College football has become just as much about the future as it is about the present.

Fans clamor for immediate success the way they always have, but many fans have also begun looking ahead more than ever before. They spend countless hours trying to get a read on potential recruits and young prospects in their programs, hoping to discover how those players might lead their team to success two, three even four years down the line.

Saturday Down South is looking out for those fans. Below are the future faces of each SEC program — one current freshman (true or redshirt) who is poised to serve as the leader of each team in the coming years. Some of these players are already established stars; others are talented prospects awaiting their turn to shine.

So without further ado, here are the future faces of the SEC, broken down by each of the conference’s 14 programs:


Stewart was eased into the Alabama offense this season, but in the limited time he did see on the field he made explosive plays from the wide receiver position. He closed the year with just 12 catches, but those 12 catches went for 149 yards (more than 12 yards a reception). He also showed tremendous growth through the season, catching eight of those passes for 78 yards in the month of November when Alabama was aiming to lock down an SEC West title and a berth in the College Football Playoff. When Amari Cooper eventually moves on to the NFL, it will be Stewart’s turn to shine as the explosive wideout leading the Alabama offense. He’s a natural playmaker, and everyone in America will learn his name in the next two years.


I understand it’s strange to say a wideout will be the future face of a Bret Bielema offense, but Cornelius has the ability to add a threat on the outside that Bielema hasn’t had in his brief stint at Arkansas. As a freshman this season he caught 15 passes for 196 yards (more than 13 yards per reception), including five catches of 15 yards or more. Cornelis can stretch the field and can use his 6-foot-1, 200-pound frame to shield defenders and make difficult catches across the middle of the field. His numbers may never be as good as a guy like Amari Cooper’s are this year, but the added threat he can add to an already potent rushing attack could take the Hogs offense to the next level. Cornelius will, or at least should, be recognized as the X-factor that makes it all possible.


Thomas saw limited action this season as the backup to Cameron Artis-Payne, the SEC’s leading rusher. Nevertheless, he showed flashes of his dynamic abilities in rushing for close to 5 yards per carry on the season, and he’s sure to follow in the footsteps of Tre Mason and Artis-Payne when his time comes to carry the load out of the backfield. Gus Malzahn’s spread rushing attack is predicated on having an explosive tailback, and Thomas fits the bill perfectly. He’s a superstar in waiting for the Tigers, and he’ll serve as the face of the offense when his time eventually arrives on the plains.


Harris was thrust into action mid-season as Jeff Driskel’s struggles hit a breaking point, but he hardly impressed in his five starts under center for the Gators. Nevertheless, it appears, for now, Harris is the quarterback of the future in Gainesville, and the former four-star prospect certainly has plenty of upside. He only completed 46 percent of his passes and threw for just 126 yards per game in those five starts, but he did run for 4.8 yards per carry and three touchdowns to show off his dual-threat abilities. Now that he’s assumed the role of the full-time starter Harris’ growth can truly begin, and there’s a great chance he develops into a leader on future Florida teams, depending on who the head coach is next season.


Chubb has already begun to emerge as the face of the Dawgs as a freshman in 2014. Since entering the starting lineup as Todd Gurley’s replacement (first during his four-game suspension and again following his season-ending knee injury) Chubb has rushed for at least 100 yards in seven straight games. As a result, he finished second in the SEC in rushing and didn’t even start the first five games of the season. Georgia has a history of producing dynamic tailbacks, and it appears Chubb is next in line. He’s already arrived as a star in the SEC, and if he stays healthy he could become the face of the entire conference, not just the Bulldogs.


Williams had a fantastic rookie season for the Blue and White, setting a school freshman record with three 100-yard performances on the year. He closed the year with 650 yards from scrimmage in 10 games, including 542 yards in his last seven games of the season. He showed his versatility as an explosive tailback and as a capable pass-catcher in 2014, and made plays when Kentucky needed them most in back-and-forth contests with rivals Florida and Louisville. It’s safe to say the Wildcats haven’t had a player this explosive on offense since Randall Cobb, and if Williams can live up to Cobb’s legacy he’ll have an incredible career at UK.


Fournette was among the most touted freshmen in the country when he arrived at LSU this season, and although he suffered a slow start to the season he burst on the scene in the second half of the year, rushing for 100 yards four times in his final eight games. He closed the year with 891 yards and eight touchdowns on the ground, and even added two 30-yard receptions to the mix just to keep defenses honest. He proved himself to be as powerful as any runner in the conference, and his ability to wear down defenses over the course of a game will benefit the LSU offense in the long run, especially if it can find the right answers in the passing game. Fournette was superseded by Chubb as the best rookie tailback in the conference, but he has a great chance to be the face of the Bayou Bengals in the coming years.


