SEC signing day capsules

jheeter@macon.comFebruary 1, 2012 

Alabama

Signees: 26

Georgia ties: The Crimson Tide locked up eight Georgia players this year, and there is plenty of quality to go with quantity. Five of Rivals’ top 20 players in Georgia are headed to Tuscaloosa. Henry County’s Dalvin Tomlinson, Buford’s Dillon Lee, Cedar Grove’s Brandon Greene and St. Pius X’s Geno Smith are the headliners.

Three to watch:

Landon Collins, DB, 5-11, 199, Geismar, La.

The consensus top player in Louisiana is listed as the top safety in the nation by ESPN.com and 247sports.com.

Cyrus Jones, ATH, 5-10, 192, Baltimore, Md.

Jones accounted for 2,365 all-purpose yards and 24 touchdowns as a senior.

T.J. Yeldon, RB, 6-2, 205, Daphne, Ala.

Yeldon earned Mr. Football honors from the Alabama Sports Writers Association after rushing for 2,193 yards and 31 touchdowns. He decommitted from Auburn.

Grade: A+. The Crimson Tide may have locked up its actual national championship with a mythical recruiting national championship. Head coach Nick Saban signed four of ESPN.com’s top 22 players. Alabama added Tomlinson, Korren Kirvan and Cyrus Jones -- all Rivals four-star prospects -- on signing day.

Arkansas

Signees: 24

Georgia ties: The Razorbacks’ lone Peach State signee is Ray Buchanan Jr., son of the former Atlanta Falcons’ standouts.

Three to watch:

Otha Peters, LB, 6-1, 221, Covington, La.

Peters was named defensive MVP at the Offense-Defense All-American Bowl. Had 153 tackles as a senior.

A.J. Turner, LB, 6-2, 208, Lepanto, Ark.

Turner finished with 205 tackles, 24 tackles for loss and six forced fumbles as a senior.

Jeremy Ward, OL, 6-4, 287, Pottsville, Ark.

Ward is ranked as the No. 5 player in Arkansas by Rivals.com.

Grade: C+. Head coach Bobby Petrino hasn’t finished with a great class at Arkansas in the past three years. Rivals ranked this year’s class 11th in the SEC, and he has yet to finish in the top half of the conference in Rivals’ year-end rankings. This class could have gotten a big boost from signing Dorial Green-Beckham, who picked Missouri.

Auburn

Signees: 19

Georgia ties: The Tigers landed five Georgia players, highlighted by a pair of Sandy Creek standouts. Offensive lineman Will Adams flipped from Georgia Tech late in the process, while receiver Jaquay Williams stuck with Auburn over Georgia on signing day.

Three to watch:

Ricardo Louis, ATH, 6-2, 200, Miami Beach, Fla.

One of the few talented players to escape the doorstep of the University of Miami, Louis is ranked as the No. 21 overall player by ESPN.com.

Jaquay Williams, WR, 6-3, 204, Tyrone (Sandy Creek)

Georgia made a strong late push for Williams, but he stuck with his commitment to Auburn and could be a centerpiece of its passing attack.

Avery Young, OL, 6-6, 273, Palm Beach Gardens, Fla.

The five-star recruit picked Auburn over Florida, Miami and Georgia on Wednesday.

Grade: A-. The Tigers finished strong by landing Young and keeping Williams. They missed out on some players like Cyrus Jones who could have really made this class special. All in all, the Tigers finished behind only Alabama and Florida among SEC programs.

Florida

Signees: 23

Georgia ties: The Gators grabbed three players from Georgia, including arguably the nation’s top kicker in Austin Hardin.

Three to watch:

Jonathan Bullard, DL, 6-4, 255, Shelby, N.C.

The five-star prospect (Rivals and Scout) finished his senior year with 82 tackles and 16 sacks.

Dante Fowler Jr., DL, 6-3, 232, St. Petersburg, Fla.

Fowler was committed to Florida State for 14 months before flipping on signing day to Florida. He’s a five-star recruit, according to Rivals.

D.J. Humphries, OL, 6-5, 265, Charlotte, N.C.

Humphries was the other elite prospect the Gators landed out of North Carolina. He’s already enrolled.

Grade: A+. The only team in the country with a better recruiting class may be Alabama. Will Muschamp’s first full recruiting cycle in Gainesville brings a substantial haul. They landed five-star defensive end Fowler on signing day and landed quarterback Skyler Mornhinweg, son of Philadelphia Eagles offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg late in the process.

