SEC Spotlight: Freshmen to watch
The college football season is now only days away so there’s no better time to look at some impact true freshmen around the country. We have 10 names to watch in the SEC.
THIS SERIES: Big Ten freshmen to watch
Caleb Downs: Alabama
In the summer prior to his senior season, the Hoschton (Ga.) Mill Creek five-star safety picked Alabama over Georgia, Ohio State, Notre Dame and North Carolina, where his brother, Josh, played. There are questions at safety for the Crimson Tide this season but Downs could answer many of them and start right away.
Not the biggest player ever, Downs is so instinctual and does a great job using his athleticism to make plays. It also wouldn’t be a shock to see five-star Kadyn Proctor at offensive tackle and quarterback Dylan Lonergan has been getting early rave reviews, too.
Luke Hasz: Arkansas
Shortly after then-coach Lincoln Riley’s departure from Oklahoma to USC, Hasz backed off his pledge and then picked Arkansas. It could end up being a major loss because the former four-star tight end from Bixby, Okla., has wowed the Razorbacks’ staff and players in preseason camp, and is currently TE1 heading into the season. There’s no doubt Hasz could see a lot of targets in new coordinator Dan Enos’ offense.
Keldric Faulk: Auburn
If there are any questions about edge rushers in Auburn’s defense this season, Faulk might be the answer. The five-star from Highland Home, Ala., who flipped from Florida State to Auburn late in the recruiting cycle, was rated as the second-best strong-side defensive end in 2023 behind only Georgia signee Damon Wilson.
Eugene Wilson: Florida
An NFL legacy, Florida was the “dream school” for the Tampa (Fla.) Gaither standout as he committed to the Gators instead of Alabama, Georgia and many others in the summer before his senior season.
Jordan Hall: Georgia
Hall earned his fifth star after dominating at the All-American Bowl in San Antonio as the Jacksonville (Fla.) Westside standout physically took over and also showed off surprising speed for someone his size.
The Bulldogs beat Florida, Alabama, Ohio State and LSU in late December and he’s already showing off his abilities in Athens. The Bulldogs have a ton of talent on the defensive line – big surprise – but Hall could see the field early as Georgia will rotate a ton of top players.
Ashton Stamps: LSU
LSU did not offer the Metairie (La.) Archbishop Rummel three-star defensive back until he camped in Baton Rouge but he was also impressive at the Rivals Camp Series in New Orleans a couple offseasons ago. A few weeks after the Tigers offered, Stamps committed to his dream school over Missouri, Nebraska and others.
With all that, it’s a surprise that Stamps has already made such a big impact as he could crack the two-deep at cornerback as LSU looks to figure out the top players there.
Brett Norfleet: Missouri
Early in his career, there was some debate about whether Norfleet would be a better tight end or edge rusher and as he’s focused on offense, the Saint Charles (Mo.) Francis Howell standout could be an early contributor.
Norflett committed to the Tigers in November 2021, more than a year before National Signing Day and never seriously wavered. The four-star tight end outside the Rivals250, who is also 6-foot-7, might be too talented and too big of a target to not see the field.
Ayden Williams: Ole Miss
With Malik Heath and Jonathan Mingo departing, they take with them 111 catches for 1,832 yards and 10 touchdowns that need to be replaced. And with Texas A&M transfer Chris Marshall already being dismissed, Williams’ ability will be more than welcome in the Ole Miss offense.
The high four-star picked the Rebels over Georgia, Jackson State, LSU, South Carolina and Tennessee and even though he had a muted week at the Under Armour Game, Williams showed off elite flashes at times. He has brought that quickly to Oxford as has five-star linebacker Suntarine Perkins, who should see the field as well.
Grayson Howard: South Carolina
Georgia, Texas A&M, Clemson and Florida were all involved but South Carolina won out for the high three-star linebacker and he wanted to get involved so soon that he worked with the Gamecocks during bowl practices.
It’s paid off because the Jacksonville (Fla.) Andrew Jackson standout is already in the two-deep at linebacker and should see the field from Day 1. There are a lot of spots for the taking across the defense and Howard has staked his claim.
Chase Bisontis: Texas A&M
There have been some offensive linemen who underperformed last season, some who came on later in the season and one – Bryce Foster – who will be coming back from injury. Even so, Bisontis could be too good and too powerful to keep off the field.
Ranked as the fourth-best offensive guard in the 2023 class, Bisontis picked Texas A&M over Georgia, LSU, Michigan State and Rutgers in the summer prior to his senior season and stuck with the Aggies despite their offensive struggles a year ago.