It should come as no surprise that Florida reeled in the top class among the six institutions representing the East Division of the Southeastern Conference. The Gators edged out the Georgia Bulldogs for the top spot. Florida and Georgia, of course, are two football-crazed states loaded with talent.
Perhaps the biggest surprise was the number of out-of-state recruits coming to Gainesville. You can expect that the national interest in Urban Meyer’s program, which now has won two BCS national championships in four seasons and will be favored to win another in 2009, will continue for years to come.
So let’s take a look at the recruiting classes harvested by SEC East schools:
Signed: 16 (14 high school, 2 junior college/prep school transfers)
Breakdown: 9 offense, 7 defense
Potential impact performers: 2 (WR Andre Debose, LB Jelani Jenkins)
Early enrollees: 6 (OL Nick Alajajian, OL Jonatthan Harrison, TE Desmond Parks, DT Edwin Herbert, LB Jon Bostic, S Dee Finley).
Florida filled needs with its Class of 2009. Of the 16 additions, half were from the state of Florida, clearly demonstrating the national prowess of the program. Graduation cost the Gators offensive linemen Phil Trautwein, Jason Watkins and Jim Tartt. The Florida staff went out and addressed those concerns bringing in All-Americans Xavier Nixon (Fayetteville, N.C.) and Nick Alajajian (Naples) plus three other solid linemen – Jon Halapio (St. Petersburg), Kyle Koehne (Indianapolis, Ind.) and Jonotthan Harrison (Groveland).
Wide receiver Andre Debose (Sanford) is a playmaker who can accelerate, cut and leave defenders in the dust. And while no player should be expected to replace Percy Harvin, Debose should see early playing time and cut his own niche. Quarterback Jordan Reed will learn behind Tim Tebow and John Brantley. Running back Mike Gillislee (DeLand) has superb tools and might very well be the sleeper of this class. There were needs at tight end/H-back and the Gators picked up Desmond Parks and are still awaiting a decision on Tampa Plant tight end Orson Charles.
Defensively, the hope for an immediate role player on the line was brought in with junior-college transfer Edwin Herbert. Another defensive tackle, Gary Brown (Greensboro), turned heads during the Under Armour All-American Game in Orlando and the Florida coaches are excited about his potential. Linebackers Jon Bostic (Wellington) and Jelani Jenkins (Olney, Md.) are tremendous additions to the Gators defense. Finley (Auburn, Ala.) should make an immediate impact on special teams.
Signed: 18 (17 high school seniors, 1 junior college/prep school transfer).
Breakdown: 10 offense, 8 defense.
Potential impact performers: 5 (QB Aaron Murray, QB Zach Mettenberger, WR Marlon Brown, WR Rantavious Wooten, CB Branden Smith)
Early enrollees: 3 (OG Dallas Lee, QB Aaron Murray, QB Zach Mettenberger)
Georgia had immediate needs at quarterback and signed two of the nation’s best in Murray (Tampa Plant) and Mettenberger (Watkinsville, Ga.). Who will emerge to help the ‘Dawgs this season? If one does emerge and appears to be the answer, can Georgia coach Mark Richt keep the other focused on the team? Wide receiver Marlon Brown is a sensational player with size and athleticism. Don’t be surprised if he plays his way into the rotation. The Bulldogs signed three terrific offensive linemen – Austin Long (Memphis, Tenn.), Chris Burnette (LaGrange, Ga.) and Dallas Lee (Buford, Ga.).
The Bulldogs needed help at outside linebacker and signed talented Dexter Moody (Twin City, Ga.), Michael Gilliard (Valdosta, Ga.) and Chase Vasser (Gainesville, Ga.). Branden Smith (Atlanta) is a lights-out corner prospect and should help the Bulldogs immediately. Georgia has some holes to fill and several of these freshmen will have an opportunity to play right away.
