Biggest Recruiting Positional Needs for Every SEC Team
With the abundance of top-flight recruiters in the SEC, the recruiting battles between the league’s heavyweights are often as fierce as the encounters on the gridiron.
Even though the league pulls in its share of top prep talent on an annual basis, the physicality and brutal nature of the league make acquiring quality depth a must.
Every team in the league enters the 2015 cycle with pressing issues.
What positions are each of the SEC’s 14 teams looking to shore up in the final months before national signing day?
*teams listed in alphabetical order
If there’s one team that seemingly has depth across the board on an annual basis, it’s Nick Saban’s Alabama club. However, as Marq Burnett of the Montgomery Advertiser noted, the inside linebacker position is one area of concern heading into this season.
Alabama will lose Trey DePriest to graduation and Reggie Ragland will be entering his senior season in 2015—which means that the Tide will be searching for quality inside backers in the current cycle.
The Tide’s latest commitment, 4-star linebacker Joshua McMillon, has the size and versatility to fill one of the two middle spots in Alabama’s 3-4 base defense.
Another area of need for Alabama is the offensive line. The Tide’s top-rated class is already loaded in the trenches. All four offensive line commitments are 4-star recruits who can play guard—which is the biggest need up front for Saban’s crew.
Bret Bielema enters his second season at Arkansas hoping to restore the Razorbacks program to respectability. After a solid 2014 class, the Hogs enter the 2015 cycle looking to fill a hole at linebacker.
According to Ourlads, two of the three projected starters at linebacker for the Razorbacks are seniors, with another senior listed in the two-deep.
None of Bielema’s 12 pledges in 2015 are linebackers, which makes that position a priority heading down the stretch.
Among the linebackers considering playing in Fayetteville are 4-star Georgia product Quarte Sapp and 3-star Florida native Derrick Graham. The Hogs have some momentum with the recent commitment of K.J. Hill—the top player in the state of Arkansas. Landing at least one quality linebacker on signing day is a must for Bielema and his staff.
Auburn: Defensive Line
Gus Malzahn has assembled a staff full of top-notch recruiters, which helped the Tigers assemble a 2014 class that finished No. 6 nationally.
The Tigers are off to a strong start for 2015 with a 19-man class that currently ranks No. 9 in the country. However, only one of those commitments—3-star defensive tackle Juantavius Johnson—will fill a glaring need across the defensive line.
Defensive line coach Rodney Garner enters fall with three senior starters and another three upperclassmen filling out the two-deep, according to Ourlads.
With Garner’s strong reputation in developing defensive linemen, the Tigers should close strong at a position that signifies their biggest need down the stretch.
Florida: Offensive Line
The Florida Gators have gotten off to a slow start with their 2015 class.
However, of their 11 commitments, four are offensive linemen—which represents the biggest need for the Gators in this cycle.
That’s because all five projected starters along the offensive line are upperclassmen, including three seniors, according to Ourlads.
Despite the four pledges from big uglies, perhaps the biggest prize left on the Gators’ board is 5-star offensive tackle Martez Ivey. The Gators are also pursuing 4-star linemen Matthew Burrell and Isaiah Prince.
If the Gators land at least one of those remaining three targets, their offensive line class will be among the nation’s top groups.
Georgia: Defensive Line
Georgia enters the season with a veteran group of defensive linemen. New defensive line coach Tracy Rocker is projected to start a pair of juniors and one senior, according to Ourlads.
However, Mark Richt has assembled a defensive line group that is the envy of every other school in the country.
Six of the Bulldogs’ 21 commitments for 2015 are defensive linemen, with five of them hailing from the Peach State. The headliner of the defensive line class is Trent Thompson, the nation’s top defensive tackle. Jonathan Ledbetter, Natrez Patrick and Chauncey Rivers are among the nation’s top defensive ends.
The Bulldogs have also met other needs such as receiver and offensive line with a class that currently rates as the third-best class in the country.
Over his first two recruiting classes, Mark Stoops has been able to make a quick impact on the recruiting trail.
This year, the Wildcats will be searching for some potential difference-makers at linebacker. That’s because the ‘Cats top five linebackers on the roster are upperclassmen, per Ourlads.
Another area the Wildcats will be looking to shore up down the stretch will be the defensive line, where they will look add depth to a unit currently fortified by a number of upperclassmen.
LSU: Offensive Line
One of the strengths of the 2014 LSU squad is the experience of its veteran offensive line. Les Miles’ club has three seniors and one junior projected to start this season.
The pending losses up front make reloading in the trenches a point of emphasis for Miles and his staff in the 2015 cycle.
