What Every SEC Team Needs as National Signing Day 2013 Approaches
With less than a week before national signing day on Feb. 6, this is when the rubber hits the road on the recruiting trail.
Programs from around the SEC are making their last-minute pitches to prospects from around the country, hoping to lure them to campus and fill specific needs.
What does each SEC team need as the big day approaches? Our picks are in this slideshow.
Florida Gators: Get a Flip
The Florida Gators already have 25 commits and are ranked second in the 247Sports.com team rankings, so a relatively stress-free national signing day is probably something that head coach Will Muschamp would welcome with open arms.
But there are still a few pieces of the puzzle out there for the Gators.
Jalen Ramsey, a 5-star cornerback (per 247Sports.com) from Brentwood, Tenn., has been a longtime commit to USC. But to say USC is a dumpster fire right now may be an insult to dumpster fires.
Ramsey is still considering Florida State and Florida, and if the Gators can sway him to sign on the dotted line on Wednesday, he would join fellow class of 2013 cornerback Vernon Hargreaves III in an ultra-talented defensive backfield.
Also keep an eye on 4-star defensive end Jay-nard Bostwick. The uncommitted 6'4", 280-pounder will give Florida the last at-bat this weekend on his official visit, and that's a good place to be if you're Muschamp.
Wide receiver James Clark, another 4-star prospect, will also visit Gainesville over the weekend. The New Smyrna Beach, Fla., native has his choices narrowed down to the Gators, Clemson and Ohio State.
Georgia Bulldogs: Get Defensive Line Help
Defensive line is one of the positions on the field where young players typically can succeed early if they have the body to play up front. With Georgia losing four defensive linemen from a year ago, the door is open for several top prospects to step foot on campus and make an immediate impact.
Head coach Mark Richt better hope some of the star defensive linemen in the class of 2013 sign on the dotted line with his Bulldogs on Wednesday, because he certainly could use them.
Montravius Adams, the nation's No. 10 overall player and the No. 3 defensive tackle in the 247Sports.com composite index, has narrowed his choices down to Clemson, Georgia, Auburn, Alabama and Florida. He's visiting Auburn over the weekend, but could make an immediate impact on the Bulldog defensive line.
Dee Liner, a 4-star prospect who has long since been a lean to Alabama—even when he was committed to Auburn—reached out to Richt on Thursday and will take a visit to Athens on the final weekend before national signing day.
Kentucky Wildcats: Keep Up the Momentum
Lost in the frenzy of Robert Nkemdiche, Reuben Foster and the rest of the top-tier uncommitted recruits around the South is that first-year Kentucky head coach Mark Stoops is doing a pretty good job of getting prospects to buy what he's selling.
The Wildcats have received verbals from 4-star athlete Marcus McWilson and 4-star junior college defensive end Za'Darius Smith since Stoops was hired. They have also received commitments from 3-star junior college corner Nate Willis, 3-star junior college wide receiver Javess Blue and 3-star offensive tackle Kyle Meadows in the month of January.
Missouri Tigers: Get Bigger and Faster Up Front
"SEC speed" is a real thing, and Missouri found that out the hard way in 2012. Missouri got worn down late in games vs. tough SEC competition like Georgia and South Carolina, and an inability to control the line of scrimmage is a big reason why.
The Tigers need to get bigger and faster up front. Getting the signature of 6'2", 310-pound defensive tackle Monty Nelson and keeping Dimarya Mixon, Josh Augusta and Antar Thompson on board to fill the void left by the recently-departed Sheldon Richardson will be big for this defense.
South Carolina Gamecocks: Get Defensive Help
While defensive end Jadeveon Clowney will dominate headlines for South Carolina this offseason, the Gamecocks lost seven starters from last season's squad.
With that much roster turnover, playing time is available for head coach Steve Spurrier. Getting players on campus that can compete for those vacant spots will be critical as they head down the stretch towards national signing day.
It's a big weekend last weekend in Columbia, as 4-star defensive tackle Keith Bryant and 3-star linebacker Tyrell Lyons—a Florida State commit—made their way to town. This on the heels of a big weekend on Jan. 18 that saw 3-star linebacker/running back Jonathan Walton and 3-star linebacker Skai Moore come calling.
Nail down a couple of those prospects, and the defensive side of the ball will be replenished.
Tennessee Volunteers: It's All About Bell and Lawson
Tennessee struggled last season due in large part to the fact that the switch from the 4-3 defense to the 3-4 defense didn't go according to plan. Now that it's back with a familiar scheme, it's time to find top-tier prospects to execute it.
Bell is a 5-star safety prospect from Rossville, Ga., who's considering the Vols along with Alabama, Ohio State. He has the size and speed to step in and contend for playing time immediately on Rocky Top; but where he's leaning is anybody's guess at this point. One thing is for certain: If the Vols are going to turn things around on defense in 2013, Bell would help.
Lawson is probably more of a long shot due in large part to the fact that he's been a longtime commit to Auburn. But he seems to have opened up to other schools. The 5-star defensive has all the makings of becoming a star wherever he goes, and Tennessee is making a late push to get him.
Vanderbilt Commodores: Hang On
Vanderbilt head coach James Franklin has lived by the mantra of "VanderBuild" since arriving in Nashville, and nailing down a solid recruiting class on Feb. 6 would go a long way towards continuing that process.
They have 3-star running back Rapheal Webb coming to campus this weekend and could certainly use a replacement for Ford now that he appears to move on to greener pastures.
