Sandberg, WR Jeremey Chappelle

Underrated: CB Tolando Cleveland, WR De’Runnya Wilson

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

Needs filled: Av

Analysis: Had Mississippi State not held onto DE Chris Jones, this class would have been borderline disastrous. As it is, the Bulldogs lost ground to every SEC West team other than Arkansas. Jones will play early, but still needs work to smooth some rough edges in his game. QB Cord Sandberg is a solid get for the future, but he won’t have an impact in 2013. The best news for Mississippi State is the WR corps, headed by Jeremey Chappelle and diamond-in-the-rough De’Runnya Wilson, upgrades a unit that has been fair at best over the years. Other than that, the Bulldogs did a poor job of managing roster slots. They took four offensive linemen, but all were projects, and didn’t sign a single defensive tackle despite needing a talent upgrade there. No pure running backs were signed, although State got several players who could fit there after position changes. What this looked like, in the final analysis, was a team flummoxed by the success of its in-state rival in a year the Bulldogs could ill afford to let such a thing happen.


11. Kentucky

Key signings: S Marcus McWilson, DE Za’Darius Smith, DT Jacob Hyde

Underrated: DE Alvonte Bell, OL Kyle Meadows

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

Needs filled: Av

Analysis: The Wildcats nearly caught Mississippi State in its first year under Mark Stoops, with Chris Jones essentially being the tiebreaker. Stoops did a fine job upgrading a porous defense, getting safety Marcus McWilson and a pair of stellar defensive ends, Za’Darius Smith and Jason Hatcher. DT Jacob Hyde looks like he could play earlier rather than later, and Alvonte Bell has the frame to add 30 pounds or more and become a terror off the corner. Unfortunately, as solid as the defensive recruiting was for Kentucky, the offensive recruiting was merely so-so. The Wildcats came out of Wednesday with just one running back, Jojo Kemp, who has speed questions. The wide receiver and tight end haul is among the least impressive in recent Kentucky memory. Basically, Stoops did the best he could with a short timeframe, and Kentucky has far more holes than can be filled in one class. This was a solid first step.


12. Tennessee

Key signings: DE Jason Carr, WR Marquez North, S Lemond Johnson

Underrated: DE Malik Brown, LB Corey Vereen

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

Needs filled: Fr

Analysis: This was a sad first effort for Butch Jones in Knoxville, and Tennessee lost substantial ground to its rivals as a result. DE Jason Carr and WR Marquez North were the only two game-ready players signed into the class, and Carr will need to step on it academically. Tennessee lost CB Vonn Bell on Signing Day despite being the presumptive leader for his signature for several weeks, if not months. DE Malik Brown has potential, as does S/CB/WR Lemond Johnson, and LB Corey Vereen ought to be better than his ranking. Outside of that, it gets pretty scary. QB Riley Ferguson is a Greg McElroy type, which might be good enough to run the offense Jones is expected to install, but Tennessee needed more. The Vols got a promising project receiver, Paul Harris, and quarterback-turned-linebacker Jalen Reeves-Maybin could be a good one if he adds weight without losing any quickness. But overall, this class needed to hit a home run, and at best, Jones and crew got a ground-rule double.


13. Arkansas

Key signings: TE Hunter Henry, OL Denver Kirkland, OL Reeve Koehler

Underrated: RB Korliss Marshall, QB Damon Mitchell

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

Needs filled: Fr

Analysis: Arkansas will hold onto 13th place provided it holds onto RB Alex Collins. Collins was the center of the strangest story of Signing Day, as his mother literally absconded with his letter of intent and refused to let him sign with Arkansas. The family is said to prefer Miami, but Collins is also reported to have found another family member who will authorize his paperwork. If Collins sticks with Arkansas, the Razorbacks literally have four signees of note – Collins and the three listed under “Key signings” above – and hardly anything else. Searching for red-chippers on the Arkansas commitment list brings up two names: RB Korliss Marshall, who has decent speed and a good frame, and QB Damon Mitchell, who has good tools but is unpolished. Arkansas purely struck out otherwise, either grabbing players with great measurables who don’t know enough football yet (DB De’Andre Coley), or pluggers who might not be SEC-caliber athletes (DE Tevin Beanum). Bret Bielema was hamstrung by a short amount of time on the job, but if his future classes look like this one, he won’t last long in Fayetteville.


14. Missouri

Key signings: RB/WR Chase Abbington, QB Eddie Printz, S Anthony Sherrils

Underrated: DT Antar Thompson, OL Clay Rhodes

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

Needs filled: Fr

Analysis: Missouri’s Gary Pinkel will enter the 2013 season atop the SEC hotseat list, and this class won’t help matters. Not only did Missouri fail to keep up with the SEC joneses, the Tigers didn’t leverage the Texas and Louisiana talent markets to the degree it could have been – and has to be – done in order to avoid becoming Kentucky West. The Tigers got one true blue-chip signee, Chase Abbington, and a couple of other solid prospects, notably QB Eddie Printz and DT Antar Thompson. Outside of that, the Tigers found themselves signing multi-position raw athletes like S Anthony Sherrils, and hoping to hit gold in a paper sack. Such a strategy rarely works in the SEC.


TideFans.com/NARCAS National Top 10

  1. Alabama
  2. Notre Dame
  3. Ohio State
  4. Ole Miss
  5. Florida
  6. LSU
  7. Michigan
  8. Florida State
  9. Georgia
  10. UCLA

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