Linebacker is another area to watch for the Tigers until signing day. The Tigers have yet to secure a pledge from a linebacker in this cycle, despite starting three upperclassmen this fall.
Mississippi State: Defensive Back
Mississippi State will field one of the nation’s most experienced teams this fall.
With eight returning starters on defense, Mississippi State has a chance to become one of the strongest defenses in the SEC. The Bulldogs unit is anchored by a stout secondary featuring three seniors and one junior in the starting lineup.
The secondary has been a major focal point for Dan Mullen and his staff in this cycle—with five of the Bulldogs’ 27 commitments coming from defensive backs.
4-star safety Jamal Peters headlines a strong group headed to play for defensive coordinator Geoff Collins in Starkville.
With four receivers and two offensive linemen already committed, the Bulldogs have addressed two other segments that will be in need of an infusion of talent and depth next season.
Missouri: Wide Receiver
Even with the loss of Dorial Green-Beckham, Missouri has a strong and experienced corps of seniors in Bud Sasser, Darius White and Jimmie Hunt slated to headline the Tigers' pass-catching group.
Their departure following the season will create a significant hole in the Tigers’ spread attack, which means receiver will be a top priority for Gary Pinkel and his staff in this cycle.
The defensive line is another area the Tigers will focus on, with three seniors anchoring that unit. In-state 5-star defensive end Terry Beckner Jr., represents the biggest prize Pinkel and his staff are chasing.
Ole Miss: Linebacker
The Rebels’ defense operates primarily out of a 4-2-5 look. However, both of the Rebels’ starting linebackers are seniors, and five of the team’s top six linebackers are upperclassmen.
Their depth issues at linebacker were prevalent in the season-opening win against Boise State. Junior Denzel Nkemdiche sat out the game because of a suspension and senior Serderius Bryant was ejected in the first half for targeting, per Yahoo! Sports.
Don’t be surprised to see Freeze and his staff try to add at least more one talented defender to the middle level of the defense—with in-state 4-star standout and former Alabama commit Leo Lewis being their top target.
South Carolina: Running Back
After three consecutive 11-2 seasons, Steve Spurrier’s 2015 recruiting class is on pace to become the highest-rated class he’s put together since arriving in Columbia.
The Gamecocks’ 2015 class has 27 commitments and is ranked as the nation’s fifth-best class. While Spurrier will have to replace veterans at offensive line, tight end and quarterback, the situation at running back should qualify as South Carolina’s most pressing need in this cycle.
Star rusher Mike Davis is a junior who may test the NFL draft waters after the season. His backups are fourth-year juniors Shon Carson and Brandon Wilds.
The Gamecocks have a pair of rushers committed in three-star backs Mon Denson and A.J. Turner. That duo offers a nice blend of size, speed and power that could help add a jolt to the Gamecocks' backfield as soon as next fall.
Tennessee: Offensive Line
Butch Jones has things trending in a positive direction on Rocky Top. The best evidence of that has been Tennessee’s renaissance on the recruiting trail.
The Vols’ 23-man class currently sits at No. 8 in the country, and it addresses needs along the trenches on both sides of the line of scrimmage.
With four upperclassmen in the starting five along the offensive line, retooling that unit was among Jones’ top priorities. The Vols have three commitments from offensive linemen, headlined by 4-star tackle Jack Jones.
The Vols are hoping to add another critical piece to their OL class Tuesday when 4-star Memphis native Drew Richmond announces his commitment. Tennessee, Alabama, Ohio State and Ole Miss are among the favorites to land him.
Texas A&M: Offensive Line
The most underrated constant at Texas A&M throughout Kevin Sumlin’s tenure in College Station has been the outstanding play turned in from the offensive line.
Sumlin and his staff have continued to recruit and develop NFL-quality talents up front, and the high level of play from that unit is a big reason why the Aggies offense has been almost unstoppable upon entering the SEC.
This year, eight of the Aggies' top 10 offensive linemen are upperclassmen, including four starters. Four-star offensive tackle Trevor Elbert leads a trio of linemen currently on the Aggies' 2015 commit list.
With quality reinforcements on the way, the Aggies should continue to field a dominant offensive line that serves as the engine to their high-powered offense.
Vanderbilt: Offensive Line
Continuing the theme of SEC schools trying to load up on offensive linemen in the 2015 class, Vanderbilt is another school that faces rebuilding up front next year.
With four upperclassmen among its starting five, Derek Mason and his staff are out to find a few quality big men in this cycle.
Mason and his staff are actively pursuing a handful of other offensive linemen in hopes of bolstering their OL class, led by 3-star Nashville product Alex Givens.