SEC West recruiting breakdown
The SEC West has three programs currently rated in the top 10 of our recruiting rankings headed into signing day. That should come as no surprise because the conference in general has some of the best recruiters in college football. LSU coach Les Miles has proven he can go head-to-head with Alabama coach Nick Saban on the trail. While the Tigers won't repeat with a No. 1 ranking, they will still sign another upper-tier class and the Tide should once again land in the top three, despite a down year in the state. The surprise of the SEC West in 2010 has to be Auburn. Gene Chizik quickly opened eyes on a national level with his innovative recruiting tactics -- and recruits across the country have taken notice.
Could a dynasty be building in Tuscaloosa? Fresh off a national championship, Saban looks to sign his third straight top-three recruiting class. The Crimson Tide are stocked with ESPNU 150 prospects on both sides of the ball. On offense, Alabama landed the nation's top QB Phillip Sims (Chesapeake, Va./Oscar Smith), who can make all the throws and is always a threat to run. Defensively, the Tide have two of the nation's top four cornerbacks in DeMarcus Milliner (Millbrook, Ala./Stanhope Elmore) and John Fulton (Manning, S.C./Manning), as well as a pair of top-six defensive ends in Under Armour All-Americans Adrian Hubbard (Norcross, Ga./Norcross) and Alfy Hill (Shallotte, N.C./West Brunswick). Athlete Keenan Allen (Greensboro, N.C./Northern Guilford) could develop into a productive wide receiver for Alabama, but has the talent to also play defensive back and be a star as a returner.
Top prospect: The scary part about Milliner is that he hasn't even reached his full physical or fundamental potential. He has relied on his excellent speed and recovery burst more than technique. In fact, ESPN's No. 2 corner has spent most of his high school career at free safety. He will have one of the best DB coaches in the country grooming him in Tuscaloosa in Saban.
Don't be surprised if: Alabama signs massive offensive tackle James Stone (Nashville, Tenn./Maplewood).
This Arkansas class is deep enough to warrant consideration for the top 25, but lacks the high-end talent it signed last February. Under Armour All-American tackle Cam Feldt (Pilot Point, Texas/Pilot Point) is a great pickup on the offensive line because he's a strong run-blocker with the ability to play guard. The Razorbacks signed great young talent at corner last year and will add a top-25 safety in the rangy and well-rounded Daunte Carr (Gainesville, Ga./Gainesville). Their second-highest-rated prospect is near four-star Jatashun Beachum (Dallas/A. Maceo Smith), one of the best jumbo athletes in this class. Plus, don't underestimate the importance of a kicker and Arkansas has a good one in Eduardo Camara (Cedar Hill, Texas).
Top prospect: Feldt committed to the Razorbacks as a sophomore and has been firm since. Good thing for Arkansas fans because they are getting one of the top offensive tackles in the country. Feldt has a massive, powerful frame and is an excellent run-blocker. He is mobile as well and a winner; the Texas native led his team to a state championship last fall.
Don't be surprised if: The 260-pound Beachum starts out his career in Fayetteville at running back. It's what sold him on the Razorbacks.
Chizik quieted some of his critics on the Plains last fall and is doing the same on the recruiting trail. The nation's top running back, five-star Michael Dyer (Little Rock, Ark./Little Rock Christian), headlines Chizik's first full recruiting class. With a great blend of speed, power and in-line quickness, Dyer projects as a feature back who can wear down a defense. The Tigers also added a trio of outstanding, top-10 rated athletes in Trovon Reed (Thibodaux, La./Thibodaux), Antonio Goodwin (Atlanta/Booker T. Washington) and Shaun Kitchens (College Park, Ga./Benjamin E. Banneker). Defensively, Auburn landed a pair of four-stars in end LaDarius Owens (Bessemer, Ala./Jess Lanier) and outside linebacker Jawara White (Troy, Ala./Charles Henderson). Landing No. 2 offensive guard Eric Mack (Saint Matthews, S.C./Calhoun County) from South Carolina down the stretch was also huge.