Alabama Crimson Tide: Close Strong
Alabama currently has the nation's No. 1 overall class, according to 247Sports.com, and nailing down one or two more top prospects between now and national signing day would solidify the Tide atop the team standings for the second straight season.
So, how do they do that?
Springing the minor upset and getting the signature of Dooly County (Ga.) defensive tackle Montravius Adams would certainly help. The 6'4", 310-pounder has the size and the quickness to step in and make an immediate impact along that Crimson Tide defensive line.
If not Adams, how about 6'2", 310-pound defensive tackle Eddie Vanderdoes from Auburn, Calif.? He's leaning toward UCLA, but is visiting Alabama on the final weekend before national signing day. If there's anything we know about head coach Nick Saban, it's that he can close.
It was reported on Friday that 5-star offensive tackle Laremy Tunsil—a longtime Alabama and Georgia prospect—was leaning towards Ole Miss. There's still plenty of time for Saban to get in his ear and get him back on board with the Crimson Tide, though.
Arkansas Razorbacks: Get a Running Back
If first-year Arkansas head coach Bret Bielema was known for anything at Wisconsin, it was routinely producing top-tier running backs.
With Dennis Johnson and Knile Davis gone, he needs to find a new one at his new gig with Arkansas.
Bielema has been spending a lot of time trying to lure 4-star running back Alex Collins from Fort Lauderdale, Fla. to Fayetteville. The 5'11", 204-pounder visited the Razorbacks last weekend and is also considering Miami (Fla.). If Bielema can land Collins, he will have the chance to play immediately.
Why is it so important for Arkansas to land Collins? Because it was unable to flip 4-star running back and Alabama commit Altee Tenpenny when he was on his official visit two weekends ago.
There's still a chance of Bielema and Co. flipping the Little Rock native—especially if Alabama lands Alvin Kamara—but the Hogs certainly need at least one of the top-tier backs that they're currently pursuing.
Auburn Tigers: Win National Signing Day
While Alabama will probably secure the nation's top class, rival Auburn has the best chance to win national signing day.
Why is that? Well, Auburn has the biggest hill to climb after several prospects de-committed after former head coach Gene Chizik was fired.
First-year head coach Gus Malzahn could close strong, with eight prospects heading to the Plains on the final recruiting weekend of the year. The list of visitors includes uncommitted players like 5-star linebacker Reuben Foster, 5-star defensive tackle Montravius Adams, 4-star defensive tackle Toby Johnson and 4-star defensive end/Ole Miss commit Elijah Daniel.
Secure the commitment of 5-star defensive end Carl Lawson, 4-star running back Tarean Folston and get the pledge from 5-star corner back MacKensie Alexander, and Auburn could end up with a top-10 class.
Not bad coming off of a 3-9 record and a coaching change.
LSU Tigers: It's All About Robert Nkemdiche
Robert Nkemdiche, the nation's No. 1 overall prospect, shocked the recruiting world on Thursday night, as his on-again/off-again visit to LSU is back on for the final weekend before national signing day.
The Tigers already have several defensive ends already committed, but landing the biggest fish in the recruiting pond would be huge for this particular team—which is replacing five of its top six defensive ends from a year ago. Considering the Tigers have sent 11 defensive linemen to the NFL through the draft since head coach Les Miles took over in 2005, heading to Baton Rouge is certainly attractive for Nkemdiche.
Miles currently has the No. 7 class in the country, but pulling the upset and getting Nkemdiche to sign on the dotted line on Feb. 6 would vault it up near the No. 1 spot and solidify a very pressing need along the defensive line.
Mississippi State Bulldogs: Hang on to Chris Jones
Mississippi State's recruiting class has taken a few hits lately with the loss of 4-star junior college wide receiver Corey Smith to Ohio State and the loss of 4-star running back Kailo Moore to Ole Miss last month.
More bad news could be on the way, as 5-star defensive end and longtime Bulldog commit Chris Jones—the nation's No. 2 overall prospect—visited Ole Miss last weekend and appears to be considering flipping to Mississippi State's in-state rival.
Not a good look for head coach Dan Mullen.
It now appears to be a fight for Jones' services, and considering state power has shifted away from Starkville and Ole Miss has become the "flavor of the season" on the recruiting trail, the Bulldogs desperately need a big win.
Ole Miss Rebels: Keep Doing What You've Been Doing
To say that Ole Miss is the talk of the recruiting season would be a massive understatement. Second-year head coach Hugh Freeze has a solid class already committed and could ascend into the top five of the national rankings if the chips fall his way between now and national signing day.
Coming off of a 7-6 record, that's pretty astonishing.
Ole Miss has made progress getting in the mix for No. 3 overall prospect Laremy Tunsil, could flip No. 2 overall prospect Chris Jones and is still the likely leader to secure the services of top overall prospect Robert Nkemdiche.
Ole Miss. With the top three players in the country.
Just a magnificent job so far by Freeze, and the best could be yet to come.
Texas A&M Aggies: Just Hang On
Texas A&M's recruiting class is absolutely loaded. The Aggies have 32 commitments, with eight of those players already enrolling in school.
It's safe to say that there's not a lot of room, and when compared to other SEC schools, Aggie fans probably wouldn't mind a relatively uneventful national signing day.
If the Aggies are able to lock down Isaac Savaiinaea, the 4-star middle linebacker from Honolulu, Hawaii, it would fill a specific need. That isn't likely at this point, though.
Texas A&M needs to hang on and reaffirm the commitments it already has. If head coach Kevin Sumlin is able to do that, he'll find his team listed in the top 10 of the team standings and keep the momentum going in the right direction.