SEC Bloggers Signing Day Review
C'mon, Danny Boy
CFN's SEC Bloggers put the 2011 Signing Day under the microscope, looking for the Lucky 7
BG is Billy Gomila, BH is Brian Harbach, GH is Gabe Harris , RM is Russ Mitchell, and BS is Barrett Sallee.
1. WHICH TEAM HAD THE BEST RECRUITING CLASS?
BG: Georgia – The Bulldogs landed a needed running back (Isaiah Crowell), a gifted pass-rusher (Ray Drew), a future quarterback (Christian LeMay) and seven linemen. It was a much needed momentum-booster for Mark Richt.
BH: LSU – There is a lot to like about the class that Les Miles brought in, but it is the impact players that make LSU's the top class. QB Zach Mettenberger should win the starting job this spring, big time DT Anthony Johnson will go through spring practice as well, and the O-line was seriously upgraded with La'El Collins, Trai Turner and Corey White. LSU classes tend to be better when the state has a talented group of high school seniors, and this was a good year for players in the state of Louisiana.
GH: Auburn – With or without Cyrus Koundaijo, this is a great class that addressed Auburn's most important needs. OL and DL required players who could contribute next season, since the Tigers lost 4 starting OL and both starting DT. The most glaring weakness on last year's championship team was the secondary, and a lot of help is on the way there with the #2 ranked DB class. Conventional wisdom says you reap the rewards of a national championship the year after you win, but with at worst the #3 overall ranked class this year, don't expect Auburn to go away any time soon.
RM: LSU – SEC football is won in the trenches, and the Bayou Bengals had the best showing here. Auburn might have done as well on offense (or even slightly better if they eventually land Koundaijo), but LSU landed three of the nation's best defensive lineman, including the best tackle in Anthony "Freak" Johnson, who's already on campus. On offense, LSU secured the commitment of the nation's best OT, La'El Collins, to go along with three more highly ranked linemen. All told, an impressive haul on both sides. Add to that what appears to be a solid QB in Zach Mettenberger (yes, those are choruses of Hallelujah you hear echoing off the Mississippi River), a top 10 RB in Kenny Hilliard, and two top 10 WRs in Jarvis Landry and Odell Beckham, Jr., and Red Stick once again has good reason to holler "Laissez Les Bon Temps Roulez"!
BS: Auburn – Talk about filling in the holes. Christian Westerman and Greg Robinson are both capable of stepping in nicely on Auburn's depleted offensive line, which lost four starters but returns Brandon Mosley and A.J. Greene – both of whom started at left tackle last season. Defensive tackle Gabe Wright has the size and strength to play meaningful snaps in place of Nick Fairley almost immediately. Usually, the national champion sees the most recruiting benefit the year after claiming the title. The Tigers apparently didn't get that memo, and possibly could finish with the nation's No. 1 class.
2. WHICH TEAM HAD THE MOST DISAPPOINTING CLASS? Mississippi State
BG: Mississippi State – Despite having all of the momentum in the state of Mississippi, the Bulldogs got worked over by their rivals to the north.
BH: Mississippi State – Dan Mullen will have to continue to coach more with less in Starkville, because after a nine win season Mullen was spanked all over the state of Mississippi by Houston Nutt. Yes, there was some turnover, but Mullen's staff did a poor job this year, failing to capitalize on their successful 2010 season in any material way. I'd be talking about 2012 too.
GH: Mississippi State – MSU is never going to recruit in the top 10, but nine wins plus keeping Mullen away from Florida did nothing to help with this class. Even with Ole Miss' instability and downright awful 2010, the Rebs still managed to clean up against the Bulldogs. 4 star CB Jermaine Whitehead was a MSU commit for a long time but it only took Auburn waving a late offer in front of him to get his signature.
RM: Mississippi State – Casey Kasem is turning over in his grave! What? He lives? Failing to crack the top 40 is one thing, and losing two top verbal commitments late to in-state rival Ole Miss is bad enough, but losing a third at the final hour to Vanderbilt? Vanderbilt?? Really? What is more surprising - that, or Casey Kasem's hair? Think about it first...
