How the Recruiting Class of 2010 Will Impact the 2013 SEC Race
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The time span is getting shorter and shorter, but you can't truly evaluate recruiting classes until two or three years down the road.
SEC teams have a stranglehold on the top 10 in the recruiting rankings, and its success in living rooms has directly translated into success on the field over the last seven years.
How will some members of the recruiting class of 2010 impact the race for the 2013 SEC Championship? We take a look in this slide show.
Alabama Crimson Tide
Alabama LB C.J. Mosley
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Alabama has been a recruiting machine over the last few years, and several members of its class of 2010 will be key contributors on the Crimson Tide's quest to win its third consecutive BCS National Championship.
Headlining the group is linebacker C.J. Mosley, who passed on a chance to jump early to the NFL to return to Tuscaloosa for his senior season. The former Rivals.com 4-star prospect earned the team MVP award following his 2012 season. He led the team with 107 tackles, notched eight tackles for loss, four sacks and picked off two passes.
Mosley steals all of the headlines in the linebacking corps, but outside linebacker Adrian Hubbard shined as a redshirt sophomore last season with 41 tackles, 11 tackles for loss and seven sacks. With another year of work, Hubbard could become the next superstar on the Alabama defense.
Deion Belue and John Fulton are two defensive backs who will play big roles for the 2013 Tide. Belue signed in 2010, went the junior college route and found his way back to T-Town to start opposite Dee Milliner at cornerback last season. He will return in 2013, and likely be joined by fellow class of 2013 member John Fulton, who came on strong last season, tallying 15 tackles and breaking up five passes.
Also keep an eye on 6'4", 315-pound defensive tackle Brandon Ivory stepping in at nose for Jesse Williams.
Arkansas WR Javontee Herndon
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Arkansas has churned out top-tier wide receivers over the last few years, and 2013 could be no different thanks to the talented class of 2010 duo of Javontee Herndon and Julian Horton.
Herndon was only a Rivals.com 2-star prospect when he left high school, but caught 21 passes for 304 yards and three touchdowns as a junior in 2012. The 6'1", 204-pounder is expected to step in for Cobi Hamilton as one of the primary targets in new offensive coordinator Jim Chaney's offense.
Alongside Herndon will be Horton, a former 3-star prospect who finished the season with 14 catches for 193 yards and two touchdowns. Horton could be the deep threat Arkansas needs to keep opposing defenses honest.
Speaking of defenses, defensive end Chris Smith became a star in 2012, finishing fourth in the SEC with 9.5 sacks and fifth in the SEC with 13 tackles for loss. He passed on the opportunity to jump to the NFL, and the former 3-star prospect will be a force off the edge for the Hogs in 2013.
Auburn WR Trovon Reed
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Some guy named Cam Newton has already made an impact from Auburn's class of 2010, but several other members of that class will make an impact in 2013.
Former 3-star athlete Chris Davis has been an impact player at corner for the Tigers over the last few years, and will likely lock down one of the starting cornerback spots in Ellis Johnson's defense in 2013. The senior had 46 tackles a year ago for the Tigers.
Demetruce McNeal and Ryan Smith were both 3-star prospects in the class of 2010, and they will battle for the starting spot at strong safety as seniors this season. McNeal was a contributor from the moment that he stepped foot on campus and finished last season with 90 tackles.
One player Auburn desperately needs to step up in 2013 is former 4-star wide receiver Trovon Reed. Reed has been in and out of the lineup during his Auburn career with various injuries, but has the talent to become a star in the SEC. Now a redshirt junior and back in the offense in which he was recruited for, Reed's time to shine may be now.
LSU WR Kadron Boone
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LSU doesn't rebuild, it reloads—and several members of the class of 2010 will be part of that reloading process in 2013.
Wide receiver Kadron Boone finished last season with 26 catches for 348 yards and four touchdowns, and should become an even bigger threat with so many pieces of the offense returning.
Jeremy Hill will be the feature running back for the Tigers, but rising senior Alfred Blue will be back after a knee injury cut his 2012 campaign short. The former 3-star prospect entered the season as the starter and rushed for 270 yards, and he should provide quality depth at that running back spot which has benefited from quality depth during the Les Miles era.
