February 1, 2006

SEC Breakdown

With many of the nation's headliners heading to the league, the Southeastern Conference again had a banner year in recruiting.

As many as eight SEC programs could finish in the Rivals.com top 25 team recruiting rankings for this year's class. The nation's top three quarterbacks, top offensive lineman and top defensive back all are heading to the SEC.

Here's a quick breakdown of the league's 12 schools and their signing classes.

Breaking down the SEC
1. Florida National Rank: 1st
With four five-star recruits and 17 four stars, Florida took the No. 2 spot in the country after having the No. 15 recruiting class in Urban Meyer's first season. The Gators went out of state for Percy Harvin, Carl Johnson, Mon Williams and Brandon Spikes, but stayed strong in-state with Tim Tebow, Jarred Fayson and Riley Cooper.
Biggest recruit: The Gators landed the No. 1 recruit in the country in Virginia Beach, Va., wide receiver Percy Harvin. His presence helps ease the defections of receivers Damian Williams (Arkansas) and Damon McDaniel (Florida State). Harvin could play an early role similar to Penn State's Derrick Williams, last year's No. 1.
Sleeper: Athlete Derrick Robinson had the best 40-yard dash time in the class and one of the fastest in the country. He has the ability to play all over the field.
2. Georgia National Rank: 4th
Late commitments pushed a standout class into the recruiting elite. The Bulldogs landed Reshad Jones, the country's best defensive back and top recruit in Georgia, four-star running back Knowshon Moreno and four-star defensive end Geno Atkins.
Biggest recruit: Matthew Stafford is the top-ranked quarterback in the country and the No. 6 recruit overall. An early enrollee, Stafford will have a chance to compete with Joe Tereshinksi, Blake Barnes and Joe Cox to replace D.J. Shockley.
Sleeper: A 6-foot-5 wide receiver, Kris Durham is a three-star prospect who could benefit from his early start with Georgia. He joined the Bulldogs for Sugar Bowl practices in Athens before enrolling in January.
3. LSU National Rank: 7th
A full year of recruiting helped second-year coach Les Miles jump from No. 21 last year to the top six this year. While picking up five Rivals100 members and seven more in the Rivals250, the Tigers addressed pressing needs on the offensive line and at linebacker and got Fort Lauderdale (Fla.) Dillard defensive tackle Charles Deas, a Rivals100 selection.
Biggest recruit: Al Woods, the top recruit in Louisiana and No. 2 defensive tackle in the country, is a load in the middle of the line at 6-4, 329 pounds, but he moves well for a player his size.
Sleeper: LSU needed offensive linemen in this class. The Tigers landed a good one in Buford, Ga., guard Steven Singleton, who moves well for a lineman his size (6-3, 285).
4. Auburn National Rank: 10th
The Tigers took advantage of a strong year for Alabama recruits by signing eight of the top 15 in the state. Auburn's in-state haul was helped by a commitment from Homewood, Ala., wide receiver Tim Hawthorne last week.
Biggest recruit: Auburn dipped into Maryland to get running back Benjamin Tate, the state's all-time leader in total offensive yards with 6,123. With 4.41-second 40-yard dash speed, Tate is the country's No. 6 running back and 41st overall prospect.
Sleeper: Clearwater, Fla., defensive lineman Darrell Roseman has the speed to play end, but could move to tackle if he bulks up from 235 pounds.
5. Alabama National Rank: 11th
Whoever takes over for quarterback Brodie Croyle will have the benefit of a bulked up offensive line. The Crimson Tide addressed its No. 1 recruiting priority with three Rival250 linemen: Taylor Pharr, David Ross and Alex Stadler and capped it off with the nation's top overall lineman, Andre Smith.
Biggest recruit: Smith is the nation's top lineman. He was dominant at the U.S. Army All-American game and could potentially be a four-year starter on the line.
Sleeper: The Tide snuck into Tampa, Fla., to grab speedy athlete Javier Arenas. His only other scholarship offer was from Florida Atlantic, but he did return seven kicks for touchdowns.
6. Ole Miss National Rank: 16th
Ed Orgeron showed he could recruit without the glitz and glamour of Southern California and turned in a top-15 class despite a 3-8 record in '05. The arrival of quarterback Brent Schaeffer, running back Cordera Eason and wide receivers Allen Walker and Terry Levy will go a long way towards reviving the offense.
Biggest recruit: Schaeffer will return to the SEC after a detour through junior college. Schaeffer, a five-star dual-threat quarterback, started three games for Tennessee in 2004 and is poised to become the starter on a team starved for offense.
Sleeper: It was tough to take notice of defensive lineman Greg Hardy during the season. He sat out his junior year due to a transfer and the end of his senior year due to injury. However, Ole Miss scored a big victory in picking up the 6-5, 232-pound Hardy, who could also play some receiver.
