As mentioned in last Tuesday’s article, you will be hard pressed to find anyone in the nation, at least in their right mind, to disagree that the SEC is the best conference in college football.Sure there are other strong conferences with a great team here or there, but as a whole, the SEC has proven it is elite. This has to do with the combination of great coaching, great talent, and great recruiting. Last week I broke down how the SEC East is currently faring on the recruiting trail, and today we’ll be grading the mighty SEC West.
Alabama Crimson Tide
2010 record: 10-3, (5-3)
ESPN 2012 rank: 2nd in SEC, 4th overall
Rivals 2012 rank: 4th in SEC, 8th overall
Scout 2012 rank: 2nd in SEC, 7th overall
Commitments: 16 total, 6 ESPN 150
Top Recruit: Eddie Williams, S
Yet again, Nick Saban and the Crimson Tide are putting together one of the best classes in the nation. After a bit of a “letdown” last season, only going 10-3, Alabama is looking to once again be playing for the national title in January. They currently have 6 ESPN 150 commitments including one 5-star commitment in S Eddie Williams. They also recently landed a pledge from Chris Black, the highly touted WR out of Florida. The Crimson Tide is also still in the running for several dynamic playmakers on offense including 5-star wideout Dorial Green-Beckham, RB Rushel Shell and RB Barry Sanders among others. The addition of even just one of these prospects could take this class to an A+ status, something I predict them to achieve by February anyway. One thing is for sure though, there seems to be no end in sight for Nick Saban’s success on the recruiting trail in the near future. As long as Saban is the head coach in Tuscaloosa, the Crimson Tide will remain a powerhouse in the SEC, both on the field and off.
2010 record: 10-3, (6-2)
ESPN 2012 rank: not in top 25
Rivals 2012 rank: 7th in SEC, 27th overall
Scout 2012 rank: 7th in SEC, 30th overall
Commitments: 15 total, 0 ESPN 150
Top Recruit: D’Arthur Cowan, WR
Bobby Petrino and the Razorbacks have put together a pretty sub-par class considering their 10-3 breakout season last year, and it will have to improve to continue being competitive in the SEC West. While last year the Hogs had a lot of offensive firepower, they could not keep their opponents out of the end zone. This year the defense should be improved, but I still believe it will be their Achilles heel in a couple of games. My question is, if you know you have been lackluster on defense, isn’t that the side of the ball you would focus on recruiting during the offseason? Trust me, I understand that you have three stud receivers and the SEC’s leading rusher that may be headed to the League after this year, which makes it important to re-stock at WR, but you must address other needs too. The Hogs currently have 5 commitments on the defensive side of the ball, two of which are unranked. They only have ten spots remaining for next year, and it is essential that nearly all of those scholarships go to defensive players. If they don’t begin addressing their needs better, you can expect things to get rough in Fayetteville.
2010 record: 14-0, (8-0)
ESPN 2012 rank: 3rd in SEC, 8th overall
Rivals 2012 rank: 2nd in SEC, 6th overall
Scout 2012 rank: 4th in SEC, 9th overall
Commitments: 13 total, 4 ESPN 150
Top Recruit: Zeke Pike, QB
As you would expect, Gene Chizik is reaping the recruiting benefits from his National Championship victory. The Tigers have been tearing up the recruiting trail with commitments from several electric playmakers. Chizik currently has verbals from ATH Ricardo Louis, RB T.J. Yeldon, ATH Ricky Parks, and RB Jovon Robinson, all of which have incredible potential at the collegiate level. However, with that being said, the Tigers really need to reel in several more defensive prospects in this class. After all, outside of Nick Fairley, Auburn’s defense was pretty suspect last year. Now, they did sign several highly touted defenders in last year’s class, but as we all know, you have to recruit well on the defensive side of the ball year after year to keep up in the SEC – especially on the defensive line. While I have the Tigers sitting at a B+, if they are able to snag any of the defensive targets on their list, such as LB Kwon Alexander, CB Geno Smith, DE Jordan Jenkins and LB JaViero Mitchell, then I expect them to end at no less than a grade of an A-.
