SEC – Sophomore’s to step up

We are a couple of months away from the new season and college football is very much on our minds. Incoming freshmen will complement rosters aiming to replace NFL bound stars and graduates. For many, making an impact on a Saturday takes time. Some make an immediate splash. Many have to wait until their sophomore season before seeing regular playing time. Especially in the elite competition of the SEC. In this article 5YC dive in to some second year (draft eligible in 2025) SEC players we expect will make themselves household names this coming season, and those who should have a big time impact for their programs.

Quinshon Judkins – RB – Ole Miss

A former three star recruit, Ole Miss managed to sneak last years SEC freshman of the year out of his home state of Alabama and away from the Crimson Tide and Auburn Tigers.

Judkins is no secret in the SEC after bursting on to the scene last year with 1567 rushing yards and 16 rushing TD’s.  This set school single season records for both categories.

His dominant performances left the presumed lead running back on their roster (recent NFL draftee) Zach Evans in the shadows.

Compared to Nick Chubb for his bruising running style, look out for Judkins to break his own records this season.

Mykel Williams – DE – Georgia

Highly recruited, Williams joined the Bulldogs after flipping his commitment from USC. He was the number four overall recruit in the nation in 2022. Williams won the Maxwell Football National High School Defensive Player of the Year that year.

The 6’5” 265lb defensive end contributed as a freshman in a ridiculously talented Georgia Defense recording 28 tackles and 4.5 sacks.

Likened to Rashan Gary. He can attack offenses from various alignments either standing on the edge or from the inside with his hand in the dirt.

The much lauded 2022 Georgia defense has lost several stand outs stars to the NFL (notably Jalen Carter and Nolan Smith). Expectation is that Mykel Williams will be the next man up to lead that feared unit into the next two seasons.

Harold Perkins Jr- Linebacker – LSU

Born in New Orleans, Perkin’s family moved to Houston in 2005 as his family escaped the damage of Hurricane Katrina.

Growing up in Houston he became a star in Texas playing high school football and basketball. What followed was a very public recruitment tug of war between Texas A&M and LSU. Ultimately for Perkins the allure of returning to his roots was too great and he committed to LSU.

The five star phenom wasted no time once he got to Baton Rouge, and was simply brilliant starring in 14 games last season, playing a hybrid role, amassing 49 tackles and leading the team with 7.5 sacks.

In the Tigers’ 13-10 road win over Arkansas, Perkins was a whirlwind and was named SEC Defensive Player of the Week after a school-record four QB pressures and two forced fumbles.

Perkins was selected to the Pro Football Focus true freshman All-America team and was a first-team member of the All-SEC defense.

A move to a more traditional linebacker role had been suggested by head coach Brian Kelly for this coming season, but I would expect just as much dominance.

Malaki Starks – Safety – Georgia

A day 1 starter for the Bulldogs, Starks made himself a household name after an incredible performance in week 1 last season against Oregon.

Starks recorded 8 tackles that night and produced one of the most spectacular interceptions you’ll likely ever see. The stage was set and his standards didn’t drop for the rest of the season as he stacked up 55 tackles and another interception. He also came up clutch in big moments, and had another eye catching performance against Tennessee.

With Christopher Smith moving on to the NFL, Starks will be expected to become the leader on the back end of a Georgia Defense that also lost Keelee Ringo.

It’s not a case of if Starks will be good enough. More a question how good can he be in his second season?

Luther Burden – WR – Missouri

Burden will return to Mizzou after it had been heavily rumoured he would enter the transfer portal. He was bafflingly under used in his freshman season.

He was the number one receiver in the 2022 recruiting class. Burden is a physical and aggressive receiver who at 5’11” excels at picking up yards after the catch. He is a menace in the open field.

Rocky QB play was a large part of Mizzou’s performance in 2022 and perhaps a contributing reason to Burden’s stat line of 37 receptions for 325 yards and five touchdowns. He averaged averaging 8.8 yards per reception. In spite of this Burden was still one of the most explosive players in the Tigers offense.

Keeping Burden is a major coup for Eli Drinkwitz and his program as they don’t have another player anywhere near as talented. If Mizzou want to win games this season the best thing they can do is feed their electric play maker. He is capable of making things happen from any position on the field.

Will Campbell – OT – LSU

There was a buzz on campus the second Campbell enrolled last spring. A Louisiana native the 4 star recruit took no time settling in at Baton Rouge.

Campbell impressed coaches with his work habits in the weight room and in meetings. After just two weeks on campus Campbell was taking first team reps at left tackle and he never looked back.

Brian Kelly called the emergence of a multi year starting left tackle like Campbell the teams biggest discovery. It certainly appears he discovered a gem.

A Nasty finisher that moves well in space, he actively hunts targets at the second level.

LSU managed 10 wins last season and will be looking to go better this season. Campbell will be a major factor if they are to succeed.

Evan Stewart – WR – Texas A&M

A lean wide receiver with elite track speed he combines this with natural receiving skills and excellent body control. Stewart eats up the corner’s cushion with his burst off the line. He has has a skill set that will remind you of Devonta Smith.

A five star recruit and the number two wide receiver in his class. Stewart was one of the few bright spots in an otherwise terrible season for the Aggies.

Stewart played in ten games and was the teams leading receiver catching 53 passes for 649 yards and 2 touchdowns.

Conner Weigman will be handed the keys to the Aggies offense this season and he will be hoping to form a dynamic duo with Evans to bring some good times back to College Station.

Tyler Booker – OL – Alabama

Alabama tapped in to the pipeline of five star offensive lineman produced by the IMG Academy to land Booker. He was the top tackle in his recruiting class.

By their own high standards the Alabama offensive line struggled last year. Booker proved to be one of the only players to stand out for his positive contribution. He came in and almost immediately started to take reps from Javien Cohen. Booker is a physical player who gave the Crimson Tide an edge in the running game.

He played in 12 games last year and was named Freshman all SEC and Freshman All American. This season he projects as a starter who should be one of the best offensive linemen in the SEC. He can play either guard spot and potentially bump out to tackle (which he played at high school).

Trevor Etienne – RB – Florida

The younger brother of the Jacksonville Jaguars running back Travis Etienne. Trevor enjoyed a solid freshman season for the Gators in 2022. He will be looking to take the next steps in his development this coming year after putting together a solid debut campaign.

Splitting carries with Montrell Johnson, Etienne rushed for 719 yards and 6 TD’s whilst adding 9 receptions for 66 yards and 1 touchdown. A solid debut campaign, Etienne should command more touches this year and look to post an improved stat line this year.

The Gators will have a new quarterback under centre and will likely lean on the run game which should help Etienne to establish himself.

Etienne will be out to prove he is more than just Travis’ younger brother. Despite the obvious comparisons to his elder sibling, he’ll be looking for people to recognise him for his talents as the season progresses.


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