Thrill of Victory

Five up-and-comers to watch in the SEC East

Two weeks from tomorrow, the Southeastern Conference season kicks off when Vanderbilt faces South Carolina. With opening day approaching, a number of youngsters throughout camps across the SEC are making a case for early playing time all over the SEC. Today, we look at a few of the new names you’ll want to know for this fall in the East.

Alvin Dupree, linebacker, Kentucky
It’s probably going to be a long season in Lexington; the Wildcats went 5-7 a year ago against a weak schedule and their two biggest stars (linebacker Danny Trevethan and safety Winston Guy) are gone. But Dupree, a former right end recruit, is the poster child for optimism these days in Lexington. As a true freshman, he started three games towards the end of the season when UK had injuries at linebacker, and performed admirably in those games.

One off-season later, Dupree has added about 30 pounds and weighs around 255. He’s still athletic enough to play linebacker, but can also line up at defensive end. Coach Joker Phillips is turning him loose on quarterbacks this fall, and Dupree has talked openly of breaking the NCAA sack record of 24 this fall. That’s probably impossible since UK doesn’t have a lot of other standouts; if Dupree is as good as advertised, he’s going to see a lot of double-teams. But either way, folks in Lexington think he’s a star in the making.

Dorial Green-Beckham, wide receiver, Missouri
Missouri coach Gary Pinkel’s Christmas came early this year when he landed Green-Beckham, the nation’s No. 1 recruit, on signing day. The Springfield, Mo., native is everything you want in a receiver: big (6-foot-6, 220 pounds), fast (he runs a 4.4 40-yard dash) and athletic. And as a bonus, Green-Beckham seems to have a humility about him that is quite rare in superstar receivers.

Pinkel’s offenses put up spectacular numbers in the Big 12, but he never had a talent quite like this one. With the talented James Franklin leading the Tiger offense, Green-Beckham has someone who can definitely get him the ball – and even though the Tigers have a number of quality targets, you’d have to think that Green-Beckham will be Franklin’s go-to guy by season’s end.

Brian Kimbrow, running back, Vanderbilt
Vanderbilt never signs the top prospect in Tennessee, but coach James Franklin managed to do it in landing the Memphis native over the winter. Kimbrow has proven to be every bit as good as advertised so far in VU’s August practices and there’s no question that he’ll play a role for the Commodores starting Week 1.

What that role will be isn’t exactly clear. He’s a running back by trade, and though Vandy is well-stocked at that position, he’ll get some snaps there. He can also play in the slot, and could have a hand in returning kickoffs and punts, too. The bottom line is, he’s probably the fastest player at Vandy since Jermaine Johnson in the mid-‘90s, and despite his small stature he’s looked unfazed by SEC defenses. You can bet he’ll be one of the fastest guys in the league immediately.

Ken Malcome, running back, Georgia
About two months ago, Georgia looked to be set at running back for years to come because reigning SEC Freshman of the Year Isaiah Crowell was returning. Oops! Crowell couldn’t behave, and coach Mark Richt sent him packing this summer.
Fortunately, Richt has the Bulldogs near the top of the national leaderboard in recruiting every year, so (yawn…) UGA will just roll another highly-regarded former recruit out there again. This time, it’s Ken Malcome, who’s the early leader in training camp. Malcome’s a former four-star recruit who was Georgia’s fifth-team tailback at one point a year ago, but the 226-pounder has worked his way to the top. To keep him on his toes, four-star recruit Keith Marshall is also pushing for time.

The ‘Dawgs need someone to approximate Crowell’s production from a year ago if they’re to contend for a national title, making him potentially as important to his team as anyone on this list.

Daniel McCullers, defensive tackle, Tennessee
What’s 6-foot-6 and 377 pounds and can move amazingly well for a guy his size? Nope, sorry, it’s not former Alabama defensive lineman Terrence Cody, who’s actually two inches and 17 pounds smaller than UT’s Daniel McCullers. You won’t be able to miss him this fall, because it appears he’ll start in Knoxville on the defensive line from Day 1.

The Vols will be switching to a base 3-4 defense in no small part because of the addition of McCullers. Early reports are that McCullers is in pretty good shape for a guy his size. That’s a good thing, because you’ve got to have an outstanding player on the nose to make that scheme work. Between that and his freakish physical nature, McCullers will be fun to watch this fall.