The SEC remains the strongest conference in the country and with a huge talent base down South and a liberal oversigning policy, it is no surprise that they also top the national recruiting rankings. Here's a look at the potential impact recruits for 2011.
1. Alabama (21 commitments)- By many accounts, the Crimson Tide have the top-rated recruiting class of 2011 and for good reason. The class is headed by two five-star recruits, both of whom could see playing time early. Defensive back Hasean Clinton-Dix is one of them and could bolster a young secondary. The nation’s top all-purpose back, Demetrius Hart, could also make waves in Tuscaloosa when he arrives on campus. The Tide have three early enrollees with defensive tackle Jesse Williams and Quinton Dial expected to step right in and make their presence felt.
Update: After flip-flopping between Alabama and Auburn, the nation's top offensive lineman recruit, Cyrus Kouandjio, has formally signed his letter of intent to play for the Crimson Tide.
2. LSU (22 commitments)- The Tigers hauled in quite a class this year with three five-star recruits which is more than any other school in the nation. Three of the recruits enrolled early and two could be starters by the time spring ball is finished. Defensive tackle Anthony Johnson is a five-star and could fill in for Drake Nevis. The biggest contributor will most likely be Georgia castoff Zach Mettenberger. The quarterbacking woes in Baton Rouge are no secret and the strong-armed signal caller could be the answer. The Tigers also picked up five-star offensive lineman La’El Collins who should go to work protecting whoever wins the quarterback job right away. Running back Kenny Hilliard is also someone to watch; he's on campus and will participate in spring ball.
3. Auburn (24 commitments)- The Tigers experience probably the most crucial attrition of any school in the nation and used this recruiting class to address some of those holes. Most of the senior-laden offensive line that led the Tigers to a national championship are gone, hence the reason they picked up four offensive linemen, two of which enrolled early. Another linemen of note is Cyrus Kouandjio. Kouandjio committed to Alabama but has yet to sign as he is still considering the Tigers. The offense loses their heart and soul in Cam Newton but they are still loaded with playmakers so the bulk of the class is defensive players. Five-star linebacker Kris Frost could come in a help right away as well as defensive backs Robensen Therezie and Jonathan Rose. Also keep an eye on Kiehl Frazier who will lock horns with Barrett Trotter to fight for the starting quarterback job.
4. Georgia (25 commitments)- Even with their head coach on a rather warm seat, the Bulldogs pulled in a big class that only got better when they were able to seal the deal with running back Isaiah Crowell. However, of their commits, the one that could show up and almost immediately make the two-deep would have to be the Pass Rushing Pastor, Ray Drew. Drew is an amazing defensive end, as well as a stand up character, and should help ease the loss of Justin Houston’s early departure. Another early contributor could be tight end Jay Rome and athlete Malcolm Mitchell. Look for Rome to get playing time early with his blend of Orson Charles-esque athleticism but the size to be a contributor in the run game as well. As for Mitchell, he could play on either side of the ball but coach Mark Richt expects him to play receiver and be a return man. One prospect that the Bulldogs are hoping to ink is junior college defensive tackle John Jenkins who at 340 pounds, is the rock that the 3-4 defense needs.
Update: JUCO defensive tackle John Jenkins has signed with the Bulldogs after all and is expected to be the starting nose tackle for their 3-4 defense.
5. Ole Miss (27 commitments)- Houston Nutt once again signed a huge class this year and the crown jewel is five-star linebacker C.J. Johnson who should start right away. Quarterback Zack Stoudt is not a huge recruit but the JUCO transfer is looking to steal secure the starting quarterback job as he is already enrolled. The battle between Stoudt and Nathan Stanley will be one to watch this spring. A last minute addition was wide receiver Nickolas Brassell who switched from Mississippi State to Ole Miss and could be the deep threat the Rebels have lacked since Shay Hodge and Mike Wallace.
6. Florida (18 commitments)- Will Muschamp’s first recruiting class is not bad but it is not what Gator Nation was accustomed to under Urban Meyer. The biggest commit was running back Mike Blakely but his impact will be delayed as he had to undergo shoulder surgery and is most likely going to miss spring ball. The quarterback situation was atrocious this year so expect Jeff Driskel to get a long look by new offensive coordinator Charlie Weis.
7. Tennessee (27 commitments)- The Volunteers pulled in a big class as they were a study in youth development last season and could use the depth. The players who are most likely to contribute right away would have to be linebacker A.J. Johnson who has good size and speed and could fill in for Nick Reveisz at the Mike linebacker and Marlin Lane at running back. Currently the Vols are pretty deep in the backfield but Lane is just too much of a homerun threat to not see time, at least in the return game.
8. South Carolina (30 commitments)- The team’s SEC title run must have made an impression with some recruits as the Gamecocks hauled in a colossal class. Steve Spurrier addressed the loss of two defensive tackles to graduation by signing two four-stars in Phillip Dukes and Kelcy Quarles, both of which could make a difference early. One player to watch while dining out with your lady on Valentine’s Day is top recruit Jadeveon Clowney. The top rated defensive end has stated that he will not announce his decision until his birthday on the 14th and has whittled his choices down to Clemson, South Carolina, and Alabama. The other notables are a pair of guys named Gerald Dixon on the defensive line, an Ace Sanders clone in receiver Damiere Byrd (not yet signed), and Alshon Jeffery’s little brother receiver Shamier Jeffery.
9. Arkansas (30 commitments)- The Hogs lose D.J. Williams and Ben Cleveland to graduation and while nobody will replace the production and impact of Williams, Chris Barnett could have come in and make an immediate impact. However, the Hogs lost Barnett to Michigan at the last second. But they did sign a pretty talented tight end in Demetrius Dean. Dean is sized a lot like Williams at 6’3, 245 and has enough speed to really hurt defenses up the seam. Head coach Bobby Petrino likes to use the tight end in his Power Spread offense so expect to see Barnett making an impact early and often. Another late guy who could see the field early is offensive tackle Brey Cook. Already sized like an upperclassman at 6’7, 315 pounds, Cook could help ease the loss of DeMarcus Love.
10. Mississippi State (22 commitments)- Offensively, the Bulldogs return quite a few playmakers in Chris Relf, Vick Ballard, LaDarius Perkins, and Chad Bumphis. However, they lost their top offensive player tackle Derek Sherrod heading to the NFL. Trapp is a junior college transfer and could make an impact right away protecting Relf.
11. Kentucky (24 commitments)- With Ryan Mossakowski wanting to transfer, quarterback Maxwell Smith’s early enrollment all of a sudden provides much needed depth behind Morgan Newton.
12. Vanderbilt (21 commitments)- The ‘Dores actually picked up two recruits who could make an impact right away, both of which were committed to other schools. One is quarterback Lafonte Thourogood who had committed to Virginia Tech early but switched at the last second. The other is tight end Dillon van der Wal who was originally committed to Arizona State as a defensive end but opted to head to Nashville so he could play offense.