SEC Football: Every Team's Dream 2015 Recruit
In the SEC, it’s never too early to think about next year.
Winning championships is nice and all, but the true objective is to step into dynasty territory. To do that requires excellence not only on the field during the fall, but also throughout the year on the recruiting trail.
The push for even heralded 5-star prospects to commit—and stick with their commitments—earlier means waiting until January is often far too late.
Landing a big commitment early can potentially pay tremendous dividends for the remainder of the recruiting class as well.
When the prospect carries enough clout and is solid enough in his pledge, he can become an extra recruiter—with no real regulations.
Today we take a look at each team in the SEC and determine who the “dream” prospect to land might be.
To do so, we weigh a number of considerations, including in-state rank, positional need, competition for the prospect and overall splash.
Player: Daron Payne
Position: Defensive Tackle
247 Composite Rating: 5-star, No. 4 DT
Hometown: Birmingham, Alabama
The recruiting experts at 247Sports have Daron Payne as a virtual lock to sign with Alabama, which is a great indicator for the Crimson Tide.
Coach Nick Saban is certainly no stranger to landing big recruits. Since his first full recruiting class in Tuscaloosa, the Tide have always contended for the top-ranked group as judged by the Internet services.
Alabama’s hot start comes as a surprise to nobody. In case you haven’t noticed, the Crimson Tide currently rank atop the nation with their commitments.
Payne is important because of Saban’s preference to have a dominating player in the middle of the front line on his 3-4 defense.
As of this writing, Payne was still officially uncommitted. He is ranked as the top recruit in Alabama.
That Payne plays in nearby Birmingham serves as another solid indicator for Saban, though Auburn would love to strike a big blow in Alabama’s back yard after the Crimson Tide plucked 5-star linebackers from Auburn High School in consecutive years.
Saban typically gets recruits he wants.
Expect Payne to be no different.
Player: Ty Storey
247 Composite Rating: 4-star, No. 7 pro-style QB
Hometown: Charleston, Arkansas
Coach Bret Bielema did a great job two years ago in landing tailback Alex Collins, shoring up what should be a solid run game for years to come.
Now the second-year coach needs a quarterback to keep opposing defenses honest.
At Wisconsin, Bielema’s offenses fared best when they featured dangerous play-action components to complement bludgeoning running attacks.
To the surprise of few, the Razorbacks found success running the ball at opponents. The play-action passing game somewhat worked as well, with receivers streaking into open spaces.
What was missing?
An accurate quarterback to deliver on-the-money throws.
In Brandon Allen’s defense, he suffered an injury to his throwing shoulder early in the season and was never fully healthy during conference play.
Still, Arkansas showed it isn’t mature enough yet to win on a stout run game alone.
That’s where quarterback Ty Storey comes in—to be the quarterback of the future for the Razorbacks.
247Sports ranks Storey, who is currently committed to Arkansas, as the No. 3 prospect in the state.
Holding on to win this battle would give Bielema a big victory.
Player: Tyler Carr
Position: Offensive Guard
247 Composite Rating: 4-star, No. 7 OG
Hometown: Gadsden, Alabama
By the end of his first season at Auburn, coach Gus Malzahn showed he could win with his patented up-tempo offense, a hard-nosed running attack and little else.
Of course, adding other elements would be nice so that the Tigers don’t have to win by outscoring opponents.
The argument could easily be made that Auburn most needs a star cornerback.
It already has a commitment from 4-star JUCO cornerback Tony Bridges, but he could use help from incoming freshmen as well.
However, the Tigers aren’t currently favored for any of the top 20 cornerback prospects.
Instead, they should focus on winning guard Tyler Carr to continue churning out strong offensive linemen.
Carr, the No. 5 prospect in Alabama and No. 7 offensive guard according to 247Sports, currently favors Auburn but will also consider Georgia and Alabama.
Player: Deondre Francois
247 Composite Rating: 4-star, No. 9 dual-threat QB
Hometown: Bradenton, Florida
Florida is off to a tremendous start on the recruiting trail, according to 247Sports recruiting experts, leading for four 5-star prospects.
Many of those potential future stars play defense, which coach Will Muschamp has shown he would like to make his calling card.
With respect to those prominent recruits, what the Gators need as much as anything right now is hope of finding the next great quarterback.
In-state product Deondre Francois could provide that reason for optimism.
Francois wouldn’t be the crown jewel of Florida’s possible monster class, but he might be the most important part.
