Where Each 2014 SEC Football Recruiting Class Stands Before Signing Day
The end of the season only means one thing in the college football world—recruiting season is about to hit its home stretch.
With two weeks to go until national signing day, SEC coaches are busy jet-setting around the country trying to solidify their classes before Feb. 5, when prospects can finalize their college plans and sign their national letters of intent.
How does each SEC class look with just more than two weeks left?
Our recap is in this slide show.
*All recruiting team rankings and individual rankings courtesy of 247Sports.com
Alabama Crimson Tide
If you're placing bets on which SEC team will have the top class in the country, Alabama is your team.
The Crimson Tide currently lead the 247Sports.com team rankings, having 24 commits pledged for the class and eight prospects already enrolled in classes in Tuscaloosa.
It's a "who's who" of top 2014 prospects.
Offensive tackle Cameron Robinson, safety Laurence "Hootie" Jones and cornerback Tony Brown are already in house, as is quarterback-of-the-future David Cornwell; defensive end Da'Shawn Hand, athlete Bo Scarbrough and linebacker Christian Miller are coming this summer.
That's just a sampling of the 4- and 5-stars in the Tide's class.
Head coach Nick Saban and the rest of the staff still have some big fish in their recruiting pond, with 5-star cornerback Marlon Humphrey, 5-star linebacker Rashaan Evans and 5-star defensive tackle Matt Elam still uncommitted.
Evans is likely bound to play for his hometown Auburn Tigers, but Humphrey and Elam would solidify this class if they head to Tuscaloosa.
Alabama will finish with the top class in the country. The only question is how big the gap will be back to No. 2.
There's good news and bad news for Arkansas this recruiting season.
The good news is that incumbent quarterback Brandon Allen will get pressure from 4-star early enrollee Rafe Peavey this spring. Peavey is a 6'2", 212-pound pro-style quarterback from Bolivar, Mo., who has a big arm, is accurate downfield and is mobile enough to make things happen with his legs—particularly when behind the line of scrimmage.
There's more good news in the trenches, where 4-star defensive tackle Bijhon Jackson and offensive tackle Brian Wallace should be joining the Hogs this summer.
The bad news is that there aren't many 4-star prospects left on the table, and Arkansas' recruiting class is quickly becoming an afterthought in the SEC.
If head coach Bret Bielema can close with 4-star defensive end Solomon Thomas, linebacker Kenny Young and offensive tackle Frank Ragnow, it'll be considered a success. But that's a lot to ask for a second-year head coach who lost assistants Chris Ash and Charlie Partridge—two of his best recruiters—in the offseason.
Fresh off of an SEC title and a BCS National Championship Game appearance, head coach Gus Malzahn is looking to close strong in his first full recruiting class as the Tigers' head coach and post a top 10 class.
He'll get it.
The Tigers currently rank seventh in the nation and boast the nation's No. 1 junior college wide receiver (D'haquille Williams), No. 1 junior college safety (Derrick Moncrief), No. 1 junior college center (Xavier Dampeer), No. 1 inside linebacker (Tre' Williams) and No. 1 junior college strong-side defensive end (DaVonte Lambert).
Oh, on top of that, 4-star running back Roc Thomas; cornerbacks Kalvaraz Bessent, Stephen Roberts and Nick Ruffin; Elite 11 champion quarterback Sean White and dangerous speed-rusher Justin Thornton.
The Tigers are one of the favorites to land hometown 5-star outside linebacker Rashaan Evans, and they are in the mix for 4-star guard Braden Smith (who enjoyed his visit over the weekend) and 4-star defensive end Andrew Williams.
Even if Auburn doesn't close strong, this is a defense-heavy class mixed in with offensive weapons that will shine on the Plains.
It's a make or break year for Florida head coach Will Muschamp, and on paper, he's succeeding on the recruiting trail.
The Gators boast the ninth-best class in the country that features 5-star cornerback Jalen Tabor and defensive tackles Thomas Holley and Gerald Willis, along with 4-star quarterback Will Grier, defensive tackle Khairi Clark and offensive tackle David Sharpe.
The elephant in the room is the absence of superstar weapons outside to help kick start the offense.
They lost a commitment from 4-star wide receiver Ermon Lane, and aside from Eric Lauderdale and Isaiah McKenzie, they aren't in on many wide receivers.
Muschamp took steps to make a philosophical change with the hiring of up-tempo offensive coordinator Kurt Roper, but the way his 2014 recruiting class is shaping up, it certainly feels like more of the same in Gainesville.
It's a solid class, but unless it changes between now and national signing day, it's not going to help in the short term. How could it change? Florida State dual-threat quarterback/athlete commit Treon Harris visited Gainesville over the weekend and could become a prospect to watch as signing day draws near.