Mississippi State Bulldogs
Mississippi State WR Jameon Lewis
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Mississippi State lost a lot of talent at the wide receiver spot, which means several unproven players need to step up for quarterback Tyler Russell.
Robert Johnson caught 17 passes for 164 yards and two touchdowns a season ago and is being counted on in 2013. The rising redshirt junior was a Rivals.com 4-star prospect in 2010, and has two seasons left to live up with the star power that followed him to Starkville.
Jameon Lewis is another wide receiver that head coach Dan Mullen needs to step up. The former 3-star prospect has the body style of former South Carolina wide receiver Ace Sanders and can become a valuable weapon in the passing and return games.
Ole Miss Rebels
Ole Miss RB Jeff Scott
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Ole Miss has been the talk of the town thanks to all of the talented newcomers who signed on the dotted line with the Rebels on national signing day.
But one member of the class of 2010 has become a star in Oxford, and his star should shine brighter in 2013—running back Jeff Scott.
Scott has led the Rebels in rushing in each of the last two seasons, rushing for 850 yards and six touchdowns last season. He's a perfect fit in head coach Hugh Freeze's offense, and he should cap off his career in Oxford with another stellar campaign.
The former 3-star stud flirted with the NFL following the season, but chose to give it one more shot in Oxford.
Texas A&M Aggies
Texas A&M RB Ben Malena
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Texas A&M burst onto the scene last season with its 11-2 record in its inaugural season in the SEC, and that has Aggieland thinking SEC title in 2013.
If that's going to happen, senior running back Ben Malena will have a big part in it. The former Rivals.com 4-star prospect rushed for 808 yards and eight touchdowns last season and was a big part of making the Aggie offense so dynamic under first-year starting quarterback Johnny Manziel.
Those holes that Malena ran through last season were due in part to the play of right tackle Jake Matthews, who passed up the chance to be a first-round pick in the NFL to finish off his career in College Station. The former 4-star prospect will likely shift to right tackle and contend for the Outland Trophy in 2013.
Rising senior Toney Hurd, Jr., a 3-star prospect in the class of 2010, will also likely be a key contributor at safety in the Aggie secondary.
Florida Buck Rondald Powell
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The 2010 Florida recruiting class is regarded as one of the best classes in recent memory. While several of its stars have moved on to the NFL, several others are still hanging around Gainesville and will likely be a big part of the continuing revitalization of Gator Football.
Former 5-star prospect Dominique Easley has bounced around the Gator defensive line during his career in Gainesville, and should be a force on the interior line in 2013. He has 16 tackles for loss and 5.5 sacks over the last two seasons, and chose to come back instead of jumping to the NFL.
Speaking of defensive stars, Ronald Powell, a former 5-star stud in the class of 2010 and star-in-the-making at BUCK, missed all of last season after tearing his ACL in the spring. He had nine tackles for loss and six sacks last season, and when healthy, he is one of the most relentless pass-rushers in the SEC.
One player to keep an eye on this spring is running back Mack Brown. The former 4-star standout will battle Matt Jones for the starting running back spot this spring, and newcomer Kelvin Taylor this fall. If Brown can live up to his potential, he could be one of the stars for the Gators in 2013.
Trey Burton and Quinton Dunbar are two more potential offensive playmakers in 2013 for the Gators. Burton has been a weapon in every way imaginable during his first three seasons, and Dunbar finished second on the team with 383 receiving yards last season. If those two can keep defenses honest, the entire Gator offense could open up.
Georgia DT Garrison Smith
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Four contributors are gone off of Georgia's defensive line, but rising senior Garrison Smith should be one of the stars for the Bulldogs in 2013. The former 4-star defensive tackle from Atlanta filled in for Abry Jones when Jones got hurt last season and should hold down one of the defensive end spots.
Smith finished the 2012 season with 57 tackles, two tackles for loss and one sack, and will be counted on to fix a Georgia defense that was dreadful against the run last season.
Georgia has a ton of returning talent on the offensive line, headlined by senior tackle Kenarious Gates. Gates started at left tackle last season, and should lock down that spot while rotating down to guard at times in 2013. The former 3-star prospect's versatility makes him a valuable piece to the Georgia puzzle.
