There's no denying that SEC schools are becoming more and more dominant on the recruiting trail. Rarely does a blue-chip go by that doesn't include LSU, Alabama, Georgia, Florida, etc. on their list of offers or dream schools.
And perhaps no conference has done better at securing early commitments from those top players than the SEC.
Their work allows us to look at the 10 biggest commitments so far. Factored into the term "big" are, in no order: potential upside; list of competitive offers; instant impactability; and whether they fulfilled a major need in the class.
Take a look at the 10 best verbals spanning 10 SEC schools.
I very nearly put recent QB Justin Worley on here, and the Volunteers may still have quarterback issues if no legitimate successor to the throne ascends from the group of Matt Simms, Tyler Bray, Nick Lamaison and Nash Nance.
But put any quarterback behind the untested and razor thin depth chart of the Volunteers offensive line, and I don't think they could do much to salvage things.
That's what makes tackle Alan Posey so crucial. He's not a blue-chip prospect, but the 6'6', 305 lb will provide some depth and stability at Tennessee's right tackle spot, allowing 2010 signee Jawaun James to serve on the blind side, where he fits best.
Posey, a native of Athens, GA, held offers from Georgia Tech, Louisville, LSU and West Virginia, and was as at the center of a fierce recruiting battle that Clemson took to the finish line. Tennessee can and should expect to see more commits along that offensive line, but for now, Posey is a good start.
The rankings and evaluations on Louisville, KY athlete Jon Davis have been somewhat pedestrian (he's the third-best prospect in the state to Rivals, the No. 19 ATH to ESPN), but I see what I see in his film.
He's an explosive player who can run, throw, catch, return and eat up yards, with size, speed and quickness the likes of which I don't remember seeing from Kentucky's offense...ever.
Hopefully, reports of his wavering don't come to fruition, because I would love to see what new head coach and former offensive coordinator Joker Phillips can do with this kid.
For a while now, Ole Miss has been a school with a strong front seven and liabilities in the secondary. A verbal from the No. 5 safety in the country and RIvals No. 105 player should help complete the picture.
Holliman, a native of Miami, FL, is a good sized prospect who posted 75 tackles and four picks as a junior. He picked Ole Miss over offers from Tennessee, Nebraska and West Virginia.
His verbal came on July 4 in conjunction with another DB, Andrew Johnson and a LB, Serderius Bryant, giving the Rebels reason to celebrate extra hard on independence day. What's more, their connection to Florida talent now looks to be alive and well, something even Ed Orgeron couldn't keep flowing with any consistency.
Razorback fans could only watch glumly as blue-chip in-state quarterback Kiehl Frazier chose the Auburn Tigers over their proud program and head coach, who, in the positive column, was known for his great development of QBs.
They didn't let it happen twice, landing four-star in-stater Brey Cook. The 6'7", 314 lb tackle verbaled to the Arkansas Razorbacks just this past weekend over offers from Oklahoma, Alabama, Auburn, Florida State and a host of others, becoming the most decorated prospect in the class.
Recruitniks are already buzzing about the great team Cook and another in-state signee, offensive guard Mitch Smothers, will make on O-lines of the future. With another in-stater, QB Brandon Allen, in the fold, the Hogs' focus can now turn to where SEC championships are won and lost: defense.
I won't put QB Jeff Driskel on the pedastal of you-know-who, but he should serve Florida's offense well provided it starts to resemble something a little more black-and-white.
Driskel won't keep it on the option pitch, but he's Rivals' top pro-style QB and a strong-armed player with great size, reliable guru hype and a passion for the game.
He'll enroll at Florida during John Brantley's senior year and, if possible, keep a redshirt on while he learns the offense before competing all-out as a RS freshman. His commitment guarantees an unbroken chain of command, no guarantee in the wild world of SEC recruiting.
I was tempted to put four-star DE Sterling Bailey on here since I think Georgia's defense faces as much of a learning curve as its offense.
But consider what Georgia's situation would have resembled had four-star QB Christian LeMay not signed on to the 2011 class.
The Bulldogs nearly watched as not one, but two QBs, Zach Mettenberger and Logan Gray, left school this spring. As backups to redshirt freshman and untested starter Aaron Murray, their departures would have left the esteemed program an injury away from dipping into the walk-on well.
