Commentary

Alabama leading the way in the SEC

Originally Published: February 2, 2011
By ESPN Recruiting | ESPN.com

A team-by-team look at the recruiting classes in the SEC.

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1. Alabama Crimson Tide

Top prospect: Four-star safety Ha'Sean Clinton-Dix (Orlando, Fla./Dr. Phillips) is a well-rounded safety with a great combination of size and speed. He has the tools to be a force in the Crimson Tide defense.
Name to remember: Don't let OLB Vinnie Sunseri's (Tuscaloosa, Ala./Northridge) measurables (5-foot-11, 202 pounds) fool you; he is a good athlete and quite simply a very good football player who should contribute at linebacker and on special teams.
Breakdown: A recruiting power under Nick Saban, the Crimson Tide have fallen short of the No. 1 class but have never finished lower than third in the class rankings under his direction. Not shockingly, Alabama went into signing day again with a shot at the No. 1 class. No. 3 DE Jeoffrey Pagan (Ashville, N.C.) was a significant pickup on signing day, as Alabama needed to restock on pass-rushers and did. The class also features some potential playmakers at the wide receiver position, which represented a need. Speedster Bradley Sylve (Port Sulphur, La./South Plaquemines) and the tall, athletic Marvin Shinn (Prichard, Ala./Vigor) head the position. Not surprisingly, this class features excellent defensive talent with a difference-maker at every level. Clinton-Dix, defensive end Xzavier Dickson (Griffin, Ga./Griffin) and OLB Trey DePriest (Akron, Ohio/ Springfield) are excellent athletes and significant out-of-state lands for the Tide.

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2. Auburn Tigers

Top prospect: Christian Westerman (Chandler, Ariz./Hamilton), one of the top tackles in the country, fills a position of major need. He is big and athletic, and plays with a finishing attitude.
Name to remember: The Tigers are losing a former No. 1-rated center in Ryan Pugh but are replacing him with another in Reese Dismukes (Spanish Fort, Ala./Spanish Fort).
Breakdown: The Tigers climbed to the top of the college football mountain this past season and signed an excellent class to help them stay there. They have landed Westerman and are still in the mix for Cyrus Kouandjio (Hyattsville, Md./DeMatha) -- two of the best offensive tackles in the country -- as well as the top center in the country in Dismukes. This was a position of need. In an attempt to reload, Auburn is bringing in a top-three class, which features the likely successor to Cam Newton in Kiehl Frazier (Sprindale, Ark./Shiloh Christian). Newton's shoes will be tough to fill and Auburn fans will have to have some patience, but Frazier is familiar with Gus Malzahn's system and has the tools to be a force as both a runner and a passer. His top future target could be the ultra-athletic Quan Bray (LaGrange, Ga./Troup County). Auburn also is bringing in a trio of a bit raw but promising defensive linemen in Angelo Blackson (Bear, Del./Red Lion Christian), Jabrian Niles (Mobile, Ala./Davidson) and Keymiya Harrell (Plantersville, Ala./Dallas County). Landing No. 4 safety Erique Florence (Valley, Ala.), one of the state's best defenders, on signing day was an important piece to this class.

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3. Georgia Bulldogs

Top prospect: Ray Drew (Thomasville, Ga./County Central), the No. 2 defensive end in the country, has the physical tools and athleticism to create havoc off the edge for the Bulldogs.
Name to remember: Center David Andrews (Norcross, Ga./Wesleyan) is technically sound with coveted strength and quickness at the position.
Breakdown: While the Bulldogs need to turn it around on the field, off the field they remain strong. They closed as well as any other team, particularly in-state, being called the "Dream Team." Signing day was highlighted by the inking of five-star RB Isaiah Crowell (Columbus, Ga./Carver), who has big-play speed and strength to run between the tackles. Fellow five-star recruit Drew was a huge pickup down the stretch because he has outstanding size, quickness and athleticism at the end position to make a difference right away. Georgia's class is offensive-oriented, although with a focus on adding a signal-caller and pass-catching depth. QB Christian LeMay (Mint Hill, N.C./Butler) didn't play his entire senior season but is still a fundamentally sound, athletic quarterback with a smooth delivery. Top-rated tight end Jay Rome (Valdosta, Ga./Valdosta) has the tools to be the next great one at the position in Athens. Justin Scott-Wesley (Camilla, Ga/Mitchell-Baker) is one of the faster receivers in the country, and Chris Conley (Dallas, Ga./North Paulding) is well-rounded in his skill set. The offensive line also has been addressed with a handful of quality signees highlighted by massive top-10 tackle Watts Dantzler (Dalton, Ga./Dalton). Defensively, dynamic athlete Damian Swann (Atlanta/Grady) is versatile and can help depth issues at corner.

