SEC redshirt freshmen to watch in 2016
It’s been a couple of years now since two redshirt freshman won back-to-back Heisman Trophies. Texas A&M’s Johnny Manziel was the first to accomplish the feat in 2012 and Florida State’s Jameis Winston followed in 2013.
Is there a sleeper in the 2016 crop of redshirt freshmen? Is he from the SEC? Only time will tell, but here are a group of redshirt freshmen to watch in the upcoming season:
QB Blake Barnett, Alabama
You’d have to start the discussion here if you’re talking about possible redshirt freshmen Heisman candidates. The five-star prospect, rated the nation’s No. 2 pro-style quarterback in the class of 2015 by 247Sports.com, has the ability to make a run at it, if not this year perhaps in the years to come. He’ll be pushed this season just to be Alabama’s starting quarterback. Barnett will have to win the job among a talented pool that includes Cooper Bateman and David Cornwell.
LB Leo Lewis, Mississippi State
The class of 2015’s top inside linebacker recruit in the nation, according to 247Sports.com, Lewis had a year to develop behind a loaded Bulldogs linebacking corps. With a year of campus experience, Lewis will certainly be given his chance in 2016.
The physical 6-3, 225-pounder is a hard-hitting, quick-footed force that has the instincts to be a standout at his position and will be a name bandied about around the SEC, starting as early as 2016.
— HailState Graffix (@msstgraffix) June 30, 2015
OT Drew Richmond, Tennessee
Quite a bit of buzz surrounding the 6-5, 301-pounder on Rocky Top. Richmond looks to step in and become a staple in the Vols’ line for years to come. He’ll have competition from veterans.
Richmond was a standout during bowl practices, something coach Butch Jones and teammates noticed.
“The defensive line actually took his stripe off,” Jones told 247Sports, “and I think that’s quite a compliment coming from them because he goes against them every day in (scout-team work). So I see him progressing.”
QB Ricky Town, Arkansas
A USC transfer, Town redshirted as a true freshman. With Brandon Allen’s departure, Town figures to battle for the starting spot in 2016. The 6-3, 209-pound pro-style quarterback looks to fit in very well with the Razorbacks’ offense.
“Ricky is the kind of uncommon person we are looking for and will fit into our program athletically, academically and socially,” Arkansas coach Bret Bielema told arkansasrazorbacks.com.
LB Richard McBryde, Auburn
The 6-1, 227-pounder will be among the many inexperienced linebackers looking for playing time in 2016. By all indications he should be right in the mix, but new DC Kevin Steele will have the last word on that.
McBryde impressed his teammates during bowl practices, rotating between Will and Mike positions.
“He’s done a great job,” fellow linebacker Kris Frost told Ledger-Enquirer.com. “He’s really raised his level. I haven’t gotten to see him a whole bunch previously leading up to this point (bowl practice), so getting to see him out there — he had a big-time interception in one of the practices — he’s done a lot of good stuff.”
CB Kendall Sheffield, Alabama
Alabama’s depth in the secondary allowed the five-star recruit to redshirt last season and become a prominent member of the scout team. And while the secondary remains deep in talent, Sheffield will have his opportunity to become part of that very talented group in 2016.
DE Jamario Bell, Arkansas
An outstanding player on both sides of the ball in high school, the 6-5, 253-pounder looks to make his mark off the edge of the Razorbacks’ defensive line. He’ll compete for playing time in 2016.
Let’s see if he can do as much damage in the SEC as he did to backboards in high school.
WR DaMarkus Lodge, Ole Miss
The fleet-fooded 6-2, 190-pounder saw playing time early in 2015 but still redshirted. He caught one pass, a 12-yard touchdown reception. He looks to reach the end zone many times for the Rebels beginning with the 2016 season.
WR Van Jefferson, Ole Miss
Another talented receiver the Rebels will unveil in 2016. The 6-2, 200-pounder will vie with Lodge to give Rebels QB Chad Kelly a plethora of options to throw to in the upcoming season.
— Brad Logan (@BradLoganCOTE) February 25, 2016