Players to Watch in the SEC in 2022
QB Anthony Richardson
Richardson is one of the top quarterback prospects entering the season because of his size and dual-threat ability. At 6'4" 232 lbs, he has a strong build that appeals to scouts. Because he was just a part-time starter last season, his stats don't jump off the page, but the talent is easy to see when you watch him play. It's a big year for him as he steps into the full-time role.
RB Montrell Johnson
WR Justin Shorter
Shorter was one of the best high school recruits in the country when he joined Penn State, but he was not able to get on the field much for the Nittany Lions. When he transferred to Florida, many expected to see him blossom. Entering year three in Gaines, that still has yet to happen. Shorter should be one of the better players on this team, but he needs to put it together.
WR Ricky Pearsall
OL O'Cyrus Torrence
Torrence is one of a few Gators' players who followed new head coach Billy Napier from Louisiana. Torrence immediately entered the starting lineup as a freshman and has been named All-Sun Belt twice. The move to a bigger conference may be a challenge for him, but he has played similar competition in nonconference games and has the size and power to be an effective Power Five lineman.
EDGE Brenton Cox
LB Ventrell Miller
This is the leader of the Florida defense and he should be hungry after missing most of 2021 with an injury. When healthy, he's one of the best linebackers in the SEC and possibly the most reliable player for Florida. The Gators need him to stay on the field.
LB Amari Burney
CB Jalen Kimber
S Trey Dean
Dean is one of the best safeties in the country and has been a part of the Florida defense since his freshman year. Now a senior, Napier and company will rely on him to become the leader of the Gators secondary, which will see plenty of tests in SEC play.
QB Stetson Bennett
Of course the starting quarterback of the defending champs makes this list. Bennett earned the role during a tumultuous 2020 season that saw the Bulldogs start three different quarterbacks. Since then, the former walk-on has faced many questions about his ability and answered most of them with his play. Having said that, there are things that other quarterbacks do better, but he's earned the benefit of the doubt. Many will still question him, but the job is his as long as the team is winning.
RB Kenny McIntosh
WR Adonai Mitchell
With George Pickens off to the NFL and Jermaine Burton transferring to Alabama, Georgia needs someone to step up at wide receiver. Mitchell finished fourth on the team in receiving last season and has secured a spot in the starting lineup. It seems that either he or Dominick Blaylock will be the guy.
WR Dominick Blaylock
TE Brock Bowers
Bowers emerged as a freshman and was named an ALl-American while really becoming the majority of Georgia's passing offense. He moves well on his routes, has great hands and athleticism, and blocks well. He's a well-rounded tight end who should have another outstanding season.
TE Darnell Washington
TE/WR Arik Gilbert
Gilbert is so physically gifted that Georgia uses him at both spots. I would've thought they'd use him much more than they have, but the lack of playmakers on the outside makes this a year in which he can get more opportunities. I've been looking forward to seeing what he can do, and I hope Georgia lets him break loose this year.
DL Jalen Carter
Carter turned into a monster on the defensive front last season, finishing second on the team with 33 QB pressures. That's a big number for a defensive tackle. He's shown that he can be virtually unstoppable at the line of scrimmage and is one of the best defenders in the game.
LB Nolan Smith
S Christopher Smith
CB Kelee Ringo
The sophomore had an outstanding freshman season as he made his way into the Bulldogs' starting lineup and flourished. Rongo did not look out of place at all and was recognized as one of the top freshmen in the country. The next step will be building on his success and earning more national recognition. Georgia may have a true shutdown corner here.
DB Tykee Smith
QB Will Levis
Levis is the headliner of this team and some experts think he can play his way into the first round of the NFL Draft. He possesses the physical traits with a big arm and a 6'3" 232 lb frame and is a more capable runner than that profile usually suggests. Kentucky does not lean on the passing game as much as most teams, which could hurt his chances, and he needs to cut down on the interceptions. Nevertheless, many eyes will be on Levis in 2022.
RB Chris Rodriguez
The senior is returning after posting the fifth-best single-season rushing total in program history and entering the top 10 of Kentucky's career rushing leaders. He is now sixth all-time in team history and is looking for a thrid consecutive first-team All-SEC season. Clearly a major factor for the Wildcats' offense and can take pressure off Levis.
RB Ramon Jefferson
OL Tashawn Manning
The Auburn grad transfer will help balance things upfront. Kentucky has been one of the top programs in developing offensive linemen in recent seasons, and Manning's development could benefit from him playing under this coaching staff.
