Daily Social Roundup: CeCe Jefferson stays busy 

January, 23, 2015
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Thursday saw activity on social media throughout the country, with coaches on the road, schools collecting commitments and No. 9 overall prospect CeCe Jefferson receiving a visit from one of his finalists.

BATON ROUGE, La. -- Jalen Mills wasn’t even sure what position he would play if he returned for his senior season at LSU.

But regardless of whether he plays cornerback or safety this fall, Mills had greater concerns when he decided the join the unusually large -- by LSU standards, anyway -- group of draft-eligible players who decided to turn down the NFL for at least another year.

He and the other returning Tigers want to be remembered for more than simply staying just long enough to earn a pro football paycheck.

[+] EnlargeJalen Mills
Gerald Herbert/AP PhotoJalen Mills decided against entering the NFL draft so he could make a run at a national championship.
“We have a little group text message between us guys, just us, and that’s all we talk about. That’s the reason why we wanted to come back,” said Mills, already a three-year starter in LSU’s secondary. “Of course you want to get your degree, but for the most part, you want to win a national championship.”

Seated in the Tigers’ team meeting room, Mills looked up toward the collage of former Tigers greats such as Glenn Dorsey that borders the room’s massive film screen and pointed.

“You want to be those guys in the meeting room where you have these guys up there,” Mills said. “You want to be those guys that are always talked about. You want to be those guys in the record book, ‘This is the team that won the national championship, these are the guys who came back and made that happen.’ You want to be those guys, and I feel like that is really what put all these guys over the edge to come back.”

It says something about how hard LSU has been hit by early draft entry in the last couple of years that losing just three juniors to the NFL this year -- linebacker Kwon Alexander, cornerback Jalen Collins and defensive end Danielle Hunter -- was cause for celebration.

Only three college programs (Florida State with five and USC and Florida with four apiece) lost more underclassmen than LSU, but this was nothing compared to the Tigers’ draft hit following the 2012 and 2013 seasons. A whopping 11 LSU underclassmen entered the draft after the 2012 season and seven more players with college eligibility remaining made the jump after last season.

Perhaps that makes Mills’ championship goal more realistic since the 2015 Tigers will have fewer glaring holes to fill. In fact, he might be a candidate to fill one of those holes since Collins and fellow cornerback Rashard Robinson have both left the program. Mills spent nearly all of his first two college seasons at cornerback before shifting to safety to address depth concerns.

“When the safety numbers are low and the corner numbers are high, I moved to safety. And now the corner numbers are low and the safety numbers are high, [so] it’s a possibility I could move to corner,” Mills said. “I haven’t really met with the defensive staff yet. I’m pretty sure something is going to happen pretty soon with spring ball right around the corner.”

Several factors could impact that outcome. How will Dwayne Thomas bounce back from a torn ACL? And who will the Tigers land on the recruiting trail? They are still in the running for some coveted defensive back recruits, and ESPN’s No. 10 overall prospect Kevin Toliver II (Jacksonville, Fla./Trinity Christian) is already on campus and will practice at cornerback in the spring.

Mills said he was encouraged by Toliver’s response when he approached him shortly after LSU’s spring semester classes started and invited him to participate in drillwork with several veteran DBs.

“I told him, ‘Hey man, I know you like that room, I know you like that bed, but it’s time. You’re not in high school no more,’” Mills said. “And he kind of told me, ‘All right, just give me a call when you guys want to do drills or whatever.’ So we’re going to get him rolling.”

Otherwise, the Tigers’ most important holes to fill are at offensive tackle – Jerald Hawkins and Vadal Alexander expect to fill those spots and defensive end, where starters Hunter and Jermauria Rasco are both gone.

In December, Hunter pointed at Tashawn Bower and Sione Teuhema as possible replacements.

“There’s a couple of guys down there,” Hunter said. “You’ve got Sione, you’ve got Tashawn. Those guys are guys that we look up to, guys that we can see coming to be the next great pass-rusher here at LSU.”

