December 11, 2008

Ask Jamie: Who's winning in SEC recruiting?

Jamie Newberg is a football recruiting analyst for Rivals.com. He tackles your questions in his weekly mailbag feature.
Previous mailbags:
Dec 4: UM moves in on Florida's best
Nov 27: Will losses hurt LSU recruiting?
Nov 20: NU's RB search goes south

Now that the college football regular season is behind us, it's time to take a close look at the SEC recruiting race. Alabama and LSU should battle it out for the top spot.

Who will emerge between the Tide and Tigers? How high will the Gators surge? What's left for the two surprise teams – South Carolina and Arkansas?

The Dawgs are barking once again. Who's headed to Athens? To add to the intrigue you have coaching changes at Auburn, Tennessee and Mississippi State. If things weren't crazy enough…

We break it down in this week's recruiting mailbag.

Jamie's Mailbag
Battle for talent

How do you see the SEC shaping up in recruiting? Who finishes with the top class?

-- Bobby in Chattanooga, Tenn.
-----
The SEC is shaping up to have a great recruiting race to the end, as two teams – Alabama and LSU – could find themselves vying for the top spot in the land. The conference as a whole again is doing well, as there are eight SEC schools in the top 20.

Still, there are questions, most notably how staff changes will affect Florida's recruiting and how new coaches at Auburn, Mississippi State and Tennessee will fare.

How will things fall between now and Feb. 4 in the SEC? Let's take a closer look at the SEC teams currently in the top 20.

LSU

Currently No. 3 overall
Expected to sign: 25-plus (20 commitments)

LSU is on its way to another monster recruiting class, and the Tigers should make a run at the nation's No. 1 class. Headlining this group are quarterback Russell Shepard, offensive tackle Chris Faulk, defensive tackle Chris Davenport, cornerback Janzen Jackson, and running back Michael Ford.

LSU will have a battle on its hands for the nation's top prospect, wide receiver Rueben Randle, as Alabama, Miami and Oklahoma also are in the mix. Meanwhile, LSU continues to try and turn the nation's No. 2 running back, Trent Richardson, away from the Tide.

LSU appears to be in good shape for some other outstanding prospects, such as wide receiver Andre DeBose, safety Craig Loston and linebacker Barkevious Mingo. If they do lose Randle to Alabama, that would help LSU with wide receiver Kendall Kelly. Other notables to watch with LSU are offensive linemen John Martinez and Xavier Nixon, defensive linemen Ed Stinson and Sam Montgomery, linebacker Jarvis Jones and safety Darren Myles.

Alabama

Currently No. 5
Expected to sign: 25-plus (19 commitments)

For the second consecutive recruiting season, Alabama is flat out killing it in recruiting. Last year, they finished with the top class in the nation, and they could be headed for the same finish this year. Running back Trent Richardson, offensive tackle D.J. Fluker, linebacker Nico Johnson, safety Rod Woodson and wide receiver Michael Bowman lead this class.

It appears Alabama will sign at least 25 prospects. The Tide is doing so well in recruiting that they actually will have to turn away some great players because they won't have enough room.

Alabama is the team to beat for cornerback Dre Kirkpatrick and offensive tackle Brandon Moore, and the Tide is in great shape for offensive tackle Bobby Massie. The Tide also is in the hunt for wide receivers Rueben Randle, Patrick Patterson, Chad Bumphis, Kevin Norwood and Kendall Kelly.

Some other prospects to watch for with Alabama are linebacker Tana Patrick, defensive linemen Montez Robinson, Ed Stinson and William Campbell, safety Darren Myles and athlete Marsalis Teague.

South Carolina

Currently No. 8
Expected to sign: 25-plus (24 commitments)

South Carolina is one of the big surprises in recruiting. The Gamecocks started making a big push about month or so ago and haven't looked back.

Why the sudden success? Steve Spurrier and his staff have taken advantage of the coaching changes at Clemson and Tennessee. This is Spurrier's fifth recruiting class at South Carolina, and his staff is making progress in-state.

Running back Jarvis Giles, athletes Damario Jeffery and Stephon Gilmore, defensive end Ronald Byrd and safety DeVonte Holloman headline this group. Expect the Gamecocks to sign as many as 31 prospects, with potentially seven prospects to enroll early.

Defensive end Sam Montgomery, running back Lindsey Lamar, offensive linemen Quinton Washington and Kwame Geathers, wide receiver Lamar Scruggs, athlete Larry Raper, defensive end Antwon Higgs, safety Jonathan Scott and linebacker Jonathan Davis are prospects who are high on South Carolina. And watch out for wide receiver Alshon Jeffrey. He may be committed to USC but he may end up signing with South Carolina.

