The SEC's on-the-field success is largely because the conference has some of the best recruiters in college football. Here's a look at the holes that SEC squads need to fill in the 2010 recruiting cycle:
Alabama signed the top athlete in the 2008 class in Burton Scott (Prichard, Ala./Vigor), who moved from receiver to corner in the spring, and the top cornerback prospect in the 2009 class in Dre Kirkpatrick (Gadsden, Ala./Gadsden). On the flip side, this unit is in need of a major overhaul because Javier Arenas, Marquis Johnson and Chris Rogers are all seniors. In addition, Kareem Jackson, who starts opposite Arenas, is a junior. The Tide have made good progress on filling this need with the commitment of 2010 prospect Demarcus Milliner ( Millbrook, Ala./Stanhope).
Alabama did well to sign Brad Smelley (Tuscaloosa, Ala./American Christian Academy) in 2008 but it hasn't signed any other tight ends of note the past two years. That's reason for concern because Colin Peek is a senior and reserve Preston Dial is a junior. The good news for Tide fans is the school has already received a verbal commitment from one of the top tight end prospects in the 2010 class in Brian Vogler (Columbus, Ga./Brookstone).
The Crimson Tide have signed a quarterback each of the past two years and landed highly touted A.J. McCarron (Mobile, Ala./St. Paul's Episcopal) in 2009. That said, starter Greg McElroy is a junior and redshirt sophomore Thomas Darrah is a walk-on who has yet to see the field. Alabama looks to have added so much needed depth and a potential game-changer with the commitment of 2010 QB prospect Phillip Sims (Chesapeake, Va./Oscar Frommel Smith).
Arkansas did well to sign Zach Stadther (Little Rock, Ark./North) and Alfred Davis (College Park, Ga./Banneker) in 2008. In addition, 271-pound DE Jake Bequette is capable of playing inside. So why is this a top three need? No SEC team gave up more rushing yards per game than the Razorbacks last year. With Malcolm Sheppard a senior and Patrick Jones a junior, the time for Arkansas to shore up its run defense and add depth on the inside is now. The additions of 2010 commits Jeremiah Jackson (Birmingham, Ala./Spain Park) and Brad Hefley (Riverton, Mo./Joplin) should help fill this void.
Starter Wendell Davis is a senior, backup Jermaine Love is a junior and again the Razorbacks need to improve their run defense. So even though they signed Austin Moss (Garland, Texas/Rockwell-Heath) continuing to target inside linebackers makes sense.
Arkansas signed two excellent cornerback prospects in Darius Winston (Helena, Ark./West) and David Gordon (Tulsa, Okla./East Central) in 2009. However, there are four junior cornerbacks on the roster so the Razorbacks clearly have more work to do here.
Interior offensive linemen
Auburn signed OG Andre Harris (Hampton, Ga./Lovejoy) in its 2009 class, but that's just the tip of the iceberg in terms of what the Tigers need get done here. After all, the top two centers on the depth chart are juniors, there are three juniors at guard and reserve OG Rudy Odom is a senior.
Jake Ricks is a senior, Mike Blanc is a junior and Zach Clayton is a junior. In addition, Auburn finished eighth in the SEC in run defense last year, so look for it to continue to target defensive tackles despite signing Jamar Travis (East Brewton, Ala./Neal) in the 2009 recruiting cycle. The Tigers have added some depth in their 2010 class with the addition of Kenneth Carter (Greenville, Ala./Greenville).
The Tigers have admittedly signed five receivers over the course of the past two years. On the flip side, there are three junior receivers on the roster and Montez Billings is among them. In addition, there are no guarantees these young players will progress as hoped. Keeping all of that in mind, Auburn should be in the market for a receiver yet again. The Tigers have added promising wideout Jeremy Richardson (Springville, Ala./Springville) as part of their 2010 class.