Lastly, LSU will once again feature youth in the backfield. Leonard Fournette and Darrel Williams distinguished themselves last season as freshmen, and the Tigers will rely on first-year players once again at both fullback and tailback.

Senior tailbacks Kenny Hilliard and Terrence Magee are both gone, as are fullbacks Connor Neighbors and Melvin Jones, so this will be an important class to address backfield depth.

The good news is that versatile David Ducre (Mandeville, La./Lakeshore) is already on campus, plus the Tigers have verbal commitments from homegrown ESPN 300 backs Derrius Guice (Baton Rouge, La./Catholic) and Nick Brossette (Baton Rouge, La./University Laboratory).

Of course with last year’s No. 1 overall prospect Fournette already on campus, those freshmen will not face immense pressure to produce immediately. He seems prepared to take another step forward after setting a freshman rushing record with 1,034 yards in 2014.

“That dude there is ridiculous,” Hawkins said. “I just can’t wait to block for him. All our running backs, but especially him. There’s just something special about him. He’s going to pretty much shock the world this year.”
The SEC took some flak in 2014 for not having enough elite quarterback play.

Expect some of that flak to return this season, as the SEC once again deals with a handful of young and relatively inexperienced quarterbacks running amok through the league. Seven of the top 14 SEC passers from 2014 won't be returning in 2015, giving some offensive coordinators extra work to do this year.

But fear not OCs and QBs, the league is still stocked with running back talent that should be able to carry some of those offenses still looking for stability at quarterback.

It sounds redundant, but 2015 really could be the "Year of the Running Back." And this group of running backs is on the younger side, but that shouldn't matter. Freshmen running backs took the league by storm last season, and unfortunately for SEC defenses, those kids are only going to get better.

[+] EnlargeNick Chubb
Dale Zanine/USA TODAY SportsNick Chubb rushed for 1,547 yards and 14 TDs last season, despite making just eight starts.
Six of the top-10 statistical running backs return in 2015, and all of them have the capability of making up for some quarterback deficiencies their teams might have.

The four schools that immediately come to mind are Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, and LSU. T.J. Yeldon might be gone at Alabama, but the Crimson Tide will be in very good hands with rising junior Derrick Henry taking over as the lead back. Henry and Yeldon shared the carries in 2014, with Henry leading the way with 990 rushing yards. The return of Kenyan Drake will add another dimension to Alabama's running game, but Henry is a special talent, and with Alabama breaking in a new quarterback, a restructured offensive line and a young group of receivers, Henry will have plenty of opportunities to shine.

Leading the charge of the running back revolution is rising sophomore Nick Chubb, who will be the center of attention in Georgia's offense while the Bulldogs look for a quarterback. You think that's an issue for Chubb? All he did was rank second in the SEC in rushing (1,547 yards and 14 touchdowns) after making just eight starts last season. He was thrust into the starting role after star running back Todd Gurley was suspended by the NCAA for four games and then tore his ACL in his late-season return.

That led to Chubb running over, around and through so many unfortunate defenders. In those eight starts, he never dipped below 100 rushing yards and averaged 165.4 per game. Like Gurley, Chubb just runs on another level and appears to either be from another planet or constructed in a lab hidden in the Mojave Desert. The Bulldogs bring back solid talent around Chubb, but let's face it, if new offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer isn't routinely handing the rock to Chubb, something just isn't right.

About 600 miles southwest of Chubb is his position rival for the next two years: LSU's Leonard Fournette. Another manchild who roughed up plenty of defenders this past season (so, so sorry Aggies), Fournette will have to carry the load for the Tigers in 2015, because we just don't know what to expect from the quarterback position. He needed some time to feel comfortable, but when he did, he made his opponents suffer, finishing the season with 1,034 and 10 touchdowns.

Then, there is Arkansas, which has the SEC's best running back duo in Jonathan Williams and Alex Collins. Both rushed for more than 1,000 yards last season, and with Brandon Allen still needing to find his way at quarterback, those two will be relied upon again in 2015. And why not? Coach Bret Bielema wants to pound his opponents into submission anyway, and those two have done it well for the past two seasons.

