The two best teams in Southeastern Conference football this season are stockpiling the most talent on the recruiting trail as well.
ESPN recruiting analyst Jamie Newberg believes Alabama and LSU will have the top classes among SEC schools on national signing day, Feb. 1, and he thinks Auburn, Florida and Georgia are poised for top-10 national classes as well. Newberg said the league could have 10 of its 12 members finish with top-25 classes, with Ole Miss and Kentucky as the exceptions.
"I don't know if anybody in the SEC is going to have a better class than Alabama, but it could be splitting hairs with the way LSU is recruiting," Newberg said. "To me, Alabama is at the point where USC was the last decade and where Florida State was in the 1990s. They are the team that's taken it to a different level than everyone else, including LSU, but LSU is still doing incredibly well."
Nick Saban's Crimson Tide have finished with Rivals.com's top class nationally three of the past four years and entered this weekend ranked No. 2 behind Texas. Also doing well nationally are Michigan, Clemson, Florida State and incoming SEC member Texas A&M.
Florida is having a much better recruiting year in Will Muschamp's second go-around, but the Gators are struggling to land tailbacks for their pro-style offense that will remain despite Thursday's departure of coordinator Charlie Weis to Kansas.
"We will hire somebody very similar to him schematically," Muschamp said.
The Gators have a commitment from Matt Jones, a 6-foot-2, 220-pounder from Seffner, Fla., but recently lost one when Mike Davis, a 5-10, 200-pounder from Stone Mountain, Ga., decommitted. Davis is the younger brother of former Clemson tailback James Davis.
"Right now they only have two scholarship running backs on campus -- Mike Gillislee and Mack Brown," Newberg said. "Matt Jones is a guy who is unique, because they haven't had a 220-pound back in forever. I know they would like to have five tailbacks on campus next year, and to me that's a very interesting question between now and signing day: What will they do to fill the voids of Jeff Demps and Chris Rainey?"
Perhaps the most unique dynamic in the SEC is in the Volunteer State, where Vanderbilt is compiling its most touted haul since the various Internet recruiting services began ranking teams a decade ago. Yet Tennessee isn't hurting as a result and is assembling a class that could finish among the top dozen or so nationally.
The Commodores have secured commitments from three of the state's top eight prospects, according to Rivals.com: Memphis running back Brian Kimbrow, Nashville defensive end Caleb Azubike and Paris offensive tackle Andrew Jelks.
"Derek Dooley has done well down the stretch with each of his first two classes, so I've got to believe that Tennessee will keep making some noise," Newberg said. "To me, though, Vanderbilt is not only the story in the SEC but in all of recruiting with what James Franklin has done. If they continue on the pace they're on, they will finish in the top 25.
"They've beaten Tennessee and they've beaten some other SEC teams on kids, and they're not done. They've done incredibly well in Georgia."
Georgia Military College defensive end Jalen Fields, formerly of Dalton High School, and receiver Lonnie Outlaw no longer figure into Georgia's plans, according to GMC coach Bert Williams. Fields and Outlaw signed with the Bulldogs in 2010 but failed to qualify academically.
Fields was the first commitment for Georgia's 2010 class. Outlaw, who is from Rochelle, Ga., was a signing-day addition.