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February 2, 2012

Signing Day Blitz: Ranking the SEC

MORE: Top 25 teams | Signing Day Central

The SEC landed eight of its 14 teams in the Rivals.com Top 25 after National Signing Day.

More Conferences: ACC | Big East | Big Ten | Big 12 | Pac-12

We break down and rank the classes in the SEC.

Alabama | Arkansas | Auburn | Florida | Georgia | Kentucky | LSU | Mississippi State
Missouri | Ole Miss | South Carolina | Tennessee | Texas A&M | Vanderbilt

Signing Day Blitz: Ranking the SEC
1. Alabama

Commit List
TideSports.com
Message Board
Headliner: The Tide flipped five-star running back T.J. Yeldon, one of the most athletic players in the class, from archrival Auburn.
Sleeper: Darren Lake is a strong, athletic and explosive defensive tackle.
Overview: Alabama typically wins with defense, and Nick Saban and Co. didn't deviate from that model. The Tide signed a group of defenders that rivals any in the country. What stands out are the five four-star linebackers - Ryan Anderson, Denzel Devall, Tyler Hayes, Dillon Lee andReggie Ragland. All are extremely talented, and each will bring a different skill set to Tuscaloosa. Besides Yeldon, Alabama landed two other five-stars recruits. One of them, safety Landon Collins is among the country's premier defensive recruits. The other, Eddie Williams, is an athletic freak who says he'll play receiver in college. The Tide also grabbed two other standout receivers - Chris Black and Amari Cooper. What also stands out are the Tide's defensive line recruits. At the last minute, Alabama landed a pair of four stars in Korren Kirven and Dalvin Tomlinson, both Rivals250 guys.
2. Florida

Commit List
InsidetheGators.com
Message Board
Headliner: The country's No. 1 offensive lineman, tackle D.J. Humphries, should be able to contribute early in Gainesville.
Sleeper: Quinteze Williams, a 6-foot-4, 295-pound defensive end, arguably is the most physically impressive player in the Florida class.
Overview: The Gators went heavy on the line of scrimmage, signing 12 interior players, including three who are five-star prospect. Humphries leads the way, with Jonathan Bullard and Dante Fowler Jr. being the other two. Bullard is a physical strongside defensive end. Fowler likely will be an end/outside linebacker hybrid. Junior college defensive tackle signee Damien Jacobs could provide immediate help, and the same goes for four-star tight ends Kent Taylor and Colin Thompson. Also on offense, Florida grabbed four-star running back Matt Jones and four-star receiver Latroy Pittman, along with quarterback Skyler Mornhinweg, a one-time Penn State commit. The Gators really needed help at receiver, and remain in contention for five-star recruit Stefon Diggs.
3. Georgia

Commit List
UGASports.com
Message Board
Headliner: Offensive tackle John Theus is a player the Bulldogs think will contribute from Day 1.
Sleeper: It wouldn't be a shock to see defensive tackle [/db]John Atkins[/db] become a multi-year starter in Athens. At this point, he's just a little raw.
Overview: Once again, Georgia finished with a bang. The 'Dawgs not only landed five-star athlete Josh Harvey-Clemons (his paperwork was finally sent to the school after some delay) late, but flipped four-star defensive end Josh Dawson from Vanderbilt. Harvey-Clemons will play outside linebacker, but also could see action as a receiver in the red zone. Dawson is a solid pass-rusher off the edge. On offense, Georgia didn't just land Theus, it got two of the top running backs in the South - Todd Gurley and Keith Marshall -- a pair of Rivals100 recruits from North Carolina. Gurley is a bid-bodied back who also possesses excellent speed. Marshall is one of the fastest players in the country. On defense, massive tackle Jonathan Taylor and cornerback Sheldon Dawson were two excellent pickups. Ditto for four-star end/linebacker Jordan Jenkins, another Rivals100 recruit. He's lightning-quick as a pass rusher.
4. Auburn

Commit List
AuburnSports.com
Message Board
Headliner: Rivals100 offensive tackle Avery Young was a late - and much needed - addition to the class.
Sleeper: Tight end Darrion Hutcherson has all the tools to become a solid starter in the SEC.
Overview: All 19 of Auburn's signees earned three stars or more, including 11 who are four-star prospects. Young and another four-star talent, receiver Ricardo Louis, both picked the Tigers on Wednesday, giving the Auburn class a nice boost at the end. Receiver JaQuay Williams might have the highest upside of any Tigers signee. He's a tall, physical receiver who is particularly dangerous after the catch. Rivals250 tight end Ricky Parks is another strong offensive weapon, as is four-star tailback Jovon Robinson, who also can help in the passing game. Quarterback Zeke Pike is inconsistent at times, but is still relatively new to the position and has the tools to succeed. Speedy corner Joshua Holsey and versatile outside linebacker Cassanova McKinzy, both Rivals250 players, highlight the defensive group.
5. Texas A&M

