- Tom Luginbill, ESPN Staff Writer
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The SEC East is highlighted by one of the best recruiting classes ever, as well as the recent drama at Tennessee. The Gators might not have won the SEC this past season, but they certainly are No. 1 nationally in recruiting circles. Urban Meyer has reloaded his program on both sides of the ball with some of the best talent in the country. To put things in perspective, Georgia has the No. 4-ranked class in the country with half as many ESPNU 150 prospects as Florida.
In Knoxville, Lane Kiffin is out after one year and Derek Dooley takes over a class that once was in the top 10 overall. Now that Tennessee has fallen back to the pack in the SEC East, the gap between the top tier (Florida and Georgia) and everyone else is substantial.
Commits: 26 | ESPNU 150: 16
The quality of this class is staggering, given what has taken place with the program in the past month, with the uncertainty surrounding Urban Meyer and his health issues. This class features 26 commits, including five five-star players and 13 four-star recruits. The Gators boosted their secondary with the additions of Under Armour All-Americans and five-star safeties Jonathan Dowling (Bradenton, Fla./Southeast) and Demar Dorsey (Fort Lauderdale, Fla./Boyd Anderson), and four-star CBs Josh Shaw (Palmdale, Calif./Palmdale) and Jaylen Watkins (Fort Meyers, Fla./Cape Coral). On offense, the Gators added Mack Brown (Lithonia, Ga./Martin Luther King), the No. 4 back in the nation; when all is said and done, he could be one of the best backs from this class if he stays healthy. The Gators also added one of the nation's top linemen, Under Armour All-American and four-star OT Ian Silberman (Orange Park, Fla./Fleming Island), who is one of the most athletic offensive tackles in the 2010 class. DTs Dominique Easley (Staten Island, N.Y./Curtis) and Sharrif Floyd (Philadelphia/George Washington) give Florida a stout, athletic defensive front.
Top prospect: ATH Ronald Powell (Corona, Calif./Rancho Verde) can do it all. Our No. 1 overall player could excel at three positions, including TE, but he belongs on defense.
Don't be surprised if: not everyone in this class pans out. This group is awesome on paper, but the reality is that some guys will make it and some won't. However, there are enough who should to possibly make this one of the best classes on record.
Commits: 19 | ESPNU 150: 8
Georgia bolstered its offensive line with a pair of four-star linemen: OG Kolton Houston (Buford, Ga./Buford), the third-ranked guard in the country, and Brent Benedict (Jacksonville, Fla./Bolles), the No. 11 OT. Coach Mark Richt also brought in a four-star back to run behind those two, Ken Malcome (Decatur, Ga./Southwest Dekalb), who has great size, thickness, power and the overall body composition to be an every-down college running back. The Dawgs also landed one of the nation's top WRs in Da'Rick Rogers (Calhoun, Ga./Calhoun), who at times looks like a Calvin Johnson-type player. He is aggressive, makes plays and presents some difficult one-on-one mismatches for opposing defenses. The Bulldogs might have had a subpar season, but the recruiting trail has been hot.
Top prospect: Four-star DB Alec Ogletree (Newnan, Ga./Newnan), the nation's No. 4 safety, is the top defensive player in this class. Ogletree is extremely intimidating. He looks like an outside linebacker but has safety speed.
Don't be surprised if: Georgia ends up with at least one more DT in this class. Michael Thornton (Stone Mountain, Ga./Stephenson) probably will be one of them.
Commits: 23 | ESPNU 150: 0
More linebacker and front-seven help is on the way for the Wildcats as they lose ILB Micah Johnson to graduation, among other losses. DT Brice Laughlin (Summerville, S.C./Summerville) is a quick, one-gap penetrator. OLB Malcolm McDuffen (Hopkinsville, Ky./Christian County) has played as a 'backer and defensive end. CB Anterio Sloan (West Helena, Ark./West Helena Central) is a well-rounded corner who plays bigger than his measurables would indicate. He is very feisty. Eleven of Kentucky's 23 commitments are on defense, 13 if you count ATH category prospects.
