Ranking the Top 25 SEC freshmen for 2021
The SEC again dominated another recruiting cycle.
Four teams ranked among the top 8 in the country, led, again, by No. 1 Alabama. Eleven teams signed a top-30 class.
That’s a lot of talent. How much will make an immediate impact?
Here are the Top 25 freshmen in the SEC for 2021:
Day 1 starters in Rocky Top?
25. De’Shawn Rucker, CB, Tennessee
24. Jaylen Wright, RB, Tennessee
The general belief is that Tennessee will have to go through some form of a rebuilding year under first-year head coach Josh Heupel. If that’s the case, it’s logical to expect to see a few true freshmen on the field as the season goes along. Rucker (6-0, 187) was one of the top cornerback prospects in the region and a guy who should be able to get on the 2-deep roster early. Wright may start the season in a running back platoon with JUCO transfer Tiyon Evans.
23. Quincy Skinner, WR, Vanderbilt
Skinner has already turned heads at the start of the training camp and the true freshman comes from one of the best high school programs in the country (St. Thomas Aquinas in Fort Lauderdale, Florida). Even though wide receiver is the one spot that Vanderbilt has some pretty good depth at, Skinner looks like a lock for some snaps this season.
22. Kool-Aid McKinstry, CB, Alabama
21. Nick Elksnis, TE, Florida
There’s going to be a good battle in Gainesville to replace Kyle Pitts and I like this Jacksonville-area recruit to get himself in the mix and challenge Kemore Gamble and Keon Zipperer for playing time as the season goes along.
20. O’Mega Blake, WR, South Carolina
Blake was one of the big in-state gems for Shane Beamer in his initial recruiting class at South Carolina. The Gamecocks will have a young group of pass-catchers, and Blake might be the most talented of the bunch. Will he play immediately? Time will tell, but Blake will establish himself as a top guy as the season rolls along.
Big freshmen for Big Blue
19. Martez Thrower, LB, Kentucky
18. Trevin Wallace, LB, Kentucky
Kentucky recruited Thrower and Wallace in hopes that they can provide some immediate returns at a position that might be the thinnest on the team. Wallace has been getting a lot of good publicity early and head coach Mark Stoops said he won’t hesitate to play either true freshman if they can prove they deserve the time.
Maybe we’ll get an early taste
17. Carlos Del Rio-Wilson, QB, Florida
16. Brock Vandagriff, QB, Georgia
Here’s the issue with these lists. Vandagriff likely will become a better player than some listed ahead of him, but his playing opportunity will be limited and this ranking is based on how quickly they can contribute. Both Del Rio-Wilson and Vandagriff are comfortable third-stringers right now and will likely stay there in 2021 barring injury. So that means they might get a quarter of garbage time in a blowout this year. Just a little taste for the future.
15. Tar’Varish Dawson, WR, Auburn
Dawson was one of the few holdovers in Auburn’s recruiting class after Gus Malzahn was fired and replaced by Bryan Harsin. Harsin made Dawson a priority and Dawson has shown why early in training camp. His speed will be on display in some form this season whether he’s playing wide receiver, returning kicks or is the focal point of some gimmick plays or a certain package of the offense.
Next men up
14. Luke Altmyer, QB, Ole Miss
13. Garrett Nussmeier, QB, LSU
Both true freshmen look like they are going to be in position to get some snaps early in the season. Altmyer seems to already be in the No. 2 spot at Ole Miss behind Matt Corral and Nussmeier will be the backup at LSU after Myles Brennan’s injury will likely keep him out for the year. Nussmeier will have to get his feet wet pretty quickly this season.
Alabama Section, Part 1
12. Tommy Brockermeyer, OT, Alabama
11. Damon Payne, DT, Alabama
10. JC Latham, OT, Alabama
9. Camar Wheaton, RB, Alabama
Latham and Brockermeyer are the future bookends and will likely spend more of the season as understudies of the upperclassmen ahead of them on the depth chart (most notably Evan Neal). But the Tide are replacing 3 guys up front, so don’t be surprised if at least 1 of the talented 5-star freshmen gets some early run. Payne might have a better chance to get in the mix, especially with the defensive line suffering a few early injuries, most notably with senior LaBryan Ray. As for Wheaton, it’s already obvious that Alabama will use a lot of backs this season and at some point, the star freshman will probably get everyone excited.
8. Shemar Turner, DL, Texas A&M
Texas A&M’s recruiting class was extremely good with top prospects like cornerback Deuce Harmon and running back LJ Johnson. It speaks to the overall depth of the recruiting classes in the conference that only 1 Aggies prospect made the list, but Turner is one heck of a prospect. The Aggies’ starting defensive front looks strong, but the rest of the spots on the 2-deep aren’t as established. That is where Turner will make his presence known.
7. Maason Smith, DL, LSU
After a less-than-stellar performance from the LSU defensive front last season, landing Smith, arguably the top defensive player in Louisiana, was a major priority. There’s little doubt that Smith will get on the field early and be thrown right into the mix. How big of a role he carves out will depend on what he does with those snaps early in the season. He has the talent to be a major presence in his first year.
Young Dawgs ready to bark
6. Xavian Sorey, LB, Georgia
5. Nyland Green, DB, Georgia
There are a lot of talented true freshmen at Georgia who will push for playing time. There also are a lot of talented upperclassmen who will keep them on special teams and off the 2-deep. There are openings for Sorey and Green, however, and both highly-touted freshmen will seize the opportunity and get on the field in real game situations.
4. Jason Marshall, CB, Florida
For all the criticism Dan Mullen gets as a recruiter, his staff did manage to grab the top corner prospect in Florida, a Miami-area star no less. Marshall will challenge for a starting spot in camp and even if he doesn’t get it, he’ll be on the field so much you’ll think he was in the starting lineup. If the Gators can get Marshall and Kaiir Elam on the field together playing at a high level, that’s a tough corner combo to handle.
Alabama Section, Part 2
3. Agiye Hall, WR, Alabama
2. JoJo Earle, WR, Alabama
1. Ja’Corey Brooks, WR, Alabama
Yeah, there was no way around this one. Alabama just put what feels like a billion wide receivers in the past 2 NFL Drafts just to reload with this group of potential pass-catching stars. The offense in Tuscaloosa has to replace a lot of players at almost every position, but is there anyone outside of Miami that doesn’t think they are hanging 40+ on the Hurricanes in Week 1?
Nope. Bryce Young is going to sling the rock around just like Tua Tagovailoa and Mac Jones did before him. And Hall, Earle and Brooks are going to catch all the passes and spend more time in the end zone than the pylons, just like DeVonta Smith, Jerry Jeudy, Henry Ruggs and Jaylen Waddle did before them. You don’t have to like it, but learn how to deal with it.