DL Justin Rogers
DE Octavious Oxendine
LB Deandre Square
Future pro linebacker here. Square enters the season with nearly 250 career tackles in 49 games (35 consecutive starts). He's a two-time team captain who is constantly part of All-SEC conversations. He displays fantastic ability in all phases of the defense and deserves much more recognition for his play. An all-around linebacker who more people will know by season's end.
DB Keidron Smith
QB Brady Cook
Cook is the presumed starting quarterback for the Tigers after Connor Bazelak transferred to Indiana. The redshirt sophomore has only made eight starts in his career and has much to live up to. Whoever gets the nod at quarterback will have to face many quality SEC defenses and plenty of scrutiny in what could be a difficult year for the team.
RB Elijah Young
RB Nathaniel Peat
Peat transfers from Stanford, where he began as a special teams standout before becoming the team's leading rusher in 2021. His biggest strength is his speed, so getting him the ball in the open field will be a must. Missouri has produced NFL-caliber running backs Tyler Badie and Larry Rountree in the past two seasons. We'll see if Peat makes it three in a row.
WR Mookie Cooper
WR Dominic Lovett
OL Connor Wood
TE Tyler Stephens
DL Tyrone Hopper
Tyrone transfers in from North Carolina, where he saw some playing time as a reserve defensive end. He's built in the mold of many of the great Missouri pass-rushers and will have a chance to be an impact player for the defense.
DL Trajan Jeffcoat
LB Ty'Ron Hopper
Hopper spent the last three years as a reserve at Florida with his most productive season coming in 2021. He collected 65 tackles for a Gators' defense that was often in bad situations. It may be a struggle for the Tigers' offense in 2022, but Hopper helps turn the defense into a strength.
CB Ennis Rakestraw
CB Kris Abrams-Draine
K Harrison Mevis
QB Spencer Rattler
One of the more notable transfers in the country, Rattler should be the unquestioned starter for the Gamecocks. The team had such inconsistency at the position last season that they even started an assistant (who was a former college QB). Rattler brings a playmaking ability that many see translating to the NFL, but his college career has been a tale of two seasons. As a freshman at Oklahoma. he burst onto the scene and became a Heisman contender as very few were able to stop him. When he returned for his sophomore season, he was exposed while struggling with turnovers and ultimately losing the starting job. Despite all that, he has a chance to reclaim his status this season at South Carolina.
RB Christian Beal-Smith
The last running back to transfer from Wake Forest turned in one of the greatest seasons in recent memory, and it was the fact that he was splitting carries with Beal-Smith that made him leave. Fast forward a year, and Beal-Smith is spending his fifth college season elsewhere. The senior has nearly 2,000 career rushing yards and adds value to the South Carolina backfield.
WR Antwane Wells Jr
WR Dakereon Joyner
WR Josh Vann
Vann led the Gamecocks in receiving a year ago and returns to a more prolific offense in 2022. He now has help around him with Joyner taking on a full-time receiver role and Antwane Wells Jr, Austin Stogner, and Spencer Rattler transferring into the program. Vann is a greatly unheralded player who can thrive with Rattler throwing him the ball.
TE Jaheim Bell
The second-team All-SEC performer is coming off a career year. He's listed as a tight end but used in a variety of ways, which should help him stay relevant as more playmakers get added to the offense. I think he's a great complementary player to have and can be an added advantage.
TE Austin Stogner
With Stogner and Bell, South Carolina has a solid tandem at tight end. Bell is obviously a versatile player who can impact the game in many ways, as I previously stated. Stogner, meanwhile, is more of a receiving tight end. He's a very tall and athletic player who made a career as a redzone target at Oklahoma and should have an immediate impact.
OL Dylan Wonnum
DL Zacch Pickens
DE Jordan Strachan
LB Sherrod Greene
QB Hendon Hooker
It looked like Hooker's career might be coming to an end, but, after coming in for starter Joe Milton last season, he blossomed for the Vols. The team went onto a 7-6 finish while Hooker ended up with a career-high in passing yards while throwing 31 touchdown passes against just three interceptions. He also ran for an additional 616 yards and five touchdowns. Vols fans have lofty expectations for him entering this season as he aims to build on an impressive year.
