SEC Early Enrollees with Best Shot to Win Starting Job in Spring Practice
A recent trend in recruiting has begun with a handful of top recruits choosing to forgo the final semester of their senior year of high school in favor of enrolling early at the colleges of their choice.
For example, 11 of the 35 recruits who earned a 5-star rating in the 2015 cycle are already on campus at their respective programs.
The SEC has its share of stud recruits capable of coming in and making an immediate impact during the upcoming spring practices.
Which SEC early enrollees have a shot to land starting jobs by the end of the spring?
*Players listed in alphabetical order.
Will Gragg: TE, Arkansas
Aside from beastly offensive linemen and punishing running backs, one of the staples of Bret Bielema’s offenses in his coaching career has been versatile and athletic bodies at the tight end position.
One of his newest finds at the tight end spot is 4-star early enrollee Will Gragg.
The 6’4”, 245-pounder is a physical player who can also stretch defenses vertically in the passing game. With the departure of senior AJ Derby, there’s an opening for Gragg to stake a claim for snaps with a strong performance in the spring.
With Arkansas utilizing two-tight end looks frequently, pairing Gragg with rising junior Hunter Henry would give the Hogs offense a duo that could help loosen up defenses geared up to stop the Hogs ground attack.
Chad Kelly: QB, Ole Miss
Ole Miss brought in a pair of teammates from East Mississippi Community College who could be instant impact performers for the Rebels this fall.
The former Clemson signee has a lot of talent and the skill set necessary to become an effective trigger man in Freeze’s high-octane attack.
Christian Kirk: WR, Texas A&M
Texas A&M has had its share of impact freshmen since Kevin Sumlin took the reins in College Station.
One early enrollee who could provide an instant spark to the Aggies receiving unit is 5-star receiver Christian Kirk.
The 5’10”, 191-pounder—who hails from the same hometown as Aggies starting quarterback Kyle Allen—accounted for 2,879 yards of total offense and 42 touchdowns as a receiver and running back during his senior season.
According to Ourlads, the Aggies have just one receiver to replace—the departed Malcome Kennedy.
A&M has recruited the receiver position very well over the last few years, so it will be tough for the Arizona product to claim a starting role. However, pairing him with former stud receiver recruits such as Ricky Seals-Jones and Speedy Noil could cause a ton of headaches for defenses this fall.
Jonathan Ledbetter: DE, Georgia
Georgia will have to replace three of their top four defensive linemen from last year’s squad.
Of that trio, the 6’4”, 265-pound Ledbetter may have the best chance to see the field early, mainly because of his versatility.
He’s athletic enough to provide a pass-rushing presence on the edge and strong enough to get consistent penetration into the backfield from the interior.
Jovon Robinson: RB, Auburn
One of the biggest questions of the spring for coach Gus Malzahn and his staff is who will replace the team’s three leading rushers from a year ago.
Quarterback Nick Marshall and running backs Cameron Artis-Payne and Corey Grant have all exhausted their eligibility, but reinforcements are on the way from the Tigers' 2015 recruiting class.
Atop that list is incoming JUCO transfer running back Jovon Robinson—who was the nation’s top JUCO prospect in the 2015 cycle.
The 5’11”, 225-pounder rushed for 2,387 yards and 34 touchdowns last season.
Robinson has the type of size and speed to be a workhorse in the Tigers' uptempo rushing attack.
Kevin Toliver II: CB, LSU
The early departure of corner Jalen Collins has left a sizable void in LSU’s secondary entering spring practice.
However, new defensive coordinator Kevin Steele will have a new weapon to work with in 5-star corner Kevin Toliver II.
The 6’2”, 185-pounder enrolled at LSU last month, and he’s got the size and athletic ability to be an instant contributor in the SEC.
The fact that he specializes in lining up on the outside and jamming bigger receivers at the line of scrimmage makes him a perfect fit for what the Tigers have preferred to do at that position in recent years.
Shy Tuttle: DT, Tennessee
Perhaps the most important part of Tennessee’s 2015 recruiting class—one that finished up as the No. 4 class in the country—was the crop of defensive linemen that coach Butch Jones and his staff were able to land.
At 6’3”, 320 pounds, Tuttle has the potential to provide the interior of the Vols defensive line with an intimidating presence right off the bat.
He compiled career totals of 317 tackles, including 63 for loss, and 33 sacks during his four years at North Davidson (N.C.) High School.
The Vols coaching staff is hoping he can provide them with that type of disruptive force in their front four this spring.
Sanjay Kirpalani is a National Recruiting Analyst for Bleacher Report. Unless otherwise noted, all recruiting information courtesy of 247Sports.