It’s been a long ride since the Early Signing Period, but recruiting season is over. Whatever you think of your team’s class, the hay is in the barn, and all that’s left to do now is hope.
With that being said, it’s time to get hopeful. Let’s look at each team’s best recruit of the 2018 cycle, according to 247Sports’ composite score:
Georgia: QB Justin Fields, No. 2 overall
Justin Fields is a beast and Georgia couldn’t have landed a more exciting prospect this cycle. Fields is a dynamic athlete and playmaker with his legs, but the twist is, he’s also a polished passer. That’s a dangerous combination and one reason he could see the field early in gadget packages.
Alabama: DE Eyabi Anoma, No. 4 overall
Anoma is just the latest in a line of Bama freaks to come through the pipeline, and he fits right in with the program’s identity. The 6-5, 235-pound defensive end has size, speed and power. He makes high schoolers look like children as he sheds blockers and locks onto his target, and he’s only going to get bigger and stronger with Alabama’s weight program. If all things go according to plan, his name will be nationally known soon.
LSU: WR Terrace Marshall, No. 13 overall
Patrick Surtain was supposed to be the best-rated LSU commit, but after a late flip on signing day, Terrace Marshall is a heck of a consolation prize. The 6-2.5 wide receiver plays even bigger than his frame, high-pointing catches for highlight-reel catches. The best part might be his abilities in space, however, as he can be a weapon in the screen game. For an LSU offense that is still uncertain at the QB spot, a WR like Marshall could be the perfect safety blanket.
Tennessee: OLB JJ Peterson, No. 48 overall
JJ Peterson is a prototypical edge rusher in a market where that skillset is being valued more and more. He’s fast enough to return kicks and athletic enough to play wildcat quarterback, but his real talent is in quickly dispensing of blockers to attack the QB and sniff out who has the ball in the backfield. Peterson was a difference maker on nearly every play in high school, with offenses scheming away from him, and his own team using him as a weapon in every sense of the word.
Auburn: QB Joey Gatewood, No. 49 overall
Joey Gatewood is a perfect Gus Malzahn quarterback and Auburn fans should be thrilled to hear about his arrival. Malzhan has had two QBs run for over 1,000 yards, and it wouldn’t be crazy to think that Gatewood could be his next. He’s been compared to Cam Newton. Auburn fans would be happy if he came anywhere close to that.
Ole Miss: QB Matt Corral, No. 63 overall
A recruiting coup saw Matt Corral choose Ole Miss over Florida in what is possibly Matt Luke’s biggest moment thus far as a head coach, and for good reason. Just look at Corral’s footwork – how he avoids the blitz, how he effortlessly transitions his weight to throw on the move. Sometimes, a talented QB can be enough to power a below-average roster into a respectable team, and that’s exactly what Ole Miss fans are hoping as their depleted roster reloads in the wake of transfers and sanctions. Huge get for the Rebels.
Florida: WR Jacob Copeland, No. 69 overall
Pensacola has long been a hotbed of SEC talent, and Florida kept this in-state playmaker close to home. Despite standing only 6 feet tall, he manages to look like a man among boys at the high school level. His body control and slipperyness in space make him a constant threat to wriggle through coverage and burn defenders. With Emory Jones already enrolled to throw him the rock, the future of Florida’s passing game looks pretty bright.
Texas A&M: S Leon O’Neal Jr., No. 75 overall
Leon O’Neal has gained notoriety for his Twitter beef with LSU RB Derrius Guice, but his play on the field would be enough to garner national attention on its own. In a world where nearly every hard hit seems to warrant a flag, O’Neal is an artist at legally laying the wood. He’s athletic, long, and he plays with an anger and swagger that punishes WRs who come over the middle. Just watch him stop offensive players in their tracks with sure tackling and momentum-stopping hits. It’s going to be fun to watch O’Neal continue that trash talking against players he can actually hit.
South Carolina: DT Rick Sandidge, No. 141 overall
Credit to Will Muschamp for keeping Rick Sandidge in the Carolinas and warding off a late push by Georgia. What he got was a 6-5, 288-pound wall of a man who will be perfect for his hard-nosed defensive philosophy. Sandidge is surprisingly nimble and explosive for his frame, but he’s also able to quickly turn his mass into power and turn his body into a battering ram that can disrupt solid blocking. With his already impressive frame, it’s going to be interesting what Sandidge can turn into by the time he leaves Columbia.
Mississippi State: WR Malik Heath, No. 172 overall
Malik Heath is 6-3, and his catch radius is ridiculous. He has made a career on splitting coverages and using his big hands and long arms to snag balls out of the air. He’s been measured at 4.43 speed, and though those home guns can be a little dubious, he clearly has the burst to blow by defenders at the next level that take him lightly. Joe Moorhead is an offensive guru, so it’s going to be interesting to see how he develops a rangy prospect like Heath.
Kentucky: OG Marquan McCall, No. 194 overall
Marquan McCall is a mauler, and he will be of great use to a Kentucky program that prides itself on a physical run game. The Wildcats have produced three 1,000-yard rushers in the past two seasons, and players like McCall are why – big, physical, underrated guys from the north. McCall comes to Kentucky from Michigan, and he will be paving the road for Stoops’ smash-mouth attack for years to come.
Vanderbilt: ILB Alston Orji, No. 245 overall
There’s been a lot of talk about program identity on this list, and Alston Orji fits with Derek Mason’s Vanderbilt teams as well as anyone mentioned. A sure-tackling, cerebral linebacker who uses his length and leverage to end plays before they begin, Orji will look to be an anchor on Mason’s stout defensive units that pride themselves on superior schemes.
Arkansas: ILB Bumper Pool, No.339 overall
Bumper Pool has to be a top 10 SEC name of all time. He is an impact linebacker who can captain the Razorback defense down the line. He looks a little thinner than the average 4-star prospect, but he plays so hard that it’s hard to notice. He never stops moving, and his specialty is diagnosing plays and stopping completions for minimal gain. He’s a sure tackler. He’s exactly the kind of intelligent player that a rebuilding team like Arkansas can build around.
Missouri: ILB Chad Bailey, No. 388 overall
Chad Bailey is another player whose highlights are a bit limited, but the tape that is available shows a player who can be pretty scary. He’s a stout 6-0, 238 pounds and uses his size a battering ram to pressure QBs and stifle the run. He’s one of the biggest hitters among the LBs on this list because of his ability to use his mass effectively with a head of steam. While he has some flaws and might struggle against next-level speed in the passing game early, he can already be a problem against the run.