Closing Bell in the SEC
By Jeremy Hillman
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The nation's top football conference looks to finish as strong on national signing day as they did in the BCS.
Each year college football recruiting seems to grow in importance and in hype. What is now termed “the recruiting season” has taken a life of its own. With countless websites and media outlets following the recruiting rumors and stories and systematically ranking players and classes, readers are able to complain about or celebrate the projections.
In truth, SEC fans are the most obsessed with this process. They haggle over star rankings and fill message boards and radio air waves with rumors of commitments and decommitments. It has truly become a big business.
There is even a designation of “recruiting national champion” being tossed around these days. Really? A champion? Where is the trophy?
While all of this hoopla over recruiting has gotten a bit out of hand, the reality is that recruiting does matter in college football.
There will no doubt be some five star recruits that flop and their will definitely be some two star recruits that become elite players. However, you take all the two and three star players and I’ll take the four and five star players and I will beat your team consistently. That is just an actuality of the game. It is also why fans, and coaches too, get so obsessed over the decisions of 17 year old kids.
All of that being said, here are my projections of what should be the top recruiting classes for the SEC after signing day is complete (star and national position rankings listed below are per the Scout.com recruit database):
The Top Five (which could all be top ten nationally ranked classes):
1. Alabama Crimson Tide
Nick Saban is at it again, putting together a ridiculously strong class. Much like the past several years, Alabama has put together a class of highly rated prep talent (three five star and 13 three star commitments so far). In the end, the Tide’s recruiting class, for the second straight season, will be considered the very best in the nation.
Current Number of Commitments: 27
Best Current Commit: LB Reggie Ragland (5 star, No. 1 LB)
Projection of Biggest commitment still to come: OT Jordan Diamond (5 star, No. 8 OT)
2. Florida Gators
Will Muschamp and staff are proving that they can recruit with the big boys. The Gators, coming off a lackluster six win regular season in 2011, needed a big recruiting haul to help in the rebuilding process. They are getting it with twelve four and five star commitments in this group to date. With room for a few more commitments, look for Florida to add to this impressive class that will end up being ranked in the top five in the nation.
Current Number of Commitments: 20
Best Current Commit: CB Brian Poole (5 star, No. 2 CB)
Projected biggest commitment still to come: OT Avery Young (5 star, No. 7 OT)
3. LSU Tigers
Coming off a disappointing loss to Alabama in the national championship game, LSU is looking towards the future. With many returning starters and this class full of top talent, the future looks bright in Baton Rouge. The only surprising point is that the Tigers have zero commitments from five star recruits so far this recruiting season. However, they are loaded with elite four star players, potentially having as many as 14 four star commitments by the end of signing day. This will end up being a top 10 nationally ranked class.
Current Number of Commitments: 21
Best Current Commit: OG Vadal Alexander (4 star, No. 11 OG)
Projected Biggest commitment still to come: OLB Kwon Alexander (4 star, No. 3 OLB)
4. Texas A&M Aggies
The new guy on the block is making a splash with their first recruiting class as a Southeastern Conference member. The Aggies have commitments from blue chip prospects on both sides of the ball, including what will be as many as nine four and five star prospects by signing day. New coach Kevin Sumlin came in and did a nice job of preserving and adding to this class. The Aggies could end up with a top ten ranked class in the country.
Current Number of Commitments: 20
Best Current Commit: RB Trey Williams (5 star, No. 3 RB)
Projected Biggest commitment still to come: OLB Corey Thompson (4 star, No. 15 OLB)
5. South Carolina Gamecocks
Steve Spurrier has the Gamecock program on the rise and continues to build a winner in Columbia. This recruiting class is no different, loaded with solid offensive and defensive talent. Most importantly they have been able to fill needed positions like defensive back and wide receiver. This could end up being one of the top 10 to 12 recruiting classes in the nation.
Current Number of Commitments: 24
Best Current Commit: WR Shaq Roland (5 star, No. 4 WR)
Projected Biggest Commitment Still to Come: CB Marquise Jones (3 star, No. 88 CB)
6. Auburn Tigers
With just 15 commitments currently, look for Auburn to rise up the rankings and finish strong now that they have both coordinators in place. They are in the running for as many as 10 four and five star recruits and have a realistic shot at landing commits from as many as five of those athletes. The Tigers could end up with a top 15 nationally ranked class.
7. Georgia Bulldogs
Much like Auburn, Georgia is low on commitments, with just 15 so far, but they are in the running for plenty of big names and are likely to land their share between now and the end of signing day. Look for Mark Richt and the Bulldogs to finish strong. This class very well may end up in the top 15 nationally.
8. Arkansas Razorbacks
Arkansas has already put together a quality class with 20 commitments already on board. However, they could really bolster their list by adding the top recruit in the nation WR Dorial Green-Beckham. I believe he will pick the Razorbacks and solidify Arkansas as having a top 20 nationally ranked class.
9. Mississippi State Bulldogs
The Bulldogs are putting together an underrated class with a big 25 commitments already, including two five star studs. While this may not be a class that matches up with the elite SEC programs, Dan Mullen is working to build a winner in Starkville and this talent infusion will definitely help. Look for this to be a top 25 nationally ranked class.
10. Tennessee Volunteers
Coach Dooley and the Volunteers have garnered 21 commitments already and have put together a nice class of talent on both sides of the ball. Most of the athletes are in the three star range and the class lacks some of the elite power of other conference classes. However, the need positions have been addressed and there are several blue chip athletes on the list. Look for the Vols to finish with a top 25 class in the nation.
This is one of the very best recruiting classes in Vanderbilt history. It is loaded with three and four star guys that can contribute for coach James Franklin. The key will be keeping soft verbal DE Josh Dawson (a four star defensive end) in the fold. This is another step, after a bowl win season in 2011, in Franklin building a winning program in Nashville. This class could be ranked within the top 30 classes in the nation.
This may be the most disappointing class in the SEC. With the news of Missouri heading to the SEC, some believed it may boost their recruiting efforts. So far, it hasn’t seemed to be the case. Well behind fellow newbie Texas A&M, this isn’t a good start for the Tiger SEC era. There are only 17 commitments, just three four star athletes, and zero five star commits. This class could finish outside of the top 35 in the nation.
This is a class of quantity with 26 commitments already committed (the most in the SEC right now). However, a team needing an infusion of big-time talent has zero four or five star players on their commitment list right now. That isn’t much of a recipe for getting coach Joker Phillips off the hot seat in Lexington. Look for this class to finish outside the top 35 in the country.
14. Ole Miss
It is never good for a first year coach to struggle bringing in a quality recruiting class. It may not be new head coach Hugh Freeze’s fault, since he has had little time to recruit for the Rebels, but finishing dead last in the SEC for recruiting is not going to sit well in Oxford. Ole Miss has just 14 commitments, one four or five star commit, and is currently ranked 60th in the national rankings.
We are just days away from National Signing Day and the action should get fast and furious over the weekend and into Wednesday’s signature-fest. It should be exciting to see where elite players land.