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Tuesday, December 17, 2013
SEC signing day storylines

By Derek Tyson

With signing day 50 short days away, several questions remain in the SEC. Here's a look at the top storylines as signing day quickly approaches.

1. Alabama will end up with the No. 1 class

Leonard Fournette
The race for Leonard Fournette, the nation's top player, continues and his commitment will dramatically change whichever class he end up in.
… And it could be by a landslide. The Crimson Tide have already landed the No. 1-ranked offensive tackle, center, guard and outside linebacker along with the No. 2-ranked defensive end, athlete, safety, quarterback and center in the country. Alabama worked hard to secure a commitment from Cameron Robinson (West Monroe, La./West Monroe), a Louisiana native, and will try to do the same with Leonard Fournette (New Orleans/St. Augustine), the No. 1-ranked player in the country. With 23 commitments including an impressive 17 ranked in the ESPN 300, landing prospects such as Fournette or defensive back Jalen Tabor would only strengthen their lead over everyone else.

2. Kentucky is the biggest surprise class

In his first year as the head coach at Kentucky, Mark Stoops has had some difficulties on the field, but he has the Wildcats recruiting at a very high level. Kentucky currently has the No. 17-ranked class and is on pace to finish with its highest-rated class since ESPN started keeping track of recruiting classes in 2006. If Stoops is able to land ESPN 300 defensive tackle Matt Elam (Elizabethtown, Ky./Hardin), the Wildcats would almost assure themselves of a top-20 class

3. Which SEC team will have the strongest finish?

LSU, on paper, looks as if it could have a very big finish. Clifton Garrett, the No. 3-ranked inside linebacker in the country will announce his decision on Tuesday and it looks as if the Tigers will be the team to beat. Garrett could be the first of many to fall LSU’s way over the holidays. Fournette, Tony Brown (Beaumont, Texas/Ozen), Speedy Noil (New Orleans/Edna Karr) and his teammate Gerald Willis III, all top-30 players in the country, are set to announce their decision at the Under Armour All-America Game on Jan. 2 and LSU is in strong contention for each of them. If, for some reason, the Tigers miss out on several of these prospects, LSU could be in the “most disappointing class,” category come signing day.

4. All 14 SEC schools will finish in the top 40 of the recruiting rankings

The SEC is, once again, dominating the recruiting rankings. For a while Missouri was the only SEC team not ranked in the ESPN recruiting class rankings. However, after a strong season on the field, the Tigers have turned that in to success in recruiting as well. Mizzou currently has the No. 33-ranked class in the country and leap-frogged Arkansas who stands at No. 34. The SEC has five schools ranked in the top 10 and could very well end up with six or seven ranked in the top 10.

5. Tennessee will finish with the strongest class in the SEC East.

Like Stoops at Kentucky, first year Tennessee head coach Butch Jones is having tremendous success recruiting. The Volunteers are putting together a class that not only is deep in numbers, but also has quality players. The Vols, who currently rank second in the ESPN class rankings, have 34 commitments including 11 ranked in the ESPN 300.

6. Missouri will finish with the most-underrated class

Missouri’s on-field success has helped the Tigers put together a class that is deceptively good. There are several athletes in this class from talent-rich Florida and Georgia. The Tigers also kept ESPN 300 offensive tackle Andy Bauer (St. Louis/De Smet Jesuit) in-state and went to Indiana to land four-star linebacker Brandon Lee (Indianapolis/Lawrence Central). Missouri coaches have done an excellent job of developing talent, and the prospects the Tigers are bringing have a chance to thrive in the Missouri scheme.

Dalvin Cook
Dalvin Cook has been committed to Florida for a while, but whether he signs with the Gators or remains to be seen.
7. Auburn will finish strong

The success Auburn is enjoying on the field has certainly helped head coach Gus Malzahn in recruiting. The Tigers were able to flip two of Alabama’s commits -- Stephen Roberts (Opelika, Ala./Opelika) and Kalvaraz Bessent (Kingsland, Ga./Camden County) -- both ranked in the ESPN 300. Another ESPN 300 member, defensive tackle Dontavius Russell (Carrollton, Ga./Carrollton) backed off of his pledge to Georgia and appears to be leaning towards Auburn. The Tigers have the No. 12 class in the country but could make a move up with a strong finish.

8. Which prospect is most likely flip to an SEC school?

Florida State defensive tackle commit Dexter Wideman (Saluda, S.C./Saluda) has been committed to the Noles since July, but the South Carolina native has continued to show interest in the Gamecocks. The four-star prospect is planning to officially visit South Carolina on Jan. 17 and the Gamecocks have a shot at flipping the talented defender. If Florida State wins the national championship on Jan. 6, that would certainly put Wideman in a tough predicament.

9. Which SEC committed prospect could switch his pledge?

Florida will have to fend off Florida State and Miami for two of its top recruits, wide receiver Ermon Lane (Homestead, Fla./Homestead) and running back Dalvin Cook (Miami/Central). The two prospects have been committed to the Gators for some time, but Florida’s struggles on the field have left the two four-star prospects considering other options. Cook, who says he’s still committed to the Gators, will make his final decision at the Under Armour All-America Game. Lane recently posted a few pictures on Instagram of himself wearing an FSU jacket. Things could certainly change between now and signing day, but Florida could potentially lose at least one of its top recruits.

10. Texas A&M continues to recruit well under Sumlin.

Aggies head coach Kevin Sumlin continues to do a tremendous job of recruiting in College Station. Texas A&M has a top-five recruiting class which includes Myles Garrett (Arlington, Texas/Martin), the No. 1-ranked defensive end in the country and quarterback Kyle Allen (Scottsdale, Ariz./Desert Mountain), who was a standout at the Elite 11 camp over the summer. The Aggies have 19 total commits including 10 in the ESPN 300. With Sumlin signing a long-term extension and the stadium getting major renovations, Texas A&M will have the tools to compete on a national level for the foreseeable future.