The drama is over and the 2015 recruiting cycle has come to an end. With National Signing Day behind us, we have an idea of how teams finished up and what to expect in 2015. As they have every year in recent memory the SEC dominated in the recruiting world. Nine SEC teams finished in the top 20 recruiting classes via 247sports. With many blue-chip recruits headed to the southeast, a handful of these players will get the opportunity to make an immediate impact.
Here is who we think will be 2015’s most significant freshmen in the SEC East, stay tuned for the SEC West.
Florida Gators: Martez Ivey OT/6-foot-5/275 lbs
New head coach Jim McElwain was left a mess after the firing of Will Muschamp. Before NSD, the Gators sat with the 65th best recruiting class in the nation. The Gators were desperate and needed something to save them from complete embarrassment, and Ivey provided that. With the Gators losing both starting tackles this off-season, Ivey is going to compete for a starting spot immediately. If things don’t end well with CeCe Jefferson, Ivey could end up as the Gators only 5-star recruit this year. Look for him to have the same kind of success as freshman Alabama tackle Cameron Robinson.
Georgia Bulldogs: Trent Thompson DT/6-foot-2/313 lbs
I know, it’s easy to pick the No. 1 overall player as the most significant, but there’s more to the selection. It was huge for defensive coordinator Jeremy Pruitt to snag Thompson in his first full recruiting year in Athens. It was only two years ago that UGA missed on former No. 1 overall recruit Robert Nkemdiche from Georgia, so keeping Thompson in-state will hopefully influence recruits to stay in Georgia. Thompson brings explosion and power to the defensive interior. Georgia finished 61st in rush defense last year and Thompson will only improve that. With UGA only having one upperclassman at defensive tackle, Thompson will be able to compete early.
Kentucky Wildcats: Eli Brown OLB/6-foot-2/190 lbs
Unlike their men’s basketball team, Kentucky’s football team does not dominate the recruiting world. I know it’s harsh, but Kentucky is lucky to get what they get because it’s hard to convince kids in SEC country to rebuild in Kentucky when they can compete for a national championship just about anywhere else. You know it’s bad when eight of the top 20 kids in the state choose Western Kentucky over Kentucky. Luckily, Eli Brown signed with the Wildcats. He’s a four-star recruit and the second rated player in the state of Kentucky. Kentucky lost a strong outside-rusher in Bud Dupree. Brown’s athletic frame and speed of the edge will help Kentucky rack up sacks.
Missouri Tigers: Drew Lock QB/6-foot-3/205 lbs
It was hard for me to pick against someone as talented as Terry Beckner Jr., but Drew Lock was a huge get for the Tigers. Lock is one of the top quarterbacks in the nation and was a starter in the Army All-American Game. He was rated the top player in Missouri and quarterback is a position of need for the Tigers. Maty Mauk looked like he was the future in 2013, but with a shaky 2014, he is going to be on a short leash in the upcoming season. Missouri has other talented quarterbacks on the roster, but none have the upside and potential that Lock has.
South Carolina Gamecocks: Dante Sawyer DE/6-foot-3/262 lbs
Sawyer may not have just graduated from high school, but with him being one of the top defensive ends in junior college, it was crucial for the Gamecocks to keep his commitment throughout the entire season. Along with fellow JuCo defensive end Marquavius Lewis, the combination should be able to earn starting positions after playing at the highest level of JuCo and reek havoc on SEC quarterbacks.
Tennessee Volunteers: Drew Richmond OT/6-foot-5/310 lbs
Butch Jones deserves the utmost respect for the work he’s put in at Tennessee. He’s put together back-to-back top 10 finished in recruiting and has his Vols on the up. For the longest time, it appeared Memphis native would be headed to Ole Miss, but with a few days left until NSD, Jones was able to flip Richmond and keep him in his home state. 247sports has Richmond ranked as the third best tackle in the country and with Tennessee ranked in the top 10 of sacks allowed in 2o14, they will need all the help they can get on the offensive front.
Vanderbilt Commodores: Kyle Shurmur QB/6-foot-4/215 lbs
Vandy fell hard last year after their former head coach James Franklin left for greener pastures at Penn State. Their on-field struggles were hard to swallow for Commodores fans after seeing the progress Franklin made. After finishing close to dead last in points for per game, Vandy needs a boost on offense and Kyle Shurmur will give that to them. Vandy gave ample playing time to four quarterbacks and couldn’t find a steady contributor. Collectively, the four combined for 19 interceptions thrown and just 13 touchdown passes. With one quarterback graduated, Shurmur will be able to compete in the summer for a shot at QB1.
*Photo credit to 247 Sports