SEC Football Recruiting Classes That Will Have the Most Immediate Contributors

Barrett Sallee@BarrettSalleeSEC Football Lead WriterFebruary 12, 2014

Tennessee head coach Butch Jones
Tennessee head coach Butch JonesGarry Jones/Associated Press

National signing day is in the books, and more and more programs are counting on new signees to make an immediate impact on their football teams.

Several programs signed players who not only have tremendous futures in college football but could burst onto the scene during the 2014 season.

Which programs signed the most players who will contribute right off the bat?


Tennessee Volunteers

Second-year head coach Butch Jones reeled in a stellar recruiting class that finished the cycle ranked No. 7 in the country according to the 247Sports team rankings and is loaded with immediate-impact stars.

Tennessee head coach Butch Jones
Tennessee head coach Butch JonesRandy Sartin-USA TODAY Sports

The biggest of which—quite literally—is 6'8", 303-pound junior college transfer offensive tackle Dontavius Blair. The former Garden City (Kan.) Community College prospect enrolled early and will get a shot to earn a spot on an offensive line that lost all five starters from a year ago. 

Blair is a fantastic run-blocker and has the frame and hands to be a star at offensive tackle. He has to work on his pass-blocking a bit, but getting into the program in January will speed up his acclimation process on Rocky Top.

"Dontavius has a tremendous attitude and high character," offensive line coach Don Mahoney said according to Tennessee in January. "He is very mature and experienced having played two seasons in junior college. He is a perfect fit for what we are looking for in a tackle."

Running behind Blair and the rest of the rebuilt offensive line will be Jalen Hurd, a 6'3", 230-pound running back from Hendersonville, Tenn. The 5-star prospect sat out his senior year in high school with a shoulder injury but enrolled at Tennessee early to finish rehab and get a jump-start on the competition to replace Rajion Neal.

Tennessee RB signee Jalen Hurd (left) and head coach Butch Jones
Tennessee RB signee Jalen Hurd (left) and head coach Butch JonesCredit:

"It's always great to coach a kid who understands the pride of the state that he's playing for," running backs coach Robert Gillespie told in January. "His unique blend of speed and power will give him a chance to help us at running back immediately."

Tennessee's defensive line is as full of holes as its offensive counterpart, with no returning starters coming back. Dewayne Hendrix, Derek Barnett and Joe Henderson can provide depth at defensive end, while Charles Mosley and Dimarya Mixon could do the same in the middle of that defensive line.

Toss in early enrollee wide receiver Josh Malone and junior college transfer Von Pearson to take attention away from star sophomore Marquez North and star outside linebacker Dillon Bates, and the Vols' class is loaded with instant-impact players.


Auburn Tigers

Auburn is just over a month removed from playing for the BCS National Championship, and it has already filled some of its most pressing needs.

The Tigers couldn't defend the pass all year long, including Florida State quarterback Jameis Winston on his final drive in Pasadena. With starting cornerback Chris Davis and starting safety Ryan Smith gone, second-year head coach Gus Malzahn loaded up on help in the defensive backfield.

Auburn head coach Gus Malzahn
Auburn head coach Gus MalzahnKevin C. Cox/Getty Images

Junior college safety Derrick Moncrief transferred from Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College in January and should battle for Smith's spot this spring. The 6'3", 226-pounder is a big hitter with cover skills who isn't afraid to stick his nose in on run support.

“We need a guy of his caliber to fit in our scheme," safeties coach Charlie Harbison said in quotes released by Auburn. "He's a guy who can come in and do a lot of things. He’s big and he’s fast. I think he’ll make a big impact right off.”

Malzahn's secondary was dangerously thin at corner last year, and the loss of Davis only added to the issues. Three 4-star cornerbacks were signed on national signing day: Nick Ruffin, Kalvaraz Bessent and Stephen Roberts. None of the newcomers enrolled early, but Auburn's depth issue has created a short path to playing time if one or more shine during fall camp.

Quarterback Nick Marshall has a new weapon in town in the form of 5-star junior college transfer wide receiver D'haquille Williams. The 6'3", 213-pounder enrolled early and will grow with Marshall during spring practices. Williams has deep-threat speed with a possession receiver body, which will compliment returning star wide receiver Sammie Coates nicely.

Running back "Roc" Thomas, inside linebacker Tre' Williams and offensive lineman Braden Smith all could also make major impacts for the 2014 Tigers.


LSU Tigers

The LSU football program has been in full-on "reload mode" for the better part of a decade, and it's reloading with players in the class of 2014 who are not only talented but stepping into a situation ready-made for instant success.

Superstar running back Jeremy Hill left early for the NFL, and all head coach Les Miles did was lock up Leonard Fournette—the nation's top running back and No. 2 overall player in the class. He'll compete with veteran backups Terrence Magee and Kenny Hilliard in his first season, but as long as he picks up the blocking schemes, Fournette will be an immediate contributor.

The same thing can be said for 5-star wide receiver Malachi Dupre, who, like Fournette, also hails from New Orleans. The 6'2", 187-pounder has tremendous leaping ability and hands like glue, which should play well in a Tiger receiving corps that has to replace 1,000-yard receivers Odell Beckham Jr. and Jarvis Landry. Dupre has competition around him including rising sophomore Travin Dural, but he'll certainly see the field as a true freshman.

Dual-threat quarterback Brandon Harris enrolled early and will battle with Anthony Jennings for the starting quarterback job in place of Zach Mettenberger this spring. Jennings led the Tigers 99 yards down the field for the game-winning touchdown against Arkansas but was average at best throwing for 82 yards, zero touchdowns and one pick in the 21-14 win over Iowa in the Outback Bowl. 

LSU QB Brandon Harris
LSU QB Brandon HarrisCredit:

Harris and Jennings both posses similar dual-threat skills, and if the newcomer Harris shines in spring, he could spring the depth chart upset.

Defensively, Travonte Valentine is stepping into a position battle at defensive tackle that will be without former starters Anthony Johnson and Ego Ferguson. Linebacker Clifton Garrett is a 5-star, ultra-athletic linebacker who will be difficult for defensive coordinator John Chavis—a guy whose scheme thrives with ultra-athletic linebackers—to keep him off the field.

LSU's class isn't just loaded with stars, but most of those stars have a clear path in front of them for early playing time.

Keep an eye on: Kentucky. The Wildcats inked the nation's No. 22 class that includes 5-star defensive tackle Matt Elam, 4-star quarterback early enrollee Drew Barker, 4-star defensive end Denzel Ware and 4-star safety Darius West.


*Barrett Sallee is the lead SEC college football writer for Bleacher Report. All recruiting information is courtesy of 247Sports and all college stats are courtesy of



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