LSU Tigers: Bob Stoops

Now that signing day is over and the fax machine is allowed another 364 days of rest, it’s time to look back on who did the most on the recruiting trail in the SEC.

It’s important to note that this is not purely a rank of who had the best class. You can go to ESPN’s class rankings for that information. Rather, this list took into account the state of each program and how it performed against expectations, hence Kentucky’s lofty standing.

No. 1: Alabama
Rundown: The class wasn’t just No. 1 overall, it was No. 1 by a mile. Alabama cleaned up with one-third of all the five-star prospects in the ESPN 300, the highest ranking of which was offensive tackle Cameron Robinson, who could challenge for immediate playing time as a freshman. Along those lines, coach Nick Saban and his staff didn’t just sign the best prospects, they signed those that fit the program’s needs. The offensive line class could be the best in Saban’s history, the cornerback class promises two future stars and quarterback David Cornwell helps expand the field of candidates to replace AJ McCarron.

Instant impact signee: Tony Brown won’t be the only five-star cornerback on campus, but he’ll be the first one there. The speedy track star enrolled in January and will compete in spring practice. With both starting cornerback spots open, he’ll have a chance to start right away.

No. 2: Kentucky
Rundown: This ain’t your grandfather’s Kentucky. It’s not your father’s or your older brother’s, either. Mark Stoops didn’t have the highest ranked recruiting class in the country or even the SEC, but the top-20 class far outpaced even the highest expectations . The signees speaks for themselves -- an infusion of young talent desperately needed for the road ahead -- but the overall statement Stoops and his staff made going out and landing the best of the best was huge. Nabbing four-star defensive lineman Matt Elam from Alabama sent shockwaves through college football. It not only said that Kentucky was here to play; it’s here to play and win.

Instant impact signee: There’s opportunity abound in Lexington. At one point, a walk-on was starting at receiver against Alabama. With that, four-star Thaddeus Snodgrass has the athleticism (4.5 second 40-yard dash) to provide a quick spark to the Wildcats’ offense.

No. 3: Tennessee
Rundown: No program brought in more young talent than the Vols. All told, Tennessee signed 35 prospects, far more than any BCS-level program. Coach Butch Jones joked that he’ll have an all-freshman team next year, and with 11 ESPN 300 players in the class it’s not that farfetched an idea. Not only did Jones lock down in-state stars like Josh Malone, Todd Kelly Jr. and Jalen Hurd, he reached across borders and landed LaVon Pearson and Dillon Bates. Where his first recruiting class in 2013 was more about creating buzz, 2014 was about fulfilling a promise.

Instant impact signee: Jones and his staff are high on junior college offensive tackle Dontavius Blair, who enrolled at Tennessee early. Considering the Vols are completely reloading on the offensive line, the 6-7, 307-pound Blair will have the chance to step in and play from Day 1.

No. 4: LSU
Rundown: Les Miles was on the hook after losing several in-state stars to programs like Alabama, Texas A&M and Florida. Seeing Cam Robinson, Speedy Noil and Laurence Jones commit elsewhere cast LSU’s recruiting efforts in a bad light. But that all changed when Leonard Fournette, the No. 1 overall prospect in the country, announced that he would be a Tiger. And on Wednesday, Malachi Dupre, the No. 1 wide receiver in the nation, followed suit. By the end of the day, 11 of the top 25 players in Louisiana ended up at LSU.

Instant impact signee: Fournette is the No. 1 overall prospect for a reason. He’s got all the physical tools and the mindset to play at the next level. Because of that he’s been compared favorably to former Sooner Adrian Peterson. With Jeremy Hill off to the NFL, Fournette can insert himself into the running back rotation right away.

No. 5: Texas A&M
Rundown: In 2012, Texas A&M signed the 15th best recruiting class in the country. In 2013, it joined the SEC and rose to eighth in the rankings. And on Wednesday, it completed that climb by finishing fourth. Kevin Sumlin and Co. signed an impressive 10 ESPN 300 recruits, including the No. 1 defensive end, the No. 1 athlete and the No. 1 pro-style quarterback. Signing a pair of junior college offensive linemen -- Avery Gennesy and Jermaine Eluemunor -- solidifies depth on a line moving on without Jake Matthews.

Instant impact signee: There’s no doubt Texas A&M needs help on the defense. Defensive end Myles Garrett's body is college-ready (6-5, 255 pounds) and he’s ripped to shreds. If he can pick up the defense and show he's capable of holding up against the run, he could play soon.

