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SEC recruiting battles in rivalry games

As the college football regular season draws to a close, coaches are getting closer and closer to stepping deeper into another season -- the recruiting season.

December visits are being finalized and as coaches try to get players ready for bowl games, they'll also be looking to court some of the most highly sought after high school prospects.

This weekend provides a handful of fun venues for recruits to check out some of their top schools. It's rivalry week, which means schools will be entertaining recruits who might be on the fence with both the home and away team.

Rivals don't just compete on the field, they compete on the recruiting road as well -- and things can get just as nasty.

But do the games really matter? Sure, there are commitments that occur in winning locker rooms after rivalry games. But for the most part, these games are better used for their atmospheres than committing venues.

This week, SEC coaches were reluctant to say that these games make much of an immediate difference and ESPN recruiting analyst Corey Long agrees.

"Overall the recruiting process has changed to the point of where the outcome of the game isn't really a factor," Long said. "Today's top prospects are looking for comfort and early playing time more than anything else. While the prospects enjoy the atmosphere and experience of attending these games, the overall visit and the time spent with players and coaches is usually the deciding factor."

I talked it out with Long about a few prospects looking at some of this weekend's competing rivals in the SEC. Here are some prospects and a little analysis from Long on each:

ALABAMA-AUBURN

  • Eddie Goldman, DT, Friendship Academy (Washington) – Goldman will take an official visit to Auburn this weekend as the Tigers are trying to catch up with FSU and Alabama.

  • Deon Bush, DB, Columbus (Miami) – The ESPNU 150 safety has a top three of Miami, Alabama and Auburn. He has taken official visits to Auburn and Alabama and has one to Miami planned on Dec. 9th.

  • Kwon Alexander, LB, Oxford (Ala.) – Alexander has been thought to be an Auburn lean for a while, but Alabama, FSU, LSU and Oregon are all seriously in the mix.

  • Avery Young, OL, Palm Beach Gardens (Fla.) – Young took official visits to Auburn and Alabama last month and raved about both. Georgia is the main competitor with Florida, Virginia Tech, Clemson and Oklahoma also in the mix.

  • Jordan Jenkins, LB/DE, Harris County (Hamilton, Ga.) – Jenkins has an official visit to Florida this weekend and that will be his fifth. The 6-foot-3, 240-pounder expects to make a choice between Alabama, Florida, Auburn and Georgia at the Under Armour All-American game.

FLORIDA-FLORIDA STATE

  • Tracy Howard, DB, Miramar (Fla.) – From all accounts the nation’s top-ranked cornerback has zeroed in on these two schools. He took an official visit to Florida State on Nov. 12 and has an unofficial visit planned for Gainesville this weekend.

  • Josh Harvey-Clemons, LB, Lowndes (Valdosta, Ga.) – During the summer and early in the spring, it seemed like FSU and Clemson were going head-to-head for Clemons. Florida jumped in late and has caught the 6-4, 210-pounder's attention.

  • Nelson Agholor, ATH, Berkeley Prep (Tampa, Fla.) – Four months ago it seemed FSU was going to be in the hunt for Agholor until the end, but now it looks like more of a Florida-USC battle. However,Agholor keeps everything close to the vest and doesn’t eliminate a school, so anything is possible.

  • Leonard Williams, DE, Mainland (Daytona Beach, Fla.) – Williams has stated that Auburn and Florida are in his top two but he has serious interest in FSU. He was supposed to take an unofficial visit to Tallahassee on Nov. 12, but couldn’t get a ride. Williams might just focus on the Tigers and the Gators.

  • Dante Fowler Jr., DE, Lakewood (St. Petersburg, Fla.) – It seems like Fowler has spent more time in Gainesville than any FSU pledge in history. His younger brother, Donterio, is a big Gator fan and that’s part of the reason, but Fowler is also heavily interested in the program. He says if he makes a switch it’ll happen on National Signing Day, but expect something to leak out sooner if that’s the case.

SOUTH CAROLINA-CLEMSON

  • Keith Marshall, RB, Millbrook (Raleigh, N.C.) – The ESPNU 150 prospect has an official visit to South Carolina scheduled for this weekend. He took one to Clemson on Nov. 12.

  • Jonathan Bullard, DE, Crest (Shelby, N.C.) – Bullard has Clemson, South Carolina, Tennessee, Nebraska and Florida in his final group.

  • Nick Davidson, OL, Eden Prairie (Minn.) – Davidson moved north from Charlotte when his father, Jeff Davidson, took an offensive line job with the Vikings. Clemson has made his final five, but South Carolina continues to fight for a visit.