1 question I have about every SEC recruiting class ahead of the Early Signing Period
Here’s a question: How in the world are we already at the Early Signing Period?
It seems like just last month we were breaking down the new recruiting calendar. Now, we’re in our second year of this thing, and it hit us even quicker this time around. Well, at least it hit me even quicker this time around.
Besides the basic “how did we get here already” question, I asked one about every SEC team’s signing class with the Early Signing Period being just 8 days away.
Alabama — Will this class be the best ever?
There’s a decent chance that this happens, especially after Nick Saban got No. 1 safety Daxton Hill to flip from Michigan to Alabama. No. 1 is locked up for 2019. That much we know. What we don’t know is how many of the remaining 5-star recruits like Trey Sanders, Darnell Wright and others will commit to Alabama. The 2010 Florida class holds the “best class ever” title with an overall score of 324.62. One has to figure it would probably take at least 3 more 5-star recruits to make that happen for Saban.
Arkansas — Will awful first season influence Chad Morris’s finish?
So far, no. Arkansas is sitting there with the No. 17 class in the country with local top-100 commitments from the likes of No. 2 tight end Hudson Henry and wideout Treylon Burks. Morris’ staff did so much damage early, that it was fair to wonder how the 2-win season was going to impact his ability to recruit. Interestingly enough, 3 of Arkansas’ top-4 rated verbal pledges came in-season. The 2018 season will be a distant memory if Morris can lock down a top-20 class.
Auburn — How much will Gus Malzahn’s uncertain future impact his 2019 class?
It happens everywhere. Uncertainty at the head coaching position usually doesn’t bode well for a recruiting class. To Malzahn’s credit, Auburn’s class is at No. 12, which is where it finished last year. All of the Tigers’ 4-star pledges came before the season. But elite 4-star receiver George Pickens could be a candidate to flip before the Early Signing Period (Dec. 19-21), and perhaps others could after the departure of offensive coordinator Chip Lindsey.
Florida — Can Dan Mullen make a late in-state push?
So, um, this is odd. Mullen only has one verbal commitment from one of the top 30 recruits in Florida. That’s not good. That was a concern for Mullen coming into this job. Strange it is that after coming off a big first season in which Florida State and Miami were both down, Mullen hasn’t capitalized on it like some would expect. The good news is that the Gators are in play for the likes of Lakeland recruits Keon Zipperer and Lloyd Summerall, and the 247sports Crystal Ball has 4-star North Palm Beach cornerback Kaiir Elam projected to the Gators. Perhaps Mullen’s’ strategy of allowing recruits’ parents to get decked out in full Gator gear will pay off.
Georgia — What rabbit will Kirby Smart pull out of his hat this year?
He always seems to have at least one. Getting Otis Reese to flip from Michigan was a big deal last year. It seems like Smart will pull out at least one surprise like that again. Maybe it won’t be about the flips as it is about getting someone like Sanders or Nakobe Dean. Georgia already got off to a big start this week by landing 5-star Alabama native Clay Webb. All signs point to Smart finishing strong like he always does, and inevitably ending up with an even better class than we imagined. It’s already No. 2 in the country with 4 5-stars, most in the country.
Kentucky — Does a historic season result in a historic class?
The key with having a season like Kentucky had is capitalizing on it and making sure it isn’t just a flash-in-the-pan year. If the Wildcats can land their best recruiting class ever, obviously the chances of them sustaining national relevance increase. For now, the Cats are putting together a good, not great class in terms of rankings. The good news is at No. 30 nationally, they have pledges from a trio of 4-star defenders. The bad news is that since Stoops locked down the nation’s No. 22 class in his first full cycle, they’ve been somewhere between 30-38 in every class.
LSU — Will LSU land 5-star defensive tackle Ishmael Sopsher?
Granted, we won’t have an answer to this question until National Signing Day in February, but it’s one that’ll be on the minds of Tiger fans for the next couple months. The 5-star defensive tackle is an Amite, La., native who’s ranked No. 9 overall in the 2019 class. He would be a massive, massive get for Ed Orgeron, who knows a thing or two about how to coach up a defensive line. He also knows a thing or two about battling the likes of Saban and Jimbo Fisher, and the challenge that comes with it.