Commit List
AggieYell.com
Message Board
Headliner: Five-star running back signee Trey Williams, rushed for nearly 4,000 yards as a senior.
Sleeper: Julien Obioha is a big, athletic defensive end prospect who looks to have a high upside.
Overview: Although the Aggies saw some of their commits defect late, they certainly didn't do poorly. In Williams, who averaged over 9 yards per carry in his high school career, first-year coach Kevin Sumlin landed a player who has the potential to be an offensive star in the SEC. Williams highlights a very talented group of skill players in this class. Strong-armed quarterback Matt Davis is a four-star recruit. Ditto for receiver Thomas Johnson. Those three are among the top signees in their position in the SEC, and could provide the Aggies with a boost as they head into the league. Johnson is the country's No. 34 overall recruit. Defensively, A&M's class is led by cornerback DeVante Harris, who was the leading tackler in the Under Armour All-America Game. On the interior, the Aggies signed Rivals250 center Mike Matthews.
6. LSU

Commit List
TigerBait.com
Message Board
Headliner: Cornerback Dwayne Thomas, a Rivals250 recruit, has excellent height and length and is extremely athletic.
Sleeper: Quarterback Jeremy Liggins has the physical tools to succeed, but he must keep his weight in check.
Overview: Despite having a few of its commits flip to other schools late in the process, LSU did manage to sign nine four-star players. Although this class lacks star power, it does include several very good prospects. On the offensive line, the Tigers landed two massive four-star signees in Vadal Alexander and Derek Edinburgh, a pair of players that have excellent long-term potential. Staying on offense, LSU added standout receivers in Travin Dural and Avery Johnson, the younger brother of former Tigers star Patrick Peterson. Lamar Louis is another of the better recruits in this class. Listed as an athlete, he'll likely play linebacker in Baton Rouge and might have a chance to compete early. Four-star outside backer Kwon Alexander was a nice addition to the class Wednesday. The Tigers have another four-star linebacker as well, Lorenzo Phillips, a one-time Florida commit.
7. Tennessee

Commit List
VolQuest.com
Message Board
Headliner: Rivals100 safety LaDarrell McNeil is a long and lean player with great overall athleticism.
Sleeper: Running back Quenshaun Watson, a late discovery by the Vols, has game-breaking speed.
Overview: Despite being spurned by two longtime commits late (linebackers Otha Peters and Dalton Santos) the Vols have to be pleased. For starters, they landed four-star quarterback Nathan Peterman, a player Tennessee believes it can build the program around in the coming years. He's an accurate and intelligent signal caller. This class has plenty of offensive firepower -- starting with electric junior college receiver Cordarrelle Patterson, who figures to provide immediate help. The Vols also landed a few other four-star receivers - Drae Bowles, Jason Croom and Alton Howard. Running back Davante Bourque gives Tennessee a big, physical runner. On defense, McNeil and four-star cornerback Deion Bonner are two players with high upsides. Bonner has great coverage skills; McNeil has the ability to be a solid back-end defender.
8. South Carolina

Commit List
GamecockCentral.com
Message Board
Headliner: Running back Mike Davis is a powerful runner with great footwork and excellent vision.
Sleeper: Cornerback Rico McWilliams is an athletic, physical corner who should become a solid college player once he bulks up.
Overview: The Gamecocks once again did very well for themselves, landing eight four-star players. While this class lacks the big names of the groups from 2010 and 2011, it certainly doesn't lack talent. There is plenty of that. Davis has a chance to earn early playing time as a backup at tailback, and receiver Shaq Roland has the ability to become a future star in the SEC because of his unique playmaking skills. The Gamecocks offense line added four-star prospects Joe Harris and Brock Stadnik. Meantime, four-star safeties Jordan Diggs and Chaz Elder have the potential to provide long-term stability on the defensive back end. At quarterback, Steve Spurrier landed Brendan Nosovitch a three-star signal caller from Pennsylvania whom the ball coach thinks is highly underrated. Another player the Gamecocks really like is defensive end Darius English, a 6-foot-6 defensive end with a ton of upside.
9. Vanderbilt

Commit List
VandySports.com
Message Board
Headliner: All-purpose back Brian Kimbrow is a speedy player who gives the Commodores a homerun threat.
Sleeper: Outside linebacker Stephen Weatherly is a speed defender who should eventually become a solid pass rusher.
Overview: By far, this is the best class anyone can remember the Commodores putting together. Vanderbilt not only landed several quality players, but did so at numerous positions. The Commodores did especially well on the offensive line, where players such as Andrew Jelks, a four-star in-state product, Adam Butler, Barrett Gouger, Will Holden and Kevin McCoy should help the program bolster its play on the interior. At receiver Cory Batey and Jaborian McKenzie are under-the-radar prospects, but talented recruits. In quarterback Patton Robinette, Vanderbilt grabbed itself a player who won big in high school and has dual-threat skills. Defensively, end Caleb Azubike, outside linebacker Darreon Herring and inside backer Jacob Sealand are among the players who stand out. Azubike is a Rivals250 prospect who has the ability to contribute early in Nashville.
10. Mississippi State

