With the release of Rivals.com’s top 100 players for 2016, one thing is clear: the SEC is wasting no time once again.
Five of the top 10 players listed are already committed to SEC schools, including Nos. 1, 2 and 3. Nate Craig, a wide receiver from Tampa, burst onto the camp scene this summer and has taken the lead. The 6-foot-2, 198-pound Craig has all of the tools to play immediately and the Auburn Tigers picked up his commitment on July 21. According to camp reports, Craig is basically impossible to stop one-on-one with great route running to accompany his freakish athleticism. Playing against elite competition in the Tampa area has no doubt forged Craig into the top player in the country for 2016.
Jacob Eason and Ben Cleveland pulled a recruiting bombshell when both players committed to the Georgia Bulldogs after the annual Dawg Night camp in late July. Eason is a tall quarterback (6-foot-5, 207 pounds) from Washington with a very strong arm that has impressed everywhere he has been. At Dawg Night, Eason threw a 65-yard bomb flat-footed, wowing coaches and players alike. That type of natural ability combined with the tutelage of Mark Richt and Mike Bobo will likely result in an NFL career.
At No. 3, Cleveland is the most physically imposing player on the list. Standing at 6-foot-6 and weighing 327 pounds, this road grader has been clocked at 5.0 in the 40-yard dash. He is projected as an offensive tackle, but Cleveland has the speed to play just about anywhere on the line. With his NFL size and speed, Cleveland will likely walk into a starting position in Athens in 2016. That is what hitting the genetic lottery will do and the Dawgs picked up a huge piece of the puzzle when they secured Cleveland’s verbal commitment.
Demetris Robertson and Gregory Little stand at Nos. 5 and 6 on Rivals’ list and they are committed to Alabama and Texas A&M, respectively. Robertson is a speedy athlete from Savannah, Ga. who has been tested on both sides of the ball in camps this summer. Although he may need to add bulk before he gets to the next level (6-foot, 167 pounds), Robertson’s talent is undeniable. Whether it be at slot receiver or cornerback, his speed and explosion have served him well against all opponents. Alabama will certainly be wary of Georgia in Robertson’s recruitment, but the Tide held firm as his choice, even after a Dawg Night visit.
Little pledged to the Aggies in June, citing location, playing in the SEC and in the spread offense as key factors in his decision. The Aggies must be pleased to get the 6-foot-6, 280-pound tackle who dominates tough competition at Allen, Texas with a controlled fury that makes him one of the top linemen in the country. Since joining the SEC, the Aggies have ignited a full frontal assault on Texas recruits with major success. The addition of Little only serves to bolster a strong showing on the recruiting trail in their home state.
What will Dexter Lawrence, Shavar Manuel and Lyndell Wilson do now? These are other players in the top 10 who live in or near the heart of SEC country and have offers from most major schools. Will they continue the early commitment trend and give the SEC eight of the top 10 for 2016? The pressure will be on them to make a move sooner than later and one visit could seal the deal quickly. Then there are Rashan Gary and Malik Henry, two players outside the south with several SEC offers. While it does not appear they will head to the SEC right now, anything can change.
Yes, the SEC is wasting no time securing their future rosters and clearly, the top players in the country have no qualms accommodating them. It will be interesting to see what this list looks like in December.
Brad Stephens is an SEC football writer for Rantsports.com. Feel free to follow on Twitter @bradstephens320 or add him to your Google network.