With national signing day in the rearview mirror and spring practice approaching in a matter of weeks, several highly regarded recruits are already on campus working to make an impact on their teams right away. In the SEC, 83 total recruits enrolled in January classes and will participate in spring football for their respective teams.
We take a look at five players who graduated high school in December but could be instant-impact SEC players as early as September:
WR Kyle Davis, Auburn
The Tigers could use some help at receiver, as they’ll enter the 2016 season without the two receivers who led the team in receiving yards in 2015: Ricardo Louis and Melvin Ray, who were both seniors. Marcus Davis (30 catches) is the leading returning pass-catcher and the next-highest returnee is Tony Stevens (14 catches). Bottom line: There’s a significant opportunity here for someone to step up and catch a lot of balls, and Davis -- the No. 54 player in the ESPN 300 and the No. 5 receiver in the nation -- has that chance with his 6-foot-3, 218-pound frame.
LB Michael Divinity, LSU
The multiplicity of fronts used by new LSU defensive coordinator Dave Aranda includes a lot of 3-4 looks, a change from LSU’s recent past of a base 4-3 defense, and means an extra linebacker will often be on the field and that opens up an opportunity for Divinity. Head coach Les Miles on signing day said Divinity is a good fit for the defense and he has the opportunity to play “very significant football as a true freshman” as a stand-up pass-rusher. With his quality pursuit speed and strong tackling ability combined with his 6-foot-2, 213-pound frame, look for the No. 51 player in the ESPN 300 to get in the mix early and often for the Tigers.
QB Jacob Eason, Georgia
The Pacific Northwest product was the No. 1 pocket passer in the 2016 recruiting class and the No. 13 overall player in the ESPN 300. Will he start in Year 1? It’s too early to tell. Doing so as a QB in the SEC is a challenge, but by being on campus for the spring semester, Eason helps his chances in the battle with Greyson Lambert and Brice Ramsey, since he’ll be able to get more than 40 practices under his belt by time opening day arrives in September. He certainly has the tools: At 6-foot-6, 217 pounds, Eason has excellent arm strength, is accurate and has the size that a pro-style offense needs.
WR Bryan Edwards, South Carolina
The Gamecocks’ best playmaker in 2015 -- receiver Pharoh Cooper -- is headed to the NFL draft, leaving a void at the No. 1 receiver spot. What’s more, the next two best pass-catchers on the roster last season -- tight end Jerell Adams and running back Brandon Wilds -- are also gone. Edwards, who is 6-foot-3, 209 pounds with good speed, a large catch radius and big-play ability, is a prime candidate to step in and contribute right away. South Carolina needs all the offensive firepower it can get and Edwards, the No. 253 player in the ESPN 300, will have ample opportunity to fill the void.
DT Benito Jones, Ole Miss
As the Rebels lose a former five-star defensive tackle to the NFL draft -- Robert Nkemdiche -- could another five-star prospect be his successor? Jones, the No. 7 player in the ESPN 300, certainly has the talent. At 6-foot-1, 275 pounds, he’s explosive, quick off the ball and can be a disruptive pass-rusher from the interior while also being solid against the run. He’ll battle current Ole Miss defensive tackles D.J. Jones, Issac Gross and Breeland Speaks for a chance to start.