Greg McElroy has a few SEC names in mind who could break out as stars in 2018.
When speaking to SEC Country about the conference’s possible breakout standouts for the coming season, the SEC Network analyst named Texas A&M tight end Jace Sternberger, Tennessee linebacker Daniel Bituli and Florida wide receivers Van Jefferson and Dre Massey as players who can produce memorable years.
“I think the tight end at A&M is a legit candidate — Jace,” McElroy said.
“I think he’s going to have a big year. So I’d say him. As far as other breakout stars … Tennessee is going to have somebody. … I don’t think anyone really across the entire league knew anything about Daniel Bituli. I think that if you were going to poll your average SEC fan, I bet you one in 10 couldn’t tell you who Daniel Bituli is. So I would say he’s a guy that I think is going to cast a little bigger shadow this year. I like him.
“I think Florida, if Van Jefferson is eligible, I think he’s going to have a big year. I certainly think he’s going to be eligible. I think Dre, too. I think both those two guys at Florida at wide receiver have a chance to be pretty good. Those are a few that kind of come to mind.”
Sternberger, a former 3-star JUCO prospect, was Texas A&M’s first commit under Jimbo Fisher after producing 21 catches for 336 yards and 6 touchdowns at Northeastern Oklahoma A&M. He committed to the Aggies in December after the 247Sports composite rankings slotted him as the No. 36 JUCO player in the country and the No. 3 JUCO tight end.
At Tennessee, Bituli had 90 tackles last season, including a career-high 23 in a victory against Georgia Tech in September. The junior could fill a larger role as the Vols begin a new era under former Alabama defensive coordinator Jeremy Pruitt.
Jefferson, meanwhile, is a former Ole Miss player who’s waiting to see if he will be ruled eligible this year. Recently, former Rebels quarterback Shea Patterson was granted immediate eligibility at Michigan for the 2018 season. Former Ole Miss safety Deontay Anderson, wide receiver Tre Nixon, offensive lineman Jack DeFoor and running back Jarrion Street reportedly also are eligible to play this fall. Jefferson had 999 yards receiving with 4 touchdowns during the 2016 and 2017 seasons with the Rebels, and Massey had 149 yards receiving with 1 touchdown last year.
It’s early, so other breakout possibilities will be mentioned as we approach the 2018 season. But keep your eyes on these names from McElroy later this year.