And just for the heck of it, Tennessee's Jalen Hurd will rush for 1,000 yards, even with talented quarterback Joshua Dobbs under center.

Here are some other running backs who might have to push their quarterbacks:

Kelvin Taylor/Adam Lane Jr., Florida: With new coach Jim McElwain installing yet another offense in Gainesville, the Gators have yet another quarterback battle on their hands. The good news is that Taylor and Lane have the potential to be a solid duo. Taylor rushed for 565 and six touchdowns as a backup last season, and Lane broke out in Florida's bowl game, rushing for 109 yards and touchdown.

Brandon Wilds, South Carolina: The Gamecocks lose Dylan Thompson at quarterback, and there is a bit of a battle brewing for his replacement. Wilds, who has 1,277 career rushing yards, has been very solid, and should have no trouble taking over as the starter for Mike Davis.

Ralph Webb, Vanderbilt: Another freshman standout in 2014, Webb will have to continue to be Vandy's top offensive weapon in 2015. The quarterback situation was up-and-down last season, and who knows what it will look like this year. Webb rushed for 907 yards and four touchdowns last season.

Russell Hansbrough, Missouri: But the Tigers have veteran Maty Mauk at quarterback! Well, he wasn't exactly consistent last season, and proved to be a liability at times for Mizzou's offense. Hansbrough, on the other hand, rushed for 1,084 yards and 10 touchdowns in a breakout year. With Marcus Murphy gone, Hansbrough should grab the majority of carries and improve on a very solid first year as a starter.
We're almost done with our ranking of the SEC's Top 25 players for the 2014 season, and today we take a look at Nos. 6-10:

6. Dante Fowler Jr., DE/LB, Florida
He entered the season with a chance to put his name among the SEC's best pass-rushers, and he didn't disappoint. The hybrid defensive end/linebacker played the Buck position excellently all season. He led the Gators in sacks (8.5), tackles for loss (15) and quarterback hurries (17). Fowler has always been a physical specimen during his time in Gainesville, but his in-game evolution really shined in 2014. He played smarter and was much more disruptive on the outside. He was able to cover a lot of ground from the Buck position, finishing with 60 tackles and two forced fumbles. He was a major energy source for Florida's defense and was able to disrupt plays without recording stats. He played himself into possibly being a top-10 pick in this year's NFL draft.

7. La'el Collins, OT, LSU
The second-team All-American was one of the SEC's best linemen this season after a solid year in 2013. Collins anchored LSU's line from that left tackle position and led the team in both offensive snaps (843) and knockdowns (88). The first-team All-SEC member also received the Jacobs Blocking Trophy, which is presented annually to the top offensive lineman in the SEC, as voted on by the league’s coaches. Collins really excelled as a run-blocker for the Tigers in '14 and could land himself in the first round of this year's NFL draft. He could play either left or right tackle at the next level.

8. Senquez Golson, CB, Ole Miss
Talk about a major turnaround. Golson went from just an OK athlete running around Ole Miss' secondary to the league's top statistical cornerback in 2014. The 5-foot-9, 176-pound defensive spark plug was the ultimate ball hawk on the outside for the Rebels; he led the SEC in 2014 with a school record-tying 10 interceptions and tied for first in the league with 18 defended passes. The first-team All-American essentially took one side of the field away from opposing quarterbacks, while his speed and athleticism helped him cover plenty of ground in the defensive backfield. Golson totaled 43 tackles (33 solo) and averaged 1.4 passes defended per game.

9. Reese Dismukes, C, Auburn
I know, how was he still in college last season? The old man on the Plains played with the style of a polished veteran but had the energy of a young pup for the Tigers. Dismukes wasn't just the SEC's best center this year, he was officially named the nation's best center, winning the Rimington Trophy in December. For the past two seasons, Dismukes has been a team captain for the Tigers, and he has consistently been one of the toughest linemen to beat across the country.

