Texas A&M Aggies: Kyle Carta-Samuels

Signing day wrap: SEC

February, 5, 2014
Feb 5
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The Southeastern Conference had a strong finish the 2014 recruiting class. Alabama, which received a commitment from four-star outside linebacker Rashaan Evans (Auburn, Ala./Auburn) on Wednesday, finished with the top overall class by a landslide, and seven of the top 10 recruiting classes in the country are in the SEC. Here’s a closer look at some of the top news from around the SEC on national signing day.

Top class

[+] EnlargeRashaan Evans
AP Photo/Butch DillESPN 300 OLB Rashaan Evans, who chose Bama over Auburn, made a great class even better.
There is no question Alabama had the top overall class. The Crimson Tide finished with 27 signees, including 19 ranked in the ESPN 300 and five five-star prospects. In addition to the incredible class Alabama put together leading up to signing day, the Crimson Tide were also able to land Evans, the No. 52 player in the country. Evans chose Alabama over arch-rival and hometown Auburn Tigers.

The Alabama class was led by the No. 1 offensive tackle in the country, Cameron Robinson (West Monroe, La./West Monroe), the No. 2-ranked defensive end Da'Shawn Hand (Woodbridge, Va./Woodbridge) and the No. 2-ranked cornerback in the country Tony Brown (Beaumont, Texas/Ozen), who is already enrolled.

The SEC West alone had three schools, Alabama, LSU and Texas A&M, finish in the top five of the final recruiting team rankings. In all, 13 of the 14 SEC schools finished in the top 40 of the team recruiting rankings.

South Carolina, LSU and Georgia finish strong

South Carolina had arguably the best finish of any class in the SEC. The Gamecocks were able to flip ESPN 300 defensive end Dexter Wideman (Saluda, S.C./Saluda) from Florida State and defensive tackle Blake McClain (Jacksonville, Fla./Sandalwood) from Nebraska. They were also able to land ESPN 300 defensive backs Chris Lammons (Fort Lauderdale, Fla./Plantation) and Wesley Green (Lithonia, Ga./Martin Luther King) giving the Gamecocks a very athletic secondary.

If South Carolina was the best, LSU wasn’t far behind. The Tigers were able to land the No. 1 wide receiver in the country Malachi Dupre (River Ridge, La./John Curtis) and ESPN 300 defensive tackle Travonte Valentine (Hialeah, Fla./Champagnat Catholic). Dupre chose LSU over UCLA, Ole Miss, Alabama and FSU. Valentine had decommitted from three different schools – Louisville, Florida and Miami -- over the course of his recruitment before finally settling on LSU. The Tigers were also able to hang on to defensive end Davon Godchaux (Plaquemine, La./Plaquemine), who had been wavering on his commitment leading up to signing day.

Georgia, meanwhile, added five-star defensive end Lorenzo Carter (Norcross, Ga./Norcross), who chose the Bulldogs over LSU, FSU and Florida. They also added four-star wide receiver Isaiah McKenzie (Plantation, Fla./American Heritage). The ESPN 300 wide receiver wasn’t even considering Georgia until earlier this week, but a late offer from the Bulldogs was enough for McKenzie to pull the trigger and sign with Georgia.

Several schools lose commits

Signing day was full of surprises, including several prospects who backed off of their commitments and signed with a different school. Three-star defensive tackle Cory Thomas (McCalla, Ala./McAdory), a long-time Tennessee commit, spurned the Volunteers and signed with Mississippi State. But not all was good news for Mississippi State. Ole Miss was able to steal junior college defensive back Tee Shepard (Fresno, Calif./Holmes CC), the No. 22-ranked player in the ESPN JC 50. The Vols took another hit when three-star offensive tackle Orlando Brown Jr. (Duluth, Ga./Peachtree Ridge) unexpectedly signed with Oklahoma. The Volunteers, however, were able to land four-star defensive tackle Michael Sawyers (Nashville/The Ensworth School), and had the No. 5 recruiting class in the country -- one that included 11 players ranked in the ESPN 300.

Quarterback Treon Harris (Miami/Booker T. Washington) backed off his pledge to FSU and signed with Florida. Offensive tackle Andrew Mike (Tucson, Ariz./Sabino) was only a part of Vanderbilt’s class for one short day, but the three-star tackle flipped on Tuesday night and signed with Florida on Wednesday. Four-star Alabama safety commit Chris Williams (Kingsland, Ga./Camden Co.) flipped and signed with UCF because of personal family reasons. Four-star wide receiver DeSean Blair (Jacksonville, Fla./Sandalwood) flipped his commitment from Louisville and signed with Missouri.

Vanderbilt able to rebound

The Vanderbilt class may not be filled with four- and five-star prospects, but the job new head coach Derek Mason did to rebuild the Commodores’ class is nothing short of amazing. After James Franklin left to take the head coaching job at Penn State and a string of decommitments followed, Vanderbilt was down to eight verbal commitments. After an impressive few weeks of recruiting the Commodores finished with 22 signees, including 17 prospects ranked three stars or higher.

The class is led by ESPN 300 defensive tackle Nifae Lealao (Sacramento, Calif./Capital Christian) and four-star running back Dallas Rivers (Stone Mountain, Ga./Stephenson). After losing ESPN 300 quarterback Kyle Carta-Samuels to Washington, Vanderbilt was able to flip Pitt quarterback commit Wade Freebeck (Fort Lauderdale, Fla/St. Thomas Aquinas) and former ECU commit Shawn Stankavage (Raleigh, N.C./Cardinal Gibbons).