RB Jabari Small
WR Cedric Tillman
Tillman entered last season with just eight catches for 124 yards yet became the Vols' go-to receiver. He would finish the year with over 1,000 yards and 12 touchdowns. It may be more difficult now that teams know how good he can be, but Tennessee will still rely on him heavily in the passing game.
OL Cooper Mays
DL/LB Byron Young
DB Romello Edwards
DB Brandon Turnage
LB Kane Patterson
Patterson is a former top 300 high school player who began his career at Clemson. He was not able to get on the field often, but he clearly has the skill to be a ball player. Vanderbilt does not get many players with his talent and he should be a key player on the defense.
LB Anfernee Orji
Orji is a two-year starter and led the Commodores with 93 tackles last season. He's easily the team's best defender and even scored a touchdown in the season-opener against Hawaii. This is a player who will open a lot of eyes this season.
QB Bryce Young
I'll try to keep this brief since most know who Young is. The quarterback enrolled at Alabama two years ago and was expected to be named the starter, but Mac Jones won the job. While he had to wait a year, Young quickly became one of the most dynamic players in college football and won the Heisman Trophy while leading the Crimson Tide to yet another National Championship game. He's clearly one of the best players in the country and has a high ceiling.
RB Jahmyr Gibbs
Gibbs might be the best-kept secret in college football, which is probably because he's been playing for Georgia Tech. Turn on the tape, and he pops immediately--displaying elite burst and phenomenal vision. It's no wonder he had such a great season for the Yellow Jackets and playing for Alabama should earn him national attention (in a positive way) quickly.
WR Tyler Harrell
WR Jermaine Burton
For the second straight year, Alabama needs to find receivers. Yes, there are plenty of talented players on the team, so it should never be a problem, but they've also added Jermaine Burton and Tyler Harrell through the transfer portal. Burton was a highly recruited player who became one of those little-used Georgia receivers while Harrell was the speed threat at Lousiville. Both should start for this offense and make an impact in 2022.
TE Cameron Latu
OL Tyler Steen
OL Emil Ekiyor Jr
Ekiyor started all 15 games for Alabama last season while giving up just 1.5 sacks for the nation's sixth-best offense. With a few members of that line moving up to the NFL, he'll be an important player as he tries to reach that point himself. He's one of the top linemen in the SEC and deserves recognition.
DL Justin Eboigbe
DL DJ Dale
EDGE Will Anderson
Anderson had a monstrous 2021 season as he racked up 34.5 tackles for loss (17.5 sacks), won the Bronco Nagurski Award as the best defender in the country, and was named SEC Defensive Player of the Year. By all accounts, he would have been the first overall pick in the NFL Draft had he been eligible. As such, he enters the year as the top player in college football and easily makes this list.
LB Henry To'oto'o
To'oto'o was a standout at Tennessee and immediately turned his play up a notch at Alabama. During the 2021 season, he led the team with 113 tackles and was named second-team All-SEC. It was a bit of a surprise that he returned to school, but he will be a leader on this defense yet again. You will see him playing on Sundays after this season.
CB Eli Ricks
CB Kool-Aid McKinstry
S Jordan Battle
Another surprise returnee for this defense. Battle was named an All-American by multiple publications last season and tied for the team lead in interceptions (5th in the SEC). He's a hard-hitting safety with a nose for the ball. His ball-hawking abilities on the back end are a great benefit for this defense, and you will definitely notice him while watching them play.
S Brian Branch
DB Malachi Moore
QB KJ Jefferson
Jefferson is one of those sneaky good quarterbacks. Those who are more immersed in the game know how good he can be, but this season, he's going to show the casual fans. He has the perfect size for the position and is one of the more balanced dual-threat quarterbacks who mixes his passing abilities well with the running game. Case in point, he led the team in rushing last season while throwing for an additional 2,676 yards and 21 touchdowns. I'd love to see more explosive passing numbers, but I've already been impressed with Jefferson.
RB Raheim Sanders
WR Jadon Haselwood
Although he's not quite the type of player Treylon Burks was, Haselwood has a great chance to become the number-one receiver for the Razorbacks. He led Oklahoma in receiving last season and should see more opportunities this year in a more balanced offense.
WR Matt Landers
WR Warren Thompson
TE Trey Knox
Knox is another one of those players that has tremendous potential. He arrived in Fayetteville as a wide receiver and is still learning the tight end position. As you would expect, he's a much better receiver than a blocker at this point, but that's what Arkansas needs. It's time for them to make use of his skills in the passing game and give him a chance to prove himself.