10. Todd Gurley, RB, Georgia
Even though a four-game suspension and an eventual ACL injury cut his 2014 season short, a healthy Todd Gurley was arguably the nation's best player, regardless of position. Gurley went from an injury-riddled 2013 season to being in the best football shape of his Bulldog life at the beginning of the 2014 season. In the five games prior to his suspension, Gurley rushed for an SEC-high 773 yards and had eight rushing touchdowns. He also returned a kick 100 yards for a touchdown. After he returned, Gurley rushed for 138 yards and a touchdown before going down with that ACL injury. In six games, Gurley rushed for 911 yards (151.8 yards per game) and nine touchdowns, averaging 7.4 yards per carry. He also rushed for at least 131 yards in five of those six games.
ESPN 300 prospect Holton Hill is one of only three elite cornerbacks remaining on the board in the 2015 class, and that means coaches are doing all they can to land his commitment.


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Scout's Take: ATH Donte Jackson to LSU 

January, 21, 2015
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LSU has gained a commitment from highly coveted in-state prospect Donte Jackson. Below, see how the ESPN 300 talent fits into Les Miles' program:


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Five-star CeCe Jefferson narrows list 

January, 21, 2015
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GLEN ST. MARY, Fla. -- Five-star defensive end CeCe Jefferson is nearing the time to make his college decision and the No. 9-ranked player in the ESPN 300 is starting to narrow his choices.


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SEC morning links

January, 21, 2015
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1. Here's another kind of story that we occasionally see this time of year -- of the much more pleasant variety than those about transfers and dismissals. Florida tight end Jake McGee tweeted Tuesday that the NCAA granted him a sixth season of eligibility after he broke his leg in the first game of the Gators' 2014 season. Georgia offensive lineman Kolton Houston received similar news about a month ago, less than two years removed from a years-long eligibility case that prevented him from playing during his first three seasons on campus. It's always nice to see the NCAA side with the athletes and give them the opportunity to make full use of their college experience when possible.

2. So maybe Nick Marshall is a defensive back, after all. Since it seemed likely that he would shift from quarterback -- where he starred at Auburn -- to cornerback during the run-up to the NFL draft, it seemed surprising when initial stories had Marshall coming to the Senior Bowl as a quarterback. Marshall cleared things up on Tuesday, however, saying he expects to be a defensive back in the pros after practicing at corner and as a gunner on special teams. When Southeastern Louisiana's Bryan Bennett joined the South team's roster Tuesday, it enabled Marshall to shift to cornerback full-time for this week's practices.

3. He's been rumored to be a front-runner for the San Francisco 49ers' offensive coordinator opening, but Lane Kiffin continues to recruit for Alabama. Crimson Tide coach Nick Saban said Tuesday at Senior Bowl practice that he couldn't say with certainty that Kiffin would return to his staff next season, but he's “hopeful that will continue.” Kiffin certainly provided a jolt for Alabama's offense last season, helping Blake Sims become one of the nation's most efficient passers and funneling the ball to receiver Amari Cooper enough to solidify his status one of the most coveted prospects in the upcoming NFL draft. Insider. Kiffin predicted during Sugar Bowl week that he would return to Alabama in 2015, but an NFL coordinator job would have to be tempting for the former NFL coach.

Around the SEC

Age is just a number to Steve Spurrier, 69, who said he feels “really good” physically and has dedicated himself to improving South Carolina's performance from its disappointing 2014 campaign.

Former Missouri football player Phil Pitts reportedly stepped down from his position as head coach at Helias High School in Jefferson City, Missouri, to accept a coaching position at Mizzou. Pitts played at Missouri under Gary Pinkel, who is still recruiting Helias' star tight end Hale Hentges, a 2015 Alabama commit.

Tennessee will play its annual Orange and White spring game on April 25.

Louisiana athlete Donte Jackson will announce his pick between LSU and Georgia on Wednesday at 11:30 a.m. ET.

