Not even a week removed from signing day, and we’re ready to trot out five newcomers to watch in the SEC next season.
Let’s face it. There are always guys who emerge that nobody really saw coming. Look at what Vanderbilt’s Warren Norman did last season, tying the SEC record with three kickoff returns for touchdowns.
Keep in mind, too, that newcomers include redshirt freshmen, junior college transfers and transfers from other FBS schools.
Granted, it’s early, but here are five new faces to watch for next season in the SEC:
1. Auburn quarterback Cameron Newton: In the spirit of full disclosure, Newton isn’t completely new to the SEC. He played some as a freshman at Florida in 2007 and also played a few snaps in the 2008 opener before getting in trouble off the field and leaving Florida. He comes to Auburn after passing for 22 touchdowns and rushing for 16 touchdowns last season in leading Blinn College to the junior college national championship. The 6-6, 245-pound Newton has everything Gus Malzahn is looking for to run his spread offense and is already enrolled in school, meaning he’ll be able to go through spring practice. It would probably be an upset if Newton doesn’t win the Tigers’ starting quarterback job.
2. Florida receiver Andre Debose: Until he was derailed by hamstring surgery, Debose was being counted upon to be a big piece of the Florida offense last season. He had the speed, moves and playmaking ability and Florida coach Urban Meyer envisioned him doing a lot of the same things in the Gators’ offense that Percy Harvin did during his three years in Gainesville. Debose will be a redshirt freshman this fall, and the hope is that he will be fully recovered. The door is wide open for him to come in and be Florida’s go-to guy at receiver, especially with the likely shift to more of a passing offense now that John Brantley is taking over at quarterback. Whatever direction the offense takes, the Gators will surely look to get the ball in Debose’s hands.
3. Alabama cornerback DeMarcus Milliner: There are three starting jobs up for grabs next season in the Alabama secondary, including both cornerback spots. Milliner was one of the top defensive back prospects in the country and could be a factor next season at both cornerback and the star position, Alabama’s version of the nickel. Milliner graduated high school early and will participate in spring practice, which in Nick Saban’s system, is virtually a must if you’re going to play right away as a freshman on defense. Milliner isn’t the only newcomer in the secondary that may play early next season for the Crimson Tide. Keep an eye on freshman cornerback John Fulton and junior college newcomer DeQuan Menzie as well. Fulton will also be able to go through spring practice.
4. South Carolina running back Marcus Lattimore: It’s difficult to imagine a more important signee for Steve Spurrier since coming to South Carolina in 2005 than Lattimore. Simply, he’s the marquee running back the Gamecocks haven’t been able to land under the Head Ball Coach. Lattimore won’t have to wait long to prove that he’s as good as the hype suggests he is. South Carolina needs a serious infusion of pop into its running game, and the 5-11, 215-pound Lattimore has all the tools to be big-time runner in this league. He has speed, power, great acceleration and also has the versatility to be a factor in the passing game. He’s not going to do it alone, though. As talented as Lattimore is, he’s going to need South Carolina’s offensive line to play better than it has each of the last two seasons.
5. Ole Miss defensive end Wayne Dorsey: It’s been a circuitous route for Dorsey to get to Ole Miss, but he may go straight to the top of the depth chart next fall. The Rebels are losing three senior defensive ends, and with the 6-8, 250-pound Dorsey already enrolled in school, he’ll get a chance to show this spring what he can do. Originally from Baltimore, Dorsey went to a prep school in New York right out of high school and then spent two years at Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College before signing with the Rebels this past December. He’s an exceptional athlete and was also recruited as a basketball player coming out of high school. As a football prospect, he was one of the top-rated junior college players in the country a year ago. Defensive ends have been plenty productive in Tyrone Nix’s defense. Dorsey may well be that next dominant pass-rusher for the Rebels.