Florida has signed three excellent linebacker prospects over the course of the past two years. The Gators got Brendan Beal (Bethlehem, Pa./Liberty) in 2008 and Jelani Jenkins (Wheaton, Md./Good Counsel) and Jon Bostic (Wellington, Fla./Palm Beach Central) in 2009. That said MLB Brandon Spikes, WLB Brandon Stamper and WLB Dustin Doe are all seniors while SLB A.J. Jones, SLB Lorenzo Edwards and WLB Brandon Hicks are all juniors. The biggest concern is on the inside where Spikes starts and Stamper is listed as his backup as well as a starter on the outside. Bostic might be the answer but might also be a better fit on the outside. In addition, the Gators will still need to address the outside even if Bostic plays there. Florida presently has two outside linebackers committed from the 2010 class -- Gideon Ajagbe (Coconut, Fla./Ransom Everglades School) and Neiron Ball (Jackson, Ga./Jackson).
The Gators landed the top two safety prospects in the country when they signed Will Hill (West Orange, N.J./Saint Peter's) and Dee Finley (Auburn, Ala./Auburn) in 2008. To avoid any kind of confusion it is worth pointing out that Finley didn't actually enroll until January of this year, so he is listed as a true freshman. In addition, the Gators signed Josh Evans (Irvington, N.J./Irvington) this year. Our concerns have to with Florida's age at the position among starters. Florida needs to continue to target this position because SS Ahmad Black and FS Major Wright are both juniors while reserve Dorian Monroe is a senior. The Gators, however, went a long way toward filling this need with the additions of 2010 safety prospects Jonathan Dowling (Bradenton, Fla./Southeast) and Demar Dorsey (Fort Lauderdale, Fla./Anderson).
The Gators have signed five signed five receivers over the course of the past two years but they still have more work to do here. Why? David Nelson, Riley Cooper, Carl Moore, Cade Holliday and Joey Sorrentino are all seniors while Brandon Frazier and Justin Williams are both juniors. The Gators have secured a commitment from 2010 prospect Solomon Patton (Mobile, Ala./Murphy)
Georgia signed DeAngelo Tyson (Statesboro, Ga./Statesboro) in 2008 as well as Abry Jones (Warner Robins, Ga./Northside) and Derrick Lott ( Kennesaw, Ga./North Cobb) this year. On the other hand, Jeff Owens, Geno Atkins, Kade Weston and Brandon Wheeling are all seniors while Ricardo Crawford and Brandon Wood are both juniors. The Bulldogs will add defensive tackle prospect Garrison Smith (Atlanta/Douglass) as part of their 2010 class.
Darryl Gamble is junior, and he's backed up by seniors Darius Dewberry and Devin Hollander. In addition, it's unlikely that 197-pound redshirt freshman Jackson Griffeth develops into an every-down player. The Bulldogs could fill this need by moving 2008 signee Marcus Dowtin (Fork Union, Va./Fork Union Military Academy) or Charles White from the inside to the outside. If they take this approach inside linebacker will become an even greater need than it already is because Dowtin and White back up junior starting MLB Akeem Dent and senior No. 2 Marcus Washington as it stands now. Georgia does have promising 2010 outside linebacker T.J. Stripling committed in next year's class.
Georgia did well to land Cordy Glenn (Riverdale, Ga./Riverdale) in 2008 and he's listed at the starting right tackle on the preseason depth chart. However, Glenn lined up at guard last year and he may be a better fit there. Further complicating matters, talented redshirt sophomore Trinton Sturdivant missed the entire 2008 season with a knee injury. Whether or not he is able to regain his form remains to be seen. That's not all either. There are also three juniors and one senior listed on the depth chart. However, Georgia might have a solid 2010 prospect who can contribute in Brent Benedict (Jacksonville, Fla./The Bolles School).
Kentucky did well to sign Donald Russell (Palm Beach Gardens, Fla./Dwyer) in the 2009 recruiting cycle. The Wildcats also signed Jonathan George (Lincoln, Ala./Lincoln) in the '09 class. However, George and Williams aren't expected to develop into feature backs. Meanwhile, Alfonso Smith is a senior and there are three juniors listed behind him on the depth chart so depth and competition are needed here.