3. SOUTH CAROLINA
Signed: 29 (22 high school seniors, 7 junior college/prep school transfers)
Breakdown: 13 offense, 16 defense
Potential impact performers:3 (S Stephon Gilmore, RB Jarvis Giles, S DeVonte Hollimon)
Early enrollees: 6 (OLB Josh Dickerson, RB Jarvis Giles, S Stephon Gilmore, S DeVonte Hollimon, OLB Tony Straughter, DE Chaz Sutton)
Steve Spurrier is slowly, but surely putting together a talented group on both sides of the line of scrimmage at South Carolina. This is a very solid group of players. The Gamecocks loaded up on both sides of the football. Running backs Ben Axon (Bradenton) and Jarvis Giles (Tampa) should give Carolina more speed and athleticism. Spurrier also upgraded the wide receiver position with a some very good prospects. The Gamecocks, however, lost out on several top offensive linemen.
The Gamecocks brought in a bunch of athletic defenders as well. Defensive linemen Chaz Sutton (Augusta, Ga.), Duane Chisholm (Beaufort, S.C.), and Leon Mackey (Chatham, Va.) will go well alongside a group of solid linebackers. S DeVonte Hollimon (Rock Hill, S.C.), OLB Tony Straughter (Milledgeville, Ga.) and OLB Josh Dickerson (Milledgeville, Ga.) will be stars for the Gamecocks.
Signed: 20 (18 high school seniors, 2 junior college/prep school transfers)
Breakdown: 8 offense, 12 defense
Potential impact performers: 1 (DB Janzen Jackson)
Early enrollees: None
The Volunteers added some big names to close strong on National Signing Day. We all know that they picked up WR Nu’Keese Richardson (Pahokee, Fla.) and Marsalis Teague (Paris, Tenn.) from the Gators. Much of their success was at linebacker and defensive back. Linebackers Jerod Askew (Chesapeake, Va.), Marlon Walls (Chatham, Va.), Nigel Mitchell-Thornton (Stone Mountain, Ga.), and Greg King (Memphis, Tenn.) will work with former Tampa Bay Bucs defensive coordinator Monte Kiffin. Janzen Jackson (Lake Charles, La.) and Darren Myles (Atlanta, Ga.) are the headliners at defensive back. Unfortunately, head coach Lane Kiffin (Monte’s son) won’t benefit by having early enrollees this year.
Signed: 28 (24 high school seniors, 4 junior college/prep school transfers)
Breakdown: 12 offense, 16 defense.
Potential impact performers: 3 (DT Myron Walker, S Jarvis Walker, WR Chris Matthews)
Early enrollees 1 (DT Mark Crawford)
The Archbishop Rummel School for Boys in Louisiana was very good to the University of Kentucky football program. The Walker boys will line up on the defensive side of the football, Myron at defensive tackle and Jarvis at safety. The Wildcats picked up several key defensive standouts besides the Walkers. DT DeQuin Evans comes via the JUCO route and figures to help the Wildcats’ defensive line right away.
Offensively, Kentucky tried to find a quarterback for the future by signing two outstanding prospects. Morgan Newton (Carmel, Ind.) was one of the most heralded prospects in the nation. Texas gunslinger Ryan Mossakowski (Frisco, Texas) stands 6-5 and weighs 200 pounds and will compete with Newton (6-4, 215) for the job.
Signed: 17 (17 high school seniors)
Breakdown: 11 offense, 6 defense
Potential impact performers: 1 (RB Eric Samuels)
Early enrollees: None
The Commodores went heavy on the offensive side of the football, signing 11 players led by running backs Eric Samuels (Umatilla, Fla.), Zac Stacey (Centreville, Ala.), Warren Norman (Chamblee, Ga.) and Wesley Tate (Hendersonville, Tenn). The Commodores also signed several players to boost their secondary: Cornerbacks Trey Wilson (Shreveport, La.) and Eddie Foster (Coffeyville, Texas) join safety prospects Jay Fullam (Chattanooga, Tenn.) and Javon Marshall (Huber Heights, Ohio).