As we take a deeper look at the SEC before the season begins, we have to address where the league's teams stand in the recruiting category. It is, of course, the foundation of every football program.
Commitments are coming earlier and earlier and the SEC is taking full advantage of it, as 11 of the 12 teams have double-digit commits. Ole Miss currently has a conference-low eight commitments. Nine have 15 or more, with Kentucky leading the way with 19 pledges.
Eight SEC teams currently rank in ESPN's team rankings, with five coming from the East.
Here are snippets for each team:
Few have recruited as well as Nick Saban and Alabama recently and the Crimson Tide have the makings of another stellar class. Currently at No. 4 in the class rankings, Alabama has a half-dozen ESPNU 150 members -- safety Eddie Williams (Panama City, Fla./Arnold), offensive tackle Brandon Greene (Ellenwood, Ga./Cedar Grove), wide receiver Chris Black (Jacksonville, Fla./First Coast) and a trio of linebackers in Reggie Ragland (Madison, Ala./Bob Jones), Tyler Hayes (Thomasville, Ala./Thomasville) and Dillon Lee (Buford, Ga./Buford) -- already committed.
The Hogs' attention has been on the receiver position with this class. So far, they have commitments from six prospects who will likely end up at that position -- Jalen Cobb (Warren, Ark./Warren), Jared Collins (Tulsa, Okla./Booker T. Washington), D'Arthur Cowan (Olive Branch, Miss./Olive Branch), Keon Hatcher (Owasso, Okla./Owasso) and Eric Hawkins (Longview, Texas/Longview).
There has been a change of recruiting philosophy for the national champions. In the past, Auburn liked to close strong with numbers late in the recruiting cycle. This year, the Tigers are trying to be a little more balanced and more aggressive earlier in the recruiting year and their numbers reflect just that.
In their first full season to recruit, new Gators coach Will Muschamp and his staff are putting together a very good recruiting class. The Gators have done particularly well across the secondary, with two four-star safeties in Marcus Maye (Melbourne, Fla./Holy Trinity Christian Academy) and Rhaheim Ledbetter (Shelby, N.C./Crest) and four-star cornerback Brian Poole (Bradenton, Fla./Southeast).
The Dawgs are going big, with seven of their dozen commitments being linemen. Georgia landed four-star OT John Theus (Jacksonville, Fla./The Bolles School) on Dawg Night and 6-foot-5, 332-pound offensive guard Chester Brown (Hinesville, Ga./Bradwell Institute) a few days later. It also landed 6-5, 315-pound OL Greg Pyke (Baltimore/Latin Boys).
The Wildcats seem to be recruiting on a different and better level under second-year coach Joker Phillips. They have their quarterback of the future in Patrick Towles (Ft. Thomas, Ky./Highlands). This four-star prospect has great size, athletic ability and a very good arm.
The Tigers, who are No. 12 in the class rankings, are loading up on in-state prospects (15 of their 18 commits are from Louisiana), including two ESPNU 150 members in defensive end Torshiro Davis (Shreveport, La./Woodlawn) and outside linebacker Ronnie Feist (West St. John, La./Edgard).
Coach Dan Mullen and the Bulldogs had a great month of July, netting seven commitments off their Big Dawg camp, highlighted by their lone four-star commitment, defensive tackle Nick James (Long Beach, Miss./Long Beach). They also added more defensive help, especially at defensive end with Ryan Brown (Marrero, La./Archbishop Shaw), Nelson Adams (Brandon, Miss./Brandon) and Torrey Bell (River Ridge, La./John Curtis).
The Rebels have an SEC-low eight commitments to date, but for the Rebels and coach Houston Nutt, that's exactly where they want to be. Ole Miss prefers the old-school method of wrapping up most of its commitments in the months of December, January and right up to February's national signing day.
After winning the SEC East and closing strong on its 2011 class, South Carolina is still going strong on the recruiting trail. This group, No. 15 in the class rankings, features a nice blend of playmaking athletes on both sides of the ball, such as ESPNU 150 ATH Shaq Roland (Lexington, S.C./Lexington), WR Jody Fuller (Monroe, N.C./ Sun Valley), WR Kwinton Smith (Dillon, S.C./Dillon), ATH Kyle Fleetwood (Stone Mountain, Ga./Stephenson), and ATH Rico McWilliams (Lovejoy, Ga./Lovejoy).
Going into July, Tennessee had a total of two commitments. Since the Vols elite camp in mid-July Derek Dooley and his staff have landed 13 more and they now find themselves sitting at No. 21 in the class rankings with a class that includes seven four-star prospects.
Vanderbilt, which is No. 25 in the class rankings, could be the surprise of the year in recruiting. New coach James Franklin and his staff are selling prospects on getting an Ivy League education in the SEC, early playing time and the great city of Nashville.