Commit List
BulldogBlitz.com
Message Board
Headliner: Defensive tackle Quay Evans, an early enrollee, figures to be an immediate factor in Starkville.
Sleeper: Torrey Bell, who will be a defensive end, has an excellent frame and solid pass-rush skills.
Overview: Mississippi State's class isn't flashy, but the Bulldogs no doubt are more than a little happy with the haul. Particularly on defense, it appears Dan Mullen's program has signed a handful of difference-makers. Evans is a powerful, speedy and aggressive tackle. Another tackle, Nick James, has similar skills. Junior college defensive end signee Denico Autry, who like Evans is a four-star recruit, also should contribute early. End A.J. Jefferson is another solid signee up front. He's a long and rangy player that has arguably the best frame of anybody in this Bulldogs class. At linebacker, Mississippi State closed extremely strong, landing four-star inside backer Richie Brown and three-star prospect Beniquez Brown, who will man the outside. Richie Brown is deceptively fast, and has been a tackling machine throughout his high school career. On the defensive back end, cornerback/safety signee Will Redmond arguably was the most coveted player in Tennessee. Among offensive recruits, center Devon Desper, an Under Armour All-American, stands out.
11. Arkansas

Commit List
HawgSports.com
Message Board
Headliner: Inside linebacker Otha Peters has the ability to compete for early playing time in Fayetteville.
Sleeper: Defensive end Brandon Lewis has an outstanding frame; once he grows into it, he looks like someone capable of making an impact on the line.
Overview: Losing out on Dorial Green-Beckham, the country's No. 1 overall recruit, had to be a tough pill to swallow. Especially since only a week earlier he looked Arkansas bound. In any event, all wasn't lost. Even at receiver. At that spot, the Razorbacks still did reasonably well, with the biggest catch being D'Arthur Cowan a tall and lanky target who has a knack for making spectacular receptions. Keon Hatcher is another solid pickup at receiver. Offensively, running back Jonathan Williams, a Rivals250 prospect, was the top signee. On defense, Peters, a speedy, physical player, was a significant get - but so were guys such as defensive linemen Darius Philon and JaMichael Winston, a pair of high school teammates from Alabama who are excellent pass rushers. Philon had been committed to Alabama.
12. Missouri

Commit List
PowerMizzou.com
Message Board
Headliner: The nation's No. 1 recruit, receiver Dorial Green-Beckham, gives Missouri a major boost as it heads to the SEC.
Sleeper: Tight end Sean Culkin comes from a small school in Florida, but has big-time ability.
Overview: The importance of landing Green-Beckham can't be overstated. For starters, it gave the program terrific PR on signing day. More importantly, he's truly an elite player who will be a matchup nightmare in the SEC because of his combination of size and overall athleticism. Quarterback signee Maty Mauk, a three-star recruit from Ohio, had to be the person happiest with Green-Beckham's signing. Those two are players the Tigers can build an offense around in the coming years. The offense also landed four-star guard Evan Boehm, an Under Armour All-American. Missouri also feels like it has a couple of good ones at running back in Russell Hansbrough and Morgan Steward. The Tigers' defensive class is highlighted by the signing of linebacker Donavin Newsom.
13. Ole Miss

Commit List
RebelGrove.com
Message Board
Headliner: Rivals100 defensive end Channing Ward is an elite pass rusher who also excels against the run.
Sleeper: Athlete Mike Hilton could play cornerback or possibly be an all-purpose back for the Rebels. He has the skills to become a fine player at either spot, even though he isn't very big.
Overview: The first class for new coach Hugh Freeze included the Magnolia State's top prospect, Ward, who has the potential to be a true difference-maker in Oxford because he not only possesses good size, but great quickness and explosiveness. Without question Ward was the marquee signee for the Ole Miss staff, which got a late start because of the coaching change with the Rebels. But the defense also picked up tackle Issac Gross, a player who performed at a high level in the Under Armour All-America Game. On offense, the Rebels did well for themselves at running back and quarterback. Junior college signal caller Bo Wallace is a good one while tailbacks I'Tavius Mathers and Jaylen Walton provide Ole Miss with two terrific talents. Mathers is more of the every-down back. Walton is a shifty runner with very good speed.
14. Kentucky

Commit List
CatsIllustrated.com
Message Board
Headliner: Four-star quarterback Patrick Towles was the top prospect in Kentucky.
Sleeper: Receiver DeMarcus Sweat has a terrific frame, but needs to work on his consistency catching the ball. As he improves in that area, his career could take off.
Overview: Even though the Wildcats' class doesn't rank highly, it isn't lacking in talent. Towles is a high-end prospect with excellent tools and a big body. He also comes from a winning program, which isn't something to be overlooked. On defense, Kentucky landed two of its top signees. One of them, safety Zack Blaylock, is a ball-hawking defender who recorded double-digit interceptions in 2011 and returned more than half of them for touchdowns. Another is defensive tackle Thomas Chapman, who brings good size, strength and quickness to the Kentucky defensive interior. Outside linebacker Khalid Henderson, a former Vols commit with nice speed, is another to watch. Ditto for defensive back prospect Fred Tiller. The offense snagged running back Justin Taylor at the 11th hour, and also landed Jalen Whitlow, a true athlete capable of playing multiple positions, including receiver.

Keith Niebuhr can be reached at Keithrivals@yahoo.com. You can follow him on Twitter @KeithRIVALS.

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