The faces change but the talent level in the SEC tends to stay the same. Quite a few familiar names are gone but they will soon be replaced by a new squad of studs. Today, I am going to highlight a freshman off each of Auburn’s opponents this fall that fans should know. Chances are good, quite a few names on this lists are going to become well known nation wide in the not too distant future.
Kentucky - #7 S Vito Tisdale
Finding playing time on this veteran Kentucky squad will be difficult this fall for the Cats 2020 signing class but one name has consistently popped up this off-season as someone ready to contribute day 1. Vito Tisdale was first ranked as a top 100 player by 247 Composite but saw his stock plummet over the last year tumbling in the rankings to #473 and the 41st ranked safety in the country. But the early returns have been incredibly positive with head coach Mark Stoops specifically mentioning Tisdale as a youngster who has stood out during fall camp.
“He’s a guy we’re playing all over the place right now. He’s wearing No. 7 and I don’t want to put that on him yet but he reminds me of the other guy that wore 7 for us. That’s a pretty big compliment. Mike [Edwards] is one of my all-time favorite players. So instinctual and such a good player for us. Vito coming in as a true freshman and us moving him ... we’re playing him at nickel, at medium, at the sam position, he’s playing strong safety and really is doing some good things. He’s not quite there yet. A lot of guys you couldn’t even think about putting at all those positions. He is able to handle a lot and I really like his demeanor. It’s a lot like Mike. No nonsense and just goes and does his business.”
Georgia - #88 DT Jalen Carter
Obviously picking just one player from the nation’s #1 class is a little difficult. I imagine most Auburn fans will be interested to see how Broderick Jones’s career turns out after flirting with Auburn up until it was time to take an official visit. If not for an injury, 5-star CB Kelee Ringo would be someone to keep an eye on and it’s hard not to be mesmerized by the potential of a 6’7” 260 lb tight end like Darnell Washington. But for my money, Jalen Carter was one of the top 5 players in the 2020 class.
The true freshman has generated plenty of buzz during fall camp and looks poised to see snaps early for this loaded Dawg defense. Cater starred as both a defensive lineman and a tight end for his his school where he dominated with his elite athleticism. What jumps out watching his tape is how fluid he is for a big man. Not only can he move but he’s powerful in the interior with an outstanding knowledge on how to win with not just strength but leverage as well. The Dawgs continue to load up on elite defensive weapons.
Arkansas - #2 S Myles Slusher
Not going to lie this was a little bit difficult. While I liked a few of Sam Pittman’s late additions most notably 4-star QB Malik Hornsby, I don’t see a lot of instant impact players in this 2020 signing class. The one name that does appear to be popping up a bunch is unsurprisingly the Hogs top rated signee of last year’s class Myles Slusher. He was one of only four blue chips signed last cycle by Arkansas.
The Hogs return their two starting safeties on the backend in former Auburn targets Myles Mason and Joe Foucha but it looks likely Slusher will see some action too this fall. New DC Barry Odom stated they’ve worked the Oklahoma native not only at safety but at nickel as well. Given the dearth of talent on this Arkansas squad right now, any kid with potential is going to have a chance to make an early impact.
South Carolina - #4 QB/WR Luke Doty
Unfortunately for South Carolina, the guy I should be talking about, 4-star RB MarShawn Lloyd, is expected to miss all of the 2020 season due to an ACL injury. At worst, he would have been the #2 guy at tailback for the Gamecocks, likely #1 by the end of the year. Instead, AU fans should get to know former top 100 QB signee Luke Doty who is off to an interesting start to his career.
Doty was ranked the #4 dual threat QB in the 2020 class but faces an uphill battle to win the starting job with graduate transfer Collin Hill and Ryan Hilinski ahead of him. So the tremendous athlete will instead pull double duty working at WR as well where he has reportedly impressed South Carolina WR coach and former UGA quarterback Joe Cox.
“Luke is one of the most impressive young men I’ve ever been around because Luke has to deal with Coach Bobo’s meetings and my meetings,” Cox said in a post-practice interview on Tuesday. “Thinking back to being a first-year player in an offense where there’s so much going on, it’s been crazy how well he’s been able to comprehend things. He has a great attitude and has been a great leader on this football team.
“You see it, all the younger guys, he’s the guy in that class. They all gravitate towards him because they know he’s going to be doing things the right way, and it shows. He takes notes in meetings, practices the right way and does everything he’s supposed to do, and he’s going to be a guy pulling along a lot of young guys for a long time. My hat’s been off to him this whole fall camp with everything he has to learn playing all kinds of spots. I couldn’t imagine doing it - there’s no way. There’s been a couple days where his head’s been spinning pretty good, too, where he may have forgotten just how to play football. But he’s made some plays and I think regardless, it’s going to benefit him for both positions doing what we’ve had him do this fall camp.”
You turn on his tape and you can very quickly understand why new South Carolina OC Mike Bobo wants to find a way to get this kid on the field. While probably not a starter, he’s expected to be apart of the rotation at wide receiver this fall.
Ole Miss - #27 WR/S Marc Britt
Britt initially committed to Florida last fall but decided not to sign on National Signing Day and instead postponed a decision until February 20th. He flipped his pledge to the Rebels and has made an immediate impact since stepping on campus.