No. 6: Florida
Rundown: It’s the win coach Will Muschamp so desperately needed. Keeping together this class after one of the most disastrous seasons in program history was a remarkable feat. In all, Florida signed 13 ESPN 300 commitments, including seven players who rank among the top 10 nationally at their position. Even more impressive was that Muschamp sold Florida against some other top programs, flipping four-star Florida State quarterback commitment Treon Harris to cross the state to Gainesville.

Instant impact signee: Jalen Tabor has as good a chance as anyone to start at cornerback opposite Vernon Hargreaves III, the former standout freshman whose footsteps he's trying to follow. Florida coaches are high on his talent and skill level, and of course, being an early enrollee helps.

No. 7: Georgia
Rundown: Mark Richt got his guy in Lorenzo Carter. Without him, the entire outlook of the class changes. While it wasn’t high on numbers -- 21 signees in all -- the quality of Georgia's class was impressive. Richt signed 11 ESPN 300 recruits, including the No. 2 and No. 7 running backs in the country. Four-star athlete Isaiah McKenzie was a big signee as well. He’s small in size (5-8), but his speed and quickness could translate to early playing time.

Instant impact signee: “That defense is going to be nasty,” Carter said. “And I plan on being a part of it.” With that, Georgia got a taste of the energy the No. 3-rated defensive end will bring to Athens. His ability as a pass-rusher will help the Bulldogs right away, and if he adds a few more pounds he could develop into an every-down lineman.

No. 8: Auburn
Rundown: It’s not always about who you sign, but who you miss. The loss of Rashaan Evans still stings a day later, but Auburn landed commitments from offensive lineman Braden Smith and defensive end Andrew Williams to close out what was already an impressive class. In all, the Tigers have 12 signees in the ESPN 300 and two ranked in the ESPN JC 50. Despite losing Evans to the Tide, Auburn signed four of the state’s top 10 players, including its top-ranked player in the class, running back Racean Thomas.

Instant impact signee: Nobody is more qualified to step in and contribute than wide receiver D'haquille Williams. He’s the No. 1 junior college player in the country, and he’s already on campus. Don’t be surprised if he becomes the team’s go-to wide receiver by the start of next season.

No. 9: Ole Miss
Rundown: The class wasn’t filled with stars like the year before, but coach Hugh Freeze and his staff didn’t let up in 2014. The Rebels went after more seasoned recruits, signing six players from either junior college, prep schools or delayed enrollment. Actually, this year’s class might end up having more depth than the previous year’s as 15 four-star recruits signed in 2014, compared to 12 four-star recruits and two five-star recruits in 2013. With players like Garrald McDowell and C.J. Hampton, there’s plenty to build around.

Instant impact signee: Ole Miss needed help on the offensive line and four-star Rod Taylor could be the man to give them a boost. The No. 2 offensive guard in the ESPN 300 and the Rebels’ highest ranked signee enrolled in school early and will compete in spring practice.

No. 10: South Carolina
Rundown: It wasn’t the most heralded class in Steve Spurrier’s tenure at South Carolina, but it didn’t lack talent, especially on defense where the Gamecocks signed four defensive linemen and four cornerbacks. Stealing defensive tackle Dexter Wideman from Florida State and nabbing cornerback Chris Lammons from Wisconsin’s sights was huge in moving South Carolina up from 27th in the class rankings to 19th.

Instant impact signee: He’ll no doubt add a few pounds to his 6-3, 250-pound frame, but no amount of weight will help Dante Sawyer's attempts to fill Jadeveon Clowney's sizable shoes at South Carolina. That’s not Sawyer’s job as a freshman, though. The four-star prospect should help the Gamecocks pass rush and is versatile enough to play either outside linebacker or defensive end.

No. 11: Arkansas
Rundown: When I spoke to Bret Bielema during the season, he told me that he wasn’t going after guys based on their rankings. He wanted “his guys,” guys who fit his blue-collar system. And he did exactly that with six of his top eight signees coming on the offensive and defensive lines. Throw in Rafe Peavey, the No. 10 dual-threat quarterback, and Arkansas’ got a good foundation to build upon.

Instant impact signee: With starting defensive tackle Byran Jones gone, the door is open for big Bijhon Jackson, who comes in at a hefty 6-2 and 330 pounds. The No. 6-ranked defensive tackle is one of three ESPN 300 member in Arkansas’ recruiting class.

No. 12: Mississippi State
Rundown: The Bulldogs’ 2014 signing class was on the small side with 23 signees, and it was planned that way. With so few seniors, coach Dan Mullen chose to be selective. Still, the class left something to be desired without a single player ranked in the top 10 nationally at their position. It was good to see the Bulldogs get so many in-state recruits, but the furthest their reach went was to Texas, Alabama and Georgia. That said, Mississippi State fans will be glad to see that both of its ESPN 300 signees -- Jamoral Graham and Jesse Jackson -- were skill players on offense, an area in need of development.