Georgia

Currently No. 10
Expected to sign: 20-21 (16 commitments)

Has any team recruited as consistently well as Georgia over the past decade? The Bulldogs always seem to be near the top, and this year is no different. Quarterback Aaron Murray is the gem, but there are other elite players headed to Athens, such as running back Washaun Ealey, defensive tackle Abry Jones, wide receiver Rantavious Wooten and defensive end Toby Jackson.

Georgia simply doesn't have the sheer numbers but the Bulldogs still will close well. The Bulldogs should land cornerback Branden Smith. They are in the hunt with safety Darren Myles, offensive tackle Bobby Massie, defensive ends Sam Montgomery and Montez Robinson, safety Jawanza Starling and athlete Orson Charles. Two others to watch are athlete Denard Robinson and linebacker Jarvis Jones.

Tennessee

Currently No. 14
Expected to sign: 25-plus (16 commitments)

The program is in a state of transition as the Lane Kiffin era begins. He just picked up his first commitment, from Eric Gordon. Running back David Oku is sticking with the Vols. Other big-time players headed their way are linebacker Jerod Askew, wide receiver Je'Ron Stokes and linebacker Marlon Walls.

Wide receiver Marlon Brown is a must-get for Tennessee, and the Vols are playing catch-up with athlete Marsalis Teague. Linebacker Greg King is another in-state possibility. Kiffin is hot on the trail of athletes Orson Charles and Stephon Gilmore, wide receivers Alshon Jeffrey and Lamar Scruggs, defensive end Sam Montgomery and offensive linemen Morgan Moses, Peter White and Aubrey Phillips. Don't be surprised if the Vols do not sign a quarterback in this class.

Arkansas

Currently No. 15
Expected to sign: 25-plus (23 commitments)

Bobby Petrino is making his mark and putting together a good class with his first full year to recruit at Arkansas. He kept superstar cornerback prospect Darius Winston at home. Running back Knile Davis and offensive linemen Anthony Oden and Colby Berna are also headed to Fayetteville, and prospects such as fullback Jahron Brown and athlete Lance Ray are underrated.

The Hogs would go wild if they could land Ronnie Wingo Jr., one of the nation's top-rated athletes. They also would love to turn committed prospects Sheldon Richardson and/or Raymond Cotton.

Prospects to keep an eye on with the Razorbacks are offensive lineman Camden Wentz, cornerback Andru Stewart, defensive end Leon Mackey, wide receiver Cobi Hamilton, defensive tackles Corey Gaines and Terrance Coleman and defensive back Rudell Crim. Arkansas could sign as many as 30 prospects.

Auburn

Currently No. 16
Expected to sign: 25-plus (21 commitments)

Auburn was sitting with 26 commitments about a week ago. Then the Tigers got rid of coach Tommy Tuberville, and they have lost five prospects – and more defections could come.

As the coaching search continues, other teams will continue to try to pick off some of their recruits.

Until the school hires a coach, it's hard to predict anything in terms of recruiting with the Tigers.

But we do know this: Alabama has dominated in-state recruiting and the Tigers need to find an identity on offense.

There are some good players headed to the Plains, such as quarterback Raymond Cotton, defensive back Reggie Taylor, running back Onterrio McCalebb, tight end Philip Lutzenkirchen and offensive lineman Steven Jacques.

Florida

Currently No. 18
Expected to sign: 21-22 (13 commitments)

Florida has been relatively quiet so far. But that doesn't mean the Gators haven't landed some big-time players: Wide receiver Nu'Keese Richardson, offensive lineman Nick Alajajian, defensive tackle Gary Brown, running back Mike Gillislee and athlete Greg Reid are headed to Gainesville.

The Gators are getting ready to make a big run up the recruiting rankings. The question: How high will they climb? Certainly, playing for a national title helps. But the Gators will have some staff changes with offensive coordinator Dan Mullen heading to Mississippi State as coach.

Florida looks as if it's in great shape with offensive tackle Xavier Nixon, linebackers Jarvis Jones and Jon Bostic and athletes Marsalis Teague and Denard Robinson. The Gators could get a needed big back in Montrell Conner. They are hopeful about wide receivers Andre DeBose and Marlon Brown. Linebacker Jelani Jenkins is a good possibility, and tight end Philip Lutzenkirchen could be in the mix.

If there is one area of concern for Florida, it's at defensive tackle, where there is just one commitment.

Jamie Newberg is a recruiting analyst for Rivals.com. Click here to send him a question or comment for his Mailbag.




 

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