Alabama defensive end prospect Prince Tega Wanagho Jr., whose “Coming to America” story we mentioned in Monday's morning links, suffered a serious left leg injury during a basketball game Tuesday night. Wanagho recently emerged as one of the nation's hottest football prospects by flashing a rare combination of size and athleticism in his first year playing football after moving to the U.S. from Nigeria.

Tweet of the day

Tuesday was a busy day on the recruiting trail with head coaches and assistants earning frequent flyer miles with national signing day only 15 days away. The headliner on Tuesday was No. 2-ranked Terry Beckner Jr. and a visit from Florida State.


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BATON ROUGE, La. -- For a player like Lamar Louis, LSU's defensive coordinator change might be helpful on multiple levels.

For starters, Louis should have the opportunity to play more on scrimmage downs -- potentially displaying new skills that might help the 5-foot-11 senior linebacker impress pro scouts enough to become an NFL draft pick. Louis also believes that defensive coordinator Kevin Steele's new defensive looks will help the Tigers become tougher to scheme against.

"If we can get [the new defensive scheme] down pat and be the multiple defense that we want, I think that it switches things up for other teams," Louis said. "It's not coming into Tiger Stadium going, ‘OK, they're going to be the same old 4-3 team, so this is how we're going to come at it.' They're actually going to have to think now.

"We can … when we play Auburn, play something different. When we play Arkansas, play something different. So we're going to not be as predictable as in the past if we can get everything down pat and be multiple like we would like."

Under Steele's predecessor John Chavis, LSU frequently lined up in defensive back-heavy packages like the nickel and Chavis' dime package, known as the "Mustang," which uses six defensive backs. As the starting strongside linebacker, Louis was often the odd man out when the Tigers brought extra defensive backs onto the field.

But if all goes according to play, the linebackers might play a bigger role under Steele even when the Tigers shift to a nickel defense.

"Being able to play in a 3-4 and a 4-3 and being able to have an opportunity to stay in in a nickel package, and just looking at different schemes, it's definitely going to help me at the next level," Louis said. "And I think it's going to help our team tremendously."

LSU's coaches have greater concerns at the moment than nailing down a defensive scheme or roles for specific players. First, they need to nail down the final spots in their recruiting class, with national signing day just two weeks away.

At last week's introductory news conference, new defensive line coach Ed Orgeron said the Tigers will still be a 4-3 defensive club -- deploying four defensive linemen and three linebackers as its traditional defensive front -- but they will also add elements of the 3-4 that Steele coached with Nick Saban at Alabama.

"We're going to base out of a 4-3, but there's some times where you're going to get in a 3-4 front," Orgeron predicted. "But we have 4-3 personnel here and I believe that's what we're going to start off with."

Steele agreed with that premise, pointing out that having four linebackers on the field with 3-4 looks will make it easier to defend the spread offensive schemes in place at nearly every other SEC West school.

"You're going to have to use it all in this league," Steele said. "You're going to have to have some odd-front stuff, particularly against the spread offense that much of the West is running. And so to get those two edge guys [outside linebackers] out there. But there also is a place for the other, so we'll have to mix that in there."

Between signing day and spring practice, the Tigers' coaching staff will likely sit down and begin nailing down a scheme that best suits the available personnel. Steele said he has no intention of simply "taking a playbook out and dusting it off and throwing it on and saying, 'OK, this is what we're doing.' We have to adapt things to the talent on the field, because I'll promise you this, I cannot tackle."

That approach suits Tigers head coach Les Miles just fine. Miles clearly likes the idea of throwing multiple looks at opposing offenses, and it appears that the Tigers will do so under the new defensive regime.

"I want to do both. I want to make sure we have elements of the 4-3 package ingrained and I'd like the opportunity to be open in certain situations," Miles said. "So that being said, I just want to make sure that it goes that way. As Steele said, we'll sit down and talk techniques and all that stuff and then we'll be on the right page."
In the 100 days leading up to signing day 2015, RecruitingNation will be looking back at our ESPN recruiting rankings from 2006 to the present and counting down the best player of the past 10 years at each ranking position, No. 100 to No. 1.

