Recruiting: The rich get richer

When it comes to SEC recruiting, the rich get richer. <br><br> LSU once again was the dominant SEC team when it came to signing players. The Tigers are No. 1 in the league and No. 2 nationally, according to a survey of six recruiting rankings. Florida and Georgia are tied for seventh in the nation, with Tennessee tied with Texas for 10th.

In the SEC, LSU, Florida, Georgia and Tennessee are followed by Alabama, Arkansas, Auburn, Ole Miss, South Carolina, Kentucky, Mississippi State and Vanderbilt.

The national top 10 looks like this: USC, LSU, Michigan, Florida State, Miami, Oklahoma, Florida, Georgia, Ohio State, Tennessee and Texas.


LSU got three national recruits at receiver: Early Doucet, Xavier Carter and Lavelle Hawkins. The Tigers also got 310-pound Louisiana lineman Marlon Favorite and 395-pound lineman Herman Johnson of Denton, Texas.

Florida stole defensive tackle Michael Brown of Atlanta away from Georgia, where he'd committed, and signed a star tailback from Tuscaloosa, Markus Manson. Florida also got highly touted defensive end Derrick Harvey and receiver Michael McIntosh of Jacksonville, who committed to Clemson.

Georgia capped a strong class by getting defensive tackle Brandon Miller.

``It's an awesome way to end the day,'' said Georgia coach Mark Richt.

Georgia signed 20 players, including tailback Thomas Brown of Tucker, Ga.

Tennessee signed 23 players, including the top ranked junior college offensive lineman in Albert Toeiana and the top-ranked defensive tackle in Jesse Mahelona. Toeiana originally signed with Oregon and Mahelona with Oklahoma. The Vols got two quarterbacks from different coasts: 6-6 Erick Ainge of Hillsboro, Ore., and 6-3 Brent Schaeffer of Deerfield Beach, Fla.

Alabama signed 27 players, even though only 19 can enroll full-time this fall because of NCAA sanctions. The Tide has until July 1 to declare the 19. Some will go junior college or prep school, or enroll next January, or maybe walk-on. Seven signees are 6-5 or taller.

It was good news for a school that has had plenty of bad news over the last year, including a 4-9 season and a fourth coach in three years.

``I think I would put Alabama as one of the top surprises in the entire country,'' said recruiting analyst Bobby Burton of, which rated the Tide No. 15 in the nation.

Arkansas signed quarterback Alex Mortensen, son of ESPN's Chris Mortensen. The Hogs also got DL Fred Bledsoe, FB Peyton Hillis and DE Michael Tate of Tulsa, Okla.

Ole Miss had its best class under David Cutcliffe, taking advantage of the coaching change at Mississippi State to land four of the state's top 10 players, including No. 1 prospect LB Garry Pack.

Auburn had just 14 commitments a week before signing day, then reeled in about a dozen, including the state of Alabama's top DB, Tony Bell. Auburn got a top prospect from South Carolina in OL Leon Hart and a transfer from South Carolina, RB Kenny Irons.

``It was very suspenseful for us for a few players and that's always interesting on the last day,'' Auburn coach Tommy Tuberville said. ``It was a good year for us.''

Auburn overcame two recruiting hurdles: Tuberville's job security and accreditation problems.

Kentucky signed 27, but can only admit 22, because of NCAA sanctions. Five of the 22 have already been claimed by junior college transfers who enrolled at mid-term. Coach Rich Brooks said five incoming freshmen will either attend prop school or junior college or wait until January to enroll.


The ugly side of recruiting reared its head in Mississippi.

One of the Rebels' biggest catches was tailback Lavarus Giles, who committed to Ole Miss, then announced Alabama because he said he was pressured by the school's superintendent, Dr. Suzanne Hawley. Giles said he read a statement at a press conference that was written by Hawley, saying he would sign with Alabama. That night, he told the Mobile (Ala.) Register he was not going to Alabama.

Giles said Hawley told him she was under pressure for him not to attend Ole Miss.

``She didn't say she would lose her job,'' Giles said. ``She said her job was threatened by Mississippi State people.''

