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SEC Recruiting Notebook: Alabama, Auburn Make JUCO Signing Day Splashes

sec-recruiting-notebook-gfxAlabama’s defensive line received an immediate boost on Wednesday.

The Crimson Tide signed defensive linemen D.J. Pettway and Jarran Reed on junior college signing day, meaning both players will be on campus in January to take classes and compete in spring practice.

Pettway, who was booted from the Alabama football team in February, has already proven he can help Alabama. He recorded four tackles for loss and 2.5 sacks as a freshman in 2012.

Reed is another former SEC signee. He signed with Florida in February but failed to qualify academically. Now, he’s headed to Tuscaloosa to play for Alabama.

“I felt like Alabama was the best place for me,” Reed told earlier this month. “I can become a better person and player. Everything stands out to me about their program, the football aspect and the academics, the graduation rate. It’s an elite program. I want to be the best I can be. I want to play with the best.”

DaVonte Lambert believes he’s going to play with the best. That’s why the defensive lineman signed with Auburn on Wednesday after having been committed to Tennessee since August.

Lambert, who was one of four Auburn signees, was impressed by the recruiting pitch of head coach Gus Malzahn and defensive line coach Rodney Garner. The Tigers’ run to an SEC championship and BCS title game appearance certainly helped Auburn’s effort as well.

Lambert is part of an impressive junior college signing class for Auburn, which includes offensive lineman Xavier Dampeer, defensive back Derrick Moncrief and wide receiver D’haquille Williams.

Williams, who’s ranked the nation’s No. 1 junior college prospect by Rivals, should make an immediate impact in Malzahn’s offense next season.

“We’re going to throw it more next season,” Malzahn said during his Wednesday press conference. “You just get him (Williams) the ball and he makes things happen.”

Overall, the SEC has found plenty of success recruiting the junior college ranks for the 2014 class. Seven of the top 10 committed or signed JUCO players according to Rivals have chosen SEC schools.

Tennessee signed three prospects on Wednesday, including two of the top seven players ranked by Rivals. Offensive tackle Dontavius Blair was especially important for Tennessee to sign because the Vols will have to replace all five offensive line starters next season.

“He’s going to give us immediate relief and competition at the offensive tackle position,” Tennessee coach Butch Jones said of Blair. “We’re very excited about him.”


Hampton ready to announce

Cornerback C.J. Hampton from Meridian (Miss.) High School is scheduled to announce his final college decision Friday evening at 6:30 eastern time. 

Hampton, who committed to Ole Miss in June 2012, announced this week that he was no longer committed to the Rebels.

Hampton’s finalists are Alabama, Arkansas, Ole Miss and Florida State. Alabama is considered the clear favorite to land Hampton, who took an official visit to Tuscaloosa last month and visited unofficially last weekend.

Alabama coach Nick Saban has made Hampton a high priority in the Crimson Tide’s recruitment for the 2014 class.

“(Saban) told me that I was his guy and he likes me a lot with what their free safeties do,” Hampton told 247Sports last month. “He said that I remind him of Ha Ha (Clinton-Dix) when he was in high school and you can see how that turned out. He showed me a lot of attention when I was there.

“It is a tremendous honor to have someone like that compare you to guys of such a high caliber.”

Hampton is ranked the nation’s No. 5 safety by 247Sports. His decision has become even more important for Alabama because of safety Laurence Jones’ decision to decommit from the Crimson Tide earlier this week.

Hampton posted a message on twitter this week supporting Jones, who maintains Alabama is still in the running for his services.

“My boy gotta do what’s best for him. Gone always gone be fam,” Hampton wrote.


Elam down to two

Defensive lineman Matt Elam from John Hardin High School in Elizabethtown, Ky.,announced Thursday he is down to two schools: Alabama and Kentucky.


Elam, who’s ranked the nation’s No. 2 defensive tackle by 247Sports, plans to announce his decision at the U.S. Army All-American Bowl in San Antonio, Texas, on Jan. 4.

“UK is in my home state that I want to make proud and is close to my heart,” Elam told 247Sports. “As for Bama, it’s an opportunity that not a lot of people can pass up. Nick Saban stayed and kept his word.”

Elam’s recruitment could go either way. Alabama has a slight edge, according to media predictions. The Crimson Tide has received 60 percent of the crystal ball predictions on 247Sports.


South Carolina lands Sawyer

Defensive lineman Dante Sawyer from North Gwinnett High School in Suwanee, Ga., committed to South Carolina on Tuesday.

“I picked them because of the school,” Sawyer told 247Sports. “They have one of the top business schools, which is what I want to major in. I like being in Cola and just everything about South Carolina.”

South Carolina’s coaches will like having Sawyer on their team. He’s ranked the nation’s No. 9 weakside defensive end by 247Sports.

Sawyer, who chose South Carolina over Auburn, Georgia and Missouri, will be a welcomed addition to South Carolina’s defense with the Gamecocks looking to replace defensive ends Jadeveon Clowney and Chaz Sutton.

Sawyer should help South Carolina’s pass rush. His ESPN scouting report reads in part:

“This is a good, tough football player. Displays good lateral mobility and can redirect very quickly. Has very good awareness with a nose for the ball. Can quickly squeeze down, close daylight and sniffs out screens well. Gives very good effort with proper angles and good pursuit speed.”



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