Arrelious Benn, No. 17 in 2007 class

Benn came out of talent-rich Dunbar High in Washington, D.C., where he was teammates with 2009 NFL first-round pick Vontae Davis and 2011 seventh-round selection Nate Bussey. Benn picked Illinois in November of 2008 after making official visits to Florida State, Miami (FL), and Notre Dame. His choice was due in large part to then-Illini assistant coach Mike Locksley and the fact that Davis was already on campus at Illinois and Bussey was already committed to the Illini. Benn was part of a stellar Illinois class in 2007 that included Martez Wilson, Craig Wilson, and D'Angelo McCray.

Benn hit the ground running at Illinois, earning Big Ten Freshman of the year after setting school freshman records for receptions (43) and yards (521). He caught two TD passes.

As a sophomore in 2008, Benn caught 67 passes for 1,055 yards and three TDs, and accounted for 1,668 all-purpose yards. He was named All-Big Ten second team by the coaches, and first team by the national media. He also received fourth-team All-American honors from Phil Steele Magazine.

Benn was named All-Big Ten honorable mention as a junior after catching 49 passes for 645 yards.

Benn chose to forgo his final year of eligibility and enter the 2010 NFL draft. He left Illinois with 159 receptions for 2,221 yards, and 996 kick return yards. He caught a pass in 36 of 37 games played.

Benn was selected in the second round, No. 39 overall, by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in 2010. He has battled through a torn ACL, missing ample time the past two seasons.

Honorable mention: Timmy Jernigan, No. 17 in 2011, and Malachi Dupre, No. 17 in 2014. Jernigan was a three-year standout at Florida State starting his junior campaign on the Seminoles' BCS National title team. He was selected in the second round, No. 48 overall, in the 2014 NFL draft by the Baltimore Ravens. Dupre was named to the All-SEC Freshman team in 2014 after catching 14 passes for 318 yards and five TDs.
From time to time, our SEC reporters will give their takes on a burning question facing the league. They will both have strong opinions, but not necessarily the same view. We will let you decide which reporter is right.

Today's Take Two topic: With the NFL draft inching closer and closer, we're trying to figure out which SEC player will help his draft status the most between now and the NFL draft. Who can make the biggest jump, and who might need to make that jump to secure a better spot -- or a spot at all -- in the draft?

Take 1: David Ching

If history is any indication -- and it should be -- there are probably a couple dozen guys we could choose here and be correct. There is a reason that more players are drafted out of the SEC than any other conference on an annual basis: it’s the most talent-rich league out there.

For our purposes, I’ll go with a player who I covered over the past year at LSU, Danielle Hunter.

This is the kind of guy who makes draft analysts' jobs interesting, because it’s not what he has done thus far that would justify drafting Hunter. If he becomes an early-round pick, it will be because of expectations of future performance.

Hunter would probably be the first to say he has yet to play his best football after posting good-but-not-unbelievable stats in his junior season (73 tackles, 13 tackles for loss, 1.5 sacks). ESPN’s Todd McShay said this month that Hunter should return for his senior season, as that time would have allowed him to become more consistent and develop into an elite pass-rusher.

To date, he has not done that, as his total of 4.5 sacks over the past two seasons would prove.

Hunter jumped into the draft, anyway, and I still believe he will emerge as a much-discussed prospect over the next couple months despite the measly sack total.

For starters, he made huge strides in 2014 and typically did a good job setting the edge from his defensive end position. For another thing, just take a look at the guy. He’s enormous (LSU listed him at 6-foot-6) and he looks like he’s carved out of granite.

Hunter is a freak, and I can’t help but think an NFL team is going to see that physique and the way he improved in his first full season as a starter and opt to call his name in the first two rounds. It will be a risky pick based on potential, but it wouldn’t surprise me at all to see Hunter become a first-round/top-50 selection.

Take 2: Edward Aschoff

I really like that pick. I think Hunter could have really benefited from another year in school, but as David points out, he's a physical freak who could light up any pre-draft workout.

