Monday, January 25, 2010
SEC West recruiting needs
By ESPN.com staff
We’ve already taken a look at who needs what in the Eastern Division. Now we turn our attention to the Western Division:
Secondary: With cornerback Kareem Jackson deciding to leave early for the NFL draft, the Crimson Tide are losing three starting defensive backs from last season’s national championship team. Top recruit DeMarcus Milliner could get a chance to play right away, and sophomore cornerback Dre Kirkpatrick has star potential.
Kicker/punter: How many times did Leigh Kiffin save Alabama last season? There’s a very good chance that true freshman Cade Foster will be the starting kicker next season. He’s already enrolled for this semester and will go through spring practice. It also looks like true freshman Jay Williams will have a chance to step in right away as the Crimson Tide’s punter.
Defensive line: The Hogs need help everywhere on defense, but nowhere is that more apparent than the defensive line, especially with All-SEC tackle Malcolm Sheppard departing. Also gone is starting end Adrian Davis.
Linebacker: Wendel Davis is gone from the middle, and the Hogs will have several juniors and seniors playing key roles next season at linebacker. Similar to the defensive line, it’s a position Arkansas has to keep upgrading if this is going to be an SEC championship-caliber defense.
Receiver: Bobby Petrino can never have enough good receivers in his system, and you’re seeing the Hogs stock up on a few more in this class. Plus, Jarius Wright, Greg Childs and Joe Adams will all be juniors next season.
Linebacker: The Tigers were so thin at linebacker last season that starters Josh Byne and Craig Stevens played all 115 snaps in the overtime win against Northwestern in the bowl game. Several in this freshman class, notably LeDarius Owens, could wind up being key contributors next season.
Running back: Ben Tate was that every-down pounder that all SEC teams covet. It remains to be seen if Mario Fannin can be that guy. The Tigers also have Onterio McCalebb returning, but heralded signee Michael Dyer of Little Rock, Ark., will get a chance to show what he can do right away, and the Tigers are also chasing hard after another marquee running back prospect -- Marcus Lattimore of Duncan, S.C.
Defensive end: The big loss was SEC sacks leader Antonio Coleman. The Tigers could use some more dynamic pass-rushers coming off the edge.
Receiver: With Brandon LaFell departing for the NFL, the Tigers will need some immediate help at receiver. LaFell led all SEC receivers with 19 touchdown catches over the last two seasons. After him, there wasn’t a lot of production at receiver.
Offensive line: Even though tackle Ciron Black didn’t have a great senior season, he was the anchor of LSU’s offensive line in 2009. So the Tigers need to find another tackle and just generally need to get better up front across the board. They gave up far too many sacks (37) and were 11th in the league in rushing offense.
Running back: Replacing your all-time leading rusher is never easy, but that’s what Mississippi State is faced with now that Anthony Dixon is gone. He was the heart and soul of that offense last season. But he’s not the only one the Bulldogs are losing. Also gone are senior running backs Christian Ducre and Arnil Stallworth.
Quarterback: Junior Chris Relf and redshirt freshman Tyler Russell are Mississippi State’s only two scholarship quarterbacks. The Bulldogs need another one. They made a run at former Florida quarterback Cameron Newton, but he signed with Auburn.
Defensive end: Mississippi State has a lot of young talent on defense, but the priority on that side of the ball is adding at least two more ends.
Offensive line: The Rebels are losing 12 starters total and were hit especially hard on the offensive line. The strength of their line last season was in the middle from guard to guard, and all three of those guys are gone. John Jerry will be particularly difficult to replace. He started eight games at tackle and five at guard.
Secondary: Gone are both starting cornerbacks as well as free safety Kendrick Lewis, who led Ole Miss in tackles. The Rebels were able to redshirt some younger defensive backs, but there’s not much experience behind them.
Running back: How do you replace Dexter McCluster? The truth is that you don’t. The Rebels still have some decent numbers at running back, but what they’re searching for is a guy they can move around and be effective at several different spots the way McCluster was during his career. Junior college transfer Randall Mackey has that kind of potential.