Time to restock: Biggest recruiting needs for each SEC team
Every SEC school has lost a player or two who was vital to its program’s success in 2017.
Some schools will lose a large number of players to the NFL Draft and graduation. Others will suffer less depletion in their position groups. But they all have needs.
This is the first year of the early signing period. This new rule could change the college football recruiting landscape. Time will tell.
Anyway, here are the biggest recruiting needs for the 14 SEC teams:
Needs: Secondary, special teams
JK Scott has been a weapon for Nick Saban. The four-year starter holds the career record for punting yards at Alabama, and has never averaged less than 43 yards per punt in a season. In 2016, he averaged 47.19 yards, third best among FBS schools.
Andy Pappanastos has been a reliable place kicker for the Crimson Tide — a position that has failed them in the past. He’s hit 100 percent of his extra points and is 15-of-19 on field goals this season. Pappanastos is another guy who will be missed.
The Tide also need a playmaker at wide receiver. Calvin Ridley has been the only consistent threat for Jalen Hurts. Ridley has 600 more receiving yards than the next closest Alabama wide receiver this season.
Skyler DeLong is the No. 1 punter recruit in the country and verbally committed to Alabama in June. While the Crimson Tide look like they have that position ready to reload, wide receivers could be lacking. Right now, 4-star Xaiver Williams is the only true wide receiver with a verbal commitment to Alabama.
Needs: Defensive and offensive linemen
Arkansas had abysmal offensive and defensive line play this season. After his firing, Bret Bielema admitted he and his staff didn’t recruit well enough in that area. New coach Chad Morris should know where to begin — in the trenches.
The Razorbacks will lose offensive linemen Jake Raulerson and Paul Ramirez to graduation. Nose tackle Bijhon Jackson also completed his eligibility. While Arkansas doesn’t lose a lot, the Razorbacks need to improve mightily in this category. The units ranked outside the top 100 FBS schools in sacks given up and sacks allowed.
The Razorbacks have three offensive linemen and two defensive lineman with hard commits in the 2018 class. That number needs to grow.
Needs: Offensive linemen, secondary
While Auburn had a rocky offensive start to begin the season, the Tigers began to find their footing on offense. Against conference opponents, they averaged 37.1 points per game. Gus Malzahn loses Braden Smith, Darius James, Casey Dunn, Austin Golson and Wilson Bell to graduation.
Smith is one of the best offensive linemen in the country and will play at the next level. It might behoove Malzahn to focus more here. The Tigers have only two offensive linemen commits right now.
Auburn had a salty secondary this season, giving up only 177.8 passing yards per game. Stephen Roberts, Tray Matthews, Jason Smith, and Nick Ruffin all graduate. Carlton Davis might skip his last season at Auburn for a shot at the NFL — WalterFootball.com has him as the no. 4 cornerback.
Malzahn is addressing this potential weakness. Christian Tutt is a good 4-star cornerback from Georgia who has verbally committed to the Tigers along with other strong secondary pieces.
Needs: Punters, quarterbacks
Johnny Townsend will be hard to replace. He earned All-America accolades from several outlets in 2016. This season, Florida was No. 3 in the country in punting average at 47.20 yards. At the moment, the Gators have not gotten a punter to commit.
Malik Zaire is graduating and Feleipe Franks didn’t look promising this season. This is a perfect opportunity for Dan Mullen to handpick his guy. Mullen might be able to transform incoming freshman Matt Corral, the No. 3 pro-style quarterback in the country.
Needs: Defense, running backs
Sony Michel and Nick Chubb did wonders for the Georgia rushing attack, helping the offense gain 263.54 rushing yards per game this season. Chubb won’t be able to catch Herschel Walker, but will end his career as the SEC’s second all-time leading rusher.
The Bulldogs lose a colossal amount on defense, especially in the linebacker group and in the secondary. Aaron Davis, Malkom Parrish and Lorenzo Carter are just a few players who will complete their NCAA eligibility this season.
Right now, Georgia has the fourth best recruiting class in the country. Zamir White is the No. 1 running back in the country. The defensive recruits are starting to stack up as well for Georgia.
