SEC: Emerging players spring 2009

Emerging stars from the SEC

May, 15, 2009
5/15/09
3:00
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Chris Low

Who are the emerging stars in the SEC?

The spring provided a few clues, although they don't hand out All-America honors for what you do in March and April.

But based on my own observations, evaluations from coaches and talking to those close to each program, here are my picks for the emerging offensive and defensive stars on all 12 teams in the SEC:

Alabama

Offense
Colin Peek, TE, Sr.:
The 6-7, 255-pound transfer from Georgia Tech could end up being Greg McElroy's best friend on key downs.

Defense
Dont'a Hightower, LB, So.:
He started as a freshman last season at will linebacker, but may get more chances as a pass-rusher in the jack linebacker role in 2009.

Arkansas

Offense
Joe Adams, WR, So.:
Bobby Petrino loves Adams' ability to make things happen after the catch. He was a touchdown machine in the spring.

Defense
Jerry Franklin, LB, So.:
He came to Arkansas as a safety, but led the Hogs last season with 87 tackles playing both middle and weak side linebacker.

Auburn

Offense
Lee Ziemba, OT, Jr.:
The 6-8, 304-pound Ziemba is one of the more underrated offensive linemen in the league. That's about to change, though.

Defense
Craig Stevens, LB, Jr.:
Defensive coordinator Ted Roof couldn't quit talking about Stevens this spring. He's gotten bigger, stronger and faster.

Florida

Offense
Aaron Hernandez, TE, Jr.:
He's an every-down tight end that has NFL written all over him. Look for the Gators to get Hernandez the ball even more next season.

Defense
Janoris Jenkins, CB, So.:
Jenkins was one of the best freshman cornerbacks in the country last season and was versatile enough this spring to move inside to nickel when the Gators went to five defensive backs.

Georgia

Offense
Clint Boling, OT, Jr.:
He can play anywhere on the offensive line and pretty much has for the Bulldogs. He ended the spring as the starting left tackle.

Defense
Justin Houston, DE, So.:
His five sacks in the last two scrimmages of the spring illustrates what kind of pass-rusher he can be. But he'll be suspended for the first two games in 2009.

Kentucky

Offense
Randall Cobb, QB/WR, So.:
Cobb showed what he could do in stretches last season at quarterback. Now it's time to turn it loose as a full-time receiver.

Defense
Winston Guy, S, So.:
Rich Brooks has called Guy the most talented defensive back he's signed at Kentucky. Guy looked the part this spring at free safety.

LSU

Offense
Jordan Jefferson, QB, So.:
He showed flashes in his two starts to end last season. Jefferson has the run/pass ability to be an outstanding quarterback in this league.

Defense
Patrick Peterson, CB, So.:
Les Miles said it best this spring: Peterson is ready to play at a different level. He has great ball skills and is excellent in man coverage.

Mississippi State

Offense
Leon Berry, WR, Jr.:
The Bulldogs need receivers, and Berry was the best of the bunch this spring after coming over from junior college. He caught eight passes for 125 yards in the spring game.

Defense
Pernell McPhee, DT, Jr.:
McPhee is another junior college transfer who didn't take long to establish himself in the middle of the Bulldogs' defensive line. He's a real disrupter.

Ole Miss

Offense
Brandon Bolden, RB, So.: Bolden beat out several challengers and heads into the fall as the Rebels' starting tailback after a big spring. He averaged 5.5 yards per carry last season.

Defense
Patrick Trahan, LB, Sr.:
He started at Auburn, made a detour through junior college and is now poised for a breakout senior season. Watch him take off in 2009.

South Carolina

Offense
Jarvis Giles, RB, Fr.:
The Gamecocks needed to rev up their running game and did so with the speedy Giles, who showed in the spring just how explosive he can be.

Defense
Stephon Gilmore, CB, Fr.: How talented is Gilmore? He's going to start in the opener at cornerback and will also get some chances at quarterback in a special package.

Tennessee

Offense
Vladimir Richard, OG, Sr.:
One of the most physically impressive players on Tennessee's roster, Richard has the tools to be a devastating run blocker.

Defense
Chris Walker, DE, Jr.: If the spring is any indication, then Walker is about to become one of the most feared pass-rushers in the league. Lane Kiffin called him "unblockable."

Vanderbilt

Offense
Terence Jeffers, WR, Jr.:
The transfer from Connecticut is that big, physical playmaker the Commodores need on offense. He was the best player on the field for much of the spring.

Defense
Chris Marve, LB, So.:
Quietly, Marve was one of the most productive freshmen in the league last season. He was fourth with 105 total tackles and led the SEC with four forced fumbles.

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