How Every SEC Team Did in Fulfilling Its Recruiting Needs
National signing day is in the books, and while Ole Miss and Alabama grabbed all of the headlines on Wednesday, several SEC teams signed players in positions in which they were in desperate need of help.
Auburn stacked up on defensive linemen to shore up its putrid run defense, Tennessee landed its wide receiver of the future and LSU landed two players who could step in for rising senior Zach Mettenberger at quarterback once he moves on.
How did each team address its pressing needs on national signing day? Take a look at the picks in this slide show.
Had it not been for Ole Miss' late charge and Alabama's class for the ages, we'd all be talking about Florida's top five class in the 247Sports.com team composite rankings, and how it's going to help the Gators take the next step and win the SEC East.
Head coach Will Muschamp addressed some specific areas of need, including at linebacker. The Gators inked 4-star linebackers Alex Anzalone, Daniel McMillian and Matt Rolin—all of whom enrolled early to get a jump start on the competition for playing time. With Jon Bostic and Jelani Jenkins both gone, there's playing time to be had.
With Mike Gillislee also out the door, Florida is in search of another feature running back. Matt Jones will likely get the first crack at it, but don't be surprised to see 5-star signee Kelvin Taylor contends for early playing time. The 5'10", 216-pounder has the size and speed to be a feature back in the SEC, and will be one at some point during his career.
How often do we say that Florida is lacking playmakers outside? Not often, but it was the case last season. Wide receivers Demarcus Robinson, Ahmad Fulwood and Alvin Bailey—all of whom have four stars attached to their names—will kick start that passing game.
Georgia's national signing day didn't go according to plan, as the Bulldogs missed out on 5-star offensive tackle Laremy Tunsil, 4-star running back Alvin Kamara and weren't in No. 1 overall prospect Robert Nkemdiche's final three teams, despite being just 30 minutes up the road.
But they did fill specific needs, particularly in the defensive backfield.
Four playmakers are gone from last season's secondary, but the addition of 4-star prospects Shaq Wiggins, Tray Matthews, Reggie Wilkerson and Brendan Langley should pay immediate dividends for the Bulldogs.
They also got the quarterback of the future in 4-star prospect Brice Ramsey. Ramsey ran a Wing-T offense in high school, but the return of senior Aaron Murray will allow Ramsey to redshirt and then hit the ground running as a redshirt freshman.
It wasn't the national signing day Bulldog fans envisioned, but having 13 players enroll early is incredibly beneficial.
Lost in the national signing day bonanza is the fact that first-year Kentucky head coach Mark Stoops put together a pretty darn good recruiting class considering the circumstances.
Za'Darius Smith is a 6'6", 250-pound 4-star defensive end from East Mississippi Community College who can step in and make an immediate impact. Joining Smith is 4-star defensive end Jason Hatcher, who stayed in-state to play for the Wildcats.
At 5'11", 180 pounds, Ryan Timmons is a very underrated running back and 4-star athlete Marcus McWilson could play wide receiver or corner for Stoops' bunch.
It won't make any headlines in the SEC, but Kentucky's class isn't half bad.
Missouri head coach Gary Pinkel said something during his national signing day press conference that should alarm Tiger fans.
“I’ve never ever looked at a ranking since I’ve been coaching,” Pinkel told the Kansas City Star. “Our evaluation system has proven overall it works. We believe in it, and just leave it at that.”
While that may be true, Missouri's issues last season stemmed from the fact that it wasn't fast and physical enough up front. Defensive linemen who are 6'5" and 295 pounds generally are ranked high in the recruiting rankings have have plenty of stars attached to their names.
Pinkel didn't get too many top-tier prospects, but did sign the heir apparent to Sheldon Richardson in 4-star defensive tackle Josh Augusta. The Tigers also were able to ink 4-star safety Chase Abbington and 3-star safety Duron Singleton, both of whom could make an impact right away.
South Carolina Gamecocks
South Carolina's class can be described in one word—solid.
There are no headliners, but there is a ton of star power on the defensive side of the football.
Larenz Bryant and Skai Moore, two 4-star linebackers, should give an immediate boost to a defense that was decimated by graduation; along with 4-star defensive tackle Kelsey Griffin. Defense has been the hallmark of the Gamecocks' three-year run of success, and that shouldn't change with this group.
Whether it's Connor Shaw or Dylan Thompson taking the snaps in 2013, the Gamecocks quarterback will be an upperclassman. They needed a quarterback in this class, and got one with early enrollee Connor Mitch. Mitch should redshirt in 2013, and compete for snaps as a freshman in 2014.
Tennessee swung and missed for 5-star safety Vonn Bell, but still managed to beef up its offense in spots where they desperately needed help.
First-year head coach Butch Jones needed a playmaker outside to replace departed wide receivers Justin Hunter and Cordarrelle Patterson, and got one with 6'4" stud MarQuez North. He has the size and speed to be a big time weapon in Jones' offense, and should see the field right away.
The Vols also go the quarterback of the future in 4-star pro-style quarterback Joshua Dobbs from Alpharetta, Ga. The 6'3", 190-pounder has the arm strength to stretch the field, but is mobile enough to escape pressure and keep plays alive.
It wasn't the stellar national signing day that Vol Nation hoped for, but Jones was still able to sign a quality class that fills immediate needs.