Weekend recruiting wrap: SEC 

January, 13, 2014
Jan 13
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As the last weekend before the dead period comes to an end, there is still plenty of recruiting news throughout the Southeastern Conference. Vanderbilt suffered through a difficult weekend, there were a few important commitments and some key prospects backed off their pledges. Here’s a closer look at the top recruiting news around the SEC:

SEC ESPN 300 analysis 

October, 29, 2013
10/29/13
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Several SEC targets and commits made big moves in the updated ESPN 300 rankings. Georgia had two commits make big jumps, while Tennessee didn't fare as well. Could the SEC make a huge splash in the top 10 of the rankings? Here's a closer look at what the new ESPN 300 means in the SEC.

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Weekend recruiting wrap: SEC 

October, 21, 2013
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On the field there was some huge upsets over the weekend in the Southeastern Conference and off the field there was a ton of recruiting news. Here's a closer look at the latest recruiting news in the SEC:

Biggest commitment: After watching Texas A&M's defensive performance on Saturday, there is no question five-star defensive end Myles Garrett's (Arlington, Texas/James Martin) commitment to the Aggies on Friday was the biggest recruiting news of the weekend. Garrett had been a long-time Aggie lean and finally decided to pull the trigger.

For the Aggies, Garrett becomes their 15th commitment including 10 that are ranked in the ESPN 300. Garrett is the No. 7-ranked player in the nation.

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BEAVERTON, Ore. -- At the Elite 11, throw the rankings out the window. It doesn't matter which quarterback is a five-star or which has a three-star grade entering the event. What matters most is what happens on the field, during chalk talk and from repetition by repetition.

After three days of competition, Elite 11 coach Trent Dilfer said that in no order Sean White, Kyle Carta-Samuels, Kyle Allen, Deshaun Watson, Brad Kaaya and David Blough have emerged as the best of the 18 at the event.

White, the four-star pocket passer from Ft. Lauderdale (Fla.) University School of Nova South, continues to be one of the event's most pleasant surprises. Sure his offer list is quite long and includes Boston College, Cincinnati, USF, Syracuse, Wake Forest, West Virginia, as well as heavy attention from a number of SEC and ACC schools, but few expected him to steal headlines like he has.

"His accurate isn't just accurate," Dilfer said. "It's exact. It's an NFL type of ball. I'm stealing this from Steve Young, but he has an artistic ball. He paints a picture with his ball. He just doesn't throw a hinge. He throws the receiver open with the hinge. He just doesn't throw a skinny post. He sends a message with his skinny post.

"Johnny Manziel and Tajh Boyd had a 10-minute conversation about him today. His pass proficiency blows your mind."

While some of the other highly ranked passers haven't quite hit their stride yet, both Deshaun Watson (Gainesville, Ga./Gainesville) and Kyle Allen (Scottsdale, Ariz./Desert Mountain) have.

Watson, the No. 1 dual-threat quarterback and highest ranked player at the Elite 11, showed why Clemson made him its highest priority recruit for the 2014 class with a tremendous first three days. The same can be said about Allen, a Texas A&M commit who is the third-ranked pocket passer in the country.

"He's Mr. Consistency," Dilfer said. "He's got nothing working against him at this point. He does nothing bad. He does everything better than good. I'm going to challenge him to be great at The Opening."

Don't have to worry about that. With the lessons Allen is taking from the Elite 11, he's up for just about any challenge.

"This is not only improving me as a quarterback," Allen said. "It's improving every facet of my game and every facet of my life. They're giving us techniques on how to calm your breathing down. They have a psychological coach here. It's just the little things that give you the edge up on everyone else."

Watson, meanwhile, might have started slowly but picked up the pace quickly.

"Deshaun started a little sloppy, to be honest. He's an East Coast guy coming west, so I'm sensitive to that, especially the first day of the event. He lit everything up yesterday. He's a much better passer than he was in Atlanta. He is a sponge. For a highly touted kid that's had so many accolades for years, he embraces the journey of getting better with the best of them."

Miami commitment Brad Kaaya of West Hills (Calif.) Chaminade Prep was one of the top six passers after Saturday's drills, and he carried it through to Sunday. The 6-foot-4, 213-pounder showed early and often throughout Sunday's practice why the Hurricanes ventured all the way across the country to snag his commitment.

"He makes the extremely difficult look really easy," Dilfer said. "When you're looking for greatness in any walk of life, you want to find somebody that makes extremely difficult look easy. And he makes everything look incredibly easy."

Carrollton (Texas) Creekview three-star quarterback David Blough continues to turn heads as one of the event's biggest surprises. The Purdue commitment ranks as the nation's No. 42 pocket passer, but here he's showing he belongs with the best of the best. The same can be said about Kyle Carta-Samuels (San Jose, Calif./Bellarmine College Prep). The Vanderbilt commitment ranks as four-star prospect, but he has wowed with his intensity.

"David is so fiercely competitive," Dilfer said. "He's so determined to be the best he possibly can be. He doesn't let the pressure of that weigh him down.

"Much like David, Kyle's fiercely competitive. On a score of 1 to 5, he's a 6 on the competitive temperament. Trainability is another one of our evaluation points, and he'd be a 6 there again. His passing proficiency, which I thought would be in a 3, is probably 4-plus. He's hit the balance there."

Mitch Sherman contributed to this story.

QBs impress as Elite 11 begins 

June, 30, 2013
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BEAVERTON, Ore. -- Through two days of competition at the Elite 11 finals, Trent Dilfer identified Deshaun Watson (Gainesville, Ga./Gainesville) as among the most impressive of the 18 quarterbacks in attendance at Nike headquarters.

No surprise there, as the Clemson commit is the nation's top-ranked quarterback, No. 15 overall in the ESPN 300.

Texas A&M pledge Kyle Allen (Scottsdale, Ariz./Desert Mountain), the third-ranked pocket-passer QB and 99th overall prospect, also caught Dilfer’s eye.


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