With the 2022 College Football season rapidly approaching, there has been a lot of talk about the SEC’s top players like Bryce Young, Will Levis, and Brock Bowers, but what about the players not getting talked about as much? Harrison Vapnek and Marissa Myers break down eight of the conference’s key players who are flying under the radar and could be in for a massive 2022 season.
SEC East (Harrison):
Luther Burden III (Wide Receiver, Missouri)
I had the pleasure to watch Burden at practice on Monday morning. I can’t emphasize enough how important he is going to be to that Tigers offense from the first snap he takes. In 2021, no Tiger wide receiver eclipsed more than 576 yards, and graduated running back Tyler Badie had the team’s most catches at 54. The expectation amongst Tigers fans is that Burden will surpass both of those numbers as just a true freshman. Burden was ranked as the nation’s second-best wide receiver and a five-star prospect overall out of East St. Louis, after going for nearly 1,200 yards and 20 touchdowns his senior season. Missouri has quarterback uncertainty with a four-way competition between Brady Cook, Sam Horn, Jack Abraham, and Tyler Macon, so they’re going to be in need to feed their young phenom early and often.
Another look at #Mizzou wide receiver Luther Burden III in action with this catch. Tigers fans are excited in seeing how the team will use the nation's top incoming WR this season. @KOMUsports @BenArnetKOMU pic.twitter.com/0TH8GNX0r3
— Harrison Vapnek (@harrisonvapnek) August 1, 2022
Austin Stogner (Tight End, South Carolina)
The former four-star tight end had an up-and-down career in Oklahoma, but now a fresh start for him at South Carolina might lead to his breakout. Stogner’s best season came in 2020 when his quarterback was Spencer Rattler when he caught 26 passes for 422 yards and three touchdowns in eight games. Now, he follows Rattler over to Columbia where the Gamecocks expect a much higher volume passing attack. Last season, South Carolina ranked 95th in the nation in passing offense and with the transfer of the Rattler/Stogner duo, coach Shane Beamer expects a heavy increase in that rank. Moreover, Beamer was Stogner’s tight ends coach in 2019 and 2020, so the chemistry is already there between the two and has all the makings of what should be his best season yet.
Kamari Lassiter (Cornerback, Georgia)
Georgia’s historic National Championship-winning defense in 2021 is undergoing a major makeover going into the 2022 season. One of the under-the-radar spots not being highly discussed is cornerback. Derion Kendrick was a consistent corner last year for the Bulldogs, and the player to replace him is going to be true sophomore, Kamari Lassiter. Lassiter was the 18th-rated corner in the 2021 recruiting class, and despite a smaller frame of just 6 foot, and 185 lbs, Lassiter has incredible athleticism that will have him fit right into Georgia’s elite defense. In limited playing time last year, Lassiter took advantage, having a couple of pass deflections and an interception against Vanderbilt. Lassiter missed Georgia’s spring game due to an illness, but he will compete with Javon Bullard for the opposite outside corner spot to Kelee Ringo, and I think Lassiter has a chance to surprise many.
Jacquez Jones (Linebacker, Kentucky)
Jacquez Jones has very quietly been one of the most consistent linebackers for four seasons and I don’t expect that to stop in year number five. In his first three seasons at Ole Miss, Jones combined for 182 tackles. He then followed that up with an 82 tackle performance (including having 18 tackles in Kentucky’s game vs Mississippi State) in his first year in Lexington. I am a big fan of Kentucky defensive coordinator Brad White, who I think will be a head coach in due time, and with Jones in his defense for a second year, I wouldn’t rule out a possible 90 tackle season for him.
SEC West (Marissa):
Ketron Jackson: (Wide Receiver Arkansas)
The Arkansas Razorbacks lost a pivotal receiver in Treylon Burks to the NFL. While they did add Jadon Haselwood through the transfer portal to help replicate the success, Ketron Jackson should also be in a spot to step up and help out. Jackson saw very limited playing time last year, he played in only four games where he hauled in a total of five receptions over that time for 97 yards and a touchdown. Coming out of high school he showed the ability to be a consistent receiver with his large catch radius. Along with that his 6’2, 209 lb frame allows him to come down with contested catches and break through tackles. Jackson’s athletic ability leads to him having an immense amount of upside to unlock and that should be on full display this season.
Khyree Jackson: (Cornerback, Alabama)
When you look at the prototypical cornerback’s Nick Saban likes to have at Alabama, Khyree Jackson fits the mold. As a JUCO transfer last year Jackson saw limited time up until the National Championship Game where he, unfortunately, gave up multiple big plays. Heading into his second season now with more understanding of the Crimson Tide defense he should be able to make a larger impact. Jackson has the ability to excel in man coverage with his speed and timing to make a play on the ball. In addition, he can play zone coverage as well with his ability to diagnose plays and react quickly. This is the type of player the Crimson Tide needs to step up with the loss of Josh Jobe and Jalyn Armour-Davis off to the NFL.
Jared Ivey: (Defensive Line, Ole Miss)
The Ole Miss Rebels defense last year finished with the 105th ranked run defense after allowing 2,184 yards. Jared Ivey will be an integral player in improving this area. After two years at Georgia Tech, Ivey decided to transfer to Ole Miss for the 2022 season. In 2020 he only played in five games but accumulated eight tackles. Last season though he made a larger impact playing in 11 games where he ended up with 32 tackles with six going for a loss, 1.5 sacks, a forced fumble, and even a defended pass. Standing at 6’6, 275 lbs he will make his impact felt early and regularly get into the backfield to help the run defense.
Damarius McGhee (Cornerback, LSU)
For this LSU team to truly get back up to par, they need better production out of their secondary. In 2021 they allowed a completion percentage of 64.2%, while also allowing an average of 236.8 passing yards per game. That is where Damarius McGhee comes into play to help out. When he was in high school he did a bit of everything, playing wide receiver, quarterback, safety, and his current position as a cornerback. His experience as a wide receiver and quarterback allows him to pick up on key tendencies and diagnose the play well. With already being on the team for a year under Corey Raymond, and now being able to learn under Robert Steeples, McGhee should be able to step up in the area the Tigers needed the most help.