This year was yet another banner year for SEC recruiting, with every side

A year ago, you would say that there was no way on God’s green earth that Ole Miss would have had a recruiting day like this one. But Hugh Freeze took over, took the team to an excellent year which included breaking a SEC losing streak, beating your biggest rival, taking LSU, Vanderbilt and Texas A&M to the last second, and thundering through a bowl game – as favorites.

HUGH FREEZE FRIES IT UP IN OXFORD

Well, there seems to be some belief about the Ole Miss program, because No.1 player in the nation – defensive tackle Robert Nkemdiche, plus highly-touted offensive tackle Laremie Tunsil, wide receiver Laquon Treadwell and Antonio Conner, all decided that they would like to play for the Rebels.

Why? We ask. The Twittersvere has sniped about Ole Miss putting dollars in players pockets, but we think it’s a factor of four things: Firstly, Freeze is a great recruiter and a great coach – see Ole Miss’ 2012 season. Secondly, Nkemdiche’s decision to go to Ole Miss – and the fact that the top players all visited Oxford on the same weekend – meant that they would “all play together”. They probably had a lot of “imagine what we could do for this school” conversations. Thirdly, there’s the Alabama factor: They probably wouldn’t have gotten the playing time as freshmen at Alabama, and there would be far more competition for a starting job. You can guarantee that all these players – bar injury, arrest or disastrous spring practices – will start for Ole Miss’ 2013 team. And fourthly, this is the SEC . They didn’t want to go anywhere else, and making a difference to a program like Ole Miss (which let’s fact, has been long-suffering) is bigger news that making a difference to team like Alabama or LSU, who have won National Championships recently.

ALABAMA SLAMMERS

As predicted, one of the best recruiters in the country, Nick Saban, put together probably the best recruiting group of the year…again. The draw of National Championships, the fact that Saban’s players win Championships and – particularly on the defensive side- go on to riches in the NFL, and the fact that Saban’s one of the best coaches in the country simply can’t be argued with. The ‘why would you want to go somewhere else?” argument crops up, and recruits simply nod their head and say: “You’re right”.

What’s interesting about these recruits is that while only one them (running back Derrick Henry) are five-star athletes, the rest of them are solid four-star players, and we like Dee Liner (great name!), Tim Williams and Jonathan Allen. They also stole DT A’Shawn Robinson from Texas, too, who was a long-time Longhorns recruit. Add in wide receiver Robert Foster, and another stablemate for T.J. Yeldon in Alvin Kamara, Tyren Jones and Altee Halfpenny and here’s the news: The Crimson Tide are absolutely loaded. It’s frightening.

LES MILES REBUILDING?

The off-season wasn’t kind for Les Miles’ team. If you were a junior, you had a chance at going pro and you played in purple and gold, it seemed as though you’d walk. It’s weird, because a bunch of the players of this year’s Tigers team would probably have benefitted from another year in college, but that’s just our opinion.

Anyway, LSU picked up defensive athlete Kendall Beckwith, two quarterbacks in Hayden Rettig and Anthony Jennings (which provides cover and competition for Zach Mettenberg), and four-star cornerback Jeryl Brazil, who – if he’s good enough – could start immediately after Eric Reid walked. The offensive line, which is going to need a little beefing up after a pretty poor 2012, will be helped by Ethan Pocic, who was offered by almost of LSU’s SEC rivals.

TEXAS AM-AZING?

If Ole Miss’ 2012 was great, Texas A&M’s 2012 was out of this world. Finished by drubbing Oklahoma in the Cotton Bowl, the Aggies also beat Alabama and should have beaten both LSU and Florida. Johnny Manziel won a nickname and a Heisman, and suddenly College Station was the place in Texas players wanted to be – not Austin.