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4. LSU Tigers

Top prospect: The SEC is known for producing some great defensive tackles, and DT Anthony Johnson (New Orleans, La./O. Perry Walker), the prospect they call "The Freak," could be the next dominating interior force in the conference.
Name to remember: OT La'El Collins (Baton Rouge, La./Redemptorist) is not someone unfamiliar to LSU fans, but the five-star prosepct deserves some recognition because he has the ability to be an anchor at the left tackle position for the Tigers for several seasons.
Breakdown: It was a good year for talent on the Bayou, and LSU capitalized the best it could. The top prospects in the class are all from in-state, led by Johnson and Collins. Both are impact players at premium positions. Johnson fills a need along the interior, while Collins takes care of LSU's need at offensive tackle for the next couple of years. LSU needed a young deep threat in this class and signed one in top-three receiver Jarvis Landry (Lutcher, La./Lutcher). The Tigers added a powerful load back too in Kenny Hilliard (Patterson, La./Patterson).

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5. Florida Gators

Top prospect: Jeff Driskel (Oviedo, Fla./Hagerty), a top-10 overall prospect, has prototypical size, arm strength and athleticism to make an immediate impact behind center.
Name to remember: Loucheiz Purifoy (Pensacola, Fla./Pine Forest) was an underrated prospect in the early going but could turn out to be one of the more versatile athletes in the Gators' class.
Breakdown: Will Muschamp lost some key prospects in the coaching turnover but has kept this inherited top-10 class stable for the most part. This class is loaded with offensive firepower and the future behind center in Gainesville. Driskel has ideal physical measurables to challenge for a starting job right away. His top target of the future likely will be tall pass-catcher Ja'Juan Story (Brooksville, Fla./Nature Coast Technical). Running back Mike Blakely (Bradenton, Fla./Manatee) has big-play ability, deceptive strength and durability to stay on the field. On defense, the secondary needed talented youth and that was addressed. Jabari Gorman (Miami, Fla./Monsignor Edward Pace) was Muschamp's first commitment and is a physical, productive safety prospect who can make plays in all three levels. Versatile DB Marcus Roberson (Fort Lauderdale, Fla./Saint Thomas Aquinas) was a great get on signing day.

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6. Tennessee Volunteers

Top prospect: DeAnthony Arnett (Saginaw, Mich./Saginaw) has big-play ability both as a pass-catcher and with the ball in his hands after the catch.
Name to remember: Justin Worley (Rockhill, S.C./Northwestern), the National Gatorade Player of the Year, put up eye-popping stats this past season -- 428-for-589 (72.7 percent) on attempts for 5,313 yards and 64 touchdowns -- and is one of the more efficient intermediate-to-deep ball-throwers in this class.
Breakdown: Derek Dooley proved with his first full recruiting class that he could recruit top-level prospects and close down the stretch. Arnett was a major signee and steal from Michigan and Michigan State. When healthy, Marlin Lane (Daytona Beach, Fla./Mainland) is a top national runner. Depth was needed behind center, and Worley is a great get. There was a focus up front as well and on the defensive back seven. Former Miami commit Marcus Jackson (Vero Beach, Fla./Vero Beach) is a top-five guard with dominant run-blocking strength and an aggressive, finishing attitude. Defensively, the Vols signed two outstanding linebackers in ESPNU 150 OLB Curt Maggitt (Palm Beach Gardens, Fla./Dwyer) and ILB A.J. Johnson (Gainesville, Ga./Gainesville). Maggitt could make an immediate impact as a pass-rusher, and Johnson is one of the better inside run-fillers in the country and as tough as they come. Four-star safety Patrick Martin (Greenville, S.C./J.L. Mann) is well-balanced and instinctive patrolling the secondary.

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7. Arkansas Razorbacks

Top prospect: Mitch Smothers (Springdale, Ark./Springdale) is a versatile and talented offensive line prospect who likely will settle in at guard, could play any position on the line, and displays the ability and technique to contribute early, if needed.
Name to remember: Local product TE Demetrius Dean (Fayetteville, Ark./Fayetteville) has the ability to be a productive weapon in the Razorbacks' high-powered attack. He is not a speedster but runs routes well, has quick hands and could catch a lot of balls in their offense.
Breakdown: Coming off the school's first BCS bowl appearance, the Razorbacks put together a top-25 class. They restocked up front with two top-five guards in Smothers and Brey Cook (Springdale, Ark./Har-Ber). The tight end position got a lot of attention, which was important when you look at the lack of depth. Two top-20 tight ends, including Dean, fill a void. The class is offensive-heavy, but the defense was not totally ignored, especially on the defensive line. The Razorbacks signed several defensive linemen, led by Lonnie Gosha (Lake Butler, Fla./Union County). Wide receiver was another position addressed with a few solid pickups, as well as corner, with former Nebraska commit Tevin Mitchel (Mansfield, Texas/Mansfield Legacy).

