Last season, the SEC boasted one of its most impressive collections of talent in recent memory. The conference saw 51 players selected in this spring’s NFL draft, 16 of which came in the first two rounds. Now, it’s time for the next generation of SEC stars to take over.
Several teams will be looking to rebuild their rosters with new additions. Numerous star players have transferred into the conference over the past few months. Additionally, 46 of the top 100 recruits in the country are heading to the SEC next season, going by the 247Sports Composite. Here are a few of the newcomers we are most excited to see on the field next season.
WR Nate Craig-Myers, Auburn
Auburn’s passing game was awful last season. The Tigers struggled to find a quarterback, shifting between Jeremy Johnson and Sean White. That situation has not been rectified headed into next season, as Auburn also added junior college quarterback John Franklin III into the mix, and it remains to be seen who will emerge from that competition. However, freshman wide receiver Nate Craig-Myers is an exciting new piece who could help turn things around on offense.
Craig-Myers was rated the No. 6 wide receiver in the nation and is the third-highest ranked freshman wideout entering the SEC next season. He is entering an open situation unlike most others in the conference. Top 2015 Auburn wide receiver Ricardo Louis is now a member of the Cleveland Browns and no other player on the roster accumulated even 300 receiving yards last season. Craig-Myers has the talent to come in and start right away.
WR Gehrig Dieter, Alabama
Alabama offensive coordinator Lane Kiffin was able to lean heavily on a Heisman Trophy-winning running back last season. The Crimson Tide will have to rely more on its passing game this season while breaking in a couple new running backs. Graduate transfer wide receiver Gehrig Dieter, who starred at Bowling Green, will be a welcome addition to an already-talented receiving corps in Tuscaloosa.
Dieter caught 94 passes for 1,033 yards and 10 touchdowns in Bowling Green’s fast-paced offense last season. Perhaps his best game came against Tennessee last season, in which he caught seven passes for 133 yards against a rising Vols defense. Dieter has a chance to crack the rotation next season for a talented Crimson Tide squad, regardless of who starts at quarterback.
QB Jacob Eason, Georgia
Only a handful of true freshman quarterbacks are physically and mentally ready to play Division I college football. Rated the No. 5 overall player in the class of 2016, Jacob Eason certainly fits that mold. If his starring performance in Georgia’s spring game was any indication (244 yards and a touchdown on 29 passing attempts), he could be starting sooner than expected.
Eason enrolled early to learn the offense, and responded. The Lake Stevens, Wash., product showed poise in the pocket beyond his years and gave Bulldog fans a glimpse into the future. Eason will have to compete against incumbent starter Greyson Lambert and returning backup Brice Ramsey in fall camp, but he could set himself apart with a strong camp.
OL Greg Little, Ole Miss
It is obviously quite unusual to see an offensive lineman avoid the redshirt. Typically, players are simply not strong or physical enough to compete with the grown men playing defensive line, especially in the SEC. However, at 6-foot-6 and 305 pounds, Greg Little is a man-child. He proved his worth while winning Texas high school football championships at the highest level.
Little played for Allen (TX) High School, which consistently ranked among the 10 best high school teams in the state. He was listed as the consensus top overall prospect in the state of Texas. Ole Miss has previous experience starting a top offensive line recruit as a freshman, having done so with Laremy Tunsil. Little projects favorably to grow into another star of Tunsil’s caliber.
QB Trevor Knight, Texas A&M
Trevor Knight became something of a cult hero after leading Oklahoma to an unlikely win over Alabama in the 2014 Sugar Bowl. The Sooners quarterback threw for 348 yards and four touchdowns against the then-No. 3 team in the country, making national headlines following the statement performance.
Now, Knight will be asked to step in as the starting quarterback for Texas A&M next season after transferring as a graduate. He will be put in a more favorable position than perhaps any other player on this list — the Aggies boast one of the deepest wide receiver rotations in the nation. If “Sugar Bowl Trevor Knight” can make a reappearance against the defending national champions this season, Knight could easily become a hero once again.