Thursday, December 23, 2010

Exodus of Stars

The A.J. Green Watch, which is really no watch at all, has officially begun.

The superb Georgia receiver will sign a big NFL contract this summer, making it almost a certainty that he'll never again have to sell a jersey for spending money.
Dawg fans, whose optimism always extends beyond their rightful station in life, are praying for one last hurrah from their All-American end.

Instead, Green will lead the departure of perhaps the greatest junior class in SEC history. Consider the names of the prospective early departees:

Julio Jones, Mark Ingram and Marcel Dareus, all of Alabama.

Cam Newton and Nick Fairley, both of Auburn.

Ryan Mallett of Arkansas.

Patrick Peterson of LSU.

Derrick Locke of Kentucky.

If we look a little closer, we'll find that the list includes:

*The last two Heisman winners (Ingram and Newton).

The key players on what should be the last two National Champions (Alabama and Auburn).

The top two receivers (Green and Jones) in the next NFL draft.

The likely top defensive linemen (Fairley and Dareus) in said draft.

The top safety in college football (Peterson).

And one of the most versatile players (Locke) in the entire college game.

Everyone of them is an All-American, with the exception of Locke, and he should have been. Most of them were part of the 2008 recruiting class, one of the best of modern times, and have been terrorizing the league for three years. Fairley and Newton, who came out of junior college, are one-and-doners at Auburn, but what an impact they have had.

In the end, we are left with one conclusion: Talent gravitates to the SEC. The best league and the best TV slots and the best rivalries get the best players.

The conference schools are wrapping up what should be another bumper recruiting season, with Alabama, LSU, Florida and Georgia expecting Top 10 classes. But it will be a while, maybe a long while, before the SEC has another group to compare with what arrived in 2008, easily one of the best ever -- even for the top conference in the country.