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Recruiting Breakdown: SEC

How competitive is it in the Southeastern Conference?

O.J. Howard is the top-ranked player in Alabama's class.

Five of its programs currently sit in the Top 10 of the 247Composite team ratings. One of them -- Auburn -- doesn't even have a head coach.

Here's a quick breakdown of recruiting in the SEC, as it stands with only two months left until National Signing Day.

Best Class: Florida is close, but right now Alabama has a slight edge. The Tide trails only Southern California in the rankings, while the Gators sit in the No. 3 spot. With a monster close by either, a finish on top isn't unrealistic.

Alabama currently has one 247Composite five-star and 10 four-stars on board, and Nick Saban and Co. probably aren't done.

Alabama's highest-rated player is five-star tight end O.J. Howard, who has an incredible frame and physique, not to mention the skills to go along with it.

Outside linebacker Jonathan Allen and athlete Derrick Henry, who has set national rushing records in Florida, are five-star guys in the 247 rankings but just missed in the 247Composite. Fifth star or not, they can play.

One has to like what the Tide has done at running back. First, you have Henry, a big, powerful, bruising runner with a burst. Then you throw in a pair of four-stars in Altee Tenpenny and Tyren Jones.

At quarterback, Alabama scored two including Cooper Bateman, who ranks as the No. 5 prospect among pro-style signal callers.

Florida has a gem in Vernon Hargreaves III.

The Tide also has cleaned up on the offense line, with the headliner there being athletic guard Grant Hill.

As we said, Alabama still has spots left, and several touted players remain available. The Tide very well could flip defensive tackle Dee Liner from Auburn, and is battling Georgia for five-star offensive tackle Laremy Tunsil and four-star running back Alvin Kamara. Alabama also remains in the running for a few other standouts, so the potential is there to win another recruiting national title.

Biggest Commitment Gained: Tampa (Fla.) Wharton five-star cornerback Vernon Hargreaves III, the No. 4-ranked player in the 247Composite rankings, is the conference’s top-rated commit -- for now. The No. 1 player in the country at his position is headed to Florida, and will be part of what looks to be an excellent defensive backs class in Gainesville. Gators boss Will Muschamp is a defensive-minded coach, and defensive back is his specialty, so landing Hargreaves is something the program made a huge priority. Hargreaves (5-feet-11, 185 pounds) has excellent size, good length, nice speed and footwork, and is ultra competitive. Even though the Gators are solid in the defensive backfield, nobody would be surprised if he contributed very early in his college career.

Sleeper Class: An argument could be made for half the teams in the conference, but we'll go with South Carolina. The Gamecocks are a respectable 16th in the team rankings, but that is only seventh-best among SEC programs. The fact is, though, that this group of 21 currently committed to Steve Spurrier's program is very good.

First and foremost, the Gamecocks landed a big fish at quarterback in four-star standout Connor Mitch, which is key to any Spurrier class.

Up front on offense, where South Carolina has been hot and cold in recent years and more consistency is needed, it will add talented high school teammates Bryce King and D.J. Park, along with steady Alan Knott and 6-feet-7, 275-pound J.P. Vonashek, a high-upside kid.

The defensive part of the class is headlined by three potential difference-makers in outside linebackers Larenz Bryant and Matt Rolin, and defensive tackle Kelsey Griffin.

Instant Contributor: This is a difficult question to answer. For starters, it can depend upon the needs of the college team more than the quality of the player. Also, some of the players currently committed may very well end up playing somewhere else. Taking all that into account, five-star defensive end Carl Lawson is the pick. Right now, he's committed to Auburn, but while it remains to be seen if he sticks with the Tigers he should be able to hit the field early wherever he lands. Lawson has a few things working in his favor. For starters, he's physically ready for college. He's also fast enough to compete in the SEC. More importantly, Lawson is a relentless, high-energy, high-effort guy and a cerebral player that understands the game. Those skills should translate to the next level from Day 1.

Auburn commit Carl Lawson should contribute early.

Biggest Prize Left: This is the mother of all prizes for the 2013 class, Robert Nkemdiche, the country' No. 1-rated prospect. The defensive end from Loganville (Ga.) Grayson recently de-committed from Clemson and right now he appears to be Ole Miss' to lose. Nkemdiche's brother, Denzel, is a standout for the Rebels. There is some question as to whether Nkemdiche will play defensive end or defensive tackle in college. Regardless of where he ends up, he's an enormous talent and would be the biggest signee at Ole Miss since, well, ever.

Best Position Group: Think you have to go back to Alabama and the running backs for this category. Henry may be listed as an athlete, but he's the all-time leading rusher in high school football history, so odds are he'll get a long look at this position. Tenpenny and Jones should not be overlooked. Both are outstanding players that should fit right in with Saban's philosophy of distributing the wealth -- and carries -- on offense. If, by chance, the Tide also can score Kamara, it would add another top-flight back, but one that also is very capable of lining up at receiver.

Has Some Work To Do: Auburn. The Tigers currently have the No. 10 overall class, but more than a few of their commits are wavering while Auburn goes through the process of finding a replacement for the recently fired Gene Chizik. Holding onto as many of these players as possible while the Tigers are coach-less is crucial. The new staff will then have to evaluate those players, and try to get to know them as quickly as possible. It's no small task, especially since colleges from across the country are trying to raid the cupboard (See Carl Lawson and Dee Liner, among others).

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