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Friday March 5th, 2021 12:07PM

Alabama, SEC powers rake in highly rated recruiting hauls

By The Associated Press
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Alabama dominated the recruiting landscape, but the other Southeastern Conference powers also fared well.

The Crimson Tide pulled in the nation's No. 1 class for the ninth time in 11 years and the strongest class yet, at least according to the 247Sports composite rankings.

The SEC had three of the top four classes. Georgia, last year's recruiting champion, finished third, and LSU fourth.

The rich got richer on signing day.

Defending national champion Alabama got a pledge from four-star safety Terrion Stanford on Wednesday.

Running back Camar Wheaton of Garland, Texas, became the Tide's seventh five-star signee earlier in the day. He'll join Brian Robinson Jr., former five-star recruit Trey Sanders and others in the mix to replace all-time leading rusher Najee Harris.

The Tide also signed four wide receivers who can compete to fill a void with the loss of Heisman Trophy winner DeVonta Smith and Jaylen Waddle. Not to mention first-round draft picks Henry Ruggs III and Jerry Jeudy a year earlier.

“I think there’s a lot of balance in this class,” Alabama coach Nick Saban said. “But as I always talk about, we’re not really interested in rankings or ratings or anything like that because I think that how guys develop in your program is really what is the most important thing.”

The SEC wasn't quite as collectively strong as last year, when the league had six of the top eight classes.

The SEC has seven of the top 20 classes, with Texas A&M coming in at No. 7 and Florida at No. 13, followed by Tennessee (16) and Mississippi (18).

Most players signed in December with many already on campus.

“I don’t look at this as a signing day Zoom because our class was pretty much done in December,” Georgia coach Kirby Smart told reporters.

Texas A&M's top signee was defensive tackle Shemar Turner, rated as the nation's No. 21 prospect and third best at his position. Texas A&M also nabbed a pledge from running back LJ Johnson.

It was the Aggies' third straight class ranked in the Top 7 for a program that was a College Football Playoff contender last season.

It's another step toward coach Jimbo Fisher's goal of stacking top classes together "to create the competition, to create the depth and create what you want to do.”

BLUE-CHIP BLOCKERS

SEC teams have loaded up on some of the nation's top offensive linemen, especially Alabama. The Tide signed the top two tackles — JC Latham and Tommy Brockermeyer — while the Bulldogs landed No. 3 Amarius Mims and No. 9 Micah Morris. The second-rated guard, Terrence Ferguson, and No. 1 center James Brockermeyer also signed with Alabama. Two Top 20 tackles and No. 5-rated guard Bryce Foster opted for Texas A&M.

LSU'S BONANZA

The Tigers' slip to a .500 record following their national title didn't appear to slow Ed Orgeron & Co. down on the recruiting trail. Orgeron landed a pair of five-star recruits, defensive tackle Maason Smith and safety Sage Ryan. Both are rated No. 2 at their position in the composite rankings.

The Tigers also signed two of the nation's top-rated running backs, Armoni Goodwin and Corey Kiner.

NEW COACHES

The league's four new head coaches tried to strengthen the recruiting hands they were dealt, with mixed results. Tennessee lost some commitments — and had a few current players transfer — following the abrupt firing of coach Jeremy Pruitt and nine others on Jan. 18 for cause after an internal investigation found what the university chancellor called “serious violations of NCAA rules.”

New coach Josh Heupel salvaged a Top 20 class, the best among the new SEC coaches. Auburn climbed to 30th with some spots left to fill for Bryan Harsin. Vanderbilt coach Clark Rea's class was at No. 49.

South Carolina's Shane Beamer's initial class stands at No. 76 without a player rated higher than a three-star.

PASSERS

Georgia was the league's big winner in the hunt for a quarterback, signing five-star prospect Brock Vandagriff. The rest of the QB group includes LSU signee Garrett Nussmeier, the son of Dallas Cowboys quarterbacks coach Doug Nussmeier, a former Alabama and Florida offensive coordinator.

KIFFIN'S CLASS

Lane Kiffin had success on the recruiting trail after his debut season at Mississippi. The Rebels scored their highest rated class since Hugh Freeze's Top-5 group in 2016. Defensive tackle Tywone Malone joined the ranks on signing day. The No. 62 overall prospect and sixth-rated tackle also wants to play baseball.

The latest class, after Kiffin's first full recruiting cycle in Oxford, includes four-star quarterback Luke Altmyer out of Mississippi State's back yard in Starkville.

___

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