Call what happened on January 1 a hiccup. And call out those who think the days of dominance by the Southeastern Conference are over wishful thinkers. General consensus of the recruiting classes had the SEC with 12 of the top 25 classes and all 14 teams in the top 50. In other words, just because Alabama, Ole Miss and Mississippi State laid eggs on January 1 doesn’t mean the league is on a downhill slide.
The SEC’s hiccup can be attributed to a lack of outstanding quarterbacks and dominant defensive linemen. Judging by the results of National Signing Day those problems should be a thing of the past. The SEC landed eight of the top 23 prep quarterbacks in the country plus the #1 juco QB, eight of the top 15 defensive ends and five of the top seven defensive tackles.
Alabama: Blake Barnett was the nation’s #2 quarterback. He’s already on campus and considered a legitimate threat to start as a true freshman.
Auburn: Tyler Queen’s (#22 nationally) calling card is an accurate arm and the ability to extend plays with his feet. He can throw and run the read option, which makes him a fine fit for Gus Malzahn’s offense.
LSU: Justin McMillan is too skinny to play now but he’s got the right skill set to play in a spread offense. He’s got a junior (Anthony Jennings) and a sophomore (Brandon Harris) ahead of him so he’s got time to fill out and develop.
Mississippi State: Nick Tiano will have a couple of years to develop. Figure he won’t have to deliver as a starter for a couple of years, but he’s got a great upside because of his high football IQ, strong arm and good feet.
Ole Miss: The immediate future is in the hands of Chad Kelly, who transferred out of Clemson and went juco before landing in Oxford. The long term future is Jason Pellerin (#23 nationally), a big, strong and very fast dual threat out of New Iberia Catholic in Louisiana.
South Carolina: Steve Spurrier believes he has his next Connor Shaw in Lorenzo Nunez (#31), who is an accurate, quick-release thrower who has extraordinary speed. He may not start as a freshman but Spurrier is going to find a way to get him on the field.
Tennessee: The Vols got a pocket passer in Quinten Domady (#17 nationally) and a dual threat quarterback in former Florida commitment Sheriron Jones (#18). They will sit and learn while Josh Dobbs plays next season but they give UT plenty of insurance for the future.
Vanderbilt: The quarterback situation at Vandy is very bad, therefore Kyle Shurmur will have a chance to start from day one. He’s got the big arm and the smarts to read defenses, things all the Vandy QBs lacked last year.
Alabama: Nick Saban’s 3-4 scheme works best with a monster of a nose tackle. Daron Payne (6-2, 335) fills that bill. He’s the #4 DT in the country by Scout.com. Bama signed controversial juco DT Jonathan Taylor, dismissed by Georgia when he got into serious trouble off the field. Anfernee Jennings (#14 DE) and Mekhi Brown (#15) are 4-star defensive ends who will probably redshirt.
Arkansas: The Razorbacks got a big, athletic tackle of out Denmark via IMG Academy in Hjalte Frholdt (#28 nationally) and strong pass rushers in juco transfer Jeremiah Ledbetter and quick Jamario Bell (#17 defensive end).
Auburn: The Tigers got the pass rushers they’re looking for in Byron Cowart (#8 player nationally) and BUCK end Jeffery Holland. Muschamp got the monster nose tackle he likes for a 3-4 in Jauntavius Johnson (6-3, 335) out of Tallahassee Lincoln, who needs a year or two to develop. Auburn also landed 4-star DE Prince Tega Wanogho Jr., a 6-8, 250-pounder with serious athletic skills.
Georgia: The Bulldogs got the run-stopper they were looking for in Trenton Thompson, Scout’s #2 defensive tackle nationally. The Bulldogs also scored big with Jonathan Ledbetter, Scout’s #10 DT and Justin Young (ranked #30). Georgia got speed on the edge in Natrez Patrick (#12 defensive end) and Chauncey Rivers (#26).
LSU: The Tigers got the rush end they wanted out of Georgia in Arden Key, the #9 defensive end and #105 player nationally.
Mississippi State: Fletcher Adams (#18 DT in the country) played on the inside in high school but he will move outside where he can use his speed to rush the passer. T.D. Moton is the big (6-4, 310) pocket collapse the Bulldogs need. The Bulldogs went the juco route for Jonathan Calvin, who will play immediately.