Hawley went on Giles' recruiting trips to Alabama, Ole Miss and Mississippi State. Giles' grandmother Rose Lawrence, who said she's not a traveling person, wasn't happy with what Hawley did.

``Let's say I'm upset,'' Lawrence said. ``I'm not made. I'm upset, but it's all good, I hope.''

Hawley has denied the charges.


No SEC team recruits nationally like Tennessee.

Of the Vols' 23 signees, 13 states are represented. The Vols got five players from Tennessee, three from South Carolina and Georgia, two each from California and Louisiana and one each from Arkansas, Hawaii, Mississippi, New Jersey, Ohio, Oregon and Virginia.

``We're not like a couple of teams who can get all their guys from a 120-mile radius,'' Fulmer said. ``Numbers wise it doesn't work out. But we are blessed because of our proximity. We can get to a lot of places.''

While Tennessee had players from the most states, Alabama had the fewest, landing players from four states. Of Alabama's 27 signees, 21 are from Alabama, the SEC's highest ratio of in-state players.

Surprisingly, LSU signed players from nine states, with 15 of the 24 signees from Louisiana. Auburn was another school that had a high number of states represented: eight. The Tigers signed only six of 26 within its borders.

Here's a look at the rest of the SEC: Arkansas signed players from seven states and 15 of the 30 from Arkansas. Florida signed players from six states with 14 of 20 from Florida. Georgia signed players from five states with 14 of 20 from Georgia. Kentucky signed players from 11 states with nine of 27 from the Commonwealth. Ole Miss signed players from eight states with 10 of 21 from instate. Mississippi State signed from six states with seven of 21 in-state products. South Carolina signed from 10 states with 16 of 28 in-state. Vanderbilt had players from nine states with 6 of 19 from Tennessee.


Tennessee has signed a player who might be the biggest in the SEC.

His name: Albert Toeiana. He's 6-5, 365, can bench press close to 550 pounds and supposedly runs 40 yards in less than 5.0 seconds. He can also eat 14 cheeseburgers at a single sitting.

``No matter where we go, people always stop and do a double-take when they see how big he is,'' said UT linebacker Kevin Simon. ``He's a real head turner.''

Toeiana is from a rough part of San Francisco -- Hunter's Point.

``As a young kid growing up, I saw all the dope slinging, shootings and people being murdered,'' he said. ``I did some things I shouldn't have myself.''

His juco career ended on a sour note. He was ejected for an incident from the North California JC championship game and was disqualified from playing in the state finals.

``I was blocking out on a defensive tackle and I pancaked him,'' Toeiana said. ``After the block, I was stepping over the guy and he grabbed my leg. I asked him twice to let go and he didn't.''

Toeiana kicked his leg to get loose and cut the defender's chin.

``I saw the blood and the ref saw it,'' Toeiana said. ``Once they (officials) saw the tape after the game, they said they felt bad about it.''


Florida State director of compliance Brian Battle will report the school for an NCAA secondary rules violation after highlight videos of football prospects were shown on the Doak Campbell Stadium scoreboard on the first big weekend of official visits, Jan. 9-11.

University of Florida officials called the FSU compliance office 2 weeks ago to notify them of the violation, a source close to the Florida program told the Florida Times-Union in Jacksonville. The course learned of the violation from an Internet site that detailed J.R. Bryant's visit to FSU. Bryant, a CB from Miami, described seeing his high school highlights played on the stadium scoreboard.

``We cannot show a highlight film of a prospective student athlete on the video board,'' Battle said. ``I thought we could. We can't. The only thing you can show is a highlight of the team (Florida State).''

FSU recently received an e-mail from the NCAA that indicated showing highlights was OK.

Battle: ``I take full responsibility for it because I told the coaches they could do it.''

Three weeks ago, FSU's compliance office told the NCAA that Florida recruits had a police escort leading a bus of recruits to Florida Field, where recruits were greeted by a pep band playing the school's fight song. Florida officials said the NCAA found that the Gators didn't break any rules, but Florida did stop using a pep band to greet recruits.

An NCAA officials said a pep band could not greet players, and he also said fans could not be alerted to prospects coming to Gainesville. Florida A.D. Jeremy Foley said the folks greeting the players were athletic department employees -- and that's OK.

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