Top 2015 College Football Recruit Each SEC Coach Covets the Most
SEC coaches know they have to attack the recruiting trail hard to have success. There's plenty of talent in the league's region, but each SEC coach has that one 2015 recruit he covets the most.
Every recruit the coach goes after is told he is dear and special, but that's not always the truth. While the coach may not say who he covets the most, you're sure to find out which recruits are favorites by reading this piece.
Georgia head coach Mark Richt is smitten over a defensive tackle, while Tennessee head coach Butch Jones has his sights set on a 5-star quarterback. Plus, Ole Miss head coach Hugh Freeze loves a linebacker.
Derek Mason, Vanderbilt
Coveted recruit: Josh Smith, LB
Derek Mason is the new head coach at Vanderbilt. Mason was the defensive coordinator at Stanford, so it shouldn't be surprising to see a defensive prospect here.
At 6'3.5" and 218 pounds, 4-star linebacker Josh Smith has outstanding athletic ability and range. He can play inside or out, plus he can rush the passer off the edge. Smith's speed and agility also aid him to buzz into coverage in zone schemes, and he has no issues staying tight on running backs and tight ends in man coverage.
Kevin Sumlin, Texas A&M
Coveted recruit: Kendall Sheffield, CB
Kevin Sumlin has grown Texas A&M into an SEC powerhouse since being hired away from Houston as head coach. Sumlin's known for his offensive brilliance, but his most coveted recruit this year is 5-star cornerback Kendall Sheffield.
A Texas native, Sheffield is among the best pure all-around athletes in the nation. The 5'11", 180-pounder has natural cover skills, plus he displays terrific short-area quickness. With the Aggies needing a boost on defense, Sheffield is sure to be Sumlin's main target through national signing day.
Butch Jones, Tennessee
Coveted recruit: Torrance Gibson, QB
Tennessee head coach Butch Jones is on pace to become an elite recruiter in the SEC. However, he's yet to sign a truly elite quarterback to bring to Rocky Top.
Well, that may change this year, as Jones is hunting 5-star dual-threat quarterback Torrance Gibson hard. At 6'4" and 200 pounds, Gibson is an athletic lefty from Florida who has a high ceiling. He has solid arm strength and mobility, which helps him make a ton of plays.
Steve Spurrier, South Carolina
Coveted recruit: Albert Huggins, DL
Steve Spurrier has made South Carolina a more relevant and respected program during his tenure as head coach. That claim also counts toward the recruiting trail.
For the 2015 cycle, Spurrier's most coveted prospect is 4-star defensive lineman Albert Huggins, who hails from the Palmetto State. At 6'3" and just about 280 pounds, Huggins has the ability and versatility to play defensive end and defensive tackle. He's quick off the ball at the snap, and pursues hard through the whistle.
Gary Pinkel, Missouri
Coveted recruit: Terry Beckner Jr., DE
Missouri head coach Gary Pinkel isn't a dominant recruiter. However, he's fresh off a season where his Tigers made it to the SEC Championship Game, so that should help him and his staff on the trail.
An elite prospect in Missouri's region is 5-star defensive end Terry Beckner Jr.. From East St. Louis, Beckner is a beast on the edge at 6'4" and 268 pounds. The Tigers lost stud edge-defenders Kony Ealy and Michael Sam after this past season, and Beckner would serve as an ideal replacement.
Dan Mullen, Mississippi State
Coveted recruit: Jamal Peters, S/OLB
Mississippi State isn't a flashy or sexy program, but it has a solid head coach in Dan Mullen. A former offensive coordinator at Florida, Mullen's most coveted prospect is actually a defensive player.
Jamal Peters is a 4-star defender who can be listed as a safety or outside linebacker. He spends a lot of time in the box, and he makes a lot of stops near the line of scrimmage. The 6'3", 200-pounder has solid ball-location skills, and he closes to finish in a hurry.
Hugh Freeze, Ole Miss
Coveted recruit: Leo Lewis, LB
Ole Miss head coach Hugh Freeze knows he needs a strong defense to contend in the SEC. Lucky for him, 4-star linebacker Leo Lewis is an in-state prospect who can help.