Tight end 2009 signing Anthony Kendrick, who weighs 220 pounds (Katy, Texas/Seven) is listed as a tight end/receiver. In addition, Kentucky moved 2008 signing Sean Stackhouse (Jacksonville, Fla./Mandarin) to guard during his freshman season. Furthermore, it's unclear where 2009 signing Jordan Aumiller (Danville, Ky./Boyle County) will line up. The only other tight end added to the roster over the course of the past two years is Gabe Correll (Fork Union, Va./Fork Union Military Academy) who joined the team in 2008. That's reason for concern because the top three tight ends on the preseason depth chart are all seniors.
Micah Johnson and No. 3 Mikhail Mabry are both seniors while backup Ronnie Sneed is a redshirt sophomore. 2008 signing Danny Trevathan (Leesburg, Fla./Leesburg) could line up on the inside, but he's expected to take over the starting job on the weak side this year and he's a better fit there. Even if they do move Trevathan, the Wildcats need to get deeper here.
The good news is the Tigers signed Michael Ford (Leesville, La./Leesville) and Drayton Calhoun (Tucker, Ga./Tucker). The bad news is that Charles Scott, Keiland Williams, RB/WR Trindon Holliday and Patrick Lipoma are all seniors. In addition, Richard Murphy is a junior so there is still plenty of work to do here -- though the recent commitment of 2010 prospect Spencer Ware (Cincinnati/Princeton) certainly helps.
LSU signed Lavar Edwards ( New Orleans/Desire Street Academy) in 2008 as well as Joshua Downs (Bastrop, La./Bastrop) and Chris Davenport (Mansfield, La.) in its 2009 class. However, Charles Alexander and Al Woods are seniors while Drake Nevis and Akiem Hicks, who is a junior college transfer, are both juniors. Keeping that in mind, LSU should again be in the market for defensive tackles.
Over the past two years, the Tigers have signed four safety prospects including arguably the top safety prospect in the country in 2009 signing Craig Loston (Aldine, Texas/Eisenhower). On the flip side, Danny McCray and LB/DS Harry Coleman are both seniors while Chad Jones is a junior. In addition, Ole Miss is the only SEC team to surrender more passing yards per game than LSU last year so the Tigers would be wise to add talent as well as depth here.
Starter Daverin Geralds and backup Mark Jean-Louis are both seniors. In addition, there are no guarantees that 2009 signing A.J. Hawkins (Lithonia, Ga./King) will ever develop into an effective starter at the SEC level. As a result, the Rebels need a center capable of stepping into the No. 2 role and possibly competing for the starting job as a true freshman.
Ole Miss landed Gerald Rivers (Ellenwood, Ga./Cedar Grove) in 2008 as well as Craig Drummond (Chicago/Morgan Park) and Alex Williams (Tallahassee, Fla./Florida A&M High School) in 2009. That's a good start but the Rebels should continue to heavily recruit defensive ends because four of the top five ends listed on the depth chart are seniors and Kentrell Lockett is a junior.
2008 signing Justin Smith (Alpharetta, Ga./Chattahoochee) appeared in 12 games during his true freshman season, and the Rebels signed Corey Gaines (Tallahassee, Fla./Godby) this year. On the flip side, depth is still a concern going into this season and Ted Laurent, Lawon Scott and Jerrell Powe are all juniors.
The Bulldogs signed Montrell Conner (Monroe, La./Ouachita Parish) this year, and they have several athletes capable of lining up at different positions including running back. On the other hand, Anthony Dixon, Christian Ducre and Arnil Stallworth are all seniors so Mississippi State needs a back capable of pushing for immediate playing time in our opinion.
Mississippi State signed Josh Jackson (Canton, Miss./Canton Academy) in 2008 and Josh Boyd (Philadelphia, Miss./Philadelphia) this year. However, Kyle Love and Charles Burns are both seniors while Pernell McPhee is a junior. In addition and more importantly, Arkansas was the only SEC team to surrender more rushing yards per game than the Bulldogs last year. Keeping all of that in mind, Mississippi State needs to infuse both talent and depth here.