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8. South Carolina Gamecocks

Top prospect: Safety Kadetrix Marcus (Stone Mountain, Ga./Stephenson) is a big, instinctive safety who can run, close, and support both the run and pass effectively.
Name to remember: Edward Muldrow (Snellville, Ga./ South Gwinnett) is a 'tweener outside linebacker/safety who has all the physical tools to produce at South Carolina's Spur position.
Breakdown: This class lacks a lot of the premier prospects Gamecocks fans are accustomed to, but it's deep and still filled with good speed and athleticism. South Carolina filled needs on both sides of the ball, but an emphasis was put on its defensive back seven. Marcus is an explosive closer and physical defender near the box who could fit into South Carolina's hybrid position. On offense, the Gamecocks filled a need at tight end with Drew Owens (Charlotte, N.C./Andrey Kell). The No. 15-rated player at the position is well-balanced as a blocker and pass-catcher. Shamier Jeffery (Saint Matthews, S.C./Calhoun County) has the acrobatic pass-catching skills of his star brother Alshon. The offensive line got a boost as well with several solid signees. Don't forget about Kelcy Quarles (Greenwood, S.C./Fork Union Military Academy), a 2010 ESPNU 150 prospect, on the defensive front.

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9. Mississippi Rebels

Top prospect: WR Tobias Singleton (Madison, Miss./Central) is a good-sized receiver who has the smooth stride and fluid hips to be able to be a vertical threat and a playmaker with the ball in his hands.
Name to remember: ATH Cody Prewitt (Bay Springs, Miss./Sylva-Bay Academy) is a tall, athletic prospect who could help Ole Miss on either side of the ball.
Breakdown: The Rebels brought in some talent to try to aid their passing attack and defense, which was ranked second to last in the SEC. Singleton could develop into both a vertical threat and big-play guy after the catch. The Rebels also landed three-star wide receiver Donte Moncrief (Raleigh, Miss.), who is a raw but big, physical athlete with great hands. Maikhail Miller (Fulton, Miss./Itawamba Agri) is a good-sized quarterback who needs some development but possesses a powerful arm and quick release and is a physical runner. On defense, explosive four-star linebackers C.J. Johnson (Philadelphia, Miss./Philadelphia) and Serderius Bryant (Sanford, Fla./Seminole) add needed depth at the position.

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10. Kentucky Wildcats

Top prospect: OT Zach West (Lexington, Kent./Lexington Christian Academy) is a very good tackle prospect with the size, short-area quickness and athleticism to develop into a very good run- and pass-blocker.
Name to remember: Give RB Marcus Caffey (Atlanta/Grady) a year or two to build up his frame, because with added bulk and power, he could be a very good every-down college back.
Breakdown: In his first recruiting class, Joker Phillips focused on offensive line and keeping the top in-state prospects home. Two of the Wildcats' top commitments are future centerpieces on the offensive line. Top-25 tackles West and Darrian Miller (Lexington, Ky./Bryan Station) have great size and upside. There are several defensive upgrades as well, particularly at safety. The Wildcats went into Illinois for four-star prospect Glen Faulkner (East Saint Louis, Ill./East Saint Louis), an underrated defensive back with a lot of physical tools and savvy.

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11. Mississippi State Bulldogs

Top prospect: Joe Morrow (Ocean Springs, Miss.) is a great intermediate route-runner and pass-catcher who could provide immediate help in the red zone.
Name to remember: Dak Prescott (Haughton, La.) needs development as a quarterback but displays good upside and should, with work, be a nice fit for Mississippi State's offense.
Breakdown: The once-top-25 class is still solid and comprised of good athleticism at the skill positions. Dan Mullen signed more weapons on offense to help the Bulldogs' passing attack, which ranked near the bottom of the SEC. Talented three-star receiver Morrow has the long stride to stretch a defense, and Devante Scott (Ferriday, La./Ferriday) is a key undernenath playmaker for Mullen's offense . Several big men also were brought in, led by James Maiden (Woodville, Miss./Wilkinson County), who could play on the defensive line but we feel is better suited to help Mississippi State on offense.

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12. Vanderbilt Commodores

Top prospect: Lafonte Thourogood (Virginia Beach, Va./Ocean Lakes) is a versatile quarterback prospect who could develop there or at another position with his large frame and athleticism.
Name to remember: Derek King (Brentwood, Tenn./Brentwood Academy), the premier corner in the state of Tennessee, has major BCS-level speed and athleticism, and is a steal for Vandy.
Breakdown: James Franklin did not have a lot of time to come in and improve this subpar class, but he inherited a decent group of athletes and skill guys. Safety Larry Franklin (Vero Beach, Fla./Vero Beach) is one of a few sleepers signed out of Florida in this class. He is a well-rounded safety and an instinctive ball hawk who also should be a major contributor on special teams. Up front, offensive tackle James Lewis (Arlington, Tenn./Arlington) has the tools to develop into an explosive drive-blocker who also can block in space.