Graham struggled as a freshman and saw most of his playing time as a punt returner, where he muffed a handful of punts and caused Bulldog fans a fair amount of frustration. Nevertheless, Graham learned a lot and grew a lot this season, and he maintains explosive upside that will make him a factor in the Mississippi State offense down the line. His first career reception went for a one-yard loss, but he rallied with four more catches for 77 yards to close the season, an average of more than 19 yards per reception. If Graham continues to grow and gain confidence, he’ll stretch the field for the Bulldogs as they aim to sustain this year’s success for years to come.


Witter was the Tigers third tailback behind Marcus Murphy and Russell Hansbrough this year, but he displayed the same kind of explosiveness and athleticism as the two backs in front of him. Eventually those abilities will make Witter a star in the SEC, and he’ll serve as the face of the offense, along with sophomore quarterback Maty Mauk, in leading the Tigers ground game. Head coach Gary Pinkel has been patient in developing Witter this season (having Murphy and Hansbrough helps) and that patience will pay off in a big way when it’s Witter’s turn to shine. This guy has 1,000-yard season written all over him; it’s all just a matter of when his time will finally arrive.


Haynes was a rotational player along the Ole Miss defensive line this year, but he made the most of his opportunities as one of the most exciting young pass-rushers in the conference. He closed the year with 7.5 sacks (seventh in the SEC) and 8.5 tackles for loss, using his abilities as a speed rusher to terrorize offensive tackles across the league. As Haynes continues to grow into his body and learn the subtleties of defense in the SEC, he’ll blossom as a dominant defensive lineman capable of leading the Rebels’ vaunted Landshark defense when its current veteran leaders move on to the next level. He’s still growing into his role, but he’ll be the face of the Landsharks soon enough.


Williams only saw time in eight games this season and only carried the ball more than three times out of the backfield in five of those games, yet he still managed to run for 256 yards on the season at an impressive 5.7 yards per carry. Steve Spurrier has had quite the collection of productive tailbacks throughout the years in Columbia, and Williams appears to be next in line. He’s also more than capable as a pass-catcher, pulling in four receptions for 70 yards in a loss to Clemson to close the regular season. His abilities as a rusher and a receiver will add versatility to the Gamecocks offense in the future. Williams is a superstar in the making and he’ll burst on the scene when Mike Davis and Brandon Wilds’ careers come to a close.


Barnett was one of two SEC pass-rushers this season to break Jadeveon Clowney’s former freshman sack record of eight (Myles Garrett, the next “face,” was the other), and he did so in rather impressive fashion in the second half of the season. He closed the year fourth in the SEC in sacks and tied for first in tackles for loss, and he recorded all 10 of his sacks and 19 of his 20.5 tackles for loss in SEC play, including two three-sack performances. Barnett was as dynamic as any defensive end in the conference this season, freshman or otherwise, and he will only continue to grow and develop in the coming years. The Volunteers defense was a productive one in 2014, and Barnett will be the face of the team on that side of the ball for the remainder of his college career.


Garrett also broke Clowney’s freshman sack record, finishing second in the SEC with 11 sacks this season. He also finished seventh in the SEC with 12.5 tackles for loss. Garrett arrived with a bang, registering 5.5 sacks in his first three games as a collegiate, but he was then held back by regular double-teams for much of SEC play. Although he is still learning how to handle the role of a dominant pass-rusher in the SEC, and although he may not be as far along in his development as Barnett, he remains one of the most explosive players on a Texas A&M defense stocked with young talent. This Aggie defense only stands to improve in the coming years, and Garrett will continue to emerge as the face of the defense when those improvements show themselves on the field.


Webb’s numbers won’t blow you away, but if you watched Vanderbilt play at all this year his abilities probably did. He closed the year with 908 yards on the ground, good for 10th in the SEC. His 4.3 yards per carry ranked 35th, which obviously leaves some room for improvement, but without even the slightest threat of a productive passing game it was easy for defenses to focus all of their attention on the Commodores’ stud in the backfield. Webb still ran for 95 yards on the No. 1 scoring defense in the nation (Ole Miss), and he closed the year with four games of 90-or-more yards. If Vandy can recruit complementary pieces to put around Webb on offense, the tailback will begin to emerge as a superstar in the East.