While the Bulldogs signed Gabe Jackson (Liberty, Miss./Amite County) this year they have more work to do here. Why? Starting LOT Derek Sherrod is a junior who is backed up by senior Chris Spencer. In addition, backup right tackle Phillip Freeman is a junior.
Starter Garrett Anderson is a senior and backup Seaver Brown is a junior. In addition, No. 3 Ryan Broadhead is an undersized redshirt sophomore who has yet to see the field and may move to defensive end at some point.
2008 signing T.J Johnson is expected to start on the right side after red shirting last year and appears to have a bright future. South Carolina also signed Nick Allison (Asheville, N.C./Roberson) this year and it's a good thing too because three of the top five guards on the depth chart are juniors. In addition, Lemuel Jeanpierre is a senior so the Gamecocks need to continue to get help at guard. They've done a very good job addressing this need with five commitments from 2010 prospects including blue-chipper Eric Mack (Saint Matthews, S.C./Calhoun County).
Starter Rodney Paulk is a junior, backup Josh Dickerson is a junior and No. 3 Gerrod Sinclair is a senior. Even if the Gamecocks fill this need by moving an outside linebacker like 2008 signing Reginald Bowens (Garner, N.C./Garner) inside they will need to get deeper here.
Interior offensive linemen
All three of the starting interior offensive linemen are seniors as are the backups at center and left guard. Making matters worse, 2008 signing Carson Anderson (Florence, Ala./Florence) may never develop into an effective starting center and the same can be said about redshirt sophomore Cody Pope at guard. The Vols have secured commitments from 2010 guards Jose Jose (Miami/Central) and Zach Fulton (Flossmoor, Ill./Homewood-Flossmoor) to help fill this void.
Tennessee signed Dallas Thomas (Baton Rogue, La./Scotlandville Magnet) in 2008. It also signed Arthur Jeffrey (Sarasota, Fla./Booker) and Montori Hughes (Murfreesboro, Tenn./Siegel) this year. However, starters Dan Williams and Wes Brown are seniors as is reserve Andre Mathis while Victor Thomas and Chase Nelson are both juniors. As a result, the Volunteers have more work to do here.
Yes, Tennessee signed four receivers this year including Nu'Keese Richardson (Pahokee, Fla./Pahokee), but two of the top six receivers listed on the depth chart are seniors and three are juniors. With that in mind, continuing to make this position a priority out on the recruiting trail makes sense. Thus far, the Vols have been able to add top-notch talent Markeith Ambles (McDonough, Ga./Henry County) as part of their 2010 class.
Redshirt sophomore Larry Smith is again expected to push senior Mackenzi Adams for playing tine but the fact that neither is viewed as the clear cut No. 1 is concerning. In addition, No. 3 Jared Funk is a junior. So even though Smith has two years of eligibly left after this season and the Commodores signed Charlie Goro (Park Ridge, Ill./Maine South) in 2008, finding a quarterback capable of competing for early playing time should be the school's top priority.
Vanderbilt signed Tristan Strong (Loganville, Ga./Grayson), Archie Barnes (Tampa, Fla./Berkeley Prep) and Dexter Daniels (Brantley, Ala./Brantley) in 2008. That said, there's still work to do here because two of the top six outside linebackers on the depth chart are seniors and three are juniors. In addition, 2009 signing Walker May (Birmingham, Ala./Briarwood Christian) is now expected to line up at end not outside linebacker.
Starter Bradley Vierling is a senior and backup Chris Aaron is a junior. While redshirt sophomore Rob Ashabranner could develop into an effective starter, Vanderbilt still needs to add insurance and get deeper here.
Steve Muench played four years of Division I-AA football before joining Scouts Inc. in 2002. He has evaluated both NFL and college players for Scouts Inc.