Vanderbilt lost out on a few prospects as national signing day approached, but head coach James Franklin still managed to close strong with a few big time targets.
Star wide receiver Jordan Matthews will be gone after this season, but another Jordan will step in and pick up right were he leaves off—4-star Ft. Lauderdale stud Jordan Cunningham. Cunningham has a 50-year career plan that includes life after football. But first thing's first, he's going to become a star in Nashville in the revitalized Commodore program.
Also headed to Nashville is 4-star linebacker Zach Cunningham, who will likely contend for playing time in the linebacker rotation as a freshman.
Franklin's motto is "VanderBuild," and he certainly did with a few key pieces in the 2013 class.
Alabama Crimson Tide
Alabama's class is simply sick.
It's an all-star team of high school prospects, headlined (well, not really, because they're all headliners) by 5-star running back Derrick Henry, 5-star tight end O.J. Howard and 5-star wide receiver Robert Foster. Just those players alone will allow the Crimson Tide offense to do pretty much whatever it wants.
On defense, ho-hum, just 5-star linebacker Reuben Foster, 5-star defensive end/linebacker Jonathan Allen and 5-star big man A'Shawn Robinson, who could play offense or defense.
Head coach Nick Saban has continued to lead Alabama—which is already a dynasty—in an upward trajectory.
Running back Alex Collins made national signing day headlines for all of the wrong reasons, after his mom confiscated his National Letter of Intent papers and left the school. But let's not forget that he's also the most important piece of head coach Bret Bielema's recruiting puzzle.
Collins will content with Jonathan Williams for playing time early, but the simple fact that Bielema and his staff went into South Florida and nabbed one of its top prospects says a lot.
In addition to Collins, Arkansas was also able to ink 4-star offensive guard Denver Kirkland from South Florida to help cure its offensive line woes, and land the quarterback of the future in 4-star pro-style signal-caller Austin Allen.
Arkansas made signing day headlines for the wrong reason, but behind Collins' drama is a solid class in Bielema's first season.
Had it not been for Ole Miss, Auburn probably would have won national signing day.
Not only did the Tigers close strong, they were able to fill specific needs on the defensive line by keeping 5-star defensive end Carl Lawson, flipping 5-star defensive end Elijah Daniel and winning the battle for 5-star defensive tackle Montravius Adams.
Throw those three studs in with a talented, yet underachieving defensive line, and first-year head coach Gus Malzahn and defensive coordinator Ellis Johnson will be able to rotate plenty of stars along the defensive front.
Auburn wanted three running backs, and got them with junior college enrollee Cameron Artis-Payne, 4-star stud Johnathan Ford and underrated prospect Peyton Barber.
The mass exodus of early early defections to the NFL has created plenty of holes on the LSU defense. Head coach Les Miles filled a few of those holes on Wednesday.
Hanging on to defensive end Frank Herron was huge for Miles. Stars Barkevious Mingo and Sam Montgomery declared early, and five of the six defensive ends on LSU's season-ending depth chart are no longer with the program. Add Herron with early enrollee Christian LaCouture, and LSU has its defensive end help.
It also got help at linebacker with 4-star outside linebacker Kendell Beckwith, and created a future quarterback battle with early enrollees Hayden Rettig and Anthony Jennings.
Nobody's talking about LSU's class, and it's ranked seventh in the 247Sports.com team composite rankings. That speaks volumes.
Mississippi State Bulldogs
Mississippi State was in an unexpected fight for 5-star defensive end Chris Jones as national signing day neared, but was able to land the nation's No. 2 overall prospect over Ole Miss.
It's a big win for Dan Mullen and Co.
Jones will line up opposite star-in-the-making Denico Autry next season, creating one of the most viscous pass rushes in the SEC.
The Bulldogs also inked 4-star safety Justin Cox and 4-star running back/safety Ashton Shumpert, both of whom should make an impact in the Bulldogs sooner rather than later.
Toss in dual-threat quarterback Cord Sandberg (assuming he doesn't play Major League Baseball), and you have a class that fills immediate needs in Starkville.
Ole Miss Rebels
Needs? Ole Miss filled pretty much all of them on national signing day.
5-star defensive end Robert Nkemdiche, 5-star offensive lineman Laremy Tunsil, 5-star safety Tony Conner, 5-star wide receiver Laquon Treadwell, 5-star defensive tackle Lavon Hooks and 4-star running back Kailo Moore will all step in and play right away in Oxford.
With eight starters returning on offense and 10 starters returning on defense, Ole Miss already looked like it was in for a solid year in 2013.
Now that it is receiving a talent injection unlike ever before, the Rebel turnaround could kick into overdrive.
Texas A&M Aggies
With Ryan Swope and Uzoma Nwachukwu gone, Texas A&M needed receivers. They got plenty of them on national signing day.
The arrival of Ricky Seals-Jones, JaQuay Williams and Kyrion Parker will give quarterback Johnny Manziel three new receivers who are 6'3" or taller, in addition to rising sophomore Mike Evans. Manziel, or whoever takes the snaps down the road, can just play "500" with receivers like that.
Defensively, the Aggies beefed up with 4-star defensive tackle Isaiah Golden, 4-star defensive tackle Justin Manning, 4-star defensive tackle Hardreck Walker and three defensive backs with four stars or more.
Texas A&M announced its presence in the SEC with authority in 2012, and a solid recruiting class in 2013 has kept that momentum going in the right direction.