Not only does he play a position with which the Gators have struggled since Tim Tebow left, he also represents a battleground against archrival Florida State.
Trying to land a top-notch quarterback with Jameis Winston just a rising sophomore might seem challenging, but few expect Winston to hang around Tallahassee for three more seasons.
Florida State coach Jimbo Fisher knows the importance of reloading at the game’s most important position, meaning he will do what he can to land someone of Francois’ stature.
If the Gators can win Francois’ commitment, it would signal a tremendous victory for the program.
Player: Trent Thompson
Position: Defensive Tackle
247 Composite Rating: 5-star, No. 1 overall prospect
Hometown: Albany, Georgia
When the nation’s top-rated prospect comes from your own backyard, you had better do everything legally in your power to land him.
Most 247Sports recruiting experts expect Trent Thompson to sign with the in-state Bulldogs.
Still, coach Mark Richt doesn’t have to look far—or far down the recruiting rankings—to find the most impactful player to his class.
Georgia would also love to find another superstar at the defensive tackle after struggling to replace John Jenkins last year.
Put it all together and Thompson should be the prospect atop all Georgia fans’ wish list.
Player: Damien Harris
247 Composite Rating: 5-star, No. 1 RB
Hometown: Berea, Kentucky
Kentucky’s surprisingly good 2014 signing class displayed reasons for hope that coach Mark Stoops can recruit at the level necessary to turn around the Wildcats.
Now he faces a new challenge—keeping a huge home prospect inside state borders.
Tailback Damien Harris is easily the top recruit in the Bluegrass State this year. The 5-star player, ranked by 247Sports as the top running back, will have no shortage of options from which to choose.
Not only are the Wildcats in desperate need of a dynamic, game-changing playmaker on offense, they also need to send a message that the top in-state talent won’t go anywhere.
Someone like Harris would be a fantastic start for a second consecutive recruiting success under Stoops.
To secure Harris, Kentucky must fend off tough competition from Ohio State, Michigan and a number of SEC programs.
Player: Tarvarus McFadden
247 Composite Rating: 5-star, No. 2 S
Hometown: Fort Lauderdale, Florida
Finding a weakness on LSU’s 2015 roster is challenging if you consider one of the quarterbacks—Anthony Jennings or Brandon Harris—will likely be an incumbent starter.
Thinking back on when the Tigers have been best under Les Miles, it tends to come when the program is especially stout along the defensive line, in the secondary or both.
LSU seems to have found several answers in both spots on defense but would love to nab another ball-hawking safety.
Tarvarus McFadden, rated by 247Sports as the No. 2 safety in the nation, could be just the game-changing presence the Tigers seek—a LaRon Landry-type presence.
The competition for McFadden will be fierce, including programs such as Florida State, Notre Dame, Ohio State, Oregon, USC and most of the SEC.
Player: Jamal Peters
247 Composite Rating: 4-star, No. 3 S
Hometown: Bassfield, Mississippi
Though Mississippi State coach Dan Mullen is known as an offensive mind, some of his best talent has come in the defensive backfield.
Players like Johnthan Banks, Jamerson Love and underrated Nickoe Whitley have had tremendous impacts in leading the Bulldogs to four consecutive bowl appearances.
Jamal Peters has drawn attention from programs across the conference, expanding what could have been an in-state war between Mississippi State and Ole Miss.
Not only does 247Sports rank Peters the top prospect in Mississippi, it also has him as the No. 3 safety in the nation.
Peters could be the next playmaker in State’s secondary. Mullen and his staff have a fight on their hands to secure his services.
Player: Alex Ofodile
Position: Wide Receiver
247 Composite Rating: 4-star, No. 7 WR
Hometown: Columbia, Missouri
Most signs point in a positive direction for Missouri to land Alex Ofodile, the No. 1 recruit in the Show-Me State as well as the No. 7 receiver nationally.
Ofodile plays at Rock Bridge High School locally in Columbia, Missouri, and most 247Sports recruiting experts consider the Tigers a heavy favorite to land his national letter of intent.
Missouri would really love to haul in a difference-maker at receiver after booting Dorial Green-Beckham from the team during the offseason for a culmination of off-field issues.
Like Ofodile, Green-Beckham was once the top-rated prospect in Missouri. Some recruiting services even rated DGB the top prospect in the nation.
Ofodile is currently uncommitted.
Missouri coach Gary Pinkel would surely love to keep him in state, giving quarterback Maty Mauk a reliable target quickly.
