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Tuesday, August 12, 2008
Updated: August 13, 9:25 AM ET
Breaking down the 2009 SEC recruiting classes

By JC Shurburtt
Special to ESPN.com

The Southeastern Conference is all about competition -- on and off the field. So here's a look at how SEC programs are faring against one another with regard to the Class of 2009, using a mathematical power ratings formula to determine the score and, subsequently, the rank.

Each player who has been evaluated by ESPN Scouts Inc. has a numerical grade. Those grades are averaged to give a program a base score (the players who have not yet been evaluated are thrown out). Then, teams are given bonus points for the number of players ranked nationally at their position (.25) and for the number of ESPNU150 members (.50).

Here's a look at how the teams sorted out using that simple formula, plus the headliner and a sleeper for each of the top classes in the league.

1. LSU, 92.063
The Tigers have the nation's No. 2 overall prospect in quarterback Russell Shepard, nine ESPNU150 prospects and three Under Armour All-Americans. LSU is well on its way to another top-shelf haul under Les Miles and his staff of big-time recruiters.
Headliner: Shepard is one of the best overall athletes in the country.
Sleeper: Linebacker Kevin Minter (Suwanee, Ga./Peachtree Ridge) is tough as nails and could be great in the middle in years to come.

Aaron Murray
Aaron Murray is the No. 3 prospect in the ESPNU 150.
2. Georgia, 87.417
Despite being limited in scholarship numbers, the Bulldogs have made the most of their opportunities on the recruiting trail. Half of Georgia's current 12-member class is made up of ESPNU 150 prospects and includes three Under Armour All-Americans. Quarterback Aaron Murray (Tampa, Fla./Plant) is the nation's third-ranked prospect according to ESPN.
Headliner: Murray has all of the tools to be a great college quarterback.

Sleeper: Chase Vasser (Gainesville, Ga./Chestatee) is a big linebacker type that can run. He has toughness and athleticism and could end up being a major contributor during his time in Athens. Even with limited numbers, UGA took an early commitment from the 6-foot-3, 230-pounder.

3. Alabama, 83.981
The Crimson Tide had one of the nation's top classes last year and head coach Nick Saban and staff continue to recruit well both in and out of state. So far, the Class of 2009 features three ESPNU150 prospects and an Under Armour All-American.

Headliner: Running back Trent Richardson (Pensacola, Fla./Escambia) is one of the top players in the country. If he can stay healthy and committed to the Tide, he could be one of the best running backs Alabama has had in quite some time.
Sleeper: Don't sleep on offensive lineman Kellen Williams (Snellville, Ga./Brookwood). Williams' high school -- one of the largest programs in the Atlanta area -- is known for its offensive line play.

4. Tennessee, 83.500
The Vols have always been among the league's best-recruiting teams. It's a national approach in Knoxville; Tennessee doesn't produce the number of elite prospects needed to stay competitive at a high level. The Vols have three ESPNU150 prospects and two Under Armour All-Americans. This year's class is off to a great start, thanks in part to the addition of former Florida assistant Stan Drayton to the staff. Drayton is one of the country's top recruiters.

Headliner: Running back Jarvis Giles (Tampa, Fla./Gaither) is one of the top prospects at his position in America. Drayton was a big factor in Giles picking the Vols early.

Sleeper: Linebacker D.T. Shackelford (Decatur, Ala./Austin) is a big and athletic player who could be a nice middle linebacker down the road.

5. Florida 83.000

Under Urban Meyer, the Gators have been among the nation's elite from a talent-gathering standpoint. This year's class so far has good talent in the trenches and some playmakers on offense. In the nine-member class, UF has four ESPNU 150 prospects and two Under Armour All-Americans.
Headliner: Offensive guard Nick Alajajian (Naples, Fla.) is one of the top interior linemen in the country and will be a 3-4 year contributor in Gainesville.
Sleeper: Guard Jonotthan Harrison (Groveland, Fla./South Lake) is raw but has big potential.

6. South Carolina, 82.319: A pair of hometown safeties, DaMario Jeffery and Chris Payne from Columbia High, make this class what it is now. There are also several under-the-radar types who have not been evaluated.

7. Auburn, 82.000: Tommy Tuberville and his staff always do a great job evaluating. The best guess here is that when all is said and done, this class will be looked at as higher in the league. Tuberville probably is out in front of the ratings numbers with this 22-member class.
8. Mississippi State, 80.875: Coming off an 8-5 season and a win in the Liberty Bowl, the Bulldogs have serious momentum on the recruiting trail right now and are poised to sign a great class, including Under Armour All-American running back Montrell Connor from Louisiana. As we move forward, watch for a rise from MSU.

9. Arkansas, 79.000: Losing Darius Winston was a blow, but many times the Razorbacks end up getting their home state talent when all is said and done. This class is solid thus far, but could be better come national signing day.
10. Kentucky, 78.690: The Wildcats got a recent commit from one of the better quarterback prospects in the country in Ryan Mossakowski (Frisco, Texas/Centennial). Head coach in-waiting/offensive coordinator Joker Phillips has found a way to stockpile the Wildcats' roster with quality players since his return to his alma mater.
11. Ole Miss, 78.321: At Arkansas, Houston Nutt and his staff rarely sat near the top of these types of ratings (even recruiting players like Felix Jones, Darren McFadden, Matt Jones, etc.), so it's no surprise that the Rebels are not higher on this list at this point. With that, Nutt did quite well in-state while in Fayetteville and there are more players in Mississippi.

12. Vanderbilt, 77.083: The Commodores have raised the level of their recruiting under Bobby Johnson, but it's tough in the SEC. Running back Warren Norman (Chamblee/Ga.) is a nice player with plenty of speed who should play early and often once he arrives in Nashville.

Notes

•  Miami (Fla.) has reached into the Orlando area and is at or near the top of the current leader board for the (Sanford, Fla.,) Seminole trio of defensive end Dyron Dye, wide receiver/athlete Andre DeBose and athlete Ray Ray Armstrong. All three prospects are Under Armour All-Americans. These three have scholarship offers from nearly every major school in the country, though, and there is a long way to go until anything is finalized.

•  Although six teams technically stay in the race for Marlon Brown, the in-state Volunteers are the team that should be considered the frontrunner. Count this as another outstanding recruiting job by new Tennessee assistant Stan Drayton. Georgia, LSU, Southern California, Ohio State and Florida all are in the mix as well.

•  South Carolina's courtship of Georgia Tech commit Chaun Gresham (Winder, Ga./Apalachee) remained strong and steady even after he pulled the trigger for the Yellow Jackets. Cornerbacks coach Shane Beamer, the son of longtime Virginia Tech head coach Frank Beamer, remained consistent and eventually got a verbal from the 6-foot-3, 205-pound linebacker, who is the nephew of the top player in Gamecock history, 1980 Heisman Trophy winner George Rogers.

•  An early name for the Class of 2011 in the state of Georgia: Wide receiver Breshad Perriman (Conyers/Heritage) is the son of former New Orleans Saints, Detroit Lions and Miami Hurricanes wide out Brett Perriman and projects to be a high-end prospect in the Peach State a few years down the road.

•  At this point, it would be quite a surprise for cornerback Dre Kirkpatrick (Gadsden City, Ala.) to end up anywhere but Alabama. Still, a commitment is not imminent at this time. Expect him to take visits and remember that anything can happen when a prospect starts making official visits.