Needs: Quarterbacks, receivers
Three senior wide receivers won’t be on the team in 2018, including Garrett Johnson, who has over 2,000 receiving yards in his career. Another Johnson, Stephen, will also be missed after having two solid seasons as the Kentucky starting quarterback. He threw for over 2,000 yards in both seasons.
Meechi Harris, a 3-star recruit, could be the next playmaker out wide for the Wildcats. Harris ran a 4.4-second 40 and had 18 offers. At this point, Mark Stoops must be trusting in Drew Barker, because the Wildcats don’t have a quarterback commitment.
Needs: Linebackers, receivers
Looking at Dave Aranda’s defense, the Tigers lose a monster amount at the linebacker position. Junior Arden Key will likely enter the NFL Draft. LSU always manages to find a hybrid linebacker/defensive end to wreck opposing quarterbacks, and the list of 2018 commits has a number of potential candidates to fill that role.
D.J. Chark was Mr. Reliable for the Tigers this season, averaging over 23 yards per catch. LSU has potential replacements coming down to “The Bayou.” Kenan Jones might be the next spectacular wide receiver who thrives in “Death Valley.”
Needs: Secondary, receivers
Besides losing its head coach, Mississippi State loses a massive amount of talent in the secondary. This unit allowed the 13th least passing yards among FBS schools. Esaias Furdge is a Mississippi native ready to put on a maroon uniform. He’ll be needed to step up and contribute right away.
The Bulldogs also suffered an abnormal amount of injuries to wide receivers this year. Two of their best recruits in 2018 play that position. New coach Joe Moorhead will have to sort it out.
Needs: Defensive linemen, recievers
Defense has to be a priority for a squad that gave up way too many points this season. The defensive line loses three seniors. Daniel Parker needs to come in and tear it up like Tigers alums Shane Ray and Michael Sam.
J’Mon Moore is gone after this season, much to the chagrin of Barry Odom. Moore had a phenomenal 2017 with over 1,000 receiving yards and 10 touchdowns. If Drew Lock ends up moving on to the NFL, this group is even more important to recruit. Two of Missouri’s top four recruits are wide receivers.
Needs: Linebackers … and a miracle
While Ole Miss may be concerned about Shea Patterson leaving, Jordan Ta’amu looks like a solid quarterback. He should be the guy for the next few seasons. The Rebels need to focus their attention on recruiting linebackers, as three seniors are exiting. If he keeps his commitment, Jacquez Jones should see playing time right away.
Ole Miss likely will lose players due to transfers after the sanctions. It’s going to be hard to recruit kids to Oxford in these conditions.
South Carolina won’t retain much of the defense that allowed only 20.8 points per game in 2017. Skai Moore isn’t just one of the best defensive players in the SEC … he belongs in the national conversation as well.
Unfortunately for Will Muschamp, he isn’t the only key cog who won’t be returning in 2018. Six big contributors on defense won’t be back. Muschamp’s team is gathering recruits on defense, including Marlon Character Jr. — the No. 1 safety in the country.
The offense was awful. The defense was atrocious. New coach Jeremy Pruitt has an uphill battle, with a lot of positions that need recruits.
Need: Defensive linemen
Jimbo Fisher had some solid defensive units at Florida State. In order to establish a good start at Texas A&M, he’ll have to start with the big boys up front on defense. Jarrett Johnson and other senior members of the Aggies’ front four helped accumulate 40 sacks this season, tied for sixth in the country. Bobby Brown and others will need to step up if Fisher is to have a successful first season.
Needs: Running backs, receivers
Derek Mason is losing a stalwart running back in Ralph Webb. Webb holds the Vanderbilt record for career rushing yards. Khari Blasingame will assume the starting role, but the team will need a reliable backup.
There is little reason to believe that Kyle Shurmur won’t return for his senior year. That being said, he’ll need new weapons with four of Vanderbilt’s better receivers graduating. Enter Camron Johnson, the hometown kid. Johnson has the potential to be one of the better wide receivers in Vanderbilt history.