Making an impact in the SEC as a freshman is a very difficult task, but the 10 players below did it in the SEC East. These guys can bust a grape, and they will be centerpieces on their teams for at least two more years.
We’ve seen the West’s 11 super sophomores. Now, here are SEC East’s 10:
Chris Boyd, WR, Vanderbilt: Boyd had a breakout year as a redshirt freshman when he became Vandy’s No. 2 receiver next to Jordan Matthews. The 6-4, 205 pound Boyd caught 31 passes for 473 yards and had a team-high eight touchdowns. Expect those numbers to increase this year with another year of working with quarterback Jordan Rodgers.
AJ Cann, OL, South Carolina: AJ Cann received freshman All-American honors last year as a freshman, a year that saw him start every game. The 6-4, 309 pound Cann will anchor this South Carolina line for a few years to come. He’s an All-SEC type of player at offensive guard.
Jadeveon Clowney, DE, South Carolina: The biggest super sophomore in the SEC is Jadeveon Clowney. This freak of nature was the SEC’s top freshman last year and will have the reigns released from a coaching staff that held on a little too tight in 2011. He made 36 total tackles, 12 tackles-for-loss, 8.0 sacks and five forced fumbles. He looks to throw more quarterbacks around like ragdolls.
Alvin Dupree, DE, Kentucky: Dupree had the best freshman season you didn’t hear about. On a team that didn’t get much pub last year, Dupree played in all 12 games, making 21 tackles and 2.5 sacks. Joker Phillips is high on this young man, and so am I. He has some big shoes to fill replacing Danny Trevathan.
AJ Johnson, LB, Tennessee: Derek Dooley went down to Georgia to get his linebacker in AJ Johnson, and it’s a great thing he did. Johnson had a very good freshman campaign. He was second on the team with 80 tackles and made 4.5 tackles-for-loss. He was a consensus freshman All-American.
Curt Maggit, LB, Tennessee: While Johnson was Tennessee’s top freshman on defense, Curt Maggit has the highest ceiling of anyone on defense. This kid is athletic and a big-time playmaker. Maggit will be key in Tennessee’s new 3-4 defense. He made 56 tackles and five tackles-for-loss last year.
Malcolm Mitchell, WR/DB, Georgia: Mitchell has been called the best deep threat as a receiver in the SEC, while at the same time being called UGA’s best cover corner by his coaches. Mitchell will be a two-way player this year and could be UGA’s most important player. He caught 45 passes for 665 yards and four touchdowns at receiver, and he missed time with a hamstring injury.
Brian Randolph, DB, Tennessee: Brian Randolph is the third and final Vol to be named a super sophomore. Randolph had a great freshman campaign, and he aims at anchoring the Tennessee secondary. Randolph made 55 tackles and two pass breakups last year. He looks to develop into a very good leader this year.
Marcus Roberson, CB, Florida: Marcus Roberson looks like the next lockdown corner for the Gators. Following in the footsteps of Joe Haden and Janoris Jenkins, Roberson started his first game as a freshman. He got called for some penalties, but this kid is a terrific talent. He played in 10 games, missing three with a neck injury, and made 22 tackles, one interception and two pass breakups.
De’Ante Saunders, DB, Florida: “Pop” Saunders played a crucial role in the Gators’ secondary last year. As a true freshman, Saunders held down the Nickel position very well and is fighting for a starting spot this year. He made 26 tackles, two interceptions and forced one fumble. He was named to the All-SEC freshman team for his efforts.