The SEC once again proved this past week why it is the best conference in college football, it gets the best players. National Signing Day showcased strong performances by the league from top to bottom.
We all know that not all these prospects are sure-fire, iron-clad, can't-miss guys. However the league has more of them than anyone in college football. The SEC has a greater margin of error because the talent pool is so deep. It really is about the players and who has the best and the most on their roster.
There are plenty of examples of teams having success with less heralded prospects, but the schools that maintain success over time usually have a strong haul on the first Wednesday in February.
Five to watch
There is no doubt that more than five guys will have an impact on this year’s game, but here are five guys that I have watched during recruiting that I believe can play Day 1 when they get off the bus.
- Leonard Fournette, RB, LSU – Fournette is an easy pick because he is the consensus top player in the country, but the way LSU utilizes their tailbacks he should be No. 2 on the depth chart before he takes a snap. The thing I like about him is the build and productivity, put that with Cam Cameron's offense and he will have an impact.
- Lorenzo Carter, DE, Georgia – Carter is a great athlete who should have an impact rushing the passer Day 1 at Georgia. Jeremy Pruitt is great at identifying the strengths of a particular player and creating a position for him. He along with Leonard Floyd gives the Dogs great athleticism on the outside rush.
- Jalen Tabor, DB, Florida - Will Muschamp raved about his size on signing day and at 6-foot-1 he could be the biggest shutdown corner the Gators have had in five years. He is already on campus and like last year's freshman Vernon Hargreaves should be a starter from Day 1.
- Kyle Allen, QB, Texas A&M - I realize this may be the biggest stretch of my predictions, but I get the feeling he will play this season. His resume speaks for itself but the coaches I talk to in College Station believe his leadership qualities are off the chart.
- Pick One from Alabama! - It's hard to pick one guy out of Alabama's amazing class, so I will take a stab at two. Da'Shawn Hand is physically ready to play right now for the Crimson Tide on the defensive line. I think he could be in the mold of a Courtney Upshaw in the future. The other defensive player is Rashaan Evans, who should be the next great “jack” linebacker at Alabama. Everyone knows his story by now, but the bottom line is the Crimson Tide need to tighten up the pass rush and get some athleticism on the edge against mobile quarterbacks.
Alabama has a system in place under Nick Saban to identify and obtain prospects. I realize winning, facilities and the school have a lot to do with choosing the Crimson Tide, but he also has a system in his organization that allows no stone to be unturned. The stories of his staff calling in from the road at the end of a day recruiting for a staff meeting conference call are legendary.
Saban also has a proven track record at developing players to play at a high level and move on to the NFL. This is not only attractive to top-end kids, but is one more reason why the Tide have been so good. It does not guarantee a title, having the best players, but it does mean you will be in the hunt each and every year.
LSU closed strong and finished No. 2 in the recruiting rankings. I have said for weeks that the fact that the Tigers have so many early entries into the NFL draft would not hurt them on the road recruiting. I actually think it has been a positive, because in no way does it look like Les Miles would discourage a kid from going pro.
No team in the country has had more guys leave early for the NFL the last two years than LSU. They still win at a high level and have a coach many players love to play for. LSU sells player development and opportunity to go the NFL as well as any school in the country on the recruiting trail.
This and That
- New-hire impacts were felt across the SEC as Jeremy Pruitt, defensive coordinator at Georgia helped land top prospect Lorenzo Carter while Kurt Roper at Florida help land Treon Harris in Gainesville. Carter is a big-time defensive end out of Norcross who elected to stay home in large part due to the new defensive system that Pruitt will employ. Harris a quarterback out of Miami was committed to FSU until Roper was hired and brought in his new offensive system that should showcase Harris talents at UF.
- Kentucky had a very good recruiting year under Mark Stoops and that should not surprise anyone. Stoops has long been regarded as a great recruiter in his own right, but there are other factors too. First Kentucky is in the SEC and with the big five moving farther and farther away from the rest of college football this makes space limited. The Wildcats also have an exciting offense (once they get some players) and are building a new football facility to house coaches and players. They were able to get a top-flight quarterback in their class and that's the first step to contending.
- Now that recruiting is behind us, coaches will take a short time off before preparing practice schedules for the beginning of spring football. Duke from the ACC actually starts spring ball this weekend, but many schools will crank it up in March. The first thing they want to do is give players eight weeks at least with the strength coaches to build back up muscle lost during the football season and give them a nice foundation for spring evaluation. The other thing these two months allow is the start of leadership on your football team. With mat drills and early morning runs, you find out which guys want to lead in 2014.