Wide receiver Michael Bennett tore his ACL last season but was one of quarterback Aaron Murray's top targets prior to getting hurt. The former 3-star recruit caught 24 passes for 345 yards and four touchdowns last season before getting hurt, and should assume one of the starting spots in 2013.
Kentucky LB Avery Williamson
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Kentucky linebacker Avery Williamson finished second in the SEC in tackles in 2012 with 135. The former 3-star standout from Milan, Tenn., will be back for his senior season and first-year head coach Mark Stoops definitely needs him to continue to be a star as the Wildcats transition to the new regime.
Redshirt junior Miles Simpson was a 3-star running back in high school but has starred as a linebacker for the Wildcats finishing third on the team last season with 69 tackles.
Rising senior Raymond Sanders III rushed for 669 yards and five touchdowns last season and will be a big part of the Wildcat running back corps in 2013. Sanders was a 3-star prospect in 2010, and the 5'8" speedster can be a dangerous weapon in space for first-year offensive coordinator Neal Brown.
Missouri QB James Franklin
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Missouri quarterback James Franklin was a 4-star prospect in the class of 2010 and will battle Corbin Berkstresser and Maty Mauk for the starting job in 2013. It is likely, since Franklin has been the starter for the previous two seasons save for a few games missed due to injury, that he will lead the charge in head coach Gary Pinkel's spread attack this year.
Cornerback E.J. Gaines will return for his senior season, and should be a force in the Tiger secondary. Gaines, a 3-star prospect in the class of 2010, finished last season with 74 tackles, seven tackles for loss, one interception and one fumble recovery.
Former 3-star prospect Marcus Murphy has been a solid performer as a backup running back and a punt returner, and if fellow 3-star prospect Henry Josey can return to form after missing all of last season with a knee injury, the Tiger backfield could be pretty solid.
South Carolina Gamecocks
South Carolina QB Connor Shaw
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Quarterbacks Connor Shaw and Dylan Thompson will battle it out in the offseason (once Shaw returns from injury this summer) for the top spot on the depth chart at quarterback.
It's a familiar place for the two signal-callers.
Shaw was a 3-star prospect in the class of 2010 and has established himself as one of the top dual-threat quarterbacks in the SEC. Thompson was a 2-star player that year and played very well in Shaw's absence in 2012, throwing for 1,027 yards, 10 touchdowns and only two picks.
Kelcy Quarles had 38 tackles as a redshirt sophomore last season, and should become one of the anchors along the Gamecock defensive line in 2013. The former 4-star stud is solid against the run and could benefit from the attention fellow linemate Jadeveon Clowney receives in 2013.
Victor Hampton started at cornerback last season for the Gamecocks, and should lock down that spot again in 2013. The former 4-star prospect picked off one pass last season, and he should become one of the leaders of the Gamecock defense after the unit lost seven seniors from a year ago.
Tennessee RB Rajion Neal
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Rajion Neal played very well in his first season back at running back in 2012, rushing for 708 yards and five touchdowns as a junior in 2012. The Vols will return essentially their entire ground game, and Neal—a former 4-star standout from Tyrone, Ga.—will be counted on to be a leader for the new look offense under first-year head coach Butch Jones.
While the focus of the offseason on Rocky Top will be how the Vols deal with so much attrition at wide receiver and the quarterback battle, the fact that four starters return on the offensive line will make the transition much easier.
Jones has the class of 2010 to thank for that.
Tackle Ja'Wuan James (4-star), guard Zach Fulton (3-star) and center James Stone (4-star) were all members of the class of 2013, and will be a big part in deciding whether Jones' first season as the Vols' head coach is a success or failure.
Vanderbilt WR Jordan Matthews
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This is most prosperous time for Vanderbilt football in several generations, and while head coach James Franklin gets a ton of credit for the turnaround, the class put together by former head coach Bobby Johnson is a big reason why.
Jordan Matthews and Chris Boyd will constitute a dynamic one-two punch at wide receiver last season, after Matthews decided to come back for his senior season.
Matthews, a former 3-star standout from Madison, Ala., was a first-team All-SEC performer last season after catching 94 passes for 1,323 yards and eight touchdowns. Boyd, a former 3-star prospect as well, wasn't so bad himself, catching 50 passes for 774 yards and five touchdowns.