Gray eventually reconsidered once he received reassurance that the starting job was still (kinda sorta) up for grabs, but I'd thank LeMay for truly quieting the calm.
The technically sound and extremely heady QB, No. 3 overall in the class, "committed" to the program in his home church in Matthews, North Carolina, over a host of offers from all over the country. Texas A&M, Clemson, Notre Dame and Auburn joined Georgia as the final five left standing, and that was only after Florida bowed out.
LeMay will provide immediate depth and an unbroken chain of command to the Dawgs upon his arrival, and will even enroll early in spite of a confusing 30-day suspension from his high school. Should the Bulldogs struggle to adjust to a new defensive coordinator, a new QB and the same old slings and arrows of the SEC, he might get there not a moment too soon.
It's hard to overstate the importance of a middle linebacker to a defense, but I will try: think of an offense with no quarterback, and switch sides.
Mississippi State landed the No. 6 inside linebacker in the 2011 class in C.J. Johnson, a 6'3", 227 lb backer out of Philadelphia, MS.
Granted, he was a local player from a state where recruits don't tend to travel too far away. But more elite teams usually succeed in skimming the top prospects off the in-state pile (evidence: 2010's five-star tackle, Shon Coleman, who chose Auburn), and Johnson, for his part, also held offers from Alabama, LSU, Michigan and Tennessee.
Anyone with knowledge of MSU's facilities knows even Ole Miss should have the upper hand with in-state recruits (did that manage to offend everyone?).
His verbal speaks not only to Dan Mullen's recruiting prowess, but to the latter's ability to build a complete team, and not just one that scores a lot and prefers to win by shootout. Holding on to him through the season has to be priority No. 1.
By now it might seem de rigueur that a top safety playing anywhere within 500 miles of Alabama would have the Crimson Tide in his pool, and likely choose them as his final destination.
That was certainly true of Orlando, FL safety Ha'Sean Clinton-Dix, who made short work of his recruitment after a visit to Tuscaloosa back in April.
Rivals No. 2 safety is not a well-refined prospect,. He lacks a good backpedal and is so-so in tackling form. But there's no better school for learning the finer points of secondary defense than Alabama at this point.
Should Alabama face the yearly or bi-yearly defections to the NFL that befall schools that recruit at their level (Exhibit A: USC), they'll count on decorated recruits like Clinton-Dix to hold the rope and be ready to step in at a moment's notice.
Perhaps the most physically dominant interior lineman in the class, 2010 LSU commit and five-star tackle Anthony Johnson is a beast, a man among boys. The in-state prospect can exert his will on lesser players and destroy blocking assignments from the inside or outside.
The No. 2 prospect to ESPN, Johnson, aka The Freak, dominated one-on-one drills at a Nike Camp in Baton Rouge, using his hands as well as his strength to extend and shed blocks.
He fits the mold of the pass-rushing defensive tackle the SEC, and specifically LSU, has brought to prominence in the modern era. LSU always fields a great defensive line, so it will be exciting to see the many ways the coaches find to turn him loose.
Auburn didn't have to overcome any major obstacles in landing four-star QB Kiehl Frazier.
But it is precisely that perfect storm that makes Frazier's commitment so huge, and so scary.
Frazier will take the field a few seasons after offensive coordinator Gus Malzahn's system has clicked into place, and take advantage of the various ground and air weapons the mad genius has accrued in that time.
He'll use his legs to buy time and chew yards, or drop bombs on opposing defenses with his strong, hyper-accurate arm. And he'll enroll just as starter Cameron Newton - his prototypical clone, I might add - is entering his senior season, giving him a year to bulk up and get ready to take the reins.
That Auburn was coldly efficient in getting his verbal deserves praise of its own. Frazier was shaping up to be a sought-after prospect, a multi-visit type with the versatility to fit into many offensive systems. But Auburn sowed up his verbal shortly after an A-Day visit in May. No visits, no verbals, no calls anywhere else.
When I first assessed his game, I called him a descendant of Steve McNair. Hindsight being 20/20, I'd say he chose the right school to make such a lofty aspiration possible.