LB Bumper Pool
Pool has been a mainstay for the Arkansas defense over the last four seasons. He's one of those high-motor guys who is always around the ball and helps get the most out of his teammates. There are limitations in his game but what he does best is tackle. He enters this season with 349 in his career (9th most in school history).
LB Drew Sanders
CB Dwight McGlothern
S Jalen Catalon
Catalon is undersized but one of the best safeties entering this season. As a freshman in 2020, he was named a Freshman All-American, first-team All-SEC, and had nearly 100 tackles. He missed part of last year with an injury, but Arkansas should be thrilled to get him back for a crucial season.
S Latavious Brini
QB TJ Finley
After his performance last season, I wouldn't have thought Finley had a shot to win the starting job, but head coach Bryan Harsin has named Finley the starter. Physically, Finley has traits that can make an effective quarterback, but he has yet to put it together. This offense will definitely be carried by the running game, but Finley still needs to prove he's good enough.
RBs Tank Bigsby & Jarquez Hunter
At least the Tigers will have one of the country's best backfield duos to help ease some pressure off Finley. Bigsby burst onto the scene with an 800-yard season in 2020 and followed it with his first 1,000-yard season in 2021. Hunter was almost equally impressive as a freshman, running for the ninth-most yards of any freshman running back in school history. Put the two together for another year, and the sky's the limit.
WR Shedrick Jackson
OL Nick Brahms
LB Owen Pappoe
Pappoe is a three-year starter who has improved in every full season thus far. An injury caused him to miss much of last season, which helped him return for another year. If fully healthy, he is one of the top linebackers in the SEC and will be in the NFL soon.
CB Nehemiah Pritchett
Pritchett entered the starting lineup last season after several defensive backs left for the NFL. He finished the year with 56 tackles and 17 passes defended. If he keeps up that level of play, teams will stop throwing his way, which is a sign of a great player at corner.
K Anders Carlson
QBs Jayden Daniels & Garrett Nussmeier
LSU refuses to announce its starter ahead of its season-opener against Florida State. Daniels and Nussmeier have been the lead candidates all offseason and each brings different skills to the position. During his time as Arizona State's quarterback, Daniels was always the kind of quarterback who runs better than he throws. That can be extremely effective in college if used correctly. Nussmeier is a more classic passer, but he's also inexperienced at the college level. Because their skill sets are so different yet complementary, I can see the Tigers going with a two-man system for at least a little bit of the 2022 season.
RB John Emery Jr
Most experienced running back on the team, but he's suspended for the first two games. When he plays, Emery is a powerful runner who forces defenses to have to play more physically. We'll see how much they miss him in those first two games.
WR Keyshon Boutte
Boutte is the best receiver on this team. In just two seasons in Baton Rouge, he already has over 1,200 receiving yards and 14 touchdowns--a level that some players can take three or four years to reach. More impressively, he finished last season with 509 yards and nine touchdowns in just six games. He's easily WR1 for this team even with the injury.
WR Malik Nabors
OL Tre'mond Shorts
Some SEC schools have had success with transfers from the lower levels of college football, and Shorts could be part of the next wave. Despite playing at East Tennessee State in the FCS, his resume is impressive, He joined the Buccaneers' starting lineup as a freshman and has been an All-American and All-Southen Conference player in each season he has played. He's clearly a talented player, and LSU's offensive line needs him after its performance last season.
OL Miles Frazier
DL Jaquelin Roy
DE Ali Gaye
Long and athletic like a defensive end should be. Gaye is a powerful player and has a knack for making plays behind the line of scrimmage, The one area he really needs is his pass-rushing. While he possesses the physical traits to be a dominant player, he has yet to finish a season with more than two sacks.
DE BJ Ojulari
LB Mike Jones Jr
Jones Jr can play inside and outside but seems to have settled in as the middle linebacker for the Tigers. He began his career as a key reserve at Clemson and became a starter during his first season at LSU in 2021. He's one of those rare linebackers who also possesses exceptional abilities in pass coverage and was even used as a nickelback in some situations. Clearly a smart player with a high ceiling.
LB Micah Baskerville
CB Sevyn Banks
The former Ohio State corner is looking for a rebound season after falling flat and suffering injuries in 2021. Prior to last season, Banks slowly worked his way into the Buckeyes' starting lineup and finished 2022 with All-Big Ten honorable mention. LSU has holes in the secondary, but Banks can rectify that if he returns to form.
