It’s always fun to pick out some younger players who showed promise in the spring, and not necessarily predict greatness for them, but tab them as guys who will come through that next season for their respective teams.
Here are 12 guys to watch based on their performances this spring. Everybody on this list is a sophomore or younger:
Alabama sophomore cornerback Dre Kirkpatrick: The Crimson Tide are looking for a lockdown cornerback with both Javier Arenas and Kareem Jackson gone, and Kirkpatrick has all the tools -- not to mention the confidence.
Arkansas sophomore cornerback Darius Winston: The last part of spring practice, Winston really came on and started working with the first unit. He showed more consistency, and the Hogs really like his speed.
Auburn redshirt freshman defensive end Nosa Eguae: Had it not been for a stress fracture, Eguae would have played a lot as a true freshman. He was able to develop even more this spring and will be a big part of the Tigers’ rotation at end.
Florida redshirt freshman receiver Andre Debose: The Gators didn’t get to see as much of Debose as they would have liked this spring as he continued to recover from his hamstring surgery, but the little bit he did show at the end was good enough. He’s a touchdown waiting to happen.
Georgia redshirt freshman quarterback Aaron Murray: Even before Zach Mettenberger was dismissed from the team, Murray was well on his way to winning the starting job. He managed the offense well, made some big-time throws and understands what his role will be with 10 starters returning around him on offense.
Kentucky redshirt freshman defensive tackle Mister Cobble: Yeah, the name is pretty catchy. But Cobble can also play, which is a good thing for the Wildcats. They’re going to need help on their defensive line, and Cobble has shown that he can be a disrupter in the middle.
LSU sophomore cornerback Morris Claiborne: Everybody already knows about the Tigers’ All-SEC cornerback, Patrick Peterson. It won’t take them long to find out about Claiborne, either. He had an excellent spring, and the LSU coaches think they might have the best cornerback tandem in the country.
Mississippi State sophomore defensive tackle Fletcher Cox: A year in Matt Balis’ strength program has Cox up to 300 pounds, and he will team with fellow sophomore Josh Boyd to give the Bulldogs a pair of promising defensive tackles. Cox started in four games last season.
Ole Miss sophomore offensive tackle Bobby Massie: Having moved in as a starter at right tackle last season as a true freshman, Massie returns as the anchor of the Rebels’ offensive line. He’ll be the guy they run behind in key situations, and he’s also a solid pass protector.
South Carolina sophomore safety DeVonte Holloman: Cornerback Stephon Gilmore and receiver Alshon Jeffery burst onto the scene as true freshmen last season for the Gamecocks. It will be Holloman’s turn in 2010. He’s a big, physical safety who showed what he could do in the spring.
Tennessee sophomore safety Janzen Jackson: The only thing that kept Jackson from being one of the top freshmen in the league last season was trouble off the field. He says he’s past that now and is coming off a stellar spring. The Vols will need him to be their rock in the secondary next season.
Vanderbilt redshirt freshman defensive end Walker May: He put on 25 pounds since the fall and was one of the more impressive players overall during the Commodores’ spring practice. May’s burst off the edge should make him an excellent pass-rusher. He lived in the offensive backfield this spring.