For many, National Signing Day in college football is more anticipated than the season itself.
It’s just around the corner, Wednesday to be exact.
We’ll start with the Western Division in the SEC and take a look at each team’s recruiting needs:
Offensive line: Alabama has been swimming in All-America and All-SEC offensive linemen the past three years, but it’s time to replenish up front. With James Carpenter departing, the Crimson Tide need to find a left tackle. Junior college signee Aaron Douglas, who started his career at Tennessee and was a Freshman All-American two years ago, could be the answer.
Receiver: Talents like Julio Jones don’t come around very often, and he’s now headed to the NFL a year early on the heels of a record-setting junior season. Marquis Maze and Darius Hanks will both be seniors next season, so finding a few more playmakers on the perimeter is a priority.
Defensive end: Whether it’s defensive ends or outside linebackers, the Crimson Tide are looking for some finishers in their 3-4 scheme to help improve their pass rush. Defensive end Marcell Dareus declared early for the NFL draft. The Tide’s other starting end, Luther Davis, is also gone, while “Jack” linebacker Courtney Upshaw will be a senior next season. Alabama finished in the middle of the SEC pack this season with 27 sacks.
Receiver: There won’t be a more talented receiving corps in the SEC next season. However, Greg Childs, Joe Adams and Jarius Wright will all be seniors. Cobi Hamilton will be a junior, so it’s imperative that the Hogs add some youth to their talented receiving stable.
Tight end: D.J. Williams ended his Arkansas career as one of the best pass-catching tight ends in SEC history. Also gone is Ben Cleveland. Rising junior Chris Gragg had his moments this season, but he’s going to need some help down the road.
Defensive back: The Hogs are losing half of their starting secondary in cornerback Ramon Broadway and strong safety Rudell Crim. Free safety Tramain Thomas and cornerback Isaac Madison return, but both will be seniors next season. Cornerbacks will be at the top of the Hogs’ wish list.
Offensive line: Tackles DeMarcus Love and Ray Dominguez were both seniors along with left guard Wade Grayson. Several of the Hogs’ backups on the offensive line will be seniors next season.
Offensive line: The Tigers lose four senior starters on their offensive line. Left tackle Lee Ziemba, right guard Byron Isom and center Ryan Pugh all earned some type of All-SEC honors. Getting tackle A.J. Greene back will help. He was a starter at right tackle until he injured his knee in the third game. The Tigers’ top offensive line signee from last year, Shon Coleman, remains on hold. He’s battling Leukemia.
Defensive line: Most of the guys who played the meaningful snaps up front defensively for the Tigers this season are gone. The big loss was Lombardi Award winner Nick Fairley declaring early for the NFL draft. Rising sophomore end Nosa Eguae will be looking for all the help he can get, even though there are some promising young defensive linemen in the program.
Quarterback: It was only one season, but what a season it was for Cam Newton. The 2010 Heisman Trophy winner will now take his shot at the NFL, leaving Auburn thin in the quarterback ranks. Rising junior Barrett Trotter is probably the guy to beat next season. The Tigers needed a multi-dimensional quarterback in this class and think they scored a perfect fit for Gus Malzahn’s offense in Kiehl Frazier of Springdale, Ark. He’s rated by ESPN as the No. 2 quarterback prospect in the country.
Linebacker: The Tigers have been lacking for depth at linebacker the past two seasons, which is the reason Josh Bynes and Craig Stevens played so many snaps. They’re gone now, and Eltoro Freeman will be a senior next season. Auburn went looking for linebackers last recruiting period and is looking for a few more this year.
Defensive line: With defensive tackle Drake Nevis graduating, muscle inside is a priority. The same goes for adding some top-flight pass-rushers at end. The return of Sam Montgomery will be a huge plus for the Tigers, who didn’t get to the quarterback nearly as much once he got hurt this season. They’re looking for a few more pass-rushers just like him.
Receiver: Terrence Toliver is gone, and suddenly, Russell Shepard and Rueben Randle will be juniors next season. The Tigers need more firepower on the outside, in particular a deep threat at receiver. They’re hopeful that four-star commitment Jarvis Landry of Lutcher, La., can come in and help provide more big plays next season.
Quarterback: It was a struggle in the passing game all season for LSU, which finished with just 10 touchdown passes and 11 interceptions. Jordan Jefferson did play better toward the end of the season, but he and Jarrett Lee are both rising seniors. It was critical that the Tigers get a marquee quarterback in this class, and they were able to get one at midterm. Former Georgia quarterback Zach Mettenberger is already enrolled and will go through spring practice. The 6-5, 230-pound Mettenberger threw 32 touchdown passes last season at Butler (Kan.) Community College.
Linebacker: The Bulldogs are losing all three starters, and Chris White and K.J. Wright were their top two tacklers this season. Ferlando Bohanna is one of the 22 freshmen they redshirted last season and will get every chance to win a starting linebacker job in the spring.
Defensive line: In particular, Mississippi State is looking for ends and guys that can get to the quarterback. Pernell McPhee is gone, and Johnathan McKenzie left the team in September. The Bulldogs’ depth up front was also hurt by the tragic death of Nick Bell, who passed away in November after a bout with cancer.
Receivers: Dan Mullen is always looking for more receivers, even though the Bulldogs redshirted four of those guys last season. With the kind of offense Mullen wants to run, it’s important that Mississippi State bring in more guys on the perimeter who can stretch the field.
Defensive line: The Rebels lost four senior tackles, both starters and both backups, and one of those was Jerrell Powe, one of the best run-stoppers in the league. Kentrell Lockett has applied to the NCAA for a sixth season. Regardless of whether or not he gets another season, the Rebels need more pass-rushers. Wayne Dorsey, a touted junior college transfer, struggled last season.
Receiver: An overall lack of production at receiver really hurt Ole Miss this season, and the Rebels’ two most dependable wide receivers, Markeith Summers and Lionel Breaux, are both gone. They need to find some more playmakers at the receiver position.
Defensive back: The Rebels lost two of the three in their safety rotation, and the one coming back, Damien Jackson, will be a senior. They’re also in need of cornerbacks, and just generally need to beef up a secondary that took its lumps this season. Ole Miss gave up 24 touchdown passes and intercepted only six passes.
Quarterback: Jeremiah Masoli’s year is up, leaving Nathan Stanley and redshirt freshman Randall Mackey, who’s more of a runner. Junior college signee Zack Stoudt is already on campus and will participate in spring practice.