2015 recruiting grades for every SEC West team
The SEC West may have suffered a disappointing bowl season, but it came roaring back with a dominant 2015 recruiting class, highlighted by Alabama’s fifth consecutive No. 1 class.
The division claimed three of the Top 10 nationally and six of the Top 20.
How did we grade each SEC West team’s 2015 recruiting class based on meeting needs and overall talent?
247Sports Composite Rank: 1
ESPNU’s recruiting broadcast went hours and hours without even mentioning the Crimson Tide, which held firm commitments from almost all of its 24 incoming players (23 and one grayshirt) well before Wednesday. (Four-star WR Daylon Charlot is the exception.) The team added two more five-star corners and two four-star safeties, shoring up the secondary, in addition to five-star players at QB, WR and RB, all positions at which the Tide is losing a starter. The team added three four-star guards as well.
Overall, Nick Saban put together a fifth consecutive No. 1 overall class and landed six different five-star players. It’s not a perfect class, but it’s hard to give it anything other than an A.
247Sports Composite Rank: 24
The Razorbacks scrambled to replace its three likely NFL draft picks on defense up front, adding four-star DT Hjalte Froholdt (pronounced Yel-da), four-star DE Jamario Bell and four-star DT Jeremiah Ledbetter. An already-young secondary also lost some key pieces in Tevin Mitchell and Alan Turner. Arkansas did sign four defensive backs in the 2015 class, but none of them appear on track to start or make a major impact in the fall. The Hogs also had a need for more playmakers on offense, and the Bret Bielema’s fascination with tight ends was apparent with three touted players at the position, though in particular 6-foot-4 junior college transfer receiver Dominique Reed could contribute immediately.
247Sports Composite Rank: 9
Entering Wednesday, Auburn’s biggest need was pass rush, even with Carl Lawson coming back from injury. The team (finally) signed five-star DE Byron Cowart after much drama, giving defensive coordinator Will Muschamp a huge piece. OLB Jeffery Holland also is a terror, and will have no problem fitting in physically in the SEC. In fact, Auburn loaded down with linebackers, so when Cassanova McKinzy and Kris Frost depart after next season, the Tigers should be fine. The team also signed a huge haul of skill players, including RB Jovon Robinson and WR Darius Slayton.
The Tigers should enjoy Jeremy Johnson for two more seasons, assuming he doesn’t bail for the NFL. But it would’ve been nice to secure the quarterback of the future here, and Gus Malzahn made a strong late push for Torrance Gibson, who stuck with Ohio State.
247Sports Composite Rank: 5
Losing John Chavis to Texas A&M initially looked like it could give the Tigers some issues with the 2015 class, but LSU closed as strong as just about any team in the country. The team added a number of players late, including DE Arden Key, OT Chidi Valentine-Okeke, OT Toby Weathersby, WR Derek Dillon and WR Brandon Martin. The team desperately needed a pass rusher, so Key was a huge get. The Tigers talked about moving Vadal Alexander to right tackle, but may not have to with the incoming options.
LSU reloaded everywhere they lost players, including in the secondary. The biggest knock on the ’15 class is that the team failed to land even a single linebacker, as Leo Lewis signed with Mississippi State on Wednesday.
MISSISSIPPI STATE: B
247Sports Composite Rank: 18
The defense loses almost everything, and already was vulnerable in the secondary. Manny Diaz was a solid hire at coordinator, and he’ll need to get some of the 2015 class up to speed fast this fall. Six of the top seven players in the class that aren’t already enrolled at Mississippi State play on that side of the ball, including four-star S Jamal Peters, four-star ILB Leo Lewis and four-star DE Fletcher Adams. Lewis in particular was a great get Wednesday in that several other SEC schools pursued him hard. WR Donald Gray, OT Martinas Rankin and RB Nick Gibson all could help the offense immediately as well.
The Bulldogs signed three other three-star offensive linemen in addition to Rankin, a junior college transfer, but could’ve used a few more big-time talents there. Overall, Mississippi State did a nice job addressing needs, but the general talent level is good, not great.
OLE MISS: B
247Sports Composite Rank: 17
Hugh Freeze did an excellent job addressing three of the team’s four biggest needs: QB, WR and DB. The Chad Kelly pickup is a huge risk that already has come with some huge headaches, but the Rebels are pretty desperate at the position and there’s no denying Kelly has more talent than any other Ole Miss option. The team cleaned up at receiver (Damarkus Lodge, Van Jefferson) and in the secondary (Tony Bridges, Armani Linton, Cameron Ordway).
The Rebels lost two potential immediate starters late in the process in LB Leo Lewis and OT Drew Richmond. The team plays a 4-2-5 defense, but needed some help at linebacker for 2015, not to mention beyond.
TEXAS A&M: B
247Sports Composite Rank: 12
The pairing of Chavis and Daylon Mack has the potential to be scary, considering the defensive coordinator’s track record of sending defensive tackles to the NFL. And a Mack-Myles Garrett defensive line for at least two more years, coupled with coach Kevin Sumlin’s always-there offense? Strong. For good measure, the team added a pair of four-star safeties to boost the defense. Five-star early enrollee Christian Kirk is the annual touted addition to the receiving corps, while five-star QB Kyler Murray will be the quarterback of the future if he doesn’t pursue pro baseball.
The defense desperately needed a big-time linebacker, but should get better with Chavis and the incoming class. Still, seeing Texas scoop up Malik Jefferson stung.