The new Early Signing Period that occurred in December is now a fact of life for everyone involved in recruiting, from high school prospects and their families to coaches — who range from totally against it to wishing it were even earlier, as in August.
After the pre-Christmas period, most of the top players are committed and most schools have less than 10 spots remaining under an NCAA mandate to limit classes to 25 players.
Still, some class-changing recruits remain. Per The 247Sports Composite list, 20 of the top 100 recruits in the country are still available, five of them 5-star players.
With Feb. 7 less than a month away, here is where each SEC program stands entering the second phase of Class of 2018 recruiting (all rankings refer to the 247Sports Composite and Crystal Ball predictions):
The Crimson Tide signed 15 players in December and, according to Nick Saban, have eight spots remaining.
Saban said last month that Alabama would continue to recruit quarterbacks, though it hadn’t signed one yet and has three on the roster.
With the NFL Draft set to raid the Alabama secondary and pluck probably five players, that sets up nicely for Alabama recruiting the top three cornerbacks, who are all unsigned and all 5-stars: Patrick Surtain, Jr., Isaac Taylor-Stuart and Tyson Campbell.
Arkansas signed eight players during the early period and is expected to sign about that many in February.
The Razorbacks are looking for Chad Morris to mine Texas to pull their class up from No. 14 in the SEC and No. 79 in America. They have three signees from Texas, but to change their fortunes, the consensus is they need a lot more. A pipeline of sorts.
Ideally, one of those would come at the running back position, as Morris and his staff have yet to land a commitment there.
The Tigers are currently No. 3 in the SEC and No. 11 in the country with this class, and should benefit from the momentum of winning the Iron Bowl and Gus Malzahn signing a contract extension.
They have 15 signees and six more commits.
Joey Gatewood, a 4-star from Jacksonville, Fla., has even changed the fortunes and perceptions of Malzahn’s recruiting of quarterbacks. To add a cherry on top of this class, Auburn would need to land the state’s top prospect, 4-star receiver Justyn Ross, fending off Alabama and Clemson in the process.
The Gators have landed three offensive linemen and don’t appear to be finished at that position.
Nicholas Petit-Frere of Tampa, Fla., is a top target for the Gators because he’s an in-state talent and a 5-star player. Petit-Frere, who is 6-foot-6 and 272 pounds, reportedly favors the Gators, though Notre Dame and Alabama are in the mix among his 29 offers.
Petit-Frere is the No. 3 offensive tackle in this class and the No. 17 overall prospect.
It’s difficult to find a need for a class that is already ranked No. 1 in the country and has signed six 5-stars.
But as Georgia looks to re-stock its defense, secondary is a position of focus.
The Bulldogs, like Alabama, have their eye on 5-star Tyson Campbell, who is from the same high school program — American Heritage in Plantation, Fla. — that produced Sony Michel and Isaiah McKenzie. Michel has joined in the recruiting push for Campbell in the wake of the Dawgs’ national championship appearance.
Smart man! 🐶
— Sony Michel (@Flyguy2stackz) January 10, 2018
With all the coaching turnover across the SEC, Mark Stoops’ main pitch is stability as he’s now the dean of head coaches in the East.
Surprisingly, Kentucky has not signed a commitment from its own state, and if that holds, it would be the first time since 1939, according to the Lexington Herald-Leader. Also interesting is the fact that Louisville doesn’t hold a commitment from an in-state prospect either, though there are two uncommitted prospects among the state’s top five. (Purdue coach and Louisville native Jeff Brohm has five commitments from among Kentucky’s top 13 players.)
Xavier Peters, a linebacker from West Chester, Ohio, is the only player committed to the Wildcats who hasn’t already signed. That’s largely the only question about a class that already has signees across the depth chart, including a quarterback, among 10 offensive players, eight on defense, a kicker and a punter.
The Wildcats should have only a handful of players, at most, left to sign.
It’s been more than a year since Patrick Surtain Jr. named LSU his leading school, but he’s still scheduled to take an official visit to Alabama before the end of the month. The top cornerback in this recruiting class is obviously a big target for the Tigers.
As it stands, LSU has the fourth-ranked class in the SEC with 20 signees and two other commitments, both safeties. There are four spots remaining, and quarterback and cornerback are among the priority positions.
