SEC Signing Day Superlatives
By Matt Smith
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The vast majority of the team's in the SEC finished with top 25 recruiting classes nationally.
Another National Signing Day has come and gone, of course not without the usual wackiness. All in all, it was another very successful day for the nation’s best league, with eight of 14 teams landing consensus top 20 classes. Before we spin forward to the class of 2014, let’s hand out some superlatives.
Biggest steal: Tashawn Bower to LSU
The early leader for biggest plot twist of the day came from Bower, a four-star defensive end from Somerville, N.J. The longtime Auburn commit reportedly had flipped to Florida early Wednesday morning, but denied having signed with anyone on Twitter shortly thereafter. By midday, his Immaculata High School coach confirmed he would sign with LSU.
Biggest shock: Alex Collins not signing
Collins, a five-star running back from Fort Lauderdale, Fla., committed to Arkansas on Monday night during a television interview. After displaying poise far beyond his young age, no one expected any Signing Day drama with Collins. Alas, there was, as Collins’ mother reportedly confiscated her son’s national letter of intent to Arkansas before he could sign it. As of late Wednesday, Collins remains unsigned.
Most surprising class (positive): Ole Miss
This one’s a no-brainer. Despite improving from two wins to seven in Hugh Freeze’s first season, no one foresaw the Rebels landing arguably the top offensive lineman, defensive lineman and wide receiver in the entire nation. The class ranks in the top 10 of all major recruiting services’ rankings. If you’ve been to Oxford, you know the selling points are endless, but a class with this much elite talent seems unimaginable for a team that lost 14 straight SEC games between 2010 and 2011.
Most surprising class (negative): Missouri
In their first full year to use their inclusion in the SEC as a recruiting tool, it was thought the Tigers would capitalize and sign their highest-rated class ever. Instead, Missouri signed the worst class in the SEC, almost 20 spots lower than any other school in the conference. The Tigers failed to flip St. Louis running back Ezekiel Elliott from Ohio State and signed just one four-star prospect, St. Peters, Mo., athlete Chase Abbington. After missing a bowl in 2012, the program finds itself at a crossroads.
Best QB class: Tennessee
Butch Jones kept Matthews, N.C.’s Riley Ferguson in the fold after being named head coach in December, but it took until Wednesday to lure a second quarterback to Knoxville when he flipped longtime Arizona State commit Joshua Dobbs of Alpharetta, GA. At 6’3”, Dobbs has all the tools to effectively operate Jones’ spread offense. Ferguson is more of a pro-style quarterback, but has the talent to play at the highest level of college football.
Best RB class: Alabama
The logjam in the Crimson Tide backfield only became more crowded on Wednesday with the additions of Tyren Jones, Alvin Kamara and Altee Tenpenny to go along with early enrollee Derrick Henry. All four come from out of state, with Kamara and Jones both from Georgia. Henry and Tenpenny are the bigger backs, while Jones and Kamara provide quickness and agility.
Best WR class: Florida
The Gators barely edge Texas A&M for this honor thanks to a trio of elite playmakers that will give Florida legitimate outside threats for the first time in the Will Muschamp era. Florida won a seesaw battle with Clemson for DeMarcus Robinson of Fort Valley, Ga. In-state prospects Alvin Bailey (Seffner) and Ahmad Fullwood (Jacksonville) give new wide receivers coach Joker Phillips two additional four-star prospects.
Best OL class: Ole Miss
This isn’t the deepest unit, but landing the consensus top offensive lineman in the country in Laremy Tunsil along with flipping Austin Golson from Florida State gives the Rebels the nod here. Magnolia State three-star signees Daronte Bouldin and Davion Johnson have upside but won’t be the instant impact players like Tunsil and Golson.
Best DL class: Alabama
Naturally, the two-time defending national champions would reel in the best class at the one position where the SEC has dominated during its seven-year reign atop college football. Stealing A’Shawn Robinson from Texas gives the Tide a massive body in the middle of its 3-4 front. Dee Liner should be an elite defensive end (go figure), while Jonathan Allen could either grow into an end or play the Tide’s JACK rush end position. Darius Paige, another four-star prospect, rounds out the best group of signees in the SEC at any position.
Best LB class: South Carolina
A group of five prospects that includes four-star outside linebacker Skai Moore (Fort Lauderdale, Fla.) and four-star Larenz Bryant (Charlotte, N.C.) on the inside gives the edge to the Gamecocks. South Carolina also dipped into Alabama and Georgia to land Jonathan Walton and David Johnson respectively, and rounded out the class with Gerald Turner from Goose Creek, S.C. It wasn’t a great year overall for linebackers in the SEC, but depth makes the Gamecocks the winner here.
Best DB class: Florida
Georgia’s group may be deeper, but getting the best cornerback in the country puts the Gators over the top. Tampa’s Vernon Hargreaves III was identified as a must get for the Florida staff, and they successfully kept Hargreaves III close to home. In a strong year for defensive backs, Hargreaves emerged as the most complete of the bunch. A pair of four-star safeties, Keanu Neal and Marcell Harris, also from the Sunshine State gives the Gators three players who could potentially start from day one. Jacksonville’s Nick Washington gives the group some additional depth.