While the on-the-field results have been stellar for the SEC over the last six seasons, the bread-and-butter of the conference is its ability to recruit elite talent on an annual basis.
Defensive back Jalen Ramsey, quarterback Shane Morris, tight end O.J. Howard, running back Greg Bryant, running back Taquan Mizzell, running back Ty Isaac, defensive back Leon McQuay III and defensive tackle A'Shawn Robinson all made the leap to the head of the Class of 2013.
Three of those players—Howard, Bryant and McQuay—could potentially land in the SEC. Let's break them down.
Tight End O.J. Howard: Alabama Commitment
At 6'6", 220 pounds, Howard moved all the way up to the No. 5 spot in Rivals' most recent rankings. The long-time commitment to the Crimson Tide has tremendous athleticism. He posted a 4.5 40-yard dash, and can be a big weapon in an Alabama offense that uses multiple tight ends as receiving threats.
Current tight end Michael Williams is a senior in 2012, and behind him there are some question marks at that positions thanks to the departure of Brad Smelley.
Howard's presence in the Tide offense creates a mismatch no matter who lines up on the other side, and he will be a star in the SEC sooner rather than later.
Running Back Greg Bryant: Considering Auburn, South Carolina, Georgia and Alabama
Bryant de-committed from Oklahoma, and immediately named Auburn and South Carolina as his favorites. He then added Georgia to the mix, and hasn't ruled out Alabama—although the Crimson Tide appear to be a long shot since he is being recruited to Tuscaloosa as a cornerback (h/t Matt Scalici of AL.com).
Assuming that he goes to one of the three schools recruiting him as a running back, there really is no bad answer.
Auburn is going to utilize a running back by committee approach this season, and Onterio McCalebb is gone next year. The status of Jovon Robinson—last season's top running back signee—appears in doubt after his transcript snafu from high school.
There will be playing time to be had on the Plains for Bryant, and offensive coordinator Scot Loeffler's new system should be attractive to running backs.
The same argument can be made for South Carolina. Marcus Lattimore is as good as it gets in the SEC, but the rising junior is draft eligible after this season, and it's not likely that the now-veteran workhorse will stick around to put another year of wear and tear on himself in 2013. Head coach Steve Spurrier's offense is a run-first system, which should be attractive to Bryant.
At Georgia, Bryant would be joining a group of established running backs, so there may not be opportunity for immediate playing time. But competition breeds success, and battling Ken Malcome, Todd Gurley and Keith Marshall for playing time in 2013 would be a good thing for him long-term.
Safety Leon McQuay III: Considering Vanderbilt, Florida State, USC, Notre Dame and Oregon
It's odd to see Vanderbilt listed among some of the most tradition-rich programs in college football, but that's where the Commodores find themselves in the battle for McQuay.
That's a testament to the job that Vanderbilt head coach James Franklin has done in Nashville.
Any bowl appearance is a good bowl appearance for the Commodores, but Franklin hopes to change that. Building off of last year's success may not happen, but the 'Dores have been dancing around the top 25 of the team rankings for the Class of 2013, and getting the commitment of the 6'2", 185-pound McQuay over some elite competition would kick that momentum into overdrive.
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