We now turn our attention to the recruiting needs of the Eastern Division teams in the SEC.
Given the fact that four of the six teams in the East finished with losing records this season, it’s safe to say this is a needy division right now.
Linebacker: The Gators are looking for at least two linebackers in this class. Seniors Brandon Hicks and A.J. Jones both exhausted their eligibility.
Quarterback: John Brantley will be a senior, and it’s doubtful Trey Burton fits the pro-style offense new offensive coordinator Charlie Weis will implement. The Gators had to have a marquee quarterback and got the No. 1-rated guy in the country in Jeff Driskel, who’s already enrolled in school and will go through spring practice. It wouldn’t hurt to add a second quarterback.
Defensive back: Yes, there’s some young talent in the program, but safeties Ahmad Black and Will Hill are both gone, and cornerback Janoris Jenkins will be a senior next season. What’s more, cornerback Jeremy Brown, who will be a junior, has been beset with injuries.
Running back: It seems like the Gators have been looking for that prototypical every-down running back forever. They really like early enrollee Mike Blakely, but he recently had shoulder surgery and will miss the spring.
Running back: Caleb King has been a disappointment, and his future at Georgia would appear to be shaky at best. Washaun Ealey will all of a sudden be a junior. The Bulldogs need to add some pop in their backfield, which is why everybody in red and black is keeping his fingers crossed that Isaiah Crowell of Columbus, Ga., picks Georgia. He’s rated by ESPN as the No. 1 running back prospect in the country.
Nose guard: If you’re going to effectively run a 3-4 defense, you’ve got to have a big, imposing nose guard that clogs the middle and eats up the run. Terrence Cody was that guy at Alabama, and Georgia defensive coordinator Todd Grantham is looking for his version of Cody. The Bulldogs are wooing 6-4, 340-pound junior college nose guard John Jenkins.
Quarterback: The dismissal of Zach Mettenberger left the Bulldogs dangerously thin at quarterback, and Logan Gray is now a receiver. So they had to have a quarterback in this class, which makes Christian LeMay of Charlotte, N.C., such an important get.
Cornerback: Grantham felt the Bulldogs were a cornerback short this season. Now, Vance Cuff is gone, and Brandon Boykin will be a senior next season. Georgia needs to add depth to a talented cornerback tandem of rising juniors Sanders Commings and Branden Smith.
Receiver: How do you replace everything that Randall Cobb provided for the Wildcats? Not only is he gone after deciding to turn pro, but so is Chris Matthews. They combined to catch 16 touchdown passes this season. Replacing their playmaking ability won’t be easy.
Defensive line: Three of the four starters from the bowl game are gone, including dependable tackle Ricky Lumpkin. The Wildcats hope promising tackle Mister Cobble is over his academic issues, but still need to add interior help. Rising senior tackle Mark Crawford ended this season on suspension. They could also use some pass-rushing help on the outside after finishing with 21 sacks this season, which was tied for next to last in the league.
Linebacker: Fortunately for the Wildcats, Danny Trevathan decided to stay in school. He led the SEC in tackles this season, but will be a senior next season. So will Ronnie Sneed. Ridge Wilson will be a junior, so it’s time to start finding the guys who are going to fill their shoes. There are a couple of young linebackers in the program the Wildcats like, including rising sophomore Qua Huzzie.
Defensive line: The Gamecocks should be very talented in the defensive line next season even though they’re losing end Cliff Matthews and tackle Ladi Ajiboye. But with tackles Travian Robertson and Melvin Ingram both coming up on their senior seasons, South Carolina is going to need help down the road. The good news is that the Gamecocks are in great shape to get defensive end Jadeveon Clowney of Rock Hill, S.C. Clowney is the nation’s No. 1 overall prospect and a big-time pass-rusher.
Linebacker: South Carolina lost two senior starters in Tony Straughter and Josh Dickerson, and Rodney Paulk will be a senior next season. Shaq Wilson only played in one game this season because of a hamstring injury and will be a redshirt junior next season. Obviously, the Gamecocks need to develop depth across the board at linebacker.
Defensive back: Covering the pass was an adventure this season for South Carolina, which finished 10th in the SEC in pass defense and gave up 23 touchdown passes. The Gamecocks are looking for more cover guys at cornerback, especially with the possibility of Stephon Gilmore turning pro following next season.
Defensive tackle: The Vols desperately need interior defensive linemen. They had to move ends over there to play this season. Montori Hughes was a big disappointment, although it helps that Marlon Walls will be returning from injury.
Linebacker: Three senior linebackers are gone, including team leader Nick Reveiz. Austin Johnson will be a senior next season, and Greg King has had lingering injuries.
Quarterback: Tyler Bray was one of the better true freshman quarterbacks in the country this season, but the Vols had to have some insurance at the position. They went out and got quarterback Justin Worley of Rock Hill, S.C. He was the Gatorade Player of the Year in South Carolina and is already enrolled in school.
Running back: The running game wasn’t nearly as consistent as it needed to be this season, and the Vols could really use a home-run hitter at tailback. Tauren Poole will be a senior next season, and David Oku left the program.
Quarterback: The quarterback position has been a problem area for the Commodores the past couple of years. Larry Smith has struggled mightily, and now he’s going to be a senior. Jared Funk, who played some toward the end of last season, is gone. The Commodores hope Jordan Rodgers can come through if his shoulder problems are cleared up. Either way, they need at least one quarterback in this class in the worst way.
Defensive line: The Commodores are looking for more muscle inside, especially with T.J. Greenstone coming up on his senior season. They also need to stock up on pass-rushers after finishing last in the SEC last season with 20 sacks.
Linebacker: John Stokes’ graduation hurts in a number of different areas, and middle linebacker Chris Marve will be a senior. This has historically been a strong position for the Commodores, and they need to replenish.
Offensive line: It’s been difficult for Vanderbilt to find offensive linemen and even more difficult to keep them healthy. The Commodores have to build some depth up front offensively.