Five former 3-star signees crucial to SEC title hopes in 2015
Every SEC team has a contingent of reliable all-stars, players expected to rise at their respective position and lead by example throughout the season.
Most of those elites were considered can’t-miss prospects coming out of high school, but there’s a few who crawled under the radar before transforming into program-changers at the next level.
Sifting through recruiting evaluations and current SEC rosters, we’ve found five players — all former three-stars — who will impact the 2015 league championship race this season.
Our thoughts and prayers are with another former three-star, Mizzou’s Harold Brantley, who suffered serious injuries last weekend in a car accident. Brantley signed as a relative unknown in 2012 before exceeding expectations to become one of the focal points of this year’s division-title defense.
The prognosis is good and he’s expected to make a full recovery according to most recent reports, but Brantley’s status for the 2015 season is uncertain at this point.
Former 3-stars important to 2015 SEC Championship hopes
Editor’s note: Star rating based on each player’s 247Sports Composite coming out of high school.
5.) Cam Sutton, DB, Tennessee (2013 class): Whether he plays nickel or sticks at cornerback where he’s started the last 25 games for the Vols this season, Sutton will be one of college football’s most complete defensive backs. Some have said he is Tennessee’s best at the back end since Eric Berry, extremely high praise for a player who was rated as the 53rd-best player in the state of Georgia in his 2013 class. The Vols’ defense has elite talent at all three levels this season and Sutton is its primary playmaker when the ball’s in the air.
4.) Kentrell Brothers, LB, Mizzou (2011 class): The SEC’s top returning tackler will be asked to do even more this fall as the star of a defense likely playing without Brantley, its preseason All-American candidate. Brothers packaged a breakout 2013 campaign with a spectacular 2014 season, leading the Tigers in forced fumbles and tackles in run support. He’s particularly light on his feet for a 6-foot, 240-pound linebacker. Rated the nation’s 52nd-best outside linebacker in the 2011 class, Brothers has blossomed into the latest defensive NFL draft prospect to come out of Mizzou and doesn’t have a weak area in his area.
3.) Marquis Haynes, DE, Ole Miss (2014 class): Haynes could be the MVP on the Rebels’ defense this season if he continues his progression as one of the league’s most athletic pass rushers. The coveted JUCO transfer was a near instantaneous fit within Dave Wommack’s front seven in Oxford last fall, leading Ole Miss with nine tackles-for-loss and 7.5 sacks despite making only four starts. Speed off the edge thrives in the SEC and Haynes certainly has it. Tight end Evan Engram, one of the primary options int he passing game behind former five-star signee Laquon Treadwell, is another solid option here.
2.) Pharoh Cooper, WR, South Carolina (2013 class): A player many consider to be the SEC’s best at his position heading into his junior season, Cooper exploded into a first-down producing machine last season, leading the Eastern Division with 1,136 yards receiving. When he’s not out-maneuvering opposing defensive backs, Cooper’s finding a hole at the line of scrimmage as the Gamecocks’ Wildcat quarterback. Steve Spurrier has taken full advantage of the North Carolina native’s playmaking abilities thus far and surely has a few more wrinkles up his sleeve for this season.
1.) Dak Prescott, QB, Mississippi State (2011 class): The SEC’s top returning quarterback is the single-most important player for his respective program this season, Dan Mullen’s instrument of terror on the league’s most underrated offense. the dual-threat star is on the verge of becoming Mississippi State’s all-time best quarterback as the new record-holder in several statistical categories and is considered one of the league’s Heisman frontrunners heading into his final campaign. He carried the league’s torch must of last season during the Bulldogs’ triumphant run to No. 1 and will be asked to replicate that success, and then some, as a senior.