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February 1, 2011
Once again, the Southeast is producing one bumper crop after another in this recruiting cycle. Alabama has a chance to finish atop the rankings, but Florida State, Auburn and Georgia are coming on strong. Ole Miss and Tennessee are quietly putting together excellent classes. And Clemson, after losing more games than it won in 2010, might produce its best group ever.
Chances are, if a team finishes highest among programs in the Southeast, it will end up with the No. 1 over ranking. Entering Tuesday, Alabama (first), Florida State (third), LSU (fourth), Auburn (sixth), Georgia (seventh) and Clemson (10th) all had top-10 rankings. Of that group, a few have a legitimate shot at finishing first, stating with the Tide, who are still in the mix for a few elite prospects.
What else is brewing in this region? Rivals.com breaks down the top stories in the Southeast for the class of 2011.
1. Playing time means something
Three programs that are doing very well - Clemson, Georgia and Ole Miss - each had losing seasons in 2010, considered quite a surprise. Right now, Clemson and Georgia are in the top 10 of the team rankings, and the Rebels are No. 16. What elite prospects see at each school right now is the potential for early playing time, and that's a terrific selling point.
Clemson pulled two five-star players - running back Mike Bellamy and receiver Sammy Watkins - out of Florida. Georgia is loading up on homegrown talent in a very good year for the Peach State. And the Rebels also have been strong close to home, having won several battles against rival Mississippi State.
2. The old switcheroo
Several big-name players have pulled highly publicized flips. Five-star Monroe (Ga.) Monroe Area defensive end Stephon Tuitt committed to Notre Dame, then flipped to Georgia Tech before re-committing to the Irish. Five-star linebacker C.J. Johnson of Philadelphia (Miss.) was committed to Mississippi State, but de-committed shortly after Bulldogs defensive coordinator Manny Diaz left to take the same position at Texas. He then picked Ole Miss. And, of course, there's four-star running back/linebacker Brent Calloway, who flipped his commitment from Alabama to Auburn, but visited the Tide last weekend. Calloway may still be in play.
3. SEC, SEC, SEC
Why has the SEC won five straight BCS championships? Because it keeps landing top talent on national signing day. Once again, the SEC will have a banner year on the recruiting trail. Four programs are in the top 10 of the current team standings and eight rank in the top 20. Also consider this: Florida, by its standards, is having a down year in recruiting, yet the Gators are ranked No. 17. That's higher than Stanford, Michigan State and Virginia Tech, all of which are coming off outstanding seasons.
4. Championship momentum
After claiming its first national championship in five decades, Auburn wasn't content. Instead, it has built off its memorable 2010 season. The Tigers are poised for a top-10 class (and maybe better), and have filled their major needs, particularly at quarterback with four-star Springdale (Ark.) Shiloh Christian's Kiehl Frazier and on the offensive line.
5. Who will get No. 1?
Five-star defensive end Jadeveon Clowney of Rock Hill, S.C., the country's No. 1 overall prospect, doesn't plan on announcing until Feb. 14. That will cause fans of Alabama and South Carolina, which are believed to be his frontrunners, to have some restless nights. For a long time, it was thought Clowney was a lock for the Gamecocks. But Alabama came on strong, and apparently made a pretty good impression on the 6-foot-6, 247-pounder during his recent visit to Tuscaloosa. For what it's worth, Clowney also visited Clemson. In the end, though, many still believe South Carolina is the team to beat.