With high school football prospects continuing to commit to colleges much earlier than a generation ago, Rivals.com national recruiting analyst Jamie Newberg discusses how classes in the Southeastern Conference are shaping up for 2010:
Q: When you look at all the prominent early commitments at Alabama, Florida and LSU, is there an early favorite among those three?
A: "Probably Florida. They have 12 or 13 commitments and have some unbelievable kids, and then you have to look at what they're going to close with. They're going to be hard to beat in the league and in the country. Like you said, all three classes are going to be terrific. Throw in Georgia, Tennessee and Auburn, and what the SEC could do this year may exceed what they've done in the last couple of years, and that's saying something."
Q: What are some of the reasons why Florida, a program that usually closes strong, is off to such a quick start?
A: "They're coming off winning the national championship and two of the last three, and they've got a hungry staff that may have gotten complacent at the end last year with a couple of kids. They didn't close the way you would think Florida would close, so I think there is a renewed vigor there. Urban Meyer is not going to let that happen again. You factor in that they are probably going to be the preseason No. 1, you've got a Heisman Trophy winner coming back, and you've got a team that could likely go wire-to-wire and win three of the last four (national titles). Not to mention the fact that state is just absolutely loaded. They've got to be careful in evaluating the right kids to make sure they get the right ones, but I know after the way things ended last year that they really want to make a statement in recruiting this year."
Q: How would you assess Tennessee's new staff and its 2010 recruiting landscape to this point?
A: "What they did on signing day and then in the days after, getting Janzen Jackson and then getting Bryce Brown and David Oku in between, was extraordinary. You're talking about the nation's No. 1 player in Brown, and Tennessee came out of nowhere. And to turn Janzen Jackson away from LSU? I think it's just a sign that recruiting could turn Tennessee back into a super power. They're off to a good start for 2010, but they're behind some people just because other schools already had a jump on this class. I think Tennessee will finish in the top 10, but where I think you will really see them flex their orange and white muscles will be in 2011 and beyond. They have already offered two dozen for '11 and have a couple of commitments, and that's the year I think you're really going to see Tennessee do extraordinarily well, but I see them no worse than 10th this year."
Q: Is Tennessee guard commitment Jose Jose (6-2, 355) going to take over for Alabama's Terrence Cody as the biggest player in the SEC?
A: "He's got a lot of girth to him, but once he gets to Knoxville and is in a college strength and conditioning program, I think he'll lose a bunch of weight and gain some muscle. The kid has exceptional feet and athletic ability, so I think he's got a chance to be a very good player for them. If he was a little trimmer, there is no question he would be rated higher. In talking with some coaches, they said Russell Maryland, Warren Sapp and Cortez Kennedy were all similarly built at the same stage, and look what Ed Orgeron did with them."
Q: Should Georgia fans be concerned with a lot of the premier in-state talent looking elsewhere?
A: "They are blessed to be in a state where they can get a bulk of their class from Georgia and lose guys and still have a great class. There should be some worry there, for now at least, with the top-end kids, because I can see Alec Ogletree going to Miami and I can see Mack Brown going to Florida. Jawuan James is already headed to Alabama. (Calhoun's) Da'Rick Rogers is an absolute freak and could end up elsewhere, and Markeith Ambles could end up elsewhere. It's going to be difficult for them for a variety of reasons with the top-end guys, but they're going to have a big-time class. What Georgia has done well the past few years, pretty much starting with Matthew Stafford and Knowshon Moreno, is going out of state. They really don't need to go out of state, but for some reason they do, and they've had a lot of success lately. I expect this year will be no different and that they'll have a nice balance."