Instant impact signee: There’s plenty of opportunity in the Bulldogs’ backfield now that LaDarius Perkins is off to the NFL. Enter Aeris Williams, a four-star prospect from Mississippi. With Dak Prescott at quarterback, Williams could make hay on the read-option.

No. 13: Missouri
Rundown: Maybe the SEC East title and the trip to Atlanta didn’t amount to much on the recruiting trail. Maybe the thrilling Cotton Bowl win didn’t impress enough recruits either. Whatever it was, coach Gary Pinkel didn’t exactly make hay on signing day. Landing just two ESPN 300 commitments was underwhelming, as was the grand total of four four-star recruits. The signing of Andy Bauer, a four-star offensive tackle who was targeted by Alabama, does engender some hope. Still, as we watch Texas A&M take advantage of the bump it received in recruiting since joining the SEC, one has to wonder why Missouri hasn’t done the same.

Instant impact signee: Brandon Lee, the nation's No. 17 outside linebacker, comes in at a healthy 6-2 and 210 pounds. Given that two of the Tigers’ three starting linebackers were seniors last season, Lee will have a chance to come in and contribute right away.

No. 14: Vanderbilt
Rundown: With so little time to recruit, Derek Mason couldn’t put together the class he wanted. And with former Vanderbilt coach James Franklin poaching so many of his former recruits at Penn State, it only made matters worse. So don’t judge Mason’s first class and its two ESPN 300 signees too harshly. But do give him credit for convincing Nifae Lealao, the No. 20 defensive tackle, to come to Nashville. The four-star prospect is among the most highly rated recruits to ever sign with the Commodores.

Instant impact signee: It isn’t just Jordan Matthews who's leaving. So is Jonathan Krause, who started 11 of 13 games last season. Enter three-star Rashad Canty. He’s not the most highly ranked recruit, but the 6-3, 201-pound receiver has the tools to make a push for reps early.

Early Offer: It’s a wrap 

February, 6, 2014
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The Early Offer is RecruitingNation's regular feature, giving you a daily dose of recruiting in the mornings. Today’s offerings: Alabama’s 2014 class is special, but is it the best class ever? Who were my biggest winners Wednesday, and what can we look forward to with the class of 2015?

Special class for Bama

Ranking the SEC's bowl games

December, 10, 2013
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What's the most interesting bowl matchup of them all? Auburn-FSU with a BCS championship hanging in the balance, of course.

But what about after that fairly obvious choice? ESPN.com's Mark Schlabach attempted to rank them all from 1-35 on the college football homepage.

For our purposes, let's take a look at where Schlabach ranked the bowl games for the nine SEC teams that aren't Auburn that will appear in the postseason.

No. 4: Alabama-Oklahoma in the Allstate Sugar Bowl: Sooners coach Bob Stoops has talked a big game about how tough the SEC actually is. He's about to get a close look at perhaps the toughest customer in the whole league.

No. 5: Missouri-Oklahoma State in the AT&T Cotton Bowl: This should be a fun matchup between former Big 12 rivals who feature explosive offenses. Just like the old days.

No. 6: South Carolina-Wisconsin in the Capital One Bowl: If not for an inexplicable midseason loss to Tennessee, South Carolina would have been in the thick of the BCS picture. A win here would be a proper sendoff in what will almost certainly be Jadeveon Clowney's final game as a Gamecock.

No. 9: LSU-Iowa in the Outback Bowl: No Zach Mettenberger for LSU, but Anthony Jennings' debut at quarterback against a stout Iowa defense could make this one interesting.

No. 10: Georgia-Nebraska in the TaxSlayer.com Gator Bowl: Yeah, it's a rematch from last season's Capital One Bowl, but it should still be another tight contest between injury-riddled teams that will have had another month to heal.

No. 11: Texas A&M-Duke in the Chick-fil-A Bowl: If this is Johnny Manziel's final game as an Aggie, he'll have an opportunity to throw against a Duke team that is playing in back-to-back bowl games for the first time in school history. This game delivers an exciting result almost every year, and this season could turn into a shootout.

No. 22: Ole Miss-Georgia Tech in the Franklin American Mortgage Music City Bowl: Facing Georgia Tech's option offense is always a challenge, and the young Rebels will need to slow down the Yellow Jackets in order to cap another year of improvement under Hugh Freeze.

