None of these guys have suited up yet, but some are already on campus vying for positions next fall. For the past few years, the SEC has dominated the recruiting landscape. 2014 was no different as 7 SEC teams finished in the top ten class rankings of ESPN, Rivals and 247 Sports. Alabama had the best recruiting class according to the three recruiting services and Tennessee signed 35 players, the most out of any school in the SEC. Most of these players on the list should see significant action this year, and will prove to be great additions to their teams. This list is solely for incoming freshman and doesn’t include Junior College transfers.
- OFFENSE -
QB-Kyle Allen/Texas A&M
It’s going to be strange not seeing Johnny Manziel playing at Kyle Field (the House that Johnny Built), but Kevin Sumlin has a Quarterback. With the departure of Manziel to the NFL, Kyle Allen should be able to step in immediately and compete for the starting job. The only thing standing in Allen’s way is sophomore Kenny Hill who is expected to win the starting job. Hill is a dual threat while Allen is a traditional pocket passer. One thing is for sure, whoever wins the job will have huge shoes to fill.
At 6’1” 226 lbs, Leonard Fournette already looks like he should be ready to play come August. Along with the departure of Jeremy Hill to the NFL, Fournette has a great opportunity to get some playing time right away. The New Orleans native has incredible balance along with great strength and speed to go up against SEC front sevens. The footage of Les Miles’ reaction to getting Fournette’s signature proves that Baton Rouge is excited to have this kid make an immediate impact right out of the gate.
Coach Mark Richt learned this season that the injury bug shows no mercy, and it showed no mercy to his stable of running backs. It seems like Richt and running backs coach Bryan McClendon knew that and decided to recruit Michel and also Nick Chubb, both of whom were top ten recruits at running back. Michel is a hair faster than Chubb and was more highly touted coming out of high school, but expect both of these freshman to make immediate impacts.
Dupree walks into a great situation at LSU; All-SEC receivers Odell Beckham Jr. and Jarvis Landry are headed for the NFL. However, 2 year starting quarterback Zach Mettenberger won’t be there either. Dupree will most likely be catching balls from sophomore Anthony Jennings in his first full season as a starter. Dupree has the speed now and will become a deep threat as his route running skills develop.
Malone could be the shining star of the 35-man class that will be joining Butch Jones’ squad on Rocky Top. Malone will be on the field, either as a receiver or in a special teams role. Malone is shifty, has great breakaway speed (4.49 40 yard dash speed) and a surprising amount of power in his 6’2 frame. With the job at quarterback wide open, the only thing that Butch Jones needs to worry about is figuring out who is going to throw this kid the ball.
Blazevich has one of the best chances to step in and make an impact. With All-SEC tight end Arthur Lynch graduating, Blazevich has a chance to be high up on the depth chart. At 6’5” 233 lbs he has a great frame and will only get bigger with a college strength program. Blazevich has the hands and the route running ability, but needs to prove that he can block SEC defensive ends.
It seems like Nick Saban reloads in elite offensive lineman every year, and it is no different with Cameron Robinson. Robinson has the size, talent and above all the opportunity to impress Saban and the coaching staff immediately. One of eight early enrollees who will participate in spring practice, Robinson is already in Tuscaloosa learning the playbook and working out, which gives him a great leg up.
OG-Rod Taylor/Ole Miss
Taylor has all the physical attributes; he’s big, strong and quick off the snap, and will be a great addition to Hugh Freeze’s line, which gave up 27 sacks in 2013. Most importantly, Taylor has the toughness to go up against SEC defensive linemen and give Quarterback Bo Wallace a little more time in the pocket. Aaron Morris should have one of the guard sports which will allow Taylor to make a push for the other starting job.
Casher’s biggest drawback might be his height. At 6’1” playing guard and tackle which he did in high school might be out of the question in college. Casher’s weight is no issue, nor is his ability to hold the block and mull a defender over. Casher and fellow ESPN 300 Center J.C. Hassenauer will be in a battle for the number 2 and 3 spot behind Ryan Kelly. However, with Kelly’s knee still potentially being an issue, Casher or Hassenauer might get an early opportunity to get some playing time.
It would have been interesting to see what happened if the 10 second rule, or the “Saban Rule” was upheld, and how it would have affected fast paced offenses like Auburn. Alas, Gus Malzahn’s doesn’t need to worry and his offensive philosophy of moving fast and not letting the defense set up will be back in full swing in 2014. Branden Smith definitely has the size and strength to be a force at guard, and also the speed to keep up. But with a complex system, there might be a learning curve.