Kentucky

Signees: 26

Georgia ties: Head coach Joker Phillips did another good job in Georgia, signing eight players including one-time Alabama commit Justin Taylor.

Three to watch:

Zack Blaylock, DB, 5-11, 185, Marietta (Walton)

Son of former Atlanta Hawks guard Mookie Blaylock, Zack finished his senior year with 10 interceptions. His twin brother, Daron, also signed with Kentucky.

Justin Taylor, RB, 5-10, 205, Atlanta (North Atlanta)

Taylor flipped to Kentucky on signing day after being committed to Alabama for nearly a year. After missing his senior year with a knee injury, Taylor told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution that Alabama told him he couldn’t sign until 2013 because it filled up its recruiting slots.

Patrick Towles, QB, 6-5, 232, Ft. Thomas, Ky.

Towles is the centerpiece of the class and is the top player in Kentucky.

Grade: D+. Phillips didn’t have a terrible class, but it doesn’t measure up to SEC standards. He signed only one Rivals’ four-star player (Towles) to go with a heap of three-star players.

LSU

Signees: 22

Georgia ties: Both of the Tigers’ Georgia signees come from Buford: offensive lineman Vadal Alexander and long snapper Reid Ferguson.

Three to watch:

Kwon Alexander, LB, 6-2, 215, Oxford, Ala.

He missed most of his senior year with an injury, but he had 144 tackles and 17 sacks as a junior.

Vadal Alexander, OL, 6-5, 320, Buford

Already enrolled at LSU, Alexander leads one of Buford’s impressive signing day class that sent eight players to FBS schools including seven to ACC or SEC schools.

Avery Johnson, WR, 6-2, 180, Pompano Beach, Fla.

He caught 113 passes for 1,752 yards and 20 touchdowns in his three-year high school career.

Grade: B+. This LSU class is the first one since 2005 that didn’t finish in the top four of Rivals’ SEC rankings. It just doesn’t compare the outstanding classes of Alabama or Florida, and it likely finishes behind Auburn and SEC newcomer Texas A&M. But this is still a top 15 class nationally, and should help LSU add depth to a team that should be a national title favorite in 2012.

Mississippi

Signees: 17

Georgia ties: The Rebels signed Sandy Creek athlete Mike Hilton and Columbia running back Kenno Loyal.

Three to watch:

Trae Elston, DB, 6-0, 183, Oxford, Ala.

Elston finished his senior season with 94 tackles and eight interceptions, and he caught 34 passes for 656 yards and eight touchdowns.

Issac Gross, DL, 6-2, 270, Batesville, Miss.

ESPN.com’s top player in Mississippi, Fross earned Class 6A Defensive Player of the Year honors from the Mississippi Association of Coaches.

Channing Ward, DL, 6-4, 250, Aberdeen, Miss.

Ward finished his senior year with 116 tackles and 16 sacks.

Grade: C+. Head coach Hugh Freeze’s first class is a small one. He already has four players enrolled. Ward and Gross are two of the best players in Mississippi, and Freeze held on to both commits from Georgia, both of whom are two of the more underrated players in the state.

Mississippi State

Signees: 28

Georgia ties: The Bulldogs landed three players from Georgia, including Grayson quarterback Nick Schuessler, who his head coach compares to former UGA standout David Greene.

Three to watch:

Denico Autry, DL, 6-6, 245, East Mississippi Community College

Autry enrolled at Mississippi State in January after Rivals ranked him as the No. 2 JUCO player in the country.

Quay Evans, DT, 6-2, 312, Morton, Miss.

Ranked by Rivals.com as the No. 15 defensive tackle in the nation, Evans has already enrolled at Mississippi State.

Will Redmond, DB, 5-11, 170, Memphis, Tenn.

Dynamic athlete totaled 1,355 yards of offense to go with 18 touchdowns.

Grade: B-. The Bulldogs landed a few early signees from junior colleges, and added a bevy of players from Mississippi on signing day. The haul is devoid of big-name prospects. They did land Schuessler, who led Grayson to an undefeated season, and Carver-Columbus tight end Artimas Samuel late.

Missouri

Signees: 18

Georgia ties: none, The Tigers could extend this class too deep into SEC territory.

Three to watch:

Evan Boehm, OL, 6-3, 290, Lee’s Summit, Mo.

Boehm is listed by ESPN.com as the No. 2 guard in the country and the No. 42 overall prospect among all players.

Levi Copelin, ATH, 6-2, 180, Broken Arrow, Okla.

He was named the Oklahoma Class 6A-3 Offensive Player of the Year. Led the state with eight interceptions.