No. 23: Vanderbilt-Houston in the BBVA Compass Bowl: Commodores fans were angry that they didn't get invited to a more prestigious bowl after Vandy's second straight eight-win regular season. They'll need to turn out at Legion Field to prove their point.

No. 24: Mississippi State-Rice in the AutoZone Liberty Bowl: The Bulldogs barely slipped into bowl season by beating Ole Miss in overtime. Now they'll have to take down Conference USA champ Rice, which won its first outright league title since 1957 when it blasted Marshall last weekend.

SEC lunchtime links

December, 9, 2013
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We're entering the dreary time of year with no SEC football Saturdays ahead for quite a while. But with bowl season still in front of us, there's plenty to discuss. Let's take a look at what's happening around the league.
The Early Offer is RecruitingNation's regular feature, giving you a daily dose of recruiting in the mornings. Today's offerings: Five-star running back Leonard Fournette proved why he’s ranked as the nation’s No. 1 player; Oklahoma didn’t land any commits, but its official visit weekend was still a big hit with many high-profile recruits; and Florida running back commit Dalvin Cook continues to set up visits, which has to be making Gator coaches nervous.

He’s the real deal
Leonard Fournette (New Orleans, La./St. Augustine) erased any doubt as to who the true No. 1 player in the country is on Friday night with a Herculean effort against defending national championship River Ridge (La.) John Curtis on ESPN2. Fournette rushed for 262 yards on 36 carries and had a 27-yard touchdown late in the fourth quarter that led to the game-winning two-point conversation. Fournette used everything in his repertoire -- highlighted by his speed, vision and pure brute strength -- to lead his team to victory. “I had to put my foot on the gas, put the pedal to the medal,” Fournette told the NOLA.com. His performance in front of a national television audience went noticed by many, including rapper Lil Wayne, who tweeted “Leonard Fournette is the truth.”

Early Offer: OU going back to Cali 

October, 2, 2013
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The Early Offer is RecruitingNation's regular feature, giving you a daily dose of recruiting in the mornings. Today's offerings: Oklahoma hopes its talent pipeline to California hasn’t dried up, ESPN 2 and ESPNU have Friday night broadcasts that feature around 10 ESPN 300 prospects; and even without a head coach USC remains active on the recruiting trail.

#WeekendoftheWest
Bob Stoops has never shied away from bringing in prospects for game weekends, and Saturday’s Big 12 Conference matchup against TCU is another opportunity for the Sooners to impress. Five-star cornerback Adoree' Jackson (Gardena, Calif./Serra), four-star running back Joe Mixon (Oakley, Calif./Freedom), four-star linebacker Dwight Williams (Gardena, Calif./Serra), four-star athlete Michiah Quick (Fresno, Calif./East), four-star receiver Dallis Todd and four-star defensive tackle Ainuu Taua (Lompoc, Calif./Lompoc) will be in town for official visits. The Sooners have had a lot of success out West in the past and hope to keep their Golden State pipeline open. “California is right there with Oklahoma and Texas as far as importance to us,” one Sooner insider said. “We believe we can go into California and compete with Pac-12 schools because we have a lot to offer, and we have been quite successful attracting talented players to come to OU.” The Sooners currently have nine California players on its roster, including impact players like running back Brennan Clay, receiver Jalen Saunders and running back Damien Williams.

3-point stance: First impressions

September, 2, 2013
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Three-Point Stance, It’s Only One Game, But … Edition

1. … Washington backed up the confidence that head coach Steve Sarkisian placed in a team that has been 7-6 for the last three years. The Huskies moved back into their home after a $280-million renovation and looked as if they couldn’t have been more comfortable. The 38-6 victory over Boise State, the Broncos’ first loss by more than six points in six years, is evidence enough. But the 592 yards of offense without suspended preseason All-American tight end Austin Seferian-Jenkins is a sign that the Pac-12 North may be the best division in the FBS.

2. … the union of LSU offensive coordinator Cam Cameron and senior quarterback Zach Mettenberger appears to be a success. Mettenberger completed 16-of-32 passes for 251 yards and a touchdown, nearly doubling his raw QBR of a year ago (74.6/3did 9.3). Moreover, Mettenberger put up those numbers against TCU, year in and year out one of the toughest defensive teams in the nation. Mettenberger made big, precise throws, putting them in places where defenders couldn’t reach them. That’s what NFL quarterbacks do.

