- Chris Low, ESPN Senior Staff Writer
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Signing day is behind us, so let's take a look at how the West Division teams did in filling their needs, even though definitive answers won’t come for a couple of years.
Needs filled: Reuben Foster's recruitment was bizarre to say the least, but he gives the Crimson Tide another talented linebacker to plug into that defense. The one-two punch of receiver Robert Foster and tight end O.J. Howard should make Alabama’s passing game that much more explosive, and nobody in the country stockpiles running backs the way Alabama does. Derrick Henry, Alvin Kamara, Tyren Jones and Altee Tenpenny are all top-10 running back prospects.
Holes remaining: The Crimson Tide lost out on one of their top offensive tackle targets when Laremy Tunsil signed with Ole Miss. They’re losing D.J. Fluker early to the NFL, and Cyrus Kouandjio will almost certainly follow if he has the kind of 2013 season everyone expects.
Needs filled: Arkansas landed some much-needed help on the offensive line, led by ESPN 150 offensive tackle Denver Kirkland. A Miami product, Kirkland chose the Hogs over the Hurricanes on signing day. Offensive tackle Dan Skipper and offensive guard Reeve Koehler were also key gets, not to mention ESPN 150 tight end Hunter Henry of Little Rock, Ark. Henry was the top prospect in the state and ranked as the No. 2 tight end nationally.
Holes remaining: The biggest hole centers around the Hogs’ most high-profile recruit. Running back Alex Collins of Plantation, Fla., announced Tuesday that he was signing with Arkansas over Miami, but he didn’t sign as scheduled Wednesday and is getting pressure from his family to stay closer to home and sign with the Hurricanes. Stay tuned.
Needs filled: The Tigers were looking for more difference-makers on defense and scored big up front with ESPN 150 defensive tackle Montravius Adams and ESPN 150 defensive ends Carl Lawson and Elijah Daniel. Lawson was the No. 2 prospect in the country and had been looking around after initially committing to Auburn under the previous staff.
Holes remaining: Auburn can use all the help it can get in the secondary, which is why losing cornerback Mackensie Alexander to Clemson stung so much. Auburn signed Alexander’s brother, Mackenro, but Mackensie would have been the catch at cornerback. He’s ranked No. 4 overall in the ESPN 150.
Needs filled: Flipping ESPN 150 defensive end Tashawn Bower of Somerville, N.J., was a coup for the Tigers, especially considering that they’re losing their top four defensive ends. Auburn and Florida were thought to be the leaders for Bower, but he chose LSU on signing day. Holding on to defensive end Frank Herron after a late visit to Texas was equally important. The Tigers also signed two ESPN 300 quarterbacks. Anthony Jennings is a dual-threat guy, while Hayden Rettig is more of a pocket passer.
Needs filled: Adding some punch in the defensive line was a must, and the Bulldogs were able to keep one of the top players in the state at home in defensive end Chris Jones of Houston, Miss. With four senior receivers leaving, Mississippi State hopes that junior college transfer Jeremey Chappelle can step in and be a key cog in the passing game. He’s already enrolled in school. Fred Ross is also an ESPN 300 receiver.
Holes remaining: The Bulldogs would have liked to have added more offensive line help. In particular, losing Deon Mix of Batesville, Miss., to Auburn hurt. Mix, a four-star offensive guard prospect, had been committed to Mississippi State for eight months before backing off that pledge in the final weeks.
Needs filled: Nobody in the country made the kind of signing day splash the Rebels did. They landed potential game-changers on offense and defense. Defensive end Robert Nkemdiche was the No. 1 prospect in the country. Laremy Tunsil and Austin Golson were ranked as the No. 1 and No. 3 offensive tackles in the country. Laquon Treadwell was the No. 1 receiver in the country, and Antonio Conner was the No. 2 safety.
Holes remaining: The Rebels didn’t get everybody they wanted and lost out on a pair of coveted defensive ends. Chris Jones, the in-state player everybody was recruiting, stuck with his original commitment and signed with Mississippi State, while Elijah Daniel had a change of heart on signing day and went to Auburn.
Needs filled: The Aggies reeled in a couple of highly rated receivers for Johnny Football to throw to, which was especially important with three senior starters departing and freshman Thomas Johnson unlikely to return. This class includes six new receivers, including ESPN 150 prospects Ricky Seals-Jones, Sebastian LaRue and LaQuvionte Gonzalez. The Aggies also picked up four defensive tackles, including ESPN 150 prospect Justin Manning.
Holes remaining: Getting defensive end Daeshon Hall to flip from Washington on signing day was big for the Aggies, and they would have liked to have had one more pass-rusher with Damontre Moore leaving early for the NFL draft. But defensive end Torrodney Prevot signed with Oregon after giving a hard look to Texas A&M.
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