Before the season, I wrote a Recruiting With Ross column looking at four freshman that I thought could make an impact this season in the SEC. Sam’s end of the year look back has inspired me to do the same. Let’s take a look at the four players I thought would have major impacts and see how I did.
4. Martez Ivey, OL Florida
Ivey’s season got off to a rough start when a knee injury hampered him in the beginning of the season. I wouldn’t really call Ivey a boom but he certainly wasn’t a bust either. He’s like the fireworks you light that shoots way in the sky on the first one then just kind of fizzles out the rest of the time. You can see the immense potential that he flashed at times but nagging injuries probably held him back more than anything. Offensive linemen are hard to judge because they don’t really register stats like skill position players but either way Ivey has a bright future in Gainesville.
3. Kahlil McKenzie, DT Tennessee
McKenzie definitely passes the eye test as a boom player his freshman season. The 344-pound behemoth played in all 12 games this year (0 starts) finishing with 20 tackles, a sack and a forced fumble. To me that is a solid season for the big fella. Defensive tackles generally don’t rack up tackles or sacks like defensive ends do. McKenzie was brought to Knoxville to do one thing, clog up the middle of the defense, which is what he does. He is an anchor and will continue to be for the Volunteers for the next few seasons.
2. Calvin Ridley, WR Alabama
Ridley had a monster year for the Crimson Tide and quickly became Jake Coker’s favorite target. He took over the Amari Cooper role and thrived. Ridley finished the year with 75 catches for 893 yards and five touchdowns and has only gotten better as the season progressed. His coming out party came in the 5th game of the year against the Georgia Bulldogs when he hauled in 5 catches for 120 yards and a touchdown. From there on, Ridley wasn’t looking back. He is the definition of a boom season and will terrorize SEC defenses for at least two more seasons.
1.Byron Cowart, DE Auburn
Cowart entered the season with huge expectations which is to be expected when you are the top high school player in the country. He and Carl Lawson were supposed to be the dynamic duo of pass rushing defensive ends that Auburn hasn’t seen together since the days of Stanley McGlover and Quentin Groves destroying opposing backfields. At 6’3″ and 277 pounds, he was physically ready to play. But something just wasn’t there. Whether it was the speed of the college game or adjusting to being a college student or picking up a college defense, something just didn’t click for Cowart. He finished the year with six tackles. Certainly not the type of year that Auburn fans and coaches were hoping for and expecting. Now does that mean that his career is over and his story ends like Ryan Leaf? Certainly not. Another year to adjust and prepare will help. Maybe even a new defensive coordinator at Auburn will be all Cowart needs to turn the light on. But needless to say, this season was a definite bust by all accounts.