5 2016 class SEC WRs who could make an impact
There is an abundance of wide receiver talent joining SEC campuses this season. Of the top 25 wideouts in the 2016 recruiting class, 11 chose SEC schools.
As Calvin Ridley, Christian Kirk and Antonio Callaway demonstrated in 2015, some freshmen are able to make an immediate impact.
Depth charts often determine which newcomers will see the field as rookies and which will have to wait their turn. In 2016, Texas A&M, LSU and Alabama will return many of their top pass catchers, while other teams like Auburn, Florida and South Carolina will have wide-open competitions for starting spots.
There have been underrated prospects like Callaway (three-stars) excel as freshmen, but for the most part, recruiting ratings are the best predictor for which signees are ready to play on Saturdays. These five 2016 wide receivers are names to watch for in the fall:
TYRIE CLEVELAND, FLORIDA
Cleveland was the highest-rated (No. 2) receiver prospect to pick an SEC school in February. On National Signing Day, UF offensive coordinator Doug Nussmeier gushed about Cleveland’s size (6-foot-3, 189 pounds) and his “track guy” speed.
The departure of Demarcus Robinson and suspension of Callaway, UF’s top-performing receivers in 2015, would lead many people to pencil in Cleveland for early playing time; however, he could find a crowded depth chart when he arrives in the fall.
Florida took in three receivers as January enrollees, and they’re drawing praise from the Gators coaches in spring practice. Cleveland might not leapfrog everyone by September, but he’s too talented to spend the whole season as a benchwarmer.
KYLE DAVIS, AUBURN
Of all the 2016 SEC receiver signees, Davis, the No. 9 wideout from this year’s recruiting class, is in arguably the best situation.
He’s not Auburn’s highest-rated receiver signee –that’s Nate Craig-Myers, ranked No. 6 – but as an early enrollee, Davis is currently familiarizing himself with the playbook and forging chemistry with Auburn’s quarterbacks. The Tigers lack established playmaking wide receivers heading into 2016, and Davis already has the size (6-foot-2, 208 pounds) to get physical with SEC defensive backs.
BRYAN EDWARDS, SOUTH CAROLINA
With the Gamecocks transitioning to new offensive coordinator Kurt Roper’s system, all the wide receivers taking part in spring practice should be on a similar learning curve, including Edwards, an early enrollee.
Since Pharoh Cooper will be playing on Sundays next fall, the South Carolina receiving corps is full of question marks. Edwards has a prime opportunity to earn a starting spot as a true freshman and was listed as such when coach Will Muschamp released an early depth chart.
NATE CRAIG-MYERS, AUBURN
Who says Auburn has to be limited to one freshman receiver making an impact in 2016?
Don’t be surprised if the Tigers have two freshmen pass catchers stand out this fall. Davis might be getting the spring reps, but Craig-Myers looks like a man amongst boys in his high school highlights. When picking his college destination, the Tampa wideout made early playing time a high priority.
A.J. BROWN, OLE MISS
Of all the receivers on this list, Brown faces the toughest competition for playing time, as Rebels coach Hugh Freeze has managed to accumulate an absurd amount of talented wideouts in Oxford. If the No. 5-ranked wide receiver lives up to the hype – he’s been compared to Laquon Treadwell – he could be an impact performer as soon as he sees the field.
Others considered: Riley Ridley, Georgia; Freddie Swain, Florida; Trevon Diggs, Alabama; DeKaylin Metcalf, Ole Miss; Dee Anderson, LSU; Stephen Sullivan, LSU; Drake Davis, LSU; Charlie Woerner, Georgia
All recruiting rankings referenced are from the 247Sports composite.