SEC football recruiting is a competition all its own. No league is as top heavy, boasting seven consecutive BCS championships from four different programs. The strength of its best teams forces the rest of the league to get particularly aggressive in recruiting, evident in the SEC making up more than half of the nation’s top 10 ranked signing classes.
The conference’s members occupy many of the nation’s high school football hotbeds, such as Florida, Alabama and Georgia. And now, with the addition of Texas, the SEC is home to the state most commonly associated with prep football.
Best Class: Alabama Crimson Tide
In the upset of the century, Nick Saban inked a boatload of highly touted recruits to join his two-time defending BCS champion Crimson Tide. I know, I know, a real shocker. It’s going to take a Herculean effort for Alabama to be shaken from its pedestal, as Tuscaloosa has become the epicenter of football prowess.
Saban landed four five-star prospects. Among them is Reuben Foster, the talented linebacker once committed to Iron Bowl rival Auburn. Crimson Tide faithful can also lord the signing of defensive lineman Dee Liner over their in-state nemeses in orange-and-blue.
Perhaps most impressive in this Alabama class is the cache of running backs brought in to continue the Tide’s tradition of multifaceted backfields. Five-star Florida product Derrick Henry and four-star Alvin Kamara are the latest to take on the tag team roles previously fulfilled by Mark Ingram/Trent Richardson, Richardson/Eddie Lacy, Lacy/T.J. Yeldon.
Worst Class: Missouri Tigers
Missouri struggled mightily in its debut SEC campaign, losing its first four in conference by an average of 22 points and failing to score more 20 points until Oct. 27.
After the euphoria of landing five-star wide receiver Dorial Green-Beckham a year ago, the 2013 Missouri signing class is lacking that same luster. In-state prospect Chase Abbington was a nice signing for Gary Pinkel’s Tigers, but their only four-star commit. In fact, MU is the only SEC member without multiple four-star prospects in 2013.
Most Surprising: Ole Miss Rebels
This one is as much a no-brainer as Alabama’s slotting atop the conference. Hugh Freeze put together one of the most impressive signing classes in all of college football to establish a building block for a possible SEC contender. No. 1 recruit Robert Nkemdiche is the cornerstone of a group that includes three five-star prospects from both sides of the ball. Laquan Treadwell and Leramy Tunsil bring star power to the offensive end.
Freeze also received commitments from four-star prospects like Mark Dodson Jr., Lavon Hooks and Antonio Conner.
Most Disappointing: Arkansas Razorbacks
The Alex Collins’ drama worked itself out — sort of — but even with the coveted south Florida recruit committing to Bret Bielema’s Razorbacks after National Signing Day, Arkansas had the lowest average star rating per recruit. Most of Bielema’s work was done in the final week of recruiting season, including the coups of Collins and fellow Florida prospect Denver Kirkland. Perhaps had Bielema had more than eight weeks as Razorback head
But Bielema was not the only coach with a short turnaround time before National Signing Day in the SEC. Butch Jones’ class at Tennessee grades higher than Bielema’s, and Mark Stoops’ class at Kentucky is approaching it. Given Kentucky’s lot in the conference, that’s a disappointing prospect for the Hogs.
Top Prospect: Robert Nkemdiche, Ole Miss
The ceiling on Robert Nkemdiche is sky high, and No. 1 overall consensus prospect Robert Nkemdiche has the college football-watching nation’s eyes on him. Matching the hype surrounding Nkemdiche’s recruitment is a heavy burden, but the Georgia product has never shown anything but the ability to carry it. He joins his All Freshman SEC brother Denzel Nkemdiche to anchor a Rebel defense that improved over the course of 2012.
Names to Know
1. Alabama Crimson Tide: Derrick Henry, Reuben Foster, A’Shawn Robinson
2. Florida Gators: Kelvin Taylor, Alex Anzalone, Vernon Hargreaves
3. Ole Miss Rebels: Robert Nkemdiche, Laquan Treadwell, Laremy Tunsill
4. LSU Tigers: Frank Herron, Tre’Davious White, Hayden Rettig
5. Auburn Tigers: Montravious Adams, Carl Lawson, Jeremy Johnson
6. Georgia Bulldogs: Tray Matthews, Brice Ramsey, Tim Kimbrough
7. Texas A&M Aggies: Ricky Seals-Jones, JaQuay Williams, Kameron Miles
8. South Carolina Gamecocks: Larenz Bryant, Kelsey Griffin, David Williams
9. Vanderbilt Commodores: Nigel Bowden, Johnathon McCrary, Zach Cunningham
10. Tennessee Volunteers: Marquez North, Jalen Reeves-Maybin, Paul Harris
11. Mississippi State Bulldogs: Chris Jones, Cord Sandberg, Fred Ross
12. Arkansas Razorbacks: Alex Collins, Denver Kirkland, Hunter Henry
13. Kentucky Wildcats: Jason Hatcher, Marcus McWilson, Za’Darius Smith
14. Missouri Tigers: Chase Abbington, Trent Hosick, Antar Thompson