At 6'3" and 225 pounds, Lewis has outstanding range in pursuit. He processes information quickly, then simply seeks and destroys. With his speed and range, Lewis could lead the SEC in tackles one day. No wonder Freeze wants him so bad, right?
Les Miles, LSU
Coveted recruit: Tarvarus McFadden, DB
Les Miles is one of the best recruiting head coaches in the country. He already has commitments from two 5-star talents in cornerback Kevin Toliver II and offensive lineman Maea Teuhema, so one can argue Miles has already landed his most coveted recruit—or two.
However, Miles would surely love to add 5-star defensive back Tarvarus McFadden to the fold. From Florida, McFadden is a 6'3", 198-pounder who plays cornerback and safety. He has excellent ball skills and excels in press-man coverage, which would suit him well in Baton Rouge.
Mark Stoops, Kentucky
Coveted recruit: Damien Harris, RB
It's not going to be easy, but Kentucky head coach Mark Stoops could build his program into a power in a few seasons. It's going to take some good recruiting, including keeping the best in-state prospects home.
Stoops did it in 2014 with 4-star quarterback Drew Barker and 4-star defensive tackle Matt Elam. This year, the top recruit in Kentucky is 5-star running back Damien Harris. The 5'11", 205-pounder has good speed and quick feet, which is why he would excel in the Wildcats' spread offense.
Mark Richt, Georgia
Coveted recruit: Trent Thompson, DT
For anyone who is following 2015 college football recruiting, this shouldn't be a surprise. It's no secret Georgia head coach Mark Richt wants 5-star defensive tackle Trent Thompson in Athens.
The Peach State native is a 6'4", 292-pound menace in the trenches. Thompson explodes upfield at the snap to penetrate gaps, and he makes a lot of tackles in the opposing team's backfield. He has the potential to be an All-SEC player early in his career.
Will Muschamp, Florida
Coveted recruit: Byron Cowart, DE
Florida has a defensive-minded head coach in Will Muschamp, so that's always going to be the side of the ball he hangs his hat on in Gainesville.
That's also why it shouldn't shock anyone his most coveted prospect is a defensive player. Byron Cowart is a 5-star defensive end from Florida who has a chance to be special. At 6'4" and 250 pounds, Cowart routinely jumps on top of offensive tackles at the snap to beat them and make plays. He's a player to watch out for.
Gus Malzahn, Auburn
Coveted recruit: Daron Payne, DT
Although Auburn head coach Gus Malzahn is one of the top offensive minds in college football, he doesn't give the defense a cold shoulder.
That's evidenced by Malzahn being all in for 5-star defensive tackle Daron Payne. The 6'2", 316-pounder has amazing strength and power at the point of attack, plus he uses his hands well for a player his age. The thought of Payne making messes in the middle of the trenches on The Plains has Malzahn daydreaming while drawing up more offensive plays.
Bret Bielema, Arkansas
Coveted recruit: Will Gragg, TE
Bret Bielema likely would love to have a feared rushing attack at Arkansas like he did as head coach at Wisconsin. Will Gragg, a 4-star in-state prospect, has the potential to help Bielema reach his goal.
Gragg is a 6'4", 245-pound tight end who has great strength at the point of attack as a run-blocker. He can seal the edge, as well as get a hat on linebackers to make sure running backs have room to operate on the second level.
Gragg also can help out in the passing game. He has natural ball skills, plus he uses his body well to shield defenders away from the ball.
Nick Saban, Alabama
Coveted recruit: Minkah Fitzpatrick, CB
Although he's a head coach, Nick Saban will always be a defensive backs coach at heart. Alabama has a realistic chance with ton of elite prospects, so a number of recruits could have taken this slot.
Yet, 5-star cornerback Minkah Fitzpatrick gets the nod due to playing a position Saban pays special attention to. The New Jersey native is 6'0" and 185 pounds, and he has the strength to reroute receivers at the line. Fitzpatrick is a smart player who uses his instincts to read routes and make plays.
Saban would enjoy working with him in Tuscaloosa.
Adam Friedman of Rivals.com (subscription required) wrote on April 5:
He has visited Tuscaloosa twice and he is very aware of some of the recruiting success Alabama has had in the 2015 cycle.