Butch Jones on the Vols' seventh practice of fall camp
Safety Brian Randolph talks after UT scrimmage.
Seven of the first 18 players taken in the last NFL draft were SEC underclassmen. That gives you an idea of the conference’s outgoing talent.
But in a little more than two weeks, you will be reminded that the SEC replaces old stars with new ones.
Texas A&M added to the tradition in its rookie SEC season.
Aggies quarterback Ryan Tannehill was the eighth player taken in the 2012 NFL draft. Later that fall, Texas A&M replaced him with redshirt freshman Johnny Manziel, who won the Heisman Trophy.
That’s how it goes in the SEC. And you can expect more of the same this season when new stars emerge.
Here are some likely candidates to have breakout seasons in 2013.
Jordan Jenkins — He was good enough to start six games as a freshman outside linebacker on a veteran Georgia defense last fall. The Bulldogs now hope he’s good enough to make up for the loss of All-American Jarvis Jones.
Cedric Ogbuehi — Texas A&M had the top offensive tackle tandem in the country last season with Jake Matthews and Luke Joeckel, who was the second pick in the NFL draft as a junior.
It still might have the best pair of tackles in the country with Matthews teaming up with Ogbuehi, who moves from guard to right tackle.
Victor Hampton — His career at South Carolina had a rocky beginning. He was redshirted, kicked off the team and suspended for the first three games of the 2011 season.
Two years later, the fourth-year junior looks like the next in a long line of outstanding South Carolina defensive backs.
Loucheiz Purifoy — He teamed up with Marcus Roberson to give Florida one of the league’s best cornerback twosomes last season.
But his value to the Gators increased in the spring when he split time at wide receiver, where there is a shortage of playmakers.
Chris Black — Wide receiver should be Alabama’s strongest and deepest position, but this redshirt freshman still could crack the starting lineup.
Black wowed coaches before suffering a season-ending shoulder injury in preseason last year.
Cameron Artis-Payne — The junior college transfer exceeded expectation in spring practice, which included 117 rushing yards on 18 carries in Auburn’s spring game. He should give the Tigers a power running threat in coach Gus Malzahn’s up-tempo offense.
Robert Nkemdiche — Nkemdiche is only a true freshman. But that’s like saying South Carolina defensive end Jadeveon Clowney was only a freshman two years ago.
Nkemdiche, a 6-foot-5, 270-pound end and the nation’s No. 1 recruit, should further bolster an improving Ole Miss defense, just like his brother, Denzel, did at linebacker last season.
Dorial Green-Beckham — After a slow start for Missouri as a freshman in 2012, the 6-6 wide receiver showed his potential in the last five games when he had 21 of his 25 pass receptions.
Daniel McCullers — The 6-8, 360-pound junior college transfer proved last season he could do more than take up space. If he continues to keep his weight down and develop more stamina, he could become a defensive force for Tennessee.
Rohan Gaines — The undersized, hard-hitting safety made freshman All-American last season at Arkansas. He could become an All-SEC player this season under first-year coach Bret Bielema.