Dorial Green-Beckham, WR, 6-6, 220, Springfield, Mo.

Arguably the biggest signing in Missouri history, Green-Beckham is Rivals’ top overall recruit. ESPN lists him as its No. 3 overall player. He finished prep career with a national record 6,353 receiving yards and 75 touchdowns.

Grade: C+. This class completely surrounds Green-Beckham. He was named the national player of the year by Sports Illustrated, Parade Magazine and USA Today. His surprise commitment on signing day gives the Tigers a Calvin Johnson-, A.J. Green- or Larry Fitzgerald-type receiver to help ease the move to the SEC. The Tigers must do a better job recruiting in the Southeast after signing just one player in the region.

South Carolina

Signees: 25

Georgia ties: South Carolina signed more players from Georgia (12) than either Georgia or Georgia Tech.

Three to watch:

Mike Davis, RB, 5-10, 200, Stone Mountain (Stephenson)

Stephenson’s all-state back was once committed to Florida. He rushed for 1,923 yards and 21 touchdowns as a senior.

Darius English, DL, 6-6, 215, Powder Springs (McEachern)

He earned Class AAAAA Defensive Player of the Year honors after a 21-sack senior season.

Shaq Roland, WR, 6-1, 170, Lexington, S.C.

South Carolina’s Mr. Football finished with nearly 2,000 yards of offense and 24 touchdowns as a senior.

Grade: B. Steve Spurrier did a great job in Georgia, and he’s really become the second-best out-of-state Georgia recruiter behind Nick Saban. He added great players from South Carolina and landed his quarterback of the future in Allenton, Pa.’s Brendan Nosovitch.

Tennessee

Signees: 20

Georgia ties: Derek Dooley signed four players from Georgia, including Rivals’ four-star recruits Deion Bonner (Carver-Columbus) and Jason Croom (Norcross).

Three to watch:

Alton Howard, WR, 5-9, 175, Orlando

The undersized receiver earned AP all-state honors in Florida and ranked No. 3 on the Orlando Sentinel’s Super 60.

LaDarrell McNeil, DB, 6-1, 190, Dallas

He earned all-area honors from the Dallas Morning News after finishing with 124 tackles as a senior.

Cordarrelle Patterson, WR, 6-3, 205, Hutchinson C.C.

Ranked as one of the top junior college players in the country. He picked Tennessee over Georgia.

Grade: B+. Dooley put together a fine class that was capped by Patterson’s signing day decision. Thirteen of the Vols’ signees earned four stars or more from one of the four major recruiting services. The Vols landed players from Florida, Georgia, Kansas, Louisiana, Michigan, Ohio, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee and Texas.

Texas A&M

Signees: 19

Georgia ties: none

Three to watch:

Matt Davis, QB, 6-2, 202, Houston

New head coach Kevin Sumlin’s offenses at Houston were explosive, so Davis could excel in this pass-happy system.

Thomas Johnson, WR, 6-0, 180, Dallas

Johnson picked the Aggies over some big-time programs after catching 34 passes for 803 yards and nine touchdowns.

Trey Williams, RB, 5-8, 175, Spring, Texas

One of the top running backs in the nation, the five-star Williams may have led the nation with 3,890 yards and 48 touchdowns as a senior.

Grade: A-. Like Missouri, it’s probably going to take a year or two of SEC play for A&M to put down some recruiting anchors in SEC country. But Sumlin’s first class in College Station includes many of the best players in Texas. The Aggies could be dangerous if they can continue to recruit Texas hard and supplement that with some players from this region.

Vanderbilt

Signees: 21

Georgia ties: The Commodores gained five players from Georgia, including Tucker linebacker Jacob Sealand.

Three to watch:

Caleb Azubike, DL, 6-5, 240, Nashville, Tenn.

Azubike finished his senior season with 117 tackles, 30 tackles for loss and 10 sacks.

Brian Kimbrow, RB, 5-7, 165, Memphis, Tenn.

He earned all-state honors after rushing for 1,969 yards and 21 touchdowns.

Andrew Jelks, OL, 6-6, 260, Paris, Tenn.

He earned all-state honors after making more than 70 pancake blocks to help lead his team to a state title.

Grade: B. Head coach James Franklin has elevated the prestige at Vanderbilt in his short time there. The Commodores played in a bowl this year, and now he has the Commodores pulling away some of the top prospects in Tennessee away from the Volunteers. This class would have been even better had he landed Tucker defensive end Josh Dawson, who switched to Georgia on signing day.

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