Ole Miss: The Rebels got immediate help for the middle of the D-line in D.J. Jones, widely regarded as the nation’s top juco interior lineman. Joe Anderson (6-4, 232) will need work in the weight room but he’s got a great first step coming off the edge.
South Carolina: The Gamecocks got a terrific pash rusher in Shameik Blackshear, the nation’s #11 defensive end. The Gamecocks went the juco route to add speed off the edge in Marquavius Lewis and Dante Sawyer, part of a seven-man D-line recruiting class.
Tennessee: This is where the Vols really cleaned up with the best D-line class in the country headed up by nose tackle Kahlil McKenzie (6-4, 341), the #1 DT in the country by Scout.com. Shy Tuttle (6-3, 310), the #12 ranked DT and 4-star ends Kyle Phillips (#7 defensive end/#49 player) and Darrell Taylor (#22) make this group very special.
Texas A&M: The Aggies outrecruited Texas for Daylon Mack (#3 DT in the country by Scout.com), a 330-pound nose tackle who can control the center and the gap on either side. James Lockhart (#13 DE) is a disruptive end with speed (4.69 40) who plays the run very well.
The proof is in the numbers according to SportsSource Analytics which analyzed Alabama’s starting lineups from 2005-013 and discovered that 41% of the Bama starters (39 of 96; A starter had to start at least eight games in a season) were drafted by the NFL. If you add all the Alabama players who have been taken in the NFL Draft over the years (319), a full 13% (41) were recruited to Alabama by Saban. If you want to know why Alabama wins the recruiting battles, it isn’t the curtains in the athletic dorms, the night life in Tuscaloosa or the original Dreamland Barbeque. It’s because kids know that if they can get into the starting lineup there is a really good chance they’ll get drafted.
Saban has brought in either the #1 or #2 recruiting class the last seven years in Tuscaloosa, during which time Alabama has gone 84-17 on the field while winning three Southeastern Conference and three national championships. No one else comes close to that record.
Yet, Matt Hayes of The Sporting News questions whether Saban should actually be winning more.
Hayes writes, “As ridiculous as that initially sounds – considering no one has been more consistent since 2008 than the Tide – it’s also not as far off base as you’d think. If your program consistently lands the best class in the nation (four in a row according to some services, and six of seven), how does it not translate to more championships on the field?”
Scout.com rated Alabama’s 2015 class #2 behind Southern Cal. Of the players signed by the Crimson Tide, six were rated 5-stars and 14 were rated 4-stars.
Former Gator head coach Ron Zook is now the special teams coordinator for the Green Bay Packers … Former Florida secondary coach Dan Disch (under Ron Zook) will not return to the North Carolina staff as new defensive coordinator Gene Chizik shakes up that staff … Former USF head coach Jim Leavitt, most recently the linebackers coach of the San Francisco 49ers, is the new defensive coordinator at Colorado … Mike Debord is the new offensive coordinator at Tennessee. Debord was Butch Jones’ boss at Central Michigan from 2000-03. He was the offensive coordinator at Michigan from 2006-07 and spent the last three years as the tight ends coach for the Chicago Bears … TCU defensive coordinator Dick Bumpas has retired. TCU is expected to hire from within.
Pro Football and College hall of famer Charles Haley just won’t let Deflate-gate die. The former defensive end for the San Francisco 49ers and Dallas Cowboys, with five Super Bowl rings to his credit, doesn’t buy Tom Brady’s explanations about Deflate-gate and says that this incident makes him question Brady’s entire career.
When asked by Clark Judge of the Talk of Fame Network which quarterback he would take – Joe Montana or Tom Brady – Haley responded: "Joe didn't have to cheat. I've lost all respect [for Brady]. When your integrity is challenged in the game of football, to me, all his Super Bowls are tainted. You have to say this just didn't happen overnight. Who wants that shadow over them? I could be wrong. But I realize there were 12 balls deflated and 12 ain't. Then you've got [Bill] Belichick coming on three different times trying to explain it ... You know something is wrong."
Are you concerned that Florida didn’t sign a quarterback in this class?
I first heard Shelby Lynne on Austin City Limits about 15 years ago. She was more of a country artist then but she has made the transition to rock and blues in the last few years. I got interested in her music again when I saw her on “Live from Daryl’s House.” Today’s song is “Should Have Been Better” from her 2014 album “I Am Shelby Lynne.”