SEC Spotlight: Storylines of the 2021 cycle

Both National Signing Days for the class of 2021 are now complete, and while there may still be a recruitment or two ongoing that involves SEC programs, the script for this class is pretty well complete. We look back over the strangest of recruiting years and discuss the dominant storyline for each program.

ALABAMA: Unstoppable

Did Alabama truly lose a recruiting battle this year? It almost seems like the Crimson Tide got who they wanted. This class will be talked about for years to come due to its overall talent level. Nick Saban finished the 2021 cycle with five five-stars and 17 of the top 76 prospects in the country. On paper, it is a class most Crimson Tide fans would have dreamed of entering this cycle. Alabama ran away with the top class, and it wasn’t even close.

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ARKANSAS: Offensive firepower

When looking at Sam Pittman’s first class, you see playmakers and offensive weapons for the future in Fayetteville. They went into Texas to get four-star wide receiver Ketron Jackson and pulled four-star athlete Raheim Sanders from down in Florida. The Razorbacks inked three wide receivers, a tight end, a couple of runnings back and some playmakers who will help push their offense to the next level.

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*****

AUBURN: Hits and misses

If Gus Malzahn would have stayed head coach three more days, Auburn fans would be celebrating Trevin Wallace and Dontae Balfour in this class. Instead, they decided to sign late, and ended up elsewhere. Despite those two misses, new head coach Bryan Harsin and his staff locked up Florida athlete Taravarish Dawson, Mississippi running back Jarquez Hunter and in-state defensive back Juwon Gaston. It was a mixed bag for the Tigers, but Harsin created some excitement last week.

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FLORIDA: Sapp will be key

Tyreak Sapp was on the verge of being named a five-star but ended up with a 6.0 four-star rating. Regardless of his ranking, Sapp will play a big role in Florida’s success on the defensive line in the coming years. He is a natural leader and will make others around him better. The in-state defensive lineman will make a lot of plays in the Swamp.

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GEORGIA: Vandagriff was key

Most know Brock Vandagriff as a five-star quarterback, but he was much more to Georgia during the 2021 cycle than just that. He was a host for recruits when they would visit Athens on their own. Vandagriff lives just a few miles from Georgia’s campus, so recruits would stay with him. He would show out-of-state prospects around town, and his parents got involved, too. Vandagriff was really a saving grace for Kirby Smart and his staff due to the NCAA’s restrictions on in-person recruiting due to the pandemic. Vandagriff could have been nominated for Recruiter of the Year.

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KENTUCKY: Won for Wallace

This class was solid, but the addition of Trevon Wallace in February was the biggest win this cycle for Mark Stoops. The Wildcats have a big need at linebacker, and Auburn and Ole Miss wanted Wallace badly, but Kentucky stayed consistent and won out in the end. Wallace will play early in Lexington.

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LSU: Wild December

JoJo Earle and Keanu Koht flipped from LSU to Alabama. LSU flipped Malik Nabers and Navonteque Strong from Mississippi State. The Tigers took four-star running back Armoni Goodwin from Auburn. Then they landed four-star cornerback Damarius McGhee, four-star defensive end Bryce Langston and signed No. 1 prospect Maason Smith as well. What a wild few days in mid-December for Ed Orgeron and those in Baton Rouge. The Tigers lost some big battles and won others.

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MISSISSIPPI STATE: Think offense

Mike Leach is an offensive mind that spreads things out and looks to outscore opponents. College football is becoming an offensive game, and out of the five four-star Bulldog signees, four are offensive playmakers. Sawyer Robertson is a Rivals250 quarterback from Texas that can sling it around. Wide receivers Antonio Harmon and Theodore Knox will make plays in Starkville. Then you add running back Ke’Travion Hargrove, and Leach has added some key weapons this cycle.

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*****

MISSOURI: Star power

Missouri only signed seven four-stars total in its previous five classes. In 2021, Eli Drinkwitz and the staff in Columbia signed five and had the program knocking on the door for a top-20 class. The Tigers’ class is strong at the top and could be just what the program needs to compete at a higher level in the SEC. Out of the highest-ranked prospects, it was a good blend of offensive and defense.

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OLE MISS: Merry Flipmas

It is hard to think about this Ole Miss without thinking about Lane Kiffin’s Merry Flipmas shirt back in December. Kiffin is a strong recruiter, his team had a strong showing in the fall, and there is some buzz around the program in Oxford right now. He had some big flips this cycle, including no. 1 tight end Hudson Wolfe (from Tennessee), top in-state talents Luke Altlyer (from Florida State) and MJ Daniels (from Mississippi State). This class finished in the top 20.

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SOUTH CAROLINA: Georgia playmakers

Shane Beamer didn’t inherit an easy situation in Columbia when he took over in December. He lost some commits early and dealt with some staff attrition. This Gamecocks class finished last in the SEC, but the additions of four-star quarterback Colten Gauthier and three-star running back Caleb McDowell are definite bright spots. The Gamecocks signed only 13 prospects, so expect Beamer and his staff to be busy in the transfer portal.

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TENNESSEE: Exciting quarterback

Tennessee also went through a coaching change, though this transition took place later than the others. Out is defensive-minded Jeremy Pruitt and in is offensive-minded Josh Heupel. Four-star quarterback Kaidon Salter a very intriguing prospect under Heupel, and we could see him play for the Vols this fall. Salter had almost 4,000 yards of total offense and 47 touchdowns in 2020 while leading his team to the state championship game. Salter is one Heupel has to be excited to work with due to his ability to throw and run.

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*****

TEXAS A&M: Won the state

The top two prospects in Texas left for Alabama and Ohio State, and the third signed with Texas, but Texas A&M won the state battle by signing four of the top 10 prospects in the state. LJ Johnson was the final piece, and the Aggies held off a major run from Texas on Signing Day. Five-star offensive tackle Bryce Foster, five-star defensive end Tunmise Adeleye and four-star defensive end Shemar Turner are three other headliners this cycle, and all are in-state talents.

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VANDERBILT: Defensive first

New head coach Clark Lea is from Nashville, attended Vanderbilt and is an exciting young coach that is looking to bring the Commodores back their heights under James Franklin. Lea is a defensive guy, and while there are a few offensive weapons in this class, the defensive group is what stands out. Four-star defensive tackle Marcus Bradley is the leader of this group, but keep an eye on cornerbacks John Howse and Marlen Sewell, linebackers Michael Mincey and Errington Truesdell, and safety Alan Wright. The defensive unit looks solid.

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Source: Rivals.com

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