2010 record: 11-2, (6-2)
ESPN 2012 rank: 5th in SEC, 12th overall
Rivals 2012 rank: 3rd in SEC, 7th overall
Scout 2012 rank: 3rd in SEC, 8th overall
Commitments: 18 total, 3 ESPN 150
Top Recruit: Avery Johnson, WR
Many people may consider my grade of an A- to be too high, but I think it’s spot on and I’ll tell you why. Not only has Les Miles done a fantastic job of addressing needs on both sides of the ball, but he has absolutely locked down his in-state talent for 2012. So much so, that 15 out of the Tigers 18 commitments are from Louisiana. That my friends is impressive, and it will only benefit their program in the future. The Mad Hatter currently has verbal commitments from elite prospects such as WR Avery Johnson, ATH Davante Bourque and two top-tier DE in Torshiro Davis and Ronnie Feist. The Tigers aren’t finished either, as they have their sights set on several other highly ranked prospects. Some of these include Under Armour All-American S Landon Collins, LB Richie Brown, DE Leonard Williams and LB Denzel Devall. The Tigers will enter this season with arguably the most talented young players in the nation, and with another stellar class in 2012, LSU is setting itself up for another National Championship run in the near future.
Mississippi State Bulldogs
2010 record: 9-4, (4-4)
ESPN 2012 rank: not in Top 25
Rivals 2012 rank: 11th in SEC, 48th overall
Scout 2012 rank: 11th in SEC, 35th overall
Commitments: 16 total, 0 ESPN 150
Top Recruit: Nick James, DT
No matter what team you are a fan of; you have to be impressed with what Dan Mullen is doing in Starkville. He has taken a Bulldog program from obscurity to having a legitimate chance to win every game they play. While to the naked eye, this class is not that impressive, I really like it. Much like Les “I love to eat grass” Miles, Mullen has done a phenomenal job at locking down a lot of in-state talent. Sure, he doesn’t have it locked down like Miles does in LA; but then again, Miss. St. isn’t LSU – at least not yet. Out of the Bulldogs 16 commitments, 11 are from MS. Some people will look at this class and immediately notice one thing: there’s only two 4-star prospects according to Rivals and zero according to ESPN. This lack of star quality may disappoint some fans, but at the end of the day it all comes down to trusting that your coach is adequately evaluating the prospects at hand. Don’t be fooled, Mullen will land a few highly coveted prospects come February. Headlining his class is a verbal pledge from 4-star DT Nick James and 6’7’’ 4-star OL Jake Meador. He also has commitments from three DE: Ryan Brown, Nelson Adams, and Torrey Bell. You can also expect Mullen to reach into the JUCO ranks for a few players seeing as how MS produces some of the best JUCO talent in the nation. This season will be tough, but if the Bulldogs can have another successful year, there recruiting stock will only continue to rise across the south.
Ole Miss Rebels
2010 record: 4-8, (1-7)
ESPN 2012 rank: not in Top 25
Rivals 2012 rank: 8th in SEC, 28th overall
Scout 2012 rank: 12th in SEC, 50th overall
Commitments: 10 total, 1 ESPN 150
Top Recruit: Issac Gross, DT
While there is still several months before National Signing Day, Houston Nutt and gang need to get with the program. The Rebels only have 10 commitments for the upcoming 2012 class, and after a dismal 2010 season they need a lot of help on both sides of the ball. While Mullen is reeling in most of the prospects in MS, Nutt did manage to snag prized ESPN 150 DT Issac Gross. However, it is vital for the future of the Rebel program to win the in-state recruiting battle against the rival Bulldogs. Currently, out of the Rebels 10 commitments, only 2 are from MS. This season will be rough for the fans in Oxford, and if the Rebels recruiting doesn’t improve, in-state and out, so will the next several years. Not trying to be brash, but that is just how good the SEC West is right now. Simple as that.
As we have seen over the last two weeks, the SEC is still dominant on the recruiting trail, and it’s a constant dogfight within to see who can land the top talent in the country. Things will stay this way too, as long as we keep winning National Championships. Every kid wants to play in the SEC – it has the best talent in the nation, the best fan bases in the nation, and let’s face it; it sends the most kids to the NFL each year. You can be guaranteed that things in the SEC will get interesting this fall, both on the field, and off.
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