BS: Mississippi State – A nine win season in Starkville is hard to come by. So how do the Bulldogs capitalize? With the No. 43 class in the nation, of course. Wait… what? Dan Mullen – you have to do better than that.
3. WHO WAS THE MOST IMPORTANT RECRUIT GIVEN THE TEAM THAT GOT HIM?
BG: Zach Mettenberger; QB, LSU – Whether or not he starts in 2011, the nation's top junior college passer is a shoe-in for the job in 2012. And no top-shelf SEC team got worse quarterback play than LSU last season.
BH: Isaiah Crowell; RB, UGA – Is Crowell the next Marcus Lattimore? Probably not. But UGA needs to believe he is, and the Bulldog class would not have been as dreamy without him. Mark Richt has already said he expects Crowell to get carries against Boise State, and he could be the spark in Athens that was so evident in Columbia last year. (RM note: Just don't expect him to pick up a blitz.)
GH: Isaiah Crowell; RB, Georgia – RB is the easiest position where a player can make an immediate impact in the transition to college; even the transition to the NFL. Marcus Lattimore and Mike Dyer are proof of that, as they were two of the best RBs in the SEC last year in helping take their teams to heights not seen in a long time. If ever. As bad as Georgia was last year they are never that far off, and if Crowell has the impact that Lattimore and Dyer had then Richt's seat won't be as hot this time next year.
RM: Zach Mettenberger ; QB, LSU – With time to prepare, LSU's QB Jordan Jefferson is deadly. Seriously. Check out Jefferson's performance in bowls, first games, and coming off a bye. Really, it's quite good. At every other turn, to say he's sub-optimal is to be kind. LSU ended the season ranked dead last in the conference in Passing Offense (107th in the nation), with more INTs (11) than TDs (10) – the only SEC team to hold that dubious distinction. Mr. Mettenberger's TD count in leading Butler (Kansas) Community College to the JC National Championship? 32. Along with nearly 3,000 yards and a 60% completion ratio. Yes, Kansas is a long way from home, but with even decent QB play throughout the season, might LSU have been last year's national champion?
BS: Zach Mettenberger; QB, LSU – Have you seen Jordan Jefferson and Jarrett Lee play football? Sure, Jefferson played well towards the end of the season, but Mettenberger will add another legitimate candidate to that battle, and should up the play of all three during the offseason.
4. WHO IS THE BEST RECRUITER IN THE SEC?
BG: Trooper Taylor; Auburn – Opposing fans have issues with his tactics, but Trooper brings home the bacon.
BH: Nick Saban; Alabama – Not beaten very often for players that he wants, Saban continues to bring in top classes for the Crimson Tide and address the immediate needs of the team with elite players.
GH: Gene Chizik; Auburn –Auburn has never recruited this well for this many years in a row, and it is not likely to end. No one thought Auburn had a chance with Alabama and Saban clicking on all cylinders, but Chizik has matched them off the field as well as on. Are we entering a new golden age for this storied rivalry?
RM: Nick Saban; Alabama – Y'all are thinking too hard if you're not picking Nick here. Hands down. Not even close. Year, after year, after year.
BS: Curtis Luper; Auburn – Just look at Auburn's last three recruiting classes for proof.
5. WHICH RECRUIT WILL HAVE THE BIGGEST IMMEDIATE IMPACT?
BG: Jadeveon Clowney; DE, Undecided – The South's biggest star may not have chosen a team yet, but when he does, opposing quarterbacks will be on the look out. Clowney is a rare athletic specimen with a very bright future.
BH: C.J. Johnson; LB, Ole Miss – At 6'3'' 235 pounds, Johnson is ready for the SEC and he will have an immediate impact on the Rebel defense. With two seniors at the LB position graduating, there is instant room for Johnson to slip right in and become an immediate playmaker in Tyrone Nix's defense.
GH: Zach Mettenberger; QB, LSU – The offense at LSU has been holding back a team that has the defense and talent to win the SEC. Step one was getting rid of Gary Crowton. Check. Step two is finding a QB who can lead this offense. Checkmate?
