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Early Signing Period: Breaking down the SEC

Robert Dillingham
Robert Dillingham (Jon Lopez/Nike)

With most of the Early Signing Period action over and in the books, Rivals.com continues its conference-by conference look at how things on the recruiting trail are shaping up.

Today, we dive into the SEC, where Kentucky is king, Missouri saw an uptick in talent and Georgia's Dylan James may surprise.

RELATED: SEC team recruiting rankings

THIS SERIES: Breaking down the ACC | Big 12

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2023 Rankings: Rivals150 | Team | Position

2024 Rankings: Rivals150 | Team

2025 Rankings: Top 40

Transfer Portal: Latest news

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TOP CLASS: Kentucky

Aaron Bradshaw
Aaron Bradshaw (Rivals.com)

The Wildcats’ class is not only the best in the SEC but also tops the national rankings. When all is said and done, it could rank among the most complete hauls of the illustrious John Calipari era in Lexington.

All five of Kentucky's signees rank as five-star prospects, but the way the class addresses needs in almost every facet of the game is what may set this group apart. Point guard Robert Dillingham is one of the quickest and most exciting guards in the country. Center Aaron Bradshaw checks in at 7-foot, moves smoothly and plays with the motor few prospects of his size possess.

Then there’s No. 2 overall prospect Justin Edwards, who spent the summer thriving against truly elite competition and showing he can defend most positions and score at all three levels. In-state get Reed Sheppard is an elite shooter among other things, while DJ Wagner is one of the two most dynamic scoring guards in the country,

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TOP PROSPECT: Justin Edwards, Kentucky

Edwards has long been seen as an elite prospect but really came into his own this summer. When former No. 1 overall prospect G.G. Jackson reclassified to 2022, Edwards found himself in the discussion for the top overall spot in the Rivals150.

He ultimately fell short, but the lefty’s multi-level scoring ability, defensive versatility and ability to finish through contact make him almost certain to make an early impact at Kentucky nevertheless. Edwards also became a much better ball-handler this summer and seems to be doing the work necessary to improve that part of his game.

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SLEEPER PROSPECT: Dylan James, Georgia

James is a candidate to receive a bump in rankings when the Rivals150 gets a refresh and deservedly so. The Florida-based forward is all of 6-foot-9 and shoots the ball pretty well from beyond the arc.

Defensively, he uses his length to create problems both on the perimeter and in the paint, where he’s capable of protecting the rim. His length and agility allow him to guard multiple positions and seems to be getting a little better when it comes to handling the ball.

The more you see James play, the more it feels as if Georgia may have gotten a steal in the Winter Haven (Fla.) High School star, whose offer list never really reflected his talent. Players with his body type, defensive prowess and shooting ability don’t grow on trees, after all.

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SLEEPER CLASS: Missouri

Jordan Butler
Jordan Butler

The Tigers’ 2023 class doesn’t get a lot of national ink, but the fact that it includes a pair of nationally relevant recruits is notable when you consider the fact that the program hasn't landed multiple four-star prospects in a single recruiting cycle since 2017.

Current signees Anthony Robinson II and Jordan Butler rank Nos. 100 and No. 102 respectively and should be part of the bedrock of the Tiger programs down the road. The Tigers were able to extract the 7-foot Butler from the East Coast, where he passed up offers from close- to-home programs such as Florida State, Wake Forest and Auburn to sign with Dennis Gates and company.

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WORK LEFT TO DO: Florida

An abrupt coaching change left the Gators in a tough spot last offseason, so it was difficult to expect the program to build a juggernaut of a class in 2023. But having just one prospect in the fold at this juncture is less than ideal.

At this point, it seems as though the Gators will finish the 2023 cycle without landing a Rivals150 prospect and will now have their work cut out for them in the transfer portal this offseason. It’s definitely no time to panic, however, as the Sunshine State feels particularly loaded with talent in the classes of 2024 and 2025, giving new head coach Todd Golden plenty of opportunity to get his feet under him from a recruiting standpoint.

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