published Sunday, January 22nd, 2012

Wallace heads fast-track SEC recruits

Opportunity is knocking again.

The Southeastern Conference has witnessed its share of fast tracks to success in recent seasons, from quarterback Cam Newton arriving at Auburn in 2010 and leading the Tigers to the BCS championship to tailback Isaiah Crowell arriving at Georgia last year and becoming the league's top freshman.

Newton and Crowell took advantage of rosters that were not well-stocked at their positions, which was the case last year for junior college defensive end Jesse Williams, the only member of Alabama's top-rated class that started most of the season.

Here are five SEC commitments or signees this year who seem to have timed things right:

1. Bo Wallace

Wallace recently enrolled at Ole Miss after leading East Mississippi Community College to a national championship and setting NJCAA records in passing yards (4,475) and touchdowns (53). The 6-foot-5, 215-pounder has joined three returning quarterbacks in Oxford but has one distinct advantage.

New Ole Miss coach Hugh Freeze was Arkansas State's offensive coordinator in 2010 and its head coach last year, and Wallace signed with ASU in 2010 and redshirted that season.

"He knows Coach Freeze's offense, and that's going to give him a leg up," East Mississippi coach Buddy Stephens said. "It's at least going to put him even with everybody. Usually you come in and are behind everyone else because they all know the system."

The returning trio of Barry Brunetti, Randall Mackey and Zack Stoudt combined this past season to complete 49.5 percent of their passes with 13 interceptions and nine touchdowns. The Rebels ranked 107th nationally in passing offense (151.7 yards per game) and suffered the first 10-loss season in program history.

Even if Wallace wins the starting job, he will have to face the stout defenses of Alabama, Georgia and LSU.

"He had to face a defensive front here that had Denico Autry (Mississippi State early enrollee), Damien Jacobs (Florida) and Brandon Moore (Texas)," Stephens said. "Those guys were rushing against him every day in practice, and we didn't have any SEC-type offensive linemen. He's had to avoid the rush, and he moves well."

2. John Theus

Georgia's starting tackles this past season, Cordy Glenn and Justin Anderson, are prepping for next month's NFL combine, and vying for the starting spots this spring will be injury-riddled Austin Long, junior college transfer Mark Beard and former Dalton High standout Watts Dantzler.

Theus, a 6-6, 292-pounder from Jacksonville, will not arrive until the summer but will get his chance. He is Scout.com's top overall prospect in the South.

3. T.J. Yeldon

Yeldon rushed for 2,193 yards and 32 touchdowns in 12 games this past season, and he encounters an Alabama tailback depth chart no longer headed by Trent Richardson.

Rivals.com's No. 3 tailback and No. 12 overall prospect will not be handed a prominent role by any stretch, as the early enrollee has joined a position that has Eddie Lacy, Jalston Fowler, Dee Hart and Brent Calloway. Hart and Calloway signed with Alabama as elite prospects as well but experienced a rough 2011, with Hart suffering a torn ACL and Calloway getting arrested for marijuana possession.

The two for Yeldon to beat should be Lacy and Fowler, who quietly combined for 1,059 yards this past season. Lacy averaged 7.1 yards per carry and ripped off consecutive 11-yard gains against LSU in the BCS title game, while Fowler averaged 6.9 yards a carry.

Mark this down as one of the top position battles to track in the SEC.

4. Any Florida receiver

For all the storylines Tim Tebow provided this season in Denver, one that got lost was how well those who once caught his passes in Gainesville have fared. Percy Harvin, Aaron Hernandez, Riley Cooper, Louis Murphy and David Nelson are thriving in the NFL, which only magnifies the atrocity that has been Florida's receivers the past two seasons.

The Gators have only one receiver commitment, Latroy Pittman, but are in the running for Stefon Diggs of Olney, Md., and Nelson Agholor of Tampa. Diggs and Agholor are Rivals.com's No. 2 and No. 3 receivers nationally, and each has Florida in his top five.

5. Denico Autry

Mississippi's junior colleges have been cranking out the defensive linemen recently with the likes of Alabama's Terrence Cody (Gulf Coast) and Auburn's Nick Fairley (Copiah-Lincoln), and East Mississippi's Autry is the most touted of this year's bunch. Autry received scholarship offers from as far away as Southern Cal but decided to make the quick trip to Mississippi State.

"LSU called a couple days before the initial signing period and was wanting to come up, and Denico told me he was through with the recruiting process," Stephens said. "He threw up a white flag and said he was going to Mississippi State, which is a program that has sent its share of defensive linemen to the NFL. He'll have the opportunity to start, because I don't think there is anybody that is so great in front of him to where he could work hard and at least win some snaps."

about David Paschall...

David Paschall is a sports writer for the Times Free Press. He started at the Chattanooga Free Press in 1990 and was part of the Times Free Press when the paper started in 1999. David covers University of Georgia football, as well as SEC football recruiting, SEC basketball, Chattanooga Lookouts baseball and other sports stories. He is a Chattanooga native and graduate of the Baylor School and Auburn University. David has received numerous honors for ...

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