Forecasting impact rookies in SEC West
Published: Tuesday, June 7, 2011 at 4:05 p.m.
Last Modified: Tuesday, June 7, 2011 at 4:05 p.m.
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Every year, a handful of freshmen make a major impact on the Southeastern Conference. So who's the next Michael Dyer? Last Friday we broke down the East Division. Today we look at the West.
Alabama: Cyrus Kouandjio (6-foot-7, 322 pounds) was the No. 1-rated prep offensive tackle in the nation last season, but Nick Saban typically does not start true freshman linemen. However, with the departure of James Carpenter, a two-year starter at left tackle and first-round draft pick in the NFL, and the tragic death of Tennessee transfer Aaron Douglas, that could change. Kouandjio (pronounced Kwahn-joh) could be the first true freshman to start on the Tide O-line since Andre Smith in 2006.
LSU: The Tigers, as usual, are loaded with talent and depth. So it takes a special player to make an impact (or even see significant playing time) as a true freshman. Early enrollee Anthony Johnson (6-3, 294) looks to be at that level and showed it with a sack in the Tigers' spring game. Johnson, whom ESPN rated the top defensive tackle in the nation last year and the No. 2 overall high school player in the class of 2011, has a chance to continue LSU's long line of dominant defensive linemen.
Auburn: The defending champs have a lot of holes after losing so many important players to the NFL. Without quarterback Cam Newton and wide receiver Darvin Adams, Auburn has a huge need for an offensive playmaker. Enter Trovon Reed (6-0, 181), the No. 1 overall prospect in the state of Louisiana in 2010 and a top 50 national recruit. Reed tweaked a high school knee injury last August and was forced to redshirt. But the timing is right this season for the Tigers to unleash Reed as a slot receiver, wildcat quarterback and even a ball-carrier out of the backfield and on reverses.
Arkansas: The departure of senior offensive tackles DeMarcus Love and Ray Dominguez, who paved the way for Ryan Mallett to throw for more than 3,000 yards in each of the past two seasons, opened up a giant void for the Razorbacks. The Hogs may have found one option in true freshman early enrollee Brey Cook (6-7, 317), who was rated a five-star prospect by Scout.com last year. Cook saw significant time at both tackle positions in the spring and started in Arkansas' spring game.
Mississippi State: The Bulldogs have some major work to do on defense, where MSU lost all three starting linebackers, including leading tacklers Chris White and K.J. Wright, and All-SEC defensive end Pernell McPhee. Coach Dan Mullen redshirted 22 freshmen last season, so keep an eye on linebacker Ferlando Bohanna (6-0, 235) who could contend for a starting job. Mullen also brought in one four-star rated prospect in the class of 2011 in defensive lineman P.J. Jones (6-3, 265), who could help ease the loss of McPhee.
Ole Miss: In 2010, Houston Nutt hauled in a one of the top recruiting classes in the nation. Scout.com ranked Ole Miss No. 15 overall. One of the big catches was four-star receiver Vincent Sanders (6-3, 185), who redshirted as a freshman last season with a lingering jaw injury from high school. Sanders will now be counted on since the Rebs lost their leading wide receiver, senior Markeith Summers. Sanders got off to a promising start by leading the team with 96 yards on four catches in the spring game.