This isn't exactly the "Dream Team" that Georgia head coach Mark Richt brought in following the 2010 season, but it's close.
Georgia currently ranks 10th in the country and seventh in the SEC in the team rankings, but don't be fooled by the relatively low rankings—this class is legit.
The Bulldogs have two star running back commits in 4-stars Nick Chubb and Sony Michel, just as they did in 2012 with Todd Gurley and Keith Marshall. They have defensive depth coming in the form of 4-star cornerback Malkom Parrish, defensive tackle Lamont Gaillard and defensive end Keyon Brown. They also have their quarterback-of-the-future in 4-star South Carolina native Jacob Park.
Georgia is heavily in the mix for 5-star defensive end Lorenzo Carter, 4-star corner Wesley Green and underrated defensive tackle prospect Elisha Shaw.
It's not going to be a class that's going to generate a ton of buzz on national signing day, but it's a class that will serve the short- and long-term needs of Richt and the Bulldogs.
Before the 2013 seasons started, Kentucky was the talk of the recruiting business. Before coaching his first game, Mark Stoops had the Wildcats in the top five nationally and generated buzz around the football program that was unlike anything it has seen in recent memory.
That buzz was built more on quantity than quality, and it has since dropped to the 24th spot in the national rankings.
That's still not bad, especially for Kentucky.
The foundation of the class is 4-star early enrollee Drew Barker at quarterback, safety commit Darius West and defensive end commit Denzel Ware. These are SEC-caliber players who have helped Kentucky climb out of the recruiting abyss and into relevancy.
One player remains who could take this class to the next level, though—5-star defensive tackle Matt Elam. If Stoops can win a recruiting battle with the in-state star over Alabama, this class will be viewed as nothing short of phenomenal.
Building the Kentucky program is going to be a slow process, but if the Wildcats close strong, that process will be accelerated.
The state of Louisiana is loaded with top-tier talent this season, and several of those stars, including offensive tackle Cameron Robinson, wide receiver Speedy Noil and defensive back Hootie Jones, have left the state for other programs.
But head coach Les Miles reeled in the biggest fish in the pond—5-star running back Leonard Fournette. The No. 2 player in the country has been compared to former Oklahoma running back Adrian Peterson, and he has the size and speed to be an instant impact player in Baton Rouge.
He's the centerpiece of a class that is loaded with 4- and 5-star talent, and more could be on the way.
The Tigers are in the mix for 5-star cornerback Adoree' Jackson, 5-star wide receiver (and New Orleans native) Malachi Dupre, 5-star defensive end Lorenzo Carter and 4-star defensive tackle Travonte Valentine.
Even if they get all of their uncommitted superstars, it's hard to create a scenario in which the Tigers finish with the nation's top class. But they could finish a close second, and that's not a bad place to be.
Mississippi State Bulldogs
Mississippi State's class isn't going to help the Bulldogs win the SEC championship, but it's certainly one that can help head coach Dan Mullen continue to make bowl games and keep the program competitive in the SEC West.
With 4-star athletes Jamoral Graham and Gerri Green, 4-star running back Aeris Williams and wide receiver Jesse Jackson committed, Mullen is getting difference-makers.
Superstar 5-star defensive back Marlon Humphrey is a long shot, but junior college cornerback Tee Shepard could make his way to Starkville, as well 6'4", 345-pound offensive guard Jordan Sims and 6'4", 270-pound defensive tackle Grant Harris.
This isn't a class that's going to generate a ton of buzz on national signing day, but it's a class that serves the needs of Mississippi State—and that's the most important thing in the short term. If it helps the program short term, it could help it take the next step on the recruiting trail long term.
Missouri is fresh off its first SEC East title, and you're staring to see signs of life from head coach Gary Pinkel's program on the recruiting trail that could keep it in the mix down the road.
It's no secret that Missouri wants to expand its recruiting efforts into Georgia, Florida and the rest of SEC country, and it went down to Georgia's backyard and secured the commitment of 6'3", 210-pound 4-star wide receiver Nate Brown from North Gwinnett High School in Suwanee, Ga. One of the biggest advantages Missouri had last season was its tall wide receivers, and Brown can certainly step in and make an impact with Dorial Green-Beckham as a freshman.
Toss in 4-star offensive tackle Andy Bauer, outside linebacker Brandon Lee, cornerback Raymond Wingo and safety Greg Taylor, and it's a solid class for Pinkel already.
If the Tigers can close with defensive tackle DJ Williams and a few other stars, it will be a successful class.