Anyway, after the departure of sure-handed wide receiver Ryan Swope to the NFL draft (personally, he was the SEC’s best out-going WR last year, and should go and play with Ryan Tannehill at Miami if the ‘Fins have any sense (they won’t, and will instead go for Justin Hunter!), the signing of Ricky Seals-Jones and Sebastian LaRue is definitely going to help. Let’s hope they’re as good as their rankings promise, eh? Oh, and to back up Manziel, I really, really like the signing of Kenny Hill, a QB out of Southlake, TX. We were privileged to go and see him on the first game of the Texas high school football season, and all we could think was: “This kid’s got an arm and legs, folks”. He is the next Johnny Football, if given the chance. Check out what A&M fans think of him. There’s also a lot of love for Kohl Stewart, a QB who was also signed, but will he simply go and play baseball (Hill’s also like that, but if Kohl goes, he could decide to stay and start after Manziel graduates/leaves early for the NFL).

Sumlin sure signed a lot of players in this round of recruiting – 34.

AUBURN’S SOLID

The Lord did not listen to Gene Chizik or Mrs Chizik about Auburn’s 2012, and Mr Chizik was booted, and replaced by offensive co-ordinator supremo Gus Malzahn.

Under a lot of people’s noses, he stacked up the defense, picking up DEs Carl Lawson and Elijah Daniel, DTs Montravious Adams, and Ben Bradley (JC), and linebacker Cameron Toney, who was also offered by Alabama and LSU.

Offensively, the Tigers were also goddawful, but the signing of QBs Jeremy Johnson- who could well start with the lack of a good QB in Auburn’s system at the moment (Clay Travis in his pre-season QB rankings for last season said that ‘air’ was better than Kiehl Frazier – and he proved to be right). Auburn fans are also hoping that the character resurrection Malzahn helped with Cam Newton will also help for  former Georgia QB Nick Marshall, who was booted out of Athens after a ‘violation of team rules’ (see: stealing money ). If this works, Marshall could be an incredible asset. If not, he could be an incredible pain and the next Michael Dyer for Tigers fans. Wide receivers wise, we like the picks of Tony Stevens and Dominic Walker, which will give some kind of receiving talent to Auburn. Oh, and Peyton Barber, who also visited Tennessee and Ole Miss, opted to play in Auburn.

MISSISSIPPI ROLL? 

It’s funny, Mississippi State stole the headlines the day before Signing Day, and their hated rival stole the headlines ON Signing Day. WR Chad Bumphis stunned/told everyone what they already knew when he told recruits on Twitter on February 5th: “With NSD near, recruits listen. DON’T go with the money! After its gone ur stuck at a place you probably don’t even like for 3-5 years!” We all started wondering who he was talking about….

Anyway, Mississippi State still managed to get a class of 24 together, including a stablemate for Bumphis in Chad Ross and Jeremey Chappelle from juco. Defensively, they improved immediately (if this works out!) with defensive end Chris Jones and athlete Ashton Shumpert. Our big question with Ashton: Will he be able to dunk as will as Iman in Madison Square Garden?

The problem for Dan Mullen on National Signing Day is that automatically he’s going to get it in the ear from the Cowbellers. They’re furious that Ole Miss has put together an immense class (on paper), and they’re still furious about losing to Ole Miss – and Northwestern. If you don’t believe us, we think Mullen’s on the hot seat already. Sorry, Dan.

ARKANSAS=MAD

The term ‘Hog Wild’ is a great term, but after hearing Arkansas’ recruiting story today, we’ll just go with “Wild”. The nuttiest story was around recruit Alex Collins, who saw his own mother confiscate her son’s recruiting papers on accounts that she’d rather he stayed in native Florida (ie Miami) rather than go to Arkansas. True, it’s a hell of a trip to Fayetteville. Is it up there with Petrino’s motorcycle exploits, or John L. Smith’s press conferences? No, but it’s still pretty wild. Bret Bielma will be praying that the issue with the big-time running back will be sorted soon.

Anyway, after a slow recruiting season (funny what happens when your team has an interim head coach and your team is a major disappointment), Bielma showed that he can recruit – and recruit fast. Local boys Hunter Henry (TE), QB Austin Allen, LBs Brooks Ellis and Martrell Spaight all opted to stay in-state, and he beat ‘The U’ to offensive tackle Devon Kirkland , too.

Look, it’s not a fantastic class, but it’s one that Bielma can grow – especially with Allen, who may well start if Brandon Mitchell proves to be a poor replacement for the much-missed Tyler Wilson.

 

 

 

 

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