Will Alabama finish with the country's best overall recruiting class? Can Georgia or LSU make a run for the top spot? Will Auburn continue to build off its national championship season?
Will Florida and first-year coach Will Muschamp shake off a slow start to finish with a bang? Can Ole Miss continue to surprise? And who, after all is said and done, will land five-star talents Ray Drew and Isaiah Crowell?
Check out the breakdown of recruiting in the SEC as National Signing Day nears in a special edition of the SEC Blitz.
Nick Saban and Alabama are looking to regain the title of recruiting national champions and they have a shot down the stretch with some big targets still set to decide. Earlier this month the Crimson Tide landed five-star all-purpose back Demetrius Hart and four-star defensive end Xzavier Dickson. Now, at the top of their board is five-star defensive end Jadeveon Clowney, five-star offensive lineman Cyrus Kouandjio, and five-star running back Isaiah Crowell, with chances being good they land at least one of the trio. They also remain involved with other Rivals100 targets such as defensive end Jeoffrey Pagan, wide receiver Nickolas Brassell and safety Erique Florence. Just outside the Rivals100, they remain involved with South Carolina defensive tackle Phillip Dukes.
Arkansas currently sits at 28 commitments but three of that group count back towards last year. They hosted eight visitors last weekend, netting one new commitment - wide receiver Kane Whitehurst - and hope to sway some others their way such as tight end Dillon van der Wal, an Arizona State commitment, who made his way to Fayetteville. Another tight end target, Jerell Adams is expected on campus this weekend. Earlier this month, tight end Andrew Peterson also checked out the Razorbacks. On the other side of the ball, Arkansas remains in the picture with linebacker Cedrick Cooper and defensive tackle Mickey Johnson.
The National Champions have had a great January both on and off the field. Since the start of January, they have added five prospects ranked four stars or better, headlined by five-star linebacker Kris Frost. Now, in the final week, they are looking to add even more firepower at the top. A couple great storylines to keep an eye on is whether or not they can flip Marcus Roberson away from Texas Tech and lure defensive end Ray Drew away from the Peach State. Other top prospects that they remain involved with include Isaiah Crowell, La'El Collins, and Cyrus Kouandjio. Also, they likely keep Valley (Ala.) four-star defensive back Erique Florence home for college. Auburn can be one of the biggest movers over the final week of the recruiting process.
New Gators coach Will Muschamp has found the going a bit rough on the recruiting trail during his first month on the job. Muschamp and his staff not only have had to try to secure as many of the commits they inherited as possible, but land others that are uncommitted. On the first front, the Gators kept their prized recruit, four-star quarterback Jeff Driskel, along with several others. But a few commits were lost, notably linebacker Ryan Shazier to Ohio State and offensive lineman Chase Hounshell to Notre Dame. Presently, Florida also is trying to keep the Buckeyes from getting receiver Ja'Juan Story to flip. As far as new commits go, the Gators did land four-star safety Jabari Gorman, but otherwise things have been relatively quiet. That could change, however, as they're still in the running for several players, including five-star linebacker Curtis Grant and four-star defensive tackle Timmy Jernigan.
To say that Georgia's so-called "Dream Team" class has come together nicely would be a major understatement. The Bulldogs currently have 22 commitments, and 11 of them are four-star prospects. In other words, the group not only will have great quantity, but outstanding quality. Most important, the program is addressing many of its needs. On the same day last week, Georgia snagged two of the state's premier prospects in receiver/defensive back Malcolm Mitchell and tight end Jay Rome. And it doesn't look like the Bulldogs are finished. Among the players Georgia still has a shot at (and may, in fact, even be favored to land) are five-star defensive end Ray Drew and five-star running back Isaiah Crowell. Get both of those players and coach Mark Richt and Co. likely will have themselves a top-five class or better.
Although Kentucky's class won't be mentioned as being one of the league's best, it is solid, it is balanced and it will help the Wildcats address many needs. Kentucky enters the day with 20 commits, and 19 of them are three-star prospects. The remaining commit is four-star safety Glenn Faulkner, the biggest get of the class … so far. Among the Wildcat targets still out there, none is more well-known or well-respected than linebacker Lamar Dawson, a Rivals100 member who is from Danville, Ky. Dawson, by a wide margin, would be the jewel of the class should he land in Lexington. He's not only talented, but comes from a program that just won two state titles. Unfortunately for Kentucky, Dawson won't announce until Signing Day, which will make for a nerve-wracking final week for the Wildcats.