Mississippi State — How will the final in-state numbers shake out?
One big question about Year 1 of the Joe Moorhead era was how well could he recruit in the Magnolia State. As we found out so far, pretty well. MSU has verbal pledges from 4 of the state’s top 12 recruits, including 2 in the top 5. MSU has the No. 16 class, nearly half of which is in-state recruits. Moorhead, despite his Northeast roots, only has one verbal commitment from a recruit north of the Mason-Dixon Line. Of the top 25 in-state recruits, MSU has verbal commitments from 8, compared to 6 from Ole Miss. That’s another battle Moorhead wouldn’t mind coming out on top.
Mizzou — Are the Tigers about to sign the SEC’s smallest class?
As strange as it sounds, only having 16 committed recruits in early December isn’t very much. The Tigers have had at least 24 recruits in their past 2 classes, so maybe that has something to do with why the numbers are down. Mizzou did also land Clemson grad transfer Kelly Bryant, who one could argue was more valuable than any 2019 recruit they could have signed, so that No. 40 ranking does have a bit of an asterisk. But it is interesting that 2 coaches who faced the most in-season heat — Barry Odom and Malzahn — have the fewest amount of committed recruits. Odom at least finished strong and got out of that conversation.
Ole Miss — Will Jerrion Ealy stick with the Rebels? And will he stick with football?
It’s never great when your top recruit visits the other in-state school just 2 weeks ahead of the Early Signing Period. The question now is whether Ealy, who visited Mississippi State after being committed to Ole Miss for nearly a year, is about to have a late change of heart.
— Jerrion Ealy (@ealy_1k) December 10, 2018
You can bet Moorhead is playing the Saquon Barkley card with the versatile Ealy. There’s also the fact that Ealy could wind up on the baseball field instead of the gridiron. It’s not surprising that as one of the top baseball prospects in the country, Ealy is waiting until February to sign on the dotted line.
South Carolina — Could South Carolina make a late push to land Eric Gray?
The 4-star U.S. Army All-American took a surprise official visit to South Carolina over the weekend following his decommitment from Michigan. Will Muschamp does has a pair of 4-star recruits from the Volunteer State committed, but a late add like Gray would be a major get for a running game that’s been stagnant in recent memory. The Gamecocks could go down to the wire with the likes of Tennessee and Ole Miss, especially if the aforementioned Ealy drops his commitment.
Tennessee — Can the Vols address an immediate need and add 5-star OT Darnell Wright?
Tennessee needs offensive line help. Bad. With the uncertainty of Trey Smith’s condition, the Vols would love another blue chip offensive tackle to plug and play immediately. Darnell Wright could be that guy. The 247sports Crystal Ball still has the Vols as the favorite to land the 5-star offensive tackle, but he has a visit to Georgia this weekend. As we know, Smart has a knack for pulling off late recruiting victories. Needless to say, Jeremy Pruitt’s top remaining target would be a major victory.
Texas A&M — Will Jimbo Fisher win the fight for No. 2 in his first full cycle?
Just for a little perspective on this. Saban’s insane 2008 class was his first full cycle at Alabama. It ranked No. 3. Fisher is in a dogfight with Georgia and LSU to get that No. 2 spot. That’s pretty amazing in itself. Half of his class are recruits from Texas rated 4-stars or better. In fact, 9 of the top 25 recruits from the Lone Star State are committed to A&M. Texas, on the other hand, only has 2. Fisher has done a whale of a job doing that in Year 1, and that won’t change even if Smart bests him for the No. 2 spot.
Vanderbilt — How far behind the rest of the SEC will Vandy finish?
In a year in which all but 3 SEC schools look like they could finish in the top 25, Vandy is looking like a distant last. Obviously a lack of history, resources and facilities have plenty to do with that. Derek Mason is doing the best with what he has, no doubt. But Vandy’s new athletic director has to recognize that disparity. There’s a decent chance that Vandy won’t finish within 10 spots of the No. 13 SEC team. That’s a tough thing to sell to a fan base. At the very least, at least it doesn’t look like the Commodores are about to get beat by a Group of 5 program this year.