He initially started out at wide receiver but after a round of COVID-19 decimated the Rebels secondary, Britt flipped to defense where he was quickly working with the ones. Britt played both ways in high school and could end up doing the same for Ole Miss given their needs for impact players on both sides of the ball. He’s a fantastic athlete out of south Florida with a penchant for making big plays. I suspect AU fans will see a lot of him week 5.
LSU - #2 TE Arik Gilbert
Despite LSU signing a top 5 class this was actually one of the easiest picks to make. There aren’t many human beings in the world with Arik Gilbert’s skillset. Built like a defensive end at 6’5” 250 lbs but with speed of a wide receiver and the hands of a tight end, Gilbert can play all over the field for the Tigers.
His commitment came as one of the biggest surprises in recent recruiting history. In today’s world of Crystal Balls and RivalsCasts, everyone typically has an understanding of where a kid is about to commit. The Georgia Bulldogs were seen as the longtime leader for Gilbert with Alabama and Tennessee the top challengers. However, before his decision, the momentum seemed to be in the Tide’s favor up until he actually announced for LSU. LSU’s impressive offensive performance this past fall along with Gilbert’s connection with head coach Ed Orgeron lead the Tigers to pulling off one of the biggest recruiting coups of last cycle.
Expect to see Gilbert all over the field for the Tigers especially with the departure of Ja’Marr Chase. He’s listed as a tight end but he will spend a lot of time split out as well and has the top end speed to make big plays after the catch. In my amateur opinion, Gilbert was the top player in the 2020 class and I fully expect him to be a thorn in Auburn’s side for the next three years. How the hell did Kirby Smart let him get out of Georgia?
Mississippi State - #13 CB Emmanuel Forbes
It’s been a wild off-season for the Bulldogs of Starkville. They decided to send Joe Moorhead packing after a rough bowl performance and convinced Mike Leach to sail down from Pullman with his Air Raid offense. They snagged a graduate transfer quarterback from Stanford while losing three starters to the transfer portal themselves. They are also installing a brand new 3-3-5 defensive scheme while also transitioning from a Spread Power attack to a full on Air Raid on the offensive side of the ball. It’s gonna be wild.
The Bulldogs lose a lot off their defense especially with the transfers of Fabian Lovett and Jaylon Jones. At corner especially, Mississippi State seems to be on the hunt for some early impact players. The Magnolia State’s #2 ranked player of the 2020 class looks poised to fill that void for the Dawgs. Forbes isn’t a burner but possesses great length and isn’t afraid to get physical at the line of scrimmage.
Tennessee - #11 WR Jalin Hyatt
One of the more underrated playmakers from this past signing class is Jalin Hyatt. The 6’0” 175 lb speedster was a late riser in the rankings last cycle but I am not sure if he rose high enough. He had an ultra productive career at South Carolina HS powerhouse Dutch Fork where he holds the school record for receiving yards and receiving touchdowns.
The Vols are in need of some playmakers at the wide receiver position with the departures of Jauan Jennings and Marquez Callaway. Don’t be surprised if Hyatt is a starter by the time the Vols come to Jordan-Hare Stadium.
Alabama - #31 OLB Will Anderson
This was one of the tougher decisions to make on this list. The Crimson Tide signed the consensus #1 player in the 2020 class in 5-star QB Bryce Young who despite a late start to camp is locked in a QB battle with Mac “Pick 6” Jones. I also think 5-star edge player Drew Sanders is going to be a problem in the very near future and there’s a lot of buzz around 4-star WR Javon Baker. Plus there are 3 former Auburn commits on this list including Javion Cohen who had one of the uglier ends to a recruitment I’ve seen in some time. But the man I think ends up making the biggest impact for the Tide this fall is Will Anderson.
When Rodney Garner makes you a top priority early in your high school career, chances are pretty good you are a ball player. Auburn was one of the first SEC programs to offer the Georgia native and were even seen as the leader following his junior season. But Alabama made a serious push and landed the star pass rusher last spring. Anderson then went on to put together an absolutely absurd senior season recording 20+ sacks. He’s earned plenty of hype during fall camp and looks poised to at least be a 3rd down specialist for the Tide this fall.
Texas A&M - #1 WR Demond Demas
While much of the Aggie hype this off-season has been about the amount of returning production to the roster this fall, quietly the wide receiver position has become a major question mark for Jimbo’s squad. It started with the injury to Cameron Buckley who was expected to take on a much larger role this fall. Then it continued with the recent decision by the Aggies leading returning receiver Jhamon Ausbon to opt out and prepare for the NFL Draft. Ainas Smith has transitioned to running back leaving Jalen Preston as A&M’s most experienced WR heading into 2020. He caught 3 passes for 36 yds last season.
Good thing Dameyune Craig is still a damn good recruiter.
The nation’s #3 ranked wide receiver per 247 Composite, Demond Demas, looks poised to earn a starting spot this fall. The 6’3” 180 lb freakazoid was ineligible to play his senior year due to some drama around Texas’s transfer rules. That hasn’t slowed the hype train and the early returns this camp have been positive for the true freshman. Kellen Mond is going to need some new weapons on the outside to step up if this Aggie team is going to come close to the high expectations some are giving them. I suspect Demas quickly becomes one of his favored new targets.