The SEC is certainly a tough conference for younger players to adjust to once they get to college, because the speed of the game is so much faster, but we are accustomed to seeing several underclassmen make impacts in their first and second seasons.
And when I say underclassmen, I mean freshmen and sophomores – no matter if they have been redshirted or not.
These five teams below have some stud underclassmen, and they are set up for the future.
Here are the top five teams that have the best young talent in the SEC:
1. Alabama: What is Alabama not good at? Not only was Bama the most dominant team in the SEC in week one, but they also played a ton of underclassmen as well. Freshman RB TJ Yeldon carried for over 100 yards and a touchdown to highlight the game against Michigan, and it had everyone buzzing about his potential. In addition to Yeldon, Bama also plays freshman Dee Hart, too. That’s a thunder and lightning potential. Young WRs Christion Jones, Amari Cooper and DeAndrew White are already giving QB AJ McCarron formidable weapons in the passing game, and sophomore OL Cyrus Kouandjio has the most upside of any lineman in the SEC. Sophomore defenders in LBs Xavier Dickson, Trey Depriest and Adrian Hubbard, coupled with sophomore safety tandem Vinnie Sunseri and HaHa Clinton-Dix, are setting this defense up for more experience returning next year. The present, along with the future, sure does look bright for the Tide.
2. LSU: Even though LSU, much like Alabama, is very experienced and has many veterans around the field making plays, they have young players stepping up as well. The three biggest impact underclassmen are RB Kenny Hilliard, WR Odell Beckham and DT Anthony Johnson. Hilliard carried for two touchdowns last week, and he was tied for a team-high eight touchdowns a year ago. Beckham housed a 70-yard punt return, and he will be a stud at receiver this season. Anthony “Freak” Johnson will be a first rounder after next season because he’s that good. And you already know all about P Brad Wing, because he’s the best punter in the SEC and very much an impact player. Names you’ll see continue to emerge this season are WR Jarvis Landry and OL La’el Collins. Landry had a spectacular one-handed catch against North Texas, and Collins will be the next great lineman for the Tigers. LSU will also play freshmen LBs Deion Jones, Kwon Alexander, Ronnie Feist, Lamar Louis, Lorenzo Phillips and Trey Granier throughout the season because they make up the depth chart at the position.
3. Georgia: While Georgia has a veteran defense, they have impact players mostly on the offensive side of the football who are underclassmen. And RB Todd Gurley looks like he’s the cream of the crop, too, after last week’s performance. Along with Gurley, fellow freshman RB Keith Marshall and sophomore Ken Malcome will see plenty of time at running back as well. True freshman John Theus starts at right tackle along the offensive line, and sophomore CB/WR Malcolm Mitchell developed into Georgia’s best receiving threat as a freshman last season. In addition, WRs Michael Bennett and Justin Scott-Wesley will play crucial roles in the receiving game this season, especially with Mitchell working at corner early in the year. LB Amario Herrera will be important early when Alec Ogletree is out due to his suspension, but he’ll stay play when Ogletree returns.
4. South Carolina: The Gamecocks have several underclassmen ready to make a big impact this season. You can’t start with anyone else other than sophomore DE Jadeveon Clowney and the matchup nightmare he presents to opponents’ offenses. The Gamecocks have a great crop of young talented offensive linemen in AJ Cann, Mike Matulis and Brandon Shell to build around for the future. They didn’t really show up too well against Vanderbilt, but this group is good and will improve throughout the season. Sophomore DT Kelcy Quarles is another player to look for in the future, along with DBs Victor Hampton and Brison Williams. Freshman WR Shaq Roland and sophomore Bruce Ellington are looking to make in impact, if the Gamecocks’ passing game ever gets going.
5. Ole Miss: While the Rebels’ roster is depleted with experienced upperclassmen, they do have some talented underclassmen who already have and will continue to make an impact this season. WR Donte Moncrief is one of the best receivers in the SEC right now as a sophomore, and he’ll continue to really develop and should flourish in Hugh Freeze’s system. Sophomore DE CJ Johnson and LB Serderius Bryant were impact players as freshmen, and they should be very good this season as they continue to develop. Johnson was just named the SEC’s Co-Defensive Lineman of the Week. Freshman RB Jaylen Walton is off to a hot start and scored a TD in his first career carry last week. We know why the coaching staff was really high on him in fall camp. OL Aaron Morris and SS Cody Prewitt are two sophomores who are impact players as well. The present will be tough to scratch out wins, but the future certainly has some youngsters to build around.