I'm going to stay in the SEC West and go with Ole Miss cornerback Senquez Golson, who had a great season in 2014 after being almost the forgotten man in Oxford. For three years, Golson suffered with consistency and maturity. But he put everything together in 2014, leading the SEC and ranking second nationally with 10 interceptions. He also tied for first in the SEC with 18 passes defended.

Golson, 5-9 and 176 pounds, is another one of those athletes capable of impressing a lot of pro teams with his intangibles on the field. What I think will really perk teams' interest when they watch film from the 2014 season is how much mental development he made on the field. A tremendously gifted athlete, Golson perfected the mind game in 2014 and was able to finally dissect and predict plays before they happened on the field. He felt lost at times in years prior, but was completely dialed in last fall, and it showed. That is really going to help him.

But what will also help are his natural physical abilities and instincts. Golson can fly to the ball, and though he isn't the biggest cornerback out there, he isn't afraid to get physical with bigger receivers. To him, size isn't an issue in coverage, and the way he found passes in the air last season was very impressive.

As Golson begins to work out for teams and scouts get a better look at him, he could really turn some heads. He'll need to impress in drills, but Golson has the athleticism to push his draft stock up in the coming months.

Weekend recruiting wrap: SEC 

January, 20, 2015
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National signing day is less than three weeks away and it’s coming down to crunch time. This past weekend was one of three remaining weekends for recruits to take official visits before signing day and some of the top prospects took full advantage of the available weekend. Auburn had a monster recruiting weekend and, though not to the same extent, so did Alabama, Texas A&M, Florida, Tennessee, Vanderbilt and others. Here’s a closer look at the top news from this past weekend.


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It’s that time again. Time to count down who the best players in the SEC were this past season.

21. Markus Golden, DE, Missouri
Shane Ray got most of the attention on Missouri’s defense, and rightfully so considering he led the league in sacks. But don’t sleep on Golden, who it could be argued had a more complete season than his running mate. Not only did the senior rack up 8.5 sacks, he had 20 tackles for loss and led the team in quarterback hurries (12), forced fumbles (3) and fumble recoveries (3).

22. A’Shawn Robinson, DL, Alabama
At first glance, Robinson wasn’t the player he was as a freshman in 2013 when he led the team with 5.5 sacks. But as an interior lineman in coach Nick Saban’s 3-4 system, stats don’t tell the full story -- at least not individual ones. Rather, the 6-foot-4, 320-pound sophomore was a vital cog in a defense that ranked 12th nationally, taking on countless double-teams in the running game while also lending a hand rushing the passer.

23. Nick Marshall, QB, Auburn
Auburn didn’t make it back to the national championship, but it wasn’t the fault of its quarterback. Rather, Marshall’s numbers were actually much better than his first season under center as he went from 1,976 yards passing to 2,531 and his quarterback rating jumped eight points. With a record of 20-7 as a starter, 6,425 total yards and 57 total touchdowns, Marshall’s career stands out in SEC history.

24. Myles Garrett, DE, Texas A&M
Speaking of ridiculously talented freshmen, how about Texas A&M’s stud defensive end? On an abysmal defense, Garrett, a former five-star prospect in his own right, shined. The 6-5, 250-pound rookie wound up finishing second in the SEC in sacks with 11.5. He also had 14 tackles for loss, 10 quarterback hurries and one blocked kick.

25. Leonard Fournette, RB, LSU
OK, so the Heisman Trophy talk was a little premature, but don’t let that obscure the solid freshman season the nation’s former No. 1-ranked recruit had. After all, in a backfield that was plenty deep with Terrence Magee and Kenny Hilliard, it was Fournette who led the team in rushing with 1,034 yards. In his final two games, he showed why there was such eagerness to see him in purple in gold as he ran for 289 yards and three touchdowns against Texas A&M and Notre Dame.

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Five-Star DE Jefferson Updates Recruitment
Recruiting reporter Derek Tyson stopped by No. 2 defensive end CeCe Jefferson's high school to talk with the five-star about final visit plans and a desire to be a part of a package deal with other heavy-hitting prospects.
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