College football’s 2014 high school recruits have signed, sealed and delivered their letters of intent, and fans across the country now anxiously await the influx of new talent into their programs.
In SEC country, more teams than not hauled in dynamic recruiting classes, which is par for the course in the nation’s top conference. Most of these blue-chippers still need development, and a good many will likely receive redshirts.
A select few, however, are ready to step right in and make immediate contributions. Following are 2014 SEC signees for each team who will make an instant impact next season.
Alabama – Da’Shawn Hand, Defensive End
Hand was rated as the nation’s top defensive player by most recruiting analysts, and the Tide managed to beat out every major program in the country for his services. The native Virginian is typical of the large, athletic ends coach Nick Saban never seems to run out of, and he’ll be an immediate force to be reckoned with.
Arkansas – Bijhon Jackson, Defensive Tackle
Skill and technique can be honed and practiced, but size can’t be taught. The 330-pound tackle should provide some much-needed beef to the Hogs’ defensive line in 2014. Arkansas beat out Alabama and Ole Miss for his services, which will be utilized right away.
Auburn – D’haquille Williams, Wide Receiver
It’s no secret that Auburn coach Gus Malzahn prefers to grind it out on the ground, so a top-flight wide receiver will do a lot to keep opposing defenses honest. Enter Williams, who already has some seasoning via the junior college ranks. The five-star recruit is tall, athletic and physical, and his presence on the outside will only strengthen an already potent offense.
Florida – Jalen Tabor, Cornerback
The Gators lost a small army of cornerbacks to the NFL this season, but Tabor should help fill the void in a big way. His offer sheet reads like a who’s who of college football, and his man-to-man cover skills will see him competing for a spot opposite 2013 star recruit Vernon Hargreaves III.
Georgia – Lorenzo Carter, Defensive End
New Bulldog defensive coordinator Jeremy Pruitt likes to get after the passer with a four-man rush. Carter is tailor-made for Pruitt’s defense as an edge-rusher, and he’ll be utilized from the get-go. He’s a bit undersized at just 235 pounds, but he more than makes up for it with a tremendous first step.
Kentucky – Cory Johnson, Defensive Tackle
Coach Mark Stoops hauled in one of Kentucky’s best classes in recent years. The Wildcats should be improved in a number of areas in 2014, most notably along the defensive line. Johnson is a junior college transfer from Brooklyn, NY, and he should provide an instant upgrade to Kentucky’s porous run defense.
LSU – Leonard Fournette, Running Back
Fournette was ranked by ESPN and 247Sports as the nation’s No. 1 overall recruit in 2014. Often hailed as the next Adrian Peterson, the New Orleans product possesses a rare combination of size, speed, agility and vision. With Jeremy Hill gone early to the NFL, there’s a good chance Fournette will be in the Tigers’ starting backfield when they open their season against Wisconsin.
Mississippi State – William Coleman, Defensive End
Coleman is another junior college transfer who will see plenty of action in 2014. He’s known as a complete player who can not only rush the passer, but contain the run as well. It won’t be a surprise if he’s starting on the strong side of the Bulldogs’ defensive line next season.
Missouri – Nate Brown, Wide Receiver
Brown, a native of Georgia, received offers from multiple SEC teams, including his home state Bulldogs. With wideout L’Damian Washington departing for the NFL, Missouri has an immediate need for a tall possession receiver to compliment budding star Dorial Green-Beckham. Brown fits the bill, and he’s likely to get a number of balls thrown his way in 2014.
Ole Miss – CJ Hampton, Safety
The Rebels’ pass defense was lacking in 2013, and Hampton is one of several key recruits who should help to shore up their shaky secondary. The 6’2” safety has great size, and he never hesitates to deliver the big hit. Hampton was one of the top-rated players in the state of Mississippi and was heavily coveted by nearly every SEC West school.
South Carolina – Chris Lammons, Cornerback
The tremendously athletic Lammons was a consensus four-star recruit in 2014. He played a number of different position in high school, including quarterback, and chose the Gamecocks over Wisconsin on signing day. Lammons is expected to immediately compete for playing time at the corner spot, which is a position of great need for coach Steve Spurrier’s club.
Tennessee – Josh Malone, Wide Receiver
The Vols were in serious need of offensive playmakers in 2013, and a talent like Malone would have made a huge difference. Better late than never. The 6’3” wideout was Rivals’ top-ranked player in the state of Tennessee, and he should find the field early on in 2014. With Malone’s combination of size and good hands, he brings instant big-play capability to Rocky Top.
Texas A&M – Speedy Noil, Wide Receiver
Any time you can lock up a receiver named “Speedy,” it’s not a bad thing. Noil is slight in build, but fleet of foot, and he closely resembles former Oregon utility back D’Anthony Thomas. Noil should fit nicely in coach Kevin Sumlin’s spread offense, and he’ll see plenty of snaps next season.
Vanderbilt – Nifae Lealao, Defensive End
The 6’6” 280-pound Lealao hails from sunny Sacramento, CA. He received offers from most schools in the Pac-12, including USC and UCLA. Like new Vanderbilt coach Derek Mason, however, he chose to head east to Nashville, where he’ll suit up for the Commodores in 2014.