football Edit

Six true freshmen to watch in the SEC

The college football season is right around the corner and there will be plenty of true freshmen who will make an immediate impact. Here is a look at six players in the SEC we are excited to watch this season.

RELATED: True freshmen to watch in Big Ten

CLASS OF 2020 RANKINGS: Rivals250 | Position | Team | State

CLASS OF 2021 RANKINGS: Rivals100 | Position | Team | State

Antonio Alfano
Antonio Alfano

Recruiting: Alfano committed to Alabama over Georgia and Penn State in the spring before his senior season.

Overview: With the loss of Quinnen Williams and Isaiah Buggs, there is some major opportunity for players to step up on the defensive line and Alfano will be in the mix. There are some players such as LaBryan Ray and Phidarian Mathis who have been in Tuscaloosa longer but Alfano is a special prospect with versatility who could see the field soon.

Farrell’s take: We could have picked an offensive player who will likely get more headlines, but Alfano is physically ready to make an impact and has already impressed. He’s one of the most aggressive and physical players from the 2019 class and he’s a great fit early.


Nakobe Dean
Nakobe Dean (

Recruiting: Dean kept a lot of SEC programs interested as Alabama, Georgia, LSU, Auburn and Ole Miss all felt good about their positions in his recruitment, but he picked the Bulldogs over all those teams in December of his senior year.

Overview: Fair or not, there are comparisons of Dean to former Georgia star linebacker Roquan Smith and we will see soon enough if the former four-star can deliver at the same rate. There should be some opportunity for Dean to see the field early and the news that Brenton Cox is leaving the program could help Dean’s case even more. He’s a talented linebacker who can cover, so he brings a lot of value to the position.

Farrell’s take: Dean was a five-star at one point and dropped to a four-star mainly because of my concerns with his size, so I’m really interested in seeing how he impacts. He could play early and be the next Roquan Smith, but that’s heady stuff and the comparisons will be fun to follow. He’s a guided missile on defense.


Trey Knox
Trey Knox (Nick Lucero/

Recruiting: In October of his senior season, Knox committed to Arkansas over Tennessee and Florida. He was one of four four-star receivers in Arkansas’ impressive 2019 recruiting class.

Overview: There is a good chance Knox becomes an immediate starter for the Razorbacks as second-year coach Chad Morris continues to implement his offense. Knox is a big, rangy target on the outside and Arkansas is going to throw the ball, so the former four-star could have an impressive freshman season ahead.

Farrell’s take: Knox should be an immediate impact guy in this offense because of his size and strength. He’s one of the bigger name recruits for Arkansas in recent years. I can see Knox being one of the top freshmen in the SEC this year and ultimately having a great career.


Derek Stingley, Jr.
Derek Stingley, Jr. (Nick Lucero/

Recruiting: Stingley originally committed to LSU early in his high school career but then reopened his recruitment and considered all programs again. The Tigers eventually landed his re-commitment over Florida, Texas and others.

Overview: The reports out of Baton Rouge are glowing when it comes to Stingley and he’s expected to become an instant starter for the Tigers, which is really saying something. The former No. 1 prospect in the 2019 class has had a great offseason and he’s emerged as one of the best defensive backs on the team. If he could start from Day 1 that makes a major statement since LSU has produced so many great defensive backs.

Farrell’s take: Stingley was the first cornerback to be named No. 1 in Rivals history, so expectations are high and I expect him to live up to them. There could be some growing pains as there would be with any freshman, but he has a chance to have a career like Patrick Peterson.


DeMarvin Leal
DeMarvin Leal (Nick Lucero/

Recruiting: Texas was considered the front-runner for Leal, but then he took an official visit to Texas A&M and the Aggies emerged as the winner in his recruitment. An outstanding showing at the All-American Bowl pushed him to No. 10 nationally in the class.

Overview: The interior of the defensive line should be solid for the Aggies but there is room at defensive end for Leal to make an immediate impact. There is a lot of talent there with Micheal Clemons, Tyree Johnson and others, but it’s largely unproven and Leal is so massive and so special that keeping him on the sidelines would be hard to believe.

Farrell’s take: Leal is very raw but he’s so physically gifted I’m really excited to see how he fits in right away in the SEC. He could eventually move to defensive tackle but at first he’ll be an impact guy as a rush end and someone who can hold the point of attack against the run.


Darnell Wright
Darnell Wright (Nick Lucero/

Recruiting: During the late signing day, Wright committed to Tennessee over Alabama, West Virginia and others. The Volunteers were long considered the front- runner.

Overview: There could be two freshman starters at the tackle positions for the Volunteers and that might be welcome news by quarterback Jarrett Guarantano, who was not protected well at all last season. Wright has an opportunity to be at right tackle with Wanya Morris on the left side and it should be considered an upgrade compared to last season.

Farrell’s take: I picked Wright here, but Morris could be as good or better. Wright hung onto his fifth star despite being a bit out of shape at the end of the cycle, so I’m very curious to see how he transitioned to college. Morris was a five-star at one point but lost his fifth star. Which one will better and who will impact earlier? Keep an eye on the Vols' offense for this reason.