Top prospect: For the third year in a row, Gadsden, Ala., has produced a top-level player -- a second CB, Dale Trimble. He was challenged a ton opposite Dre Kirkpatrick a year ago and answered the bell.
Don't be surprised if: first-year head man Joker Phillips improves on Kentucky's 7-6 record and RB Raymond Sanders (Stone Mountain, Ga./Stephenson) becomes the next Raphael Little for the Wildcats.
Commits: 21 | ESPNU 150: 2
Steve Spurrier obviously is making an effort to improve the O-line. Six of the Gamecocks' 21 commits are linemen, led by A.J. Cann (Bamberg, S.C./Bamberg-Ehrhardt). Cann (6-3, 260) will need to add some bulk, but he is quick off the ball and gets into the defender in a hurry. However, South Carolina hasn't ignored the defense. Four-star DT Kelcy Quarles (Greenwood, S.C./Greenwood) is a load. He is disruptive, with a knack for being able to get penetration and make plays in the backfield. We still are questioning South Carolina's efforts in recruiting upper-tier QBs, but ATH Connnor Shaw (Flowery Branch, Ga./Flowery Branch) could see some time under center if he isn't moved to another position right away.
Top prospect: Cann is a very good lineman with excellent technical skills and foot quickness. His versatility makes him a valuable athlete.
Don't be surprised if: RB Marcus Lattimore (Duncan, S.C./Byrnes) signs with South Carolina.
Commits: 19 | ESPNU 150: 4
Tennessee has taken a pretty big hit thanks to the tornado created by Lane Kiffin's departure to become USC's coach, but for the most part, this class has remained intact. After losing four verbal commitments in the early going, things have settled down, and now it is Derek Dooley's job to close this class out strong for the Vols. Seven commits are already enrolled in school, which is a silver lining. Tennessee's recruiting class and O-line got a big boost, literally, when 6-foot-6, 305-pound Ja'Waun James (Suwanee, Ga./North Gwinnett) switched his commitment from Alabama to the Vols. James, an Under Armour All-American, is a raw talent with huge upside. His size and mobility make him a valuable asset at the next level, and he has the potential to be an exceptional offensive tackle. The Vols also added D-line help with Corey Miller (Duncan, S.C./James Byrnes), a four-star prospect and UA All-American DE. On offense, Tennessee has brought in four-star QB Tyler Bray (Kingsburg, Calif./Kingsburg), who could be a steal, and snagged four-star WR Justin Hunter from LSU recently. Bray reminds us of Matt Leinart when he came out of high school (only Bray is right-handed). He has prototypical height (6-6), and his frame development upside is off the charts once he hits a college weight program.
Top prospect: James has the potential to grow into an exceptional offensive lineman.
Don't be surprised if: Tennessee's class turns out to be just fine. It has eight four-star players and seven prospects already in school.
Commits: 22 | ESPNU 150: 0
Although it was a down year on the gridiron for Vanderbilt in 2009, you would not know it by the program's recruiting efforts to this point. Given the Commodores' stringent academic standards, there is no doubt this is the toughest recruiting job in the SEC. Coach Bobby Johnson knows they must get better in the offensive and defensive fronts, and five of their top eight graded prospects are in this area. DTs Jared Morse (Oxford, Ala./Oxford) and Vince Taylor (Hattiesburg, Miss./Oak Grove) are two of four DTs in the class of 22 prospects. Under Armour All-American James Kittredge (Ramsey, N.J./Don Bosco) could play end or tackle along the front.
Top prospect: S Kenneth Ladler (Stone Mountain, Ga./Stephenson) is a rangy, physical, center-fielder type with good size and run-stuffing ability.
Don't be surprised if: several kids in this class play early and often.
Tom Luginbill is the national recruiting director for ESPN's Scouts Inc.