Earlier in the week, I took a glimpse at five up-and-coming talents you’ll want to watch in the Southeastern Conference’s Eastern Division. Today, I take a look at five such players in the West.
Xzavier Dickson, linebacker, Alabama
Listed at 6-foot-3 and 262 pounds, Dickson is a physical freak who’d have made a bigger impact most places as a true freshman last season. Of course, Alabama isn’t most places, so the seldom-used reserve totaled just three tackles and a half-sack backing up more experienced players. This season, Dickson will start at outside linebacker (Alabama refers to it as the “Jack” linebacker), but his size makes him versatile enough to play at defensive end also. Recent reports have his weight up to 270, but he’s evidently maintained his conditioning. You don’t see linebackers that big even in the NFL, making Dickson a man to watch.
Kiehl Frazier, quarterback, Auburn
Auburn’s offense struggled mightily last year after it lost quarterback Cam Newton, as the Tigers rotated three quarterbacks without much success. One of those was four-star recruit Kiehl Frazier, whom then-offensive coordinator Gus Malzahn had recruited out of Arkansas. His stat line (5-of-12, 34 yards, two interceptions) suggested he wasn’t ready, but then again, most true freshman quarterbacks aren’t. As a high school senior at Shiloh Christian, Frazier put up eye-popping numbers: 63 percent completions, 2,975 yards passing and 42 touchdown throws, plus 1,164 rushing yards and 22 scores. That made him the country’s No. 5 quarterback recruit according to Rivals.com. With a year under his belt, the Tigers hope that Frazier can become the star everyone expected.
Johnny Manziel, quarterback, Texas A&M
Manziel appears to be the winner of a three-way competition at quarterback to replace NFL first-round draft pick Ryan Tannehill. Like Frazier, he was a member of the 2011 signing class, but didn’t quite have his hype: Rivals rated him a three-star recruit even though his stats (3.609 yards passing, 45 TD passes, five interceptions, 1,674 rushing yards and 30 scores) were even better coming out of Kerrville, Texas’s Tivy High. Manziel graduated high school early to come to College Station in January 2011. That extra work has paid off as “Johnny Football” has reportedly improved his mechanics and decision-making over the past few months. If he can hold the job, he could own a few school records by the time he’s done.
Zach Mettenberger, quarterback, LSU
Mettenberger had the misfortune of being in the same signing class with Aaron Murray when he signed with Georgia in 2009. Three arrests for a variety of offenses later, his chance of becoming Georgia’s quarterback vanished for good with Mark Richt kicked him off the team. But Mettenberger was too talented to go unclaimed, and he’ll get a shot to lead LSU to national title contention this fall as a junior. His arm has drawn great reviews in camp so far, as he’ll have a chance to improve what was a very mediocre passing game a season ago.
Trey Williams, running back, Texas A&M
Williams is only 5-foot-8 and 175 pounds, but his 4.4 speed made him Rivals’ 15th-rated prospect in this freshman class. Last season, he ran 427 times for an incredible 3,890 yards and 48 touchdowns at Spring, Texas’s Dekaney High.
The early reviews on Williams in practice have been fantastic as he’s already broken several huge runs. A&M’s season probably won’t begin with Williams as the starter, but it might end that way.