10 true freshman defensive players who could make an impact in the SEC this season
True freshmen always face a challenge to have an immediate impact on a college football team.
There are more experienced players ahead of them and they have to make the transition from high school to a new environment in college. Some mitigate that by enrolling in college in January, some aren’t able to do so.
In 2021, true freshmen are going to face more competition than ever to play right away.
Players who would have exhausted their college eligibility last season had the option of returning in 2021 because of COVID effects on 2020.
Additionally, the transfer portal has facilitated the movement of players from one school to another where they anticipate a better opportunity to play.
So there is lots of competition awaiting players who are just now arriving on college campuses for the first time.
But SEC schools have recruited lots and lots of talented high-school players and many of them will have an opportunity to play right away in 2021.
Here are 10 true freshman defensive players who could make an impact in the SEC this season:
Alabama CB Ga’Quincy McKinstry
There are two ways of looking at true freshmen at Alabama.
The Crimson Tide perennially have one of the top recruiting classes in the country, so there are always top-flight experienced players ahead of newcomers. On the flip side, Alabama perennially sends a lot of players to the NFL, creating playing opportunities.
McKinistry, a 5-star prospect with outstanding coverage skills, is already on campus and has the skills and smarts to find a role in Nick Saban’s secondary in 2021.
Auburn DT Lee Hunter
In new head coach Bryan Harsin’s transition from Boise State to Auburn, the Tigers managed just the No. 19 recruiting class in the country, but Hunter was a significant pick-up. His size and athleticism make him a strong candidate to play right away on the interior, where Auburn has holes to fill.
Florida CB Jason Marshall
This 5-star recruit has the skills to play cornerback and the size to perhaps play safety. One way or another he should find a way to impact the Gators’ secondary right away.
Georgia CB Nyland Green
The Bulldogs sent a handful of DBs from last year’s team to the NFL, so there are a lot of playing opportunities in the secondary. Green has the ball skills to grab a prominent spot in the rotation right away.
LSU DB Sage Ryan
The Tigers have had success with freshman CBs Derek Stingley Jr. and Eli Ricks having an immediate impact in the last 2 seasons. Ryan is poised to see significant playing time right away, whether it’s at safety, nickel or both.
Mississippi State DE/LB Ty Cooper
Second-year Bulldogs coach Mike Leach was excited to land this hybrid defender who should find a role on the edge in State’s 3-3-5 scheme. He could be the next breakout 3-star recruit.
Ole Miss DT Tywone Malone
Lane Kiffin’s first Rebels team did a lot of good stuff on offense last season. Not so much on defense.
The upgrading of the defense begins with the arrival of Malone, who’s also a talented baseball player, to help anchor the front from the inside.
Tennessee LB Aaron Willis
The Volunteers have a strong need at inside linebacker and Willis arrives just in time. He doesn’t have prototype size, but he is fast and physical enough to make a difference right away for a unit that undergoing a major overhaul.
Texas A&M DE Shemar Turner
This 5-star recruit is the Aggies’ top-rated newcomer and has experience playing end and tackle. That makes him a strong candidate to find an important role in an area of need.
Vanderbilt DB John Howse
Howse is also a track athlete, so he has the speed as well as the football ability to fit into first-year coach Clark Lea‘s defense. Vandy gave up 24 passing TDs in just 9 games last season — on average the most by any SEC defense. Improving the back end will be a priority in Year 1.