“We’re still looking for a quarterback,” coach Ed Orgeron said last month, according to The Advocate. “Several quarterbacks we’re evaluating that are going to come visit, and hopefully we’re going to sign them,” he said. “We need some DBs. Obviously we have some cornerbacks (who are) going to leave. We need some safeties.”
The Tigers have 17 signees and four other commitments in a class that’s ranked No. 13 in the SEC and No. 43 in the nation. Tigers coaches were on one hand relieved by the early period to ink prospects after they lost receiver commitments to Michigan and Ohio State in last year’s class.
“Now you don’t get situations like last year,” defensive coordinator Ryan Walters told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, “where you’ve done a really good job evaluating and some of the bigger, more prominent schools come in and pick your pocket a little bit.”
Even with Drew Lock’s return, the Tigers are trying to lock in a quarterback for the future, and have an offer extended to junior college quarterback Lindsey Scott Jr., who was once committed to LSU.
There’s expected to be four or five spots to be filled in February to join a class that already counts 12 signees — three of them early enrollees — for new coach Joe Moorhead.
The class is currently ranked No. 8 in the SEC and No. 23 in the country. The Bulldogs have signatures or commitments from three of the top four prospects in the state, and five of the top 11. But there’s still work to do on uncommitted in-state prospects Jarveon Howard, a running back, and Fabien Lovett, a defensive end.
Matt Luke signed his quarterback of the future in Matt Corral, but the Rebels still have work to do to improve on a class that’s No. 12 in the SEC and No. 35 in the country.
Before the early signing period began, Ole Miss was last in the SEC and outside the top 60 in the country. It helped to flip key players from Florida and Georgia.
Estimates suggest that Luke and his staff could sign another eight or nine players, across almost every position, to add to 14 signees from December. Those signees will begin their careers with the NCAA-imposed sanctions of a bowl ban and reduced scholarships for the program. All of that sets up for a big year in 2019 when the state of Mississippi has a bumper crop of top talent, including 11 4-star prospects.
Five spots remain for a class that began with 20 signees in December at No. 7 in the SEC and No. 18 in the country.
The Gamecocks flipped a player each from Tennessee and Florida State, and added a quarterback from North Charleston, Dakereon Joyner.
On a side note, the Gamecocks could receive a boost in recruiting from one of their all-time greats — former running back Marcus Lattimore is returning to the program as director player development. It’s hard to imagine a better advocate/salesman for the program.
The Gamecocks will make a push to recruit more linemen as they continue to mold the offense to new coordinator Bryan McClendon’s system.
Jeremy Pruitt has already made an impact in the early signing period with 14 signees, elevating the Vols’ class to No. 16 in the country — fifth in the SEC — from outside the top 50.
Linebacker J.J. Peterson, the No. 2 outside linebacker in the nation, committed to Tennessee on Saturday.
Pruitt has declined to outline specific areas of focus, saying only that the Vols will look for top students, leaders and captains on their high school teams. Initially, the Vols looked for offensive linemen and linebackers, but they still need to land some defensive backs as that’s the one position they didn’t address in December.
Jimbo Fisher’s first class with the Aggies is ranked No. 10 in the SEC and No. 31 in the country, slipping from ninth and 23rd, respectively, just two weeks ago.
The Aggies haven’t landed a quarterback or linebacker in a class of 10 signees and four commitments.
Put Fisher in the camp of coaches against the new recruiting calendar and early signing period. “I think we (college football in general) made a mistake,” he said.
The Aggies stocked up last year with 27 signees, so they might weather one smaller, less-touted class just fine. But here’s a quick reminder for Fisher of the recruiting climate in his new environment: Tom Herman’s Texas Longhorns have the No. 3 class in the country.
Defensive line is an area of concern and focus, both because of the current roster and the fact that the Commodores have just one player at that position in its class of 16 signees.
As it stands, Vanderbilt is No. 11 in the SEC and No. 32 in the country.
But defensive line isn’t the only position that needs to be re-stocked. The Commodores lost their top three receivers, two starting inside linebackers, four defensive backs, their kicker and their punter.
Still, Derek Mason has so far delivered his best class in five tries at Vanderbilt. Last year’s class was ranked No. 65.