Quarterbacks have dominated the headlines among SEC freshmen throughout the first seven weeks of the season.
Names such as Georgia’s Jake Fromm and Texas A&M’s Kellen Mond have been regulars in this space on a weekly basis.
But with both signal callers on a bye in Week 8, a few defensive players stepped up and proved that those on the other side of the ball are equal parts impressive.
That includes a pair of defensive backs from LSU and Tennessee, who each led their respective programs in tackles and then some on Saturday.
We examine the best freshman performances throughout the SEC during Week 8 action.
5. WR Henry Ruggs III
Alabama should get the ball to Henry Ruggs III more often. The Montgomery, Ala., native makes things happen when he’s targeted. Ruggs hauled in a 60-yard touchdown in the Crimson Tide’s 45-7 win over Tennessee. It gives him 112 receiving yards for the year on just 5 catches — all of which have gone for touchdowns.
4. QB Tua Tagovailoa, Alabama
Alabama fans got another good look at Tua Tagovailoa on Saturday when he entered the game in relief of Jalen Hurts. Tagovailoa connected on 9 of 12 passes for a career-best 134 yards and a touchdown to fellow freshman Henry Ruggs III (see above). He now has 385 yards for the year, including 5 touchdowns (3 to Ruggs) and an interception.
3. CB Shawn Shamburger, Tennessee
Shawn Shamburger might have Wally Pipped Justin Martin. The freshman filled in for an injured Martin at cornerback against Alabama and made the most of his first career start. Shamburger led the Vols with 12 tackles (7 solo) and a sack. Only Arkansas’ Dre Greenlaw and Breeland Speaks of Ole Miss had more tackles in the SEC during Week 8 with 13 apiece.
2. TE Albert Okwuegbunam, Missouri
Albert Okwuegbunam posted one of the most prolific receiving games for a tight end in Missouri history during the Tigers’ Week 8 win over Idaho. The freshman caught 3 touchdowns, equaling the most scoring grabs by a Mizzou player at the position in a single game — tying Chase Coffman’s 3-touchdown effort in 2007 against Colorado. Okwuegbunam finished with 4 catches for 57 yards.
1. S Grant Delpit, LSU
Grant Delpit has played a big role in LSU’s turnaround. The freshman led the Tigers in Week 8 against Ole Miss with 9 tackles. All but 1 of those takedowns were solo tackles. Delpit also snared an interception, broke up a pass and recorded a tackle for loss.