Right now LSU sits at 21 commitments led by a trio of five-star prospects - offensive tackle La'El Collins, defensive tackle Anthony Johnson, and wide receiver Jarvis Landry. Down the stretch the Tigers will attempt to add to the top of their class as they look to secure the secure the services of five-star prospects such as defensive end Ray Drew and linebacker [/db]C.J. Johnson[/db] as well as four-star defensive linemen Timmy Jernigan and Jermauria Rasco. Any of the four would further solidify the Tigers' fourth-ranked class, but a pair or more would help Les Miles' group ascend even higher.
By no means is Mississippi State doing poorly. But after going 9-4, more was expected. Before Bulldogs defensive coordinator Manny Diaz left to take the same position at Texas in early January, Johnson, the five-star linebacker, was a Mississippi State commit. Back then, it also looked as if Mississippi State might land Brassell. Despite those misses, the Bulldogs have landed their share of talented players of late. The pickup of defensive tackle P.J. Jones shouldn't be dismissed. Mississippi State held off Ole Miss to land the Rivals250 standout. A few days later, the Bulldogs scored three-star running back Derrick Milton. The key now is to finish strong. One way to do that would be to outduel Auburn for three-star linebacker/defensive end Devaunte Sigler, who will announce Wednesday afternoon.
Coming off a disappointing 4-8 season, the Rebels are doing quite well on the recruiting trail. In fact, they've been one of the country's biggest surprises. Ole Miss, which has a top-20 finish in its sights, currently has 28 commits, one of which is dynamic five-star linebacker C.J. Johnson, who committed Tuesday and chose the Rebels over archrivals LSU and Mississippi State. The team's other top commit arguably is four-star receiver Donte Moncrief. Ole Miss hopes it isn't done. Two big fish, in particular, are still out there for the taking. One is Brassell, a four-star receiver and the country's No. 51-rated overall prospect. The battle for Brassell is between the Rebels and the Tide, with Alabama making a big push. Ole Miss also is in the running for four-star running back Tre Mason, who also is considering Auburn.
At present time, the Gamecocks have 30 committed players, and some excellent ones at that (see four-star receiver Damiere Byrd and four-star offensive lineman Brandon Shell). But the reality is, many will judge this class on whether or not South Carolina can lock up the country's No. 1 overall prospect, defensive end Jadeveon Clowney. Once, it seemed as if the heralded in-state product was a lock for the Gamecocks. But Clowney recently visited Alabama and the Tide apparently are posing a serious threat to South Carolina. Adding to the intrigue is the fact Clowney may not announce until Feb. 14. While the fight for Clowney is grabbing the headlines, South Carolina also appears to be in the picture for four-star defensive tackle Phillip Dukes, who was dominant at times during two postseason all-star games.
With 23 commitments, the Vols are quietly putting together a solid class in coach Derek Dooley's first full recruiting cycle. Already, Tennessee has landed verbals from eight four-star prospects - a group that includes receiver DeAnthony Arnett, linebacker A.J. Johnson and defensive back Justin Coleman, all of whom are members of the Rivals250. The Vols grabbed another solid player Monday in four-star running back Marlin Lane. Why hasn't this class gotten more fanfare? Probably because it doesn't include any top-50 prospects. That, however, could change as the Vols are very much in the mix for Dawson, the country's No. 45 player. Tennessee also has a shot at heralded tight ends Brandon Fulse and Cameron Clear. With a strong close, this little-talked-about class could potentially rank in the top 15 overall and finish as the second best in the SEC east division.
The Commodores' class certainly isn't eye-popping, especially in the ultra-competitive SEC, which could have three-fourths of its teams finish in the top 20. Nonetheless, it's hard to knock the efforts of first-year coach James Franklin and his staff. Following a weekend in which Vanderbilt landed commitments from three three-star prospects, the Commodores now have 13 pledges. The good news is that 10 of those players have three stars. The bad news is that Vanderbilt would like to sign two quarterbacks but currently has none committed. With that in mind, Franklin has targeted four-star Arizona State commit Michael Eubank and Florida product Joshua Grady. Not surprisingly, the sales pitch to both is this: the potential for early playing time.