After a year of disappointment for the Razorbacks, the shining stat came from the offensive line that was third in the FBS in sacks allowed; only giving up eight. Brian Wallace might be the most impressive looking offensive line recruit. At 6’5” 300 lbs Wallace will be a great addition to an offensive line that is already deep. Look for Wallace to get some early playing time and earn a spot at the tackle position.
With a name like “Speedy,” you better be good, oh yeah, and fast. At 5’10” 175 lbs, Speedy Noil might be the most dangerous player coming out of high school, and might prove to be the most exciting. Noil can run from out of the backfield, return punts and kickoffs, and has the soft hands to be a deep threat. Noil has all the intangibles with 4.45 40 speed, will be a great target at receiver and be a great option for Coach Sumlin to use in the return game.
- DEFENSE -
Rivlas.com rated Da’Shawn Hand as the number one recruit coming out of high school, and it is easy to see why. Combining great size (6’4” 260 lbs), speed and power, Hand will be a great addition to the Tide defense that loses big time defensive players in Jeoffrey Pagan and Ed Stinson. Hand will fit immediately in Kirby Smart’s 3-4 scheme as a down lineman possibly forcing double teams. While Hand is very quick off the snap his pursuit speed could improve, and most likely will with the Tide’s strength and conditioning program.
DT-Gerald Willis III /Florida
Will Muschamp was put on the hot seat after a disappointing season, but that didn’t stop the Gators from signing a top ten recruiting class; a class which includes two of the best defensive lineman in the country. Gerald Willis III played mostly defensive end at Edna Karr High School in New Orleans, but was recruited to play tackle. That’s no problem for Willis who seems to always find his way into the backfield and hit someone…hard.
The second piece of this defensive tandem is Thomas Holley. While Willis has a little more speed, and is built like a defensive end, Holley is a space eater. He will be placed right in the middle of a line and will bull rush. Holley does have speed for being a bigger guy, but he will be asked to overpower offensive lineman.
DE-Myles Garrett/Texas A&M
One thing is certain with Myles Garrett: he for sure looks the part, at 6’5” and 250 lbs. Garrett has a strong bull rush, a swim move that will get him right into the backfield, and a quick step off the snap. He seems to have it all; speed, brute strength, and freak athleticism. Don’t be surprised to see him switch back and forth between end and tackle.
Evans received a lot of negative attention when he decided to play football in Tuscaloosa, and not for his home team, the Auburn Tigers. It seems that nowhere is safe from the recruiting prowess of Nick Saban. One thing is for sure, Auburn really wishes that Rashawn Evan would line up on defense for them and not for the Crimson Tide. Evans is a big body, and also an impressive tackler. The Iron Bowl will be an interesting game for Evans in 2014, and especially in 2015 when Evans returns home.
Along with being one of the best linebackers in the country Tre Williams doubled as a tight end in high school. Williams is a force; he is a sure tackler, and is going to be the guy that makes sure no one gets into the second level. With All-SEC pass rusher Dee Ford graduating and going to the NFL, Auburn’s defense will need to see some new faces, and Williams will emerge as a go-to guy.
Christian Miller has the perfect build to be a dominant outside linebacker in Kirby Smart’s 3-4 scheme. Miller played both as a down lineman and a stand up edge rusher in high school, so he has great experience with playing both positions, but his lean frame gives him the build of a stand up rusher only. Miller has nice speed, and impressive power. Expect to see this kid in the backfield harassing quarterbacks.
Kirby Smart has a lot of options to replace All-American cornerback Ha Ha Clinton-Dix. Tony Brown could easily step in and take that spot. Considered to be one of the best cornerbacks coming out of high school, Brown has great size at 6’0” 190 lbs, and has elite speed; 4.4 40 speed to be exact. Brown can close the gap on almost any receiver, and will be able to cover almost anybody one-on-one.
Jalen Tabor flipped his commitment from Arizona to Florida, and Will Muschamp is very happy to have Tabor. He is a pure athlete, has quick feet, incredible speed and also lower the boom. It will be interesting to see if Muschamp will give Tabor one-on-one assignments. It probably won’t happen this year, but with coaching, Tabor could be an elite cover corner
There’s a reason that Marlon Humphrey is one of seven Alabama players on this list; Nick Saban knows how to recruit talent. Along with Tony Brown, Humphrey is going to be vying for that position opened up with the departure of Clinton-Dix. While Tony Brown might have a leg up on Humphrey, but look for him to get some special team experience and possibly some valuable game experience early.
Jamal Adams might be one of the hardest hitters in the class. He has great pursuit speed and is a ball hawk. He locates the ball, sprints to it and usually lands a big hit. He has soft hands that could get him an interception or two, and also kickoff return speed. Adams will most likely be used in more of a special teams role early on, but could definitely get some reps at strong safety early if he hits receivers like he did in high school.
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