7. Tennessee National Rank: 23rd
Tennessee was off to a slow start in recruiting, but the arrival of offensive coordinator David Cutcliffe helped the Volunteers salvage the class with quarterback Nick Stephens and athlete Brent Vinson committing late. It's subpar for Tennessee standards but a solid class overall.
Biggest recruit: Walter Fisher is a five-star defensive end and will help the Volunteers cope with losses at the position. He signed with Tennessee out of high school two years ago but returned from Coffeyville (Kan.) Community College better than before.
Sleeper: At 6-3, 277 pounds, Blake Garretson played middle linebacker in high school but looks to make the adjustment to defensive tackle at Tennessee.
8. South Carolina National Rank: 24th
The Gamecocks addressed a major need in solidifying the offensive line. They signed four four-star linemen, led by Clarence Bailey and Garrett Anderson. South Carolina dipped into Alabama's back yard and plucked four-star quarterback Chris Smelley out of Tuscaloosa.
Biggest recruit: Bailey signed with South Carolina before Christmas, giving the Gamecocks someone who can step into the lineup immediately. The transfer from Lackawanna (N.J.) Junior College has impressive mobility for his 6-6, 308-pound frame.
Sleeper: Emanuel Cook presented an interesting conundrum for South Carolina coaches. The three-star recruit was ranked as the No. 21 safety in the country, but put up more than 2,000 yards as a running back his senior year. He'll start out at running back with the Gamecocks.
9. Arkansas National Rank: 27th
Four recruits (quarterback Mitch Mustain, wide receivers Damian Williams and Andrew Norman and tight end Ben Cleveland) and an offensive coordinator (Gus Malzhan) came from nearby Springdale High.
Biggest recruit: Mustain is the 10th-ranked recruit in the country and No. 2 pro-style quarterback and opted to stay in-state despite interest in Notre Dame, Alabama and Tennessee. When he solidified his commitment, Williams, a four-star prospect, and Cleveland defected from Florida.
Sleeper: The 6-foot-3, 185-pound Marques Wade out of Atlanta is a physical, fast receiver who averaged 22.2 yards per catch as a senior.
10. Kentucky National Rank: 36th
Kentucky could have its best recruiting class since Rich Brooks became coach after the 2002 season. That's thanks in part to offensive coordinator Joker Phillips, who was the lead recruiter for 17 Kentucky signees, including the class' top three prospects, defensive end Micah Johnson, running back Demetrius Goode and defensive tackle Corey Peters.
Biggest recruit: The Wildcats scored a major recruiting victory with Kentucky Mr. Football Micah Johnson, who is ranked the No. 2 strongside defensive end but could play linebacker with the Wildcats. The state of Kentucky's top prospect, Johnson received scholarship offers from Alabama, Georgia, Tennessee, Notre Dame and Michigan.
Sleeper: LaShun Watson, a 6-foot-5 wide receiver, also plans to walk on to the basketball team at Kentucky, but he could get an early start in football as a slot receiver with the Wildcats losing three at his position.
11. Mississippi State National Rank: 44th
The Bulldogs were able to keep two of Mississippi's top 10 in state national No. 12 athlete Anthony Summers and national No. 22 running back Anthony Dixon. Summers and Dixon also considered Ole Miss.
Biggest recruit: Summers used his 4.5-speed as a quarterback for Olive Branch, Miss., but he could use it as a safety or wide receiver for the Bulldogs. His presence in Starkville, and the fact he turned down offers from LSU, Florida and Ole Miss, will go a long way in restoring the Bulldogs' clout in SEC West.
Sleeper: Offensive lineman Mark Melichar will likely redshirt his first year at Mississippi State. In the meantime, he hopes to add 15 pounds to his 6-5, 275-pound frame before his second summer in Starkville.
12. Vanderbilt National Rank: 60th
After a 5-6 season, Vanderbilt turned in its best recruiting class of the Bobby Johnson era, which included seven three-star recruits. The Commodores kept offensive lineman Adam Smotherman and running back Gaston Miller in-state while leaving Tennessee for quarterbacks Jared Funk and Turner Wimberley, tight end Jonathan Massey, offensive lineman Chris Bush and athlete D.J. Moore.
Biggest recruit: Vanderbilt first offered Massey in April and the wait paid off when the three-star recruit committed early in the year. Look for Massey to use his 6-foot-2, 250-pound frame as a tight end, H-back or fullback similar to Steven Bright.
Sleeper: Justin Green didn't begin his senior season as a starter, but Vanderbilt found the 6-7 tight end in Troy, Ala., with hopes his potential will pay off.

More Breakdowns:
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Photo Gallery: Signing Day 2006

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