National Signing Day reaches its fever pitch Wednesday, when hundreds of the nation’s top recruits pick where they plan to play in the college ranks. The SEC and Alabama once again look poised to sweep up the most talented players in the country.
Alabama, Tennessee and Georgia are the top three programs in Scout.com’s current class ranking, and by throwing in Texas A&M, the SEC as a whole has four of the top 10 classes. It's more of the same for Alabama, which has secured a top-three class the last seven seasons.
The Crimson Tide and head coach Nick Saban have already received 23 commitments, with 10 of those falling under Scout.com’s Top 100. Alabama owned the No. 6-ranked defense in the country last year, and will add the country’s No. 2 ranked cornerback and the top prospect out of Texas in Kendall Sheffield.
Strengthening his in-state recruiting success, Saban also locked down 6-foot-2, 335-pound defensive tackle Daron Payne out of Shades Valley High School in Birmingham, Alabama.
With top running back T.J. Yeldon entering the 2015 NFL Draft, the Tide are reloading with Damien Harris out of Madison Southern High School in Berea, Kentucky. Harris is considered the No. 5 running back prospect in the country and last month he verbally committed to Saban and Alabama despite heavy interest from defending national champion Ohio State and the Tide's in-state rival Auburn.
Now in his third season in Knoxville, Tennessee head coach Butch Jones continues the program’s turnaround with the No. 2-ranked class. In 2014, the Volunteers had the No. 4 class, and despite being one of the youngest teams in the country they finished 7-6 overall and nearly upended both Georgia and Alabama in the regular season.
Jones can build on that success with the likes of defensive end Kyle Phillips, middle linebacker Darrin Kirkland, and No. 1 defensive tackle Kahlil McKenzie.
Considered the top player in all of California, McKenzie has the potential to become the Vols' most prolific player in years. He is listed at 6'4, 340 pounds and scouts have marveled at his quickness.
As for the Bulldogs, they didn’t have to look to far to strengthen their frontline. They’ve already received a commitment from defensive tackle Trenton Thompson out of Albany, Georgia, and defensive tackle Jonathan Ledbetter from Tucker, Georgia.
Thompson, standing at 6'4 and 311 pounds, is ESPN’s No. 3 prospect overall and Scout’s No. 2, and could immediately help a Georgia defense that was the fifth-worst in the SEC against the run last season.
Not to be outdone by their SEC rivals, the LSU head coach Les Miles has also secured some top line talent. The Tigers signed or have commitments from six of Scout’s Top 100 players, including two five-star recruits in cornerbacks Donte Jackson and Kevin Toliver.
Both Jackson and Toliver were ranked the best players in Louisiana, but LSU had a bit of an inside track with the latter. Kevin’s older brother, Terrence, starred as a wide receiver for the Tigers and helped them claim a national title back in 2008.
There are still some major recruits who are undecided, and USC appears to be the SEC’s main competitor. The Trojans locked down eight top-100 recruits, the second most after Alabama, headlined by five-star outside linebacker Osa Masina and offensive tackle Chuma Edoga.
USC head coach Steve Sarkisian has already shown the ability to steal some talent right from under the SEC’s powerhouses, while keeping California’s top prospects at home. The massive Edoga hails from McEachern High School in Powder Springs, Georgia, while cornerback Ykili Ross, safety Marvell Tell, receiver Isaac Whitney and tight end Tyler Petite are all expected to remain in California.
It's unclear if Sarkisian has an inside track on undeclared Long Beach Poly cornerback Iman Marshall. ESPN’s No. 4 overall prospect has received offers from nearly every major program in the country, but he’s officially visited only Notre Dame, Florida State, Michigan and LSU.
With the No. 5 class, it’s possible Urban Meyer could be building an Ohio State dynasty of sorts with most of this year’s championship squad returning. The Buckeyes haven’t received a commitment from a five-star recruit yet, but over the last two months they picked up two of Ohio’s top defensive tackles in Davon Hamilton and Robert Landers, along with running back Mike Weber, a native of Detroit.
Weber, tagged as the top player out of Michigan, should provide considerable depth behind last year’s top rusher Ezekiel Elliott.
Notre Dame’s Brian Kelly could also bring in one of the best classes in the country, currently standing at No. 7 on Scout’s list. The Fighting Irish already have a firm commitment from middle linebacker Te’Von Coney, the No. 2 ranked player from Florida, and received a verbal commitment last month from the No. 2 tight end in the nation Alize Jones from Bishop Gorman High School in Las Vegas, Nevada. Jones plays alongside rapper Snoop Dogg's son, Cordell Broadus, at Bishop Gorman. Broadus, rated in the top 50 wide receivers in the nation, has also listed Notre Dame among his possible schools.
There’s also a very good chance the SEC’s schools could be even stronger by the end of signing day. Some of the highest rated recruits have yet to even verbally commit to any one school, including defensive end Byron Cowart and offensive tackle Martez Ivey, both out of Florida.
The No. 1 and No. 5 recruits on ESPN’s 300 list, respectively, both could swing the class rankings for any of the aforementioned schools.
Cowart’s made official visits to Maryland, Alabama, Florida, Auburn and Florida State, and could potentially start for any of the programs in his freshman season.
Ivey, a towering 6'6 271-pound pass rusher, officially visited Florida, Auburn and LSU, but is also reportedly interested in Florida State, Alabama, Georgia, Notre Dame and Ohio State.