Missouri's recruiting efforts have changed, and we're staring to see signs of that evolution working on the recruiting trail. It's a slow process, but the program is stable and focused—two good things for Missouri.
Ole Miss Rebels
Ole Miss was the talk of the recruiting world a year ago after securing top-stars Robert Nkemdiche, Laquon Treadwell, Laremy Tunsil and Tony Conner, amongst others.
This year, not so much.
The Rebels' class is solid right now, with 5-star offensive guard Roderick Taylor, 4-star safety C.J. Hampton, 4-star wide receiver Markell Pack and 4-star defensive end Garrald McDowell, but it doesn't feature that top-tier star like Nkemdiche.
The fact that this class—which currently ranks 13th in the country—is "only" par for the course for head coach Hugh Freeze speaks volumes to where it stands in the recruiting pecking order. A top 15 class is the norm for Freeze and his staff, and that's exactly where it will finish this season—especially if Freeze reels in a couple more big fish.
The Rebels are still in the mix for defensive lineman Elisha Shaw, safety Ronald Walker and defensive tackle Daniel Ross. Nail down two of those three, and Ole Miss will finish in the top 15. Get all three and perhaps a flip down the stretch, and a top 10 class is attainable.
South Carolina Gamecocks
South Carolina is currently enjoying its most prosperous time as a program, posting 11-win seasons in three straight years. This new group of Gamecocks will be charged with taking the program to the next level.
Dante Sawyer, a 4-star defensive end from Suwanee, Ga., could step in and play immediately along the Gamecocks' defensive line, 4-star wide receiver Shaq Davidson can step in for Bruce Ellington and Bryson Allen-Williams is capable of providing quality depth for the Gamecocks immediately at linebacker.
The biggest piece of the puzzle remaining is 4-star running back Derrell Scott. The 5'11", 180-pounder from Havelock, N.C., recently visited Florida and has narrowed down his choices to the Gamecocks, Gators and Tennessee Volunteers. He's a perfect fit to step in for Mike Davis once he moves on and would be a changeup back in the meantime.
Head coach Steve Spurrier will finish with a top 20 class, and while it's short on stars, it's long on depth. It's a well-rounded class that will pay immediate dividends in Columbia.
If you're looking for the "Ole Miss" of the 2014 recruiting cycle, look no further than Knoxville, Tenn., and the Tennessee Volunteers.
Second-year head coach Butch Jones has made Tennessee a destination for prospects again, currently boasting the nation's sixth-best class, which includes a mind-boggling 14 early enrollees.
Josh Malone is a 4-star wide receiver who, at 6'2", will be a nice complement to rising sophomore Marquez North. Dontavius Blair is a 4-star offensive lineman from junior college who will start from Day 1, and despite coming off of an injured shoulder, running back Jalen Hurd has superstar written all over him.
The hay is already in the barn for the Vols, but if it can spring the upset and get 4-star running back Derrell Scott, and perhaps one or two key flips, a top five class is possible for Jones and the Vols.
Not bad for his first full class coming off of a sub-.500 season. Not bad at all.
Texas A&M Aggies
Offense wins games, but defense wins championships. Well, nowadays, "just enough" defense wins championships, and Texas A&M hasn't had anything close to enough defense over the last two seasons.
That's changing in a hurry.
Starting with 5-star defensive end Myles Garrett—the nation's top overall player—head coach Kevin Sumlin is loading up with defensive superstars. Six future Aggies have four or more stars attached to their names according to 247Sports.com, many of whom will see the field right away.
Toss in superstars at skill positions, including wide receiver Speedy Noil, quarterback Kyle Allen and 6'6" wide receiver Frank Iheanacho, and Sumlin already has a well-rounded class committed.
If he can close with guard Braden Smith, linebacker Kenny Young and get a key flip, his program could challenge LSU for that No. 2 spot in the final team rankings.
Vanderbilt has been the talk of the recruiting season this month for all of the wrong reasons.
Since former head coach James Franklin left for Penn State, five former Vanderbilt commitments have flipped to the Nittany Lions, according to Jeff Lockridge of The Tennessean, and 11 have left overall, leaving Derek Mason scrambling to salvage his first class in Nashville.
The 'Dores have plummeted from a top 25 class to 79th in the team rankings, so needless to say, he has his work cut out for him.
Of the eight—that's right, Vandy only has eight commits—sticking around, for now, are 4-star safeties Kyle Gibson and Emmanuel Smith. They'll help immediately in a defensive backfield that has playing time available, but Mason needs to get on it to get some semblance of momentum back.
There just isn't enough time.
Vandy is looking at a max of 14 or 15 signees this cycle, which is the equivalent of one entire cycle of heavy recruiting sanctions.