CB Makhi Garner
CB Jarrick Bernard-Converse
S Todd Harris Jr
The most senior member of this defense returns for his sixth season. In that time, he's only started eight games, but he enters this season firmly in the starting lineup. His best season came in 2020 when he made 30 tackles and had two interceptions. His experience and growth on the back end will be key for this defense.
QB Jaxson Dart
Dart is competing with Luke Altmyer for the starting job and should be the choice in my opinion. Although he started just three games as a freshman at USC, he compiled 1,353 yards with nine touchdown passes in that span. Dart shows great promise as a collegiate quarterback, and few are better at developing them than Lane Kiffin.
RB Zach Evans
RB Ulysses Bentley IV
The SMU transfer has over 1,500 yards in his first two seasons of college football. As a freshman, he set the school record for touchdowns by a freshman yet saw his usage decrease in year two. That probably affected his decision to transfer, and he joins a roster with ample playing time available at running back.
WR Jonathan Mingo
Injuries caused Mingo to miss most of the 2021 season and likely forced him to return to school for another year. When healthy, he's an All-SEC caliber player and easily WR1 for the Rebels. He'll see plenty of action this season and should put up big numbers.
WRs Malik Heath, Jaylon Robinson, Jalen Knox, & Jordan Watkins
TE Michael Trigg
OL Mason Brooks
DL JJ Pegues
Pegues is an interesting player. He was a top ten high school player and began his career as a tight end and special teams player at Auburn. His deceptive athleticism for a 300 lb player is impressive and he moves like a smaller player. He never caught on as a tight end but made the move to the defensive line, which immediately made better use of his skill set. Plenty of potential here as Ole Miss gains one of the top players departing Bryan Harsin's program.
DE Jared Ivey
LB Troy Brown
I'm incredibly intrigued by Troy Brown as he moves from the MAC to the SEC. At Central Michigan, he was a three-time All-Conference player and amassed over 200 career tackles as one of the best players on his team. Now, he joins an up-and-coming SEC squad that needs to have more playmakers on its defense. We'll see if Brown can be one of them.
S Otis Reese
QB Will Rogers
Rogers is one of the most talented quarterbacks in the country and had a breakout season in 2021-- leading the SEC in passing yards per game and throwing for the third-most yards in the country. It was a season most didn't see coming, and, if he has another great year, he may work his way into the early portion of the NFL Draft.
WR Austin Williams
WR Jamire Calvin
Calvin is currently listed behind Williams on the depth chart, but it would not surprise me to see him take over one of the other three receiver spots as the season progresses. The Washington State transfer showed he can play well at the college level when he was with the Cougars. Now, he needs to prove it in his second year with the Bulldogs.
WR Rara Thomas
DE Randy Charlton
Charlton was one of Mississippi State's best pass rushers last season and one of the more productive defensive linemen overall. He's not quite as long as you'd like a defensive end to be, but he gets the job done. That's all you can really ask, but he should be in for a good season.
DL Jayden Crumedy
LB Tyrus Wheat
A big, athletic linebacker with plenty of upside. I'm looking forward to watching him grow in his role and take command of the defense in the absence of Aaron Brule, who has transferred to Michigan State.
CB Marcus Banks
QB Haynes King
King has won the quarterback competition with LSU transfer Max Johnson. We know very little about the sophomore as a college player so far since he's only played in four games and missed the last ten in 2021 with an injury. He's a former high school All-American and we should finally see him have a chance to live up to the hype.
RB Devin Achane
RB/WR Ainias Smith
Arguably the most dynamic playmaker on the Aggies offense. A&M has used Smith as a Swiss Army knife for most of his career, but he appears to be settling in as a receiver. He's going to be one of the physically smaller guys on the field, but his speed is game-changing.
WR Chase Lane
WR Moose Muhammad III
OL Blake Trainor
CB Myles Jones
Corners don't get bigger than Jones. He stands at an impressive 6'4" and weighs in at 190 lbs. That height is rarely seen on a corner, and, while he may need to add some muscle to his frame., teams will always see promise in corners with length. He's a sure tackler and can eventually develop into a shutdown corner.
S Demani Richardson
Richardson was part of the 2019 SEC All-Freshman Team and had his best season in 2021 as he finished third on the team in tackles and developed into a leader for the defense. With the departure of Leon O'Neal Jr, Richardson becomes an even more vital player for the Aggies.