Player: Javon Patterson
Position: Offensive Guard
247 Composite Rating: 4-star, No. 2 OG
Hometown: Petal, Mississippi
The one element sorely lacking at Ole Miss under coach Hugh Freeze has been a tough, hard-nosed run game.
Converting even short third- and fourth-down attempts has proved challenging without an offensive line that can generate a push against elite SEC defenses.
The need along the offensive line makes guard Javon Patterson an important part of the Rebels’ potential 2015 signing class.
In-state rival Mississippi State will challenge for 247Sports’ No. 2 prospect in Mississippi, as will Alabama and Auburn.
Ole Miss needs to start winning more battles at the line of scrimmage in order to make its push in the SEC West.
That mission begins on the recruiting trail.
Player: Ty’Son Williams
247 Composite Rating: 4-star, No. 21 RB
Hometown: Sumter, South Carolina
The shock of Steve Spurrier relying heavily on the run and defense to win games has finally started to wear off just a bit.
The Ol’ Ball Coach, of course, made his name with the "Fun 'n' Gun" offense, throwing the ball all over the SEC.
Since coming to South Carolina, though, Spurrier has generated some big-name tailbacks.
Marcus Lattimore and Mike Davis have developed something of a running back tradition in Columbia.
Davis could be in his final season with the Gamecocks, meaning there will be an opportunity to come in and play right away.
The potential need at tailback makes it important for South Carolina to keep Ty’Son Williams inside state lines—and away from rival Clemson.
Georgia and Notre Dame will also contend for 247Sports' No. 3 prospect in South Carolina.
Player: Drew Richmond
Position: Offensive Tackle
247 Composite Rating: 4-star, No. 6 OT
Hometown: Memphis, Tennessee
It should be fun right now for Tennessee fans to think about the young, dynamic skill-position players running coach Butch Jones’ offense.
The scary part comes along the line, where the Volunteers might search for volunteers to fill out a rotation that loses all of its regular 2013 starters.
What better way to fill needs along the offensive line than to land Drew Richmond, the No. 1 prospect in Tennessee who also happens to play offensive tackle.
247Sports ranks Richmond as the No. 6 offensive tackle in the nation, too.
Vanderbilt, under James Franklin, at least verbally threatened Tennessee’s dominance in recruiting the state.
Now that Franklin has left for greener pastures, Jones would love to reclaim the state as Vols country.
Player: Malik Jefferson
Position: Outside Linebacker
247 Rating: 5-star, No. 1 OLB
Hometown: Mesquite, Texas
Anyone who watched Texas A&M play last year realized the program could have contended for a division title if the Aggies played just a little bit of defense.
Is it the Jimmy’s and the Joe’s or the X’s and the O’s?
It would certainly be easier to believe in Mark Snyder’s defense, needing only to wait until the Mike Sherman classes cycle through and seeing young talent stand out.
Whether Snyder or Sherman is more to blame for the defensive disaster remains to be seen.
Landing players like 5-star linebacker Malik Jefferson would certainly help.
Jefferson, the top-ranked outside linebacker prospect, is an in-state product coach Kevin Sumlin would love to sign for the class of 2015.
The Aggies look like the front-runner but need to hold off intense competition that includes Alabama, Ohio State, Oklahoma and hated in-state rival Texas.
Not only is A&M in good shape to land Jefferson, it leads for cornerback Kendall Sheffield and already has a commitment from defensive tackle Daylon Mack.
Three 5-star defensive signees would create plenty of optimism that stingy defenses will make a return in College Station.
Player: Kyle Phillips
Position: Defensive End
247 Composite Rating: 4-star, No. 7 strong-side DE
Hometown: Nashville, Tennessee
Following Franklin at Vanderbilt will be no easy feat for incoming head coach Derek Mason.
Franklin led the Commodores to bowl games in each of his three seasons, marking the first time in program history they reached three consecutive bowl games.
Mason hasn’t had a chance to plant all his recruiting roots quite yet, leaving a strong-recruiting Tennessee coaching staff to clean up in the Volunteer State.
Winning back one of the top prospects in the state—who also happens to live in Nashville—would be a great start for Mason.
Kyle Phillips, a 4-star recruit, ranks second at 247Sports among Tennessee recruits.
The Volunteers lead for Phillips, but Vanderbilt remains in the mix.
Mason would love to sign some high-caliber defensive players in his first full class.