RM: Anthony Johnson; DT, LSU – Not Crowell. What, is the freshman going to block for himself too? If Clowney goes to a team with a proven D-line, his impact will be less significant (relatively speaking), and DE's often need a year to adjust to the size/speed/skill of SEC tackles. Mettenberger might not even make first string – though a new OC levels the playing field a bit in Baton Rouge. However, we'll stay on the Bayou with our pick. The Tigers lose both starting defensive tackles this offseason (Drake Nevis and Pep Levingston), and the next in line, while talented, are (i) youthful. Enter the "Freak". Johnson is (ii) a ridiculous combination of size, strength, agility and attitude, (iii) the nation's top prep lineman, and (iv) already on campus getting ready for spring ball. All of these factors combine to give him an excellent chance to be starting come opening day.
BS: Isaiah Crowell; RB, Georgia –Washaun Ealey and Caleb King have had their chances, and have been average-at-best. If Crowell doesn't start right away, it will be because Mark Richt doesn't want to throw the freshman out there against Boise State and South Carolina. But he will be the featured running back sooner rather than later.
6. WHICH RECRUIT DO YOU BELIEVE IS THE MOST UNDERRATED?
BG: Jalen Collins; DB, LSU – Tall and rangy, yet fluid, Collins has an outstanding coverage skill set. He'll need a year or two in the weight program, but this Olive Branch, Miss. native could have a major impact at cornerback or safety.
BH: Brandon Shell; OT, South Carolina – Underrated, maybe not… But this kid is getting ignored nationally because of Jadaveon Clowney. The second best player in South Carolina, Shell has the chance to take over for Jarriel King at left tackle this year and improve the Carolina O-line. The 6' 7'' 290 pound lineman is physically ready to play, and will compete for a spot in the Gamecock rotation from day one.
GH: Stephen Rivers; QB, LSU – That's right, Philip Rivers' little brother. 6'6" with a lot of the same skills as his brother, he'll get a couple years to put on some weight and learn the position under OC and QB coach Steve Kragthorpe… Just in time to take over when Zach Mettenberger leaves Baton Rouge. Rated only a 3 star, he'll exceed the expectations.
RM: Quan Bray and Tre Mason; RB, Auburn – When Brent Calloway pulled his last minute "girls prerogative" back to Alabama, Bray and Mason became the only RBs in this year's class for Auburn. Both had outstanding prep careers, and with complimentary styles to lead man Michael Dyer, one (or both) could see the playing field early.
BS: Tre Mason; RB, Auburn – With Calloway's last-minute switch to Alabama, Mason became the most important player in Auburn's class. He will have an immediate impact on the Plains.
7. WHICH RECRUIT DO YOU BELIEVE WILL NOT MEET EXPECTATIONS?
BG: Brent Calloway; LB/RB, Alabama – Between his lack of a natural position and a rather acrimonious recruitment, Calloway will step on campus on the wrong foot. Is he a running back or a linebacker? Calloway himself doesn't even seem too sure.
BH: Dee Hart; RB, Alabama – This has little to do with Hart as a talent, and more to do with Alabama as an offense. The Tide is a physical running team and Nick Saban has historically liked more physical running backs. LaBrandon Toefield, Joseph Addai, Alley Broussard, Glenn Coffee, Mark Ingram, Trent Richardson… All were not 185 pound backs. They were physical, between the tackle runners. Based on history, Hart looks like a third down back in Tuscaloosa, and I don't expect that's what Dee or anyway else had in mind for his college career.
GH: Dee Hart; RB, Alabama – I never thought he was a fit at Alabama and still don't. He's not a bruising runner like Mark Ingram or Trent Richardson and Alabama is a physical straight ahead running team. I don't see him ever having the success the aforementioned RBs have had.
RM: Dee Hart; RB, Alabama – Brian hit it square on the head. The only way Hart shines at Bama is returning kicks – which says as much about Saban's offensive inclinations as it does the Crimson Tide depth – and the recruiting classes we can likely expect in future years.
BS: Isaiah Crowell; RB, Georgia – I put him in my "immediate impact" category too; but there's only one Herschel Walker, Georgia fans. Stop giving every running back you recruit that title.
Please follow Russ Mitchell on Twitter @russmitchellsec, Brian Harbach @harbabd and Barrett Sallee @barrettsallee.
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