3. … Oklahoma may be out of its long defensive slump. The team that allowed at least 34 points in four of its last five games whitewashed Louisiana-Monroe, 34-0. That’s the Sooners’ first shutout in three seasons, and came against a team that went 8-5 last season and has eight returning offensive starters, including four-year starting quarterback Kolton Browning. The Sooners allowed 166 total yards and only 2-of-16 third-down conversions. In other words, they looked like a Bob Stoops team.
The Early Offer is RecruitingNation's latest feature, giving you a daily dose of recruiting in the mornings. Today's offerings: Bob Stoops and Urban Meyer join Twitter, demonstrating the power the social media vehicle has on recruits; Cameron Robinson’s decision is pushed back to next week, and one team is feeling better about its chances; and former four-star athlete Chase Abbington is making a big splash in the junior college ranks.

Welcome to Twitter Bob Stoops, Urban Meyer
Twitter has become one of the biggest recruiting tools for college football coaches. Not only do they use it for communication with prospects, since the rules on electronic communication are more lax than phone calls. Tweets are also a great way to share recruiting propaganda and are more likely to be read compared to letters that pile up in a recruit’s mailbox. The latest coaches to embrace the new recruiting world order are Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops and Ohio State’s Urban Meyer. “My good friend Bob Stoops talked me into this Twitter stuff -- let’s see how it goes,” Meyer tweeted Tuesday after opening an account and quickly gaining 30,000 followers. Stoops has had his own Twitter account for about a year but it had always been set to private -- until Wednesday. One of his first tweets was about going after national championship No. 9. It was recruiting through social media at its finest.

Robinson pushes back announcement date

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The Big 12-SEC dream games

May, 16, 2013
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The SEC and Big 12 announced an annual challenge on the basketball court, but colleague Edward Aschoff wondered what it would look like if that challenge extended to the football field.

There are already two games on the schedule this season -- between TCU and LSU, and Oklahoma State and Mississippi State. What else would I like to see?

Let me start by saying that renewing the Texas-Texas A&M and Missouri-Kansas rivalries are a given. I'm omitting those matchups, but I'd love to see them.

Let's get started:

Oklahoma State vs. Alabama: OSU narrowly missed out on playing for the national title back in 2011, and both are among their conference favorites again in 2013. When the BCS "snubbed" the Pokes after the 2011 regular season, OSU coach Mike Gundy half-jokingly suggested these two play for the right to play LSU in the title game. It would be fun to see this one finally played out on the field.

Baylor vs. LSU: Straight up offense vs. defense. That's the Big 12 vs. SEC debate at its heart. Baylor just might be the Big 12's best offense, and LSU will put together another strong defense. These are the matchups we want to see. The Big 12 has faltered on the big stage, helping the SEC stretch its run of national titles, but seeing Bryce Petty sling it around against an athletic defense would be a lot of fun.

Texas vs. Arkansas: Arkansas' exit from the Southwest Conference helped usher in the birth of the Big 12 after the SWC crumbled. Texas has bigger rivals like Oklahoma and Texas A&M, but these two played some of the greatest games in college football history, and as an Arkansas native, I've seen up close how much Razorbacks fans detest the Longhorns to this day. The result would be a great game and a hyped atmosphere.

TCU vs. Texas A&M: Texas A&M fans take exception to the idea that TCU was an on-field "upgrade" over the Aggies in the Big 12. The Aggies largely struggled in the Big 12 after some early success and a Big 12 title under R.C. Slocum. Since leaving for the SEC, the Aggies have gone nowhere but up, and ended 2012 as the hottest team in college football. Aggies quarterback Johnny Manziel has a Heisman Trophy. Could he shred the Frogs? Want to prove TCU is not an upgrade? Beat TCU on the field.

Kansas State vs. Florida: Kansas State is perpetually underrated and wins with a bunch of junior college guys, and high school players overlooked by major programs. Florida won big under Urban Meyer, but has been largely overrated since Meyer left and was whacked by Louisville to end 2012. The Gators would be suiting up an army of recruiting stars, but could Bill Snyder, the Manhattan Magician, grab a win for the Big 12?
Oklahoma vs. Georgia: Mark Richt and Bob Stoops have one big thing in common: Neither fan base truly appreciates what their coach has accomplished. Consider this an opportunity for both to quiet the hot-seat talk. It's been a lot more intense for Richt, who endured a 6-7 season back in 2010, but he's won the SEC East in each of the past two seasons. Stoops has averaged just over 10 wins a season at Oklahoma, and Richt has averaged just under 10 wins. Call this the "Underappreciated Bowl."

2014 safety John Bonney on the rise 

October, 10, 2012
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For Houston Lamar safety John Bonney, this year has been a little bit of an adjustment.

The 2014 prospect, who traditionally plays safety, has spent a lot of time at cornerback this year. The transition hasn't been much trouble for the 6-foot, 175-pound prospect -- he has three interceptions in the Redskins' first five games.


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