SEC mailbag: Auburn ranked too low?

Anybody having signing day withdrawal? Any silent commitments out there we need to know about for 2012?

Tell me what’s on your mind in this week’s SEC mailbag:

Brad in Milton, Fla., writes: Chris, usually I agree with everything you post or comment on. But after looking at your early rankings, I'm a little surprised. Alabama at No. 1? Arkansas with Mallett gone in the top 5? Florida ahead of Auburn? Alabama racked up three losses this year and has lost several key players. Florida is undergoing huge changes, and in many people’s opinion, has overrated players. LSU is the best team coming back, and Auburn (two top 5 classes in the last two years and the nation’s best offensive coordinator) is at least No. 4 in the SEC and not No. 7. Come on man, get it together!

Chris Low: As soon as I went over my power rankings and it sunk in that I had Auburn seventh, I thought to myself, ‘You’re going to regret that.’ You’re right. They’ve had two terrific classes in a row. But they’re also losing so many key pieces that I couldn’t bring myself to rank them ahead of teams like Mississippi State and Arkansas. I honestly don’t have a good feel on Florida. Maybe some of their signees the past two years are overrated, but they’re guys everybody in the country wanted. I also think Charlie Weis will get that offense up to speed. Still, I could see how somebody else would have Auburn No. 5 or even higher. As for Arkansas, I think the Hogs will be better on defense next season than they were this season, and don’t sleep on Tyler Wilson at quarterback. He can really throw it and played very well this season against Auburn until the two late picks. Bottom line: The West is going to be loaded again. You can probably flip a coin with Alabama and LSU as to who’s the best team, but both of those clubs will be outstanding on defense. I also look forward to seeing some of Auburn’s younger players stepping up into bigger roles, guys like Corey Lemonier, Jeff Whitaker and Trovon Reed. I’ll re-rank the teams coming out of spring practice, so maybe I’ll change my mind by then. Either way, can’t wait for those early LSU-Oregon and Georgia-Boise State games.

Jason in Vicksburg, Miss., writes: Kentrell Lockett was invited to the NFL combine, but I do not believe he will attend. You may want to check on that. As far as I know, he is coming back to Ole Miss next season. Anyway, I don't think he will be physically able to compete by then anyway.

Chris Low: Right, he’s one of the players invited to the NFL combine, but that doesn’t mean he will attend. In fact, there are players every year that skip the combine for various reasons. In Lockett’s case, he’s hoping to get a sixth season of eligibility from the NCAA after missing most of last season with a knee injury. Getting him back would be a huge boost for the Rebels, both from a production standpoint and leadership standpoint. Lockett’s waiver request has already been filed with the NCAA, and Ole Miss officials are simply waiting on an answer. He redshirted his first year at Ole Miss in 2006, and it wasn’t an injury-driven redshirt year. Sometimes, that works against players seeking a sixth year. Hopefully, it works out for Lockett.

Jon in Atlanta writes: What is your gut feeling on where Jadeveon Clowney ends up?

Chris Low: You just never know about those Rock Hill, S.C., guys. Nah, being from Rock Hill, I’m only kidding. Obviously, when you receive the kind of attention and national publicity that Clowney has at such a young age, it has a way of getting to you and creating some uncertainty. All the information I get from people who should know is that he just wants to be sure, but that it’s been South Carolina for a while now. He had a good visit to Clemson, which might have moved Clemson past Alabama into second place. Who’s second is immaterial, though. I feel pretty strongly that he’s going to be a Gamecock. We'll find out for sure on Valentine's Day.

Andrew in Villa Rica, Ga., writes: Herschel Walker drummed up a little media attention by mentioning a NFL comeback when he is 50. Doesn't he have a year left of college eligibility? How about Herschel to Georgia? What a pick-up that would be for the ever-increasing talent pool Georgia keeps bringing in.

Chris Low: What actually happened is that Walker answered somebody’s question on a teleconference and said that he thought he could still play in the NFL. He later added that he has no plans to make a comeback. That said, the guy looks unbelievable to be 50ish. He’s still the best player I’ve ever seen play in this conference. I still have a hard time believing it’s now been more than 30 years since he burst onto the scene in the SEC. I can still see him plowing over Bill Bates on his way to the end zone. In the immortal words of Larry Munson, “My God, a freshman!”

Eric in Cleveland, Tenn., writes: Chris, Tennessee signed 12 four-star recruits and is ranked 11th, 12th and 13th nationally by Scout, Rivals and ESPN and you rate them a B? It should be an A- at worst, and you give Mississippi State and South Carolina a B-? By the way, it’s two straight top 12 classes, Chris, not just top 20.

Chris Low: First of all, I didn’t give anybody a grade. Those grades at the end of each SEC team’s recruiting recap on Thursday were courtesy of our ESPN recruiting staff. Secondly, it looks like Derek Dooley has put together a second straight impressive class. Whether it’s a top 12 class, top 5 class or top 30 class, I don’t think any of us will know until two or three years down the road. I pose this question in general, and not just to you: But does it really matter whether your class is ranked No. 8 on signing day as opposed to No. 18? Every coach I’ve ever talked to about recruiting has told me the only way to even come close to evaluating a signing class on signing day is figuring out how many needs you filled and how many players you signed that the other teams you have to beat genuinely wanted and were recruiting. Otherwise, it’s a wait-and-see proposition. What matters most is what you do with them once they get on campus. I wonder where the classes Stanford, TCU, Oregon and Boise State signed were ranked three and four years ago? I’ll go ahead answer that question for you. Three years ago, none of the four had a top 25 class, according to ESPN. Four years ago, Oregon was the only one of the four in the top 25 with a No. 23 class. There’s the flip side, too. Miami had the No. 1 class and Clemson the No. 2 class nationally in 2008, according to ESPN’s rankings. I haven’t seen either one of those schools in the national championship equation lately. And since you asked about Tennessee, I’d remind you that Phillip Fulmer’s next-to-last class before getting fired was ranked No. 5 nationally, but wound up being decimated by attrition. So all that glitters on signing day isn’t necessarily gold.

Brett in Kansas City writes: Hey Chris, with such a great recruiting class, could Auburn be more then a one-and-done SEC contender?

Chris Low: With the way Gene Chizik and his staff are recruiting, I wouldn’t bet against the Tigers. This coming season might end up being the transition year for them, which means Auburn will have a difficult time competing for the SEC title in 2011. Breaking in a new quarterback not named Cam Newton is always tough, and they lost four senior starters in the offensive line. But by 2012, if some of this young talent is as good as it looks on paper, I’d expect to see Auburn right back in the middle of the SEC and national championship equation.