Top prospect: Dyer is the complete package at running back and will likely be a workhorse early in his career at Auburn. He's compact and powerful with great balance, which helps him break consistent first contact. When you add his great feet and perimeter speed to the mix, you can see why Dyer is pegged as the No. 1 back in 2010.
Don't be surprised if: Auburn signs ESPN's No. 2 rated running back Marcus Lattimore (Duncan, S.C./James Byrnes) over the in-state Gamecocks.
LSU looks to hold onto to its current top-10 ranking on signing day, despite recently losing elite receiver Justin Hunter (Virginia Beach, Va./Ocean Lakes). However, the Tigers continue to add top-level talent to their secondary. Eric Reid (Geismar, La./Dutchtown) and Tharold Simon (Eunice, La./Eunice) are a pair of physically impressive top-10 safety prospects with great height and range. Defensive end Justin Maclin (Memphis, Tenn./Ridgeway) is a great vertical attacker off the edge. The Tigers also landed some offensive prospects, highlighted by four-star TE Travis Dickson (Ocean Springs, Miss), who could shine in an H-back role. Evan Washington (DeSoto, Texas/DeSoto) is a 6-foot-6, four-star OT with huge upside. LSU also added four-star QB Zach Lee (McKinney, Texas) who has the prototypical pocket-passer measurables and arm strength.
Top prospect: Dickson might not come across as a prototypical tight end prospect with ideal measurables, but he's simply a great football player with a lot of intangibles. He will give the Tigers' coaching staff a lot of flexibility with his ability to play TE, H-back or even fullback. Defensive end is not out of the question, either.
Don't be surprised if: Recent commit WR James Wright helps soften the blow of losing Hunter to the Vols. Like Hunter, Wright will make an impact as a red zone threat.
The Rebels have a smaller class, but it has good midrange quality. They also have a difference-maker up top in Clarence Jackson (College Park, Ga./North Clayton). The No. 16 rated athlete has an impressive blend of size and speed on a large frame, making outside linebacker a likely possibility for this talented running back. Ole Miss stocked up at defensive end as well, a position of need, by visiting one high school. Four-star Carlton Martin (Madison, Miss./Central) and teammate Bryon Bennett (Madison, Miss./Central) are great in-state pickups. Running back Nicholas Parker (Batesville, Miss./South Panola) is a strong load back who could develop into an every-down workhorse.
Top prospect: Jackson will likely play linebacker for the Rebels, but we have him listed in the athlete category because he is so physically gifted and versatile. We like his physical makeup as a potential carry-the-load type running back, but his upside as a sideline-to-sideline, hard-closing linebacker is hard to ignore. Jackson is a great get out of Georgia and still a national sleeper in our eyes.
Don't be surprised if: Defensive ends Martin and Bennett contribute early in Oxford, despite being undersized.
In Dan Mullen's first full season on the trail the Bulldogs have recruited well, particularly in state. Mississippi State has verbals from the top-three-rated athletes from the Magnolia State in Michael Carr (West Point, Miss./South), Brandon Hill (Columbus, Miss./West Lowndes) and Robert Johnson (Hattiesburg, Miss./Oak Grove). Carr is a dynamic skill player who could project at a number of positions. Fellow four-star Hill will likely be employed as a hybrid outside linebacker. Safety Chris Hughes (Mobile, Ala./Davidson) is a speedy and athletic in-the-box defender who could play throughout the back seven.
Top prospect: It's not surprising that Carr doubles as a great basketball player -- this guy is extremely dynamic on the gridiron and could help the Bulldogs at a number of different positions. He led his team to a state championship by being a playmaker with the ball in his hands, but we don't rule out safety in Starkville with his great range, physicality and ball-hawking skills.
Don't be surprised if: The Bulldogs lose stock-soaring running back prospect Rajion Neal (Tyrone, Ga./Sandy Creek) down the stretch.
Billy Tucker is a recruiting coordinator for Scouts Inc. and has close to a decade of coaching experience at the college and high school levels.
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