SPECIAL OFFER

Breaking news. In-depth analysis. Limited Ads.

7-Day Free TrialSubscribe Now

2022 SEC Preview: Key newcomer for every West Division team

Jesse Simonton07/17/22
jahmyr-gibbs-explains-what-goes-into-being-a-good-return-specialist-alabama-crimson-tide
Kent Gidley | Alabama Athletics | Crimson Tide Photos | UA Athletics

SEC Media Days is right around the corner, so now is a good time for a refresher on who is and isn’t on SEC rosters for the upcoming 2022 season. 

Earlier this week, I noted the most important departure from every team in the conference, and today, I’ll preview a key offseason addition — by transfer or incoming freshman — for each school. 

We’ll start with the SEC West, where Alabama, Arkansas, Ole Miss and others added an important newcomer piece from the portal, while LSU and Texas A&M both have 5-star freshman who stand to start in Week 1. 

Key newcomer for every SEC West team

ALABAMA — RB Jahmyr Gibbs

Nick Saban summed up Gibbs’ skill-set nicely this spring after the Georgia Tech transfer sprinted for a 75-yard touchdown on A-Day: “Fast is fast.” Gibbs gives the Crimson Tide a dynamic threat as a runner, receiver and kick returner. Playing behind a shoddy Yellow Jackets’ offensive line, the former 4-star prospect totaled 1,805 all-purpose yards in 2021 and could dwarf those numbers in Tuscaloosa this fall. Gibbs might be the most impact non-quarterback transfer in all of America in 2022. That’s how much potential he has.  

ARKANSASLB Drew Sanders

The former Alabama 5-star signee was blocked from significant snaps with the Crimson Tide, but Sanders generated plenty of early buzz in Fayetteville this spring. The 6-5, 232-pound linebacker is expected to play multiple roles in Barry Odom’s defense, lining up inside in some 4-2-5 looks, while also sliding outside as a pass rusher on situational downs. Sanders is long and is explosive off the edge, ideally providing the Razorbacks some much-needed pass rush potential (second-fewest sacks in the SEC in 2021). 

AUBURN — QB Zach Calzada

I was tempted to assign freshman safety Caleb Wooden here, as the 4-star prospect was a name-to-know this spring for the Tigers and could push for a starting job early in 2022. But it’s hard not to go with a quarterback, particularly someone who beat archival Alabama last season. Calzada struggled with consistency at Texas A&M (especially accuracy and precision passing) and missing the spring recovering from a shoulder injury. But when healthy, the Peach State native has cannon for an arm and will either win the job outright or force incumbent TJ Finley to prove worthy of keeping Auburn’s QB1 spot

LSU — LT Will Campbell 

The Tigers loaded up on transfers this offseason, adding 15 players to the roster including five or six possible starters in the secondary, but my pick for the most important addition is 5-star offensive tackle Will Campbell. The Monroe (La.) native impressed new Tigers’ coach Brian Kelly during spring practice and lined up with the 1s at left tackle in LSU’s spring game. While the Tigers aren’t sure who will be their quarterback in 2022, the freshman tackle is expected to protect the blindside for whoever wins the job, starting in Week 1 against Florida State.  

MISSISSIPPI STATE — OL Percy Lewis

The Bulldogs lost a vital two-year starter in tackle Charles Cross, one of the best pass-protecting offensive linemen in the nation in 2021. Mike Leach scoured the transfer market for an immediate answer at the position, landing junior college transfer Percy Lewis to fill Cross’ spot. The 4-star signee played left tackle with the first-team offense early in spring before the Bulldogs experimented with several other linemen at the position. Leach needs Lewis, who is massive at 6-8, 360 pounds, to win the job in fall camp and become an important cog for an OL expected to pass protect a lot.  

OLE MISS — RB Zach Evans

Like LSU, the Rebels added all sorts of reinforcements from the transfer portal this offseason, but no addition could be more impactful than replacing Jerrion Ealy and Snoop Conner (combined 1,400 yards and 18 touchdowns) with TCU transfer tailback Zach Evans. The former 5-star recruit averaged 7.03 yards per carry in two seasons with the Horned Frogs, and has the potential to be the best running back in the SEC in 2022. It’s a contract year for Evans, who is looking to showcase his breakaway speed in Lane Kiffin’s RPO-heavy offense and become one of the top tailback prospects in the 2023 NFL Draft. 

TEXAS A&M — WR Shemar Stewart

The 5-star freshman signee was one of the headliners in the Aggies’ historic 2023 recruiting class, as Jimbo Fisher & Co., kept the 5-11, 170-pound in the state and away from Texas. Stewart has drawn comps to another former Longhorn State playmaker in Jaylen Waddle, as the freshman has blazing speed and is a nightmare with the ball in his hands. Stewart is slated to start on Day 1 and should help ignite a static A&M passing attack — no matter who wins the Aggies’ QB derby.