It also became one of the most popular years in the city of Memphis, because of the number of SEC prospects produced. Today we will find out which prospects made a real difference in the toughest conference in college football and which prospects did not live up to their billing.
1. Sheldon Dawson – After being named a 4-star recruit and the number one overall player in the state of Tennessee, the Ridgeway high school product decided to take his talents out of state to the university of Georgia to play for head coach Mark Richt. Being one of the Bulldogs highest rated signees in the 2012 class and one of the top cornerbacks in the nation, the plan was for Dawson to step in and contribute pretty quickly to a talented but thin Bulldog secondary. That never materialized however. Dawson did appear in 25 games his first two seasons with one start but only contributed 25 tackles to the defensive side of the ball. During a frustrating junior campaign, Dawson had only collected three tackles halfway through the year before head coach Mark Richt announced Dawson was no longer apart of the team. The reason for Dawson's departure was never revealed, but many believe it was a mutual parting. After leaving Georgia, Dawson transferred to UT-Martin to play his college ball in 2015, but only saw action in 3 games and never made a difference. Dawson was an electric player in high school but could not translate that same success to the college level.
2. Jovon Robinson – Robinson was a superb running back from Wooddale high school with great power and good speed for his size. After being ranked as the top running back in the state and playing in the U.S. ARMY ALL-AMERICAN game, Robinson planned to play with the Auburn Tigers. That did not happen… well at least not the first go-around. Robinson was forced to go to junior college because of a grade changing scandal at his high school. He enrolled at Georgia Military College and set several records including 2,387 rushing yards in one season and tying a JUCO record with 34 touchdowns in 12 games. After putting up video game stats in junior college, Robinson was ranked as the top JUCO prospect in 2015 and a 5-star recruit. Robinson had his pick of where he could attend college but once again eventually chose the Auburn Tigers. The Tigers felt like they had struck gold with the Robinson re-commitment. After sharing the load of the carries for a majority of the season last year, Robinson really came into a zone at the end of the season and ended up with 639 rushing yards and 3 touchdowns in only 8 games. Everything seemed to be going well for the talented tailback until this summer when he became involved in several off-the-field issues that caused his dismissal. Since leaving Auburn, Robinson has reportedly transferred to Division II Valdosta State and will be immediately eligible to play this upcoming season.
3. Will Redmond – Redmond was rated as a 4-star cornerback coming out of East high school and was arguably the best athlete in the state as he played corner, wide receiver, and quarterback throughout his high school career. After a dominating high school performance, Redmond signed with the Mississippi State Bulldogs even though the Georgia Bulldogs tried to make a late push. After signing his letter of intent, the NCAA conducted an investigation on the recruitment of Redmond and found out that a Mississippi State booster provided him with impermissible benefits. The findings of the investigation ended up costing him his whole freshman season and 5 games of his sophomore season. He was also not allowed to redshirt. After serving his suspension, Redmond played primarily as a backup corner his sophomore season before seeing the field in every game his junior season. Redmond was starting to become recognized as the Bulldogs best cover corner. He proved it by making not one, but two game clinching interceptions his junior year against LSU and Arkansas. He carried over that swagger and confidence he gained during his junior season into his senior year as he earned every start and recorded 25 tackles and 2 interceptions through 7 games. Unfortunately, Redmond suffered a torn ACL in practice during the week of the Kentucky game. He never played another down in Starkville. Even after the injury, he was still looked at as one of the best overall corners in the 2016 NFL draft. The San Francisco 49ers drafted Redmond in the 3rd round and have since signed him to a 4-year rookie contract deal. He finished his career in Starkville with 99 tackles, 5.5 tackles for loss, 5 interceptions, and 8 passes defended.
4. Brian Kimbrow – Kimbrow, also from East high school, was rated as a 4-star running back with multiple big-time offers. Having several offers from SEC schools and PAC 12 schools, many thought Kimbrow would sign with an established powerhouse school. He shocked many when he chose the Vanderbilt Commodores over all others. He believed in the vision James Franklin shared for the program and wanted to be the prized recruit to get the ball rolling in Nashville. The speedster (4.3 speed) enrolled at Vanderbilt after an outstanding high school career and an appearance in the US ARMY ALL-AMERICAN game. Kimbrow established himself as a dangerous return man his first year and a shifty, change of pace running back as he finished with 413 yards (2nd on team) on only 66 carries, and 3 touchdowns (3rd on team). Kimbrow’s stats dipped his sophomore season a bit as he only gained 341 rushing yards and 3 touchdowns on 81 carries while sharing the load of the carries with two other running backs. After the 2013 season, the main reason Kimbrow came to Vanderbilt was leaving. Head coach James Franklin accepted the same position at Penn State. Kimbrow and new Vanderbilt head coach Derek Mason never gelled. During September in 2014, Kimbrow was suspended indefinitely by Derek Mason for “conduct detrimental to the team”. Soon after the suspension, Kimbrow was dismissed from the team. He graduated at Vanderbilt that year and announced he was transferring to play his final season of football at MTSU as a graduate transfer. Once arriving at MTSU, he went through spring practice with the team before announcing in May of 2015 that he was leaving the MTSU football program indicating he was not interested in playing football anymore. Kimbrow obviously fizzled out on the game of football but even though he did not succeed as a player, as mentioned above, he did get his degree from Vanderbilt and has moved on to the real world.
5. Ben Still – Coming from a juggernaut high school program at M.U.S where they constantly produce division one players, Still was rated as a 3-star offensive guard that ended up signing with the Ole Miss Rebels. During his first two years on campus, Still strictly served as the backup center playing in 5 games each season. After learning and adjusting to the college game, Still started 12 games his junior season at center and cemented a solid offensive line group. He played in 11 games his senior season, while starting in 8 contests, protecting one of the best Ole Miss offenses in school history. Still played in 33 games total in his career and started 20. He has since graduated from Ole Miss and remains close to the Ole Miss program.
6. Brandon Hill – A former 3-star offensive guard at St. George’s high school, Hill committed to Alabama out of high school. Shortly after, he found out he had failed to qualify and headed to Hargrave Military Academy Prep School (VA) for a year to get his grades straightened out. During the next year of his recruitment in 2013, Hill committed to Ole Miss and stayed strong for a while before flipping back to the Tide right before NSD. He arrived at Alabama not in the best shape weighing nearly 400 pounds. Instead of playing his freshman year, Hill redshirted and dropped a lot of bad weight. After the redshirt year, Hill decided to leave the program and headed to Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College (MS) where he played his sophomore season before committing to the UAB Blazers in November of 2015. Hill went through spring practice with Blazers this year and coaches have reported that he has done very well. UAB will resume playing in the 2017 season.
7. Jaylen Walton – Coming from Ridgeway High School, Walton had a small stature, but for what he lacked in size, he made up with his speed and elusiveness. Walton was a 3-star recruit with several division one offers, but ultimately signed with the Ole Miss Rebels. Walton had a solid career at the University of Mississippi. He scored 23 total touchdowns in his career and finished second in school history with 4,742 all-purpose yards. Walton never blew the stat sheet away from a rushing standpoint, but what he did provide for the Rebels was a consistent scat back that could catch the ball very well and make plays. He also led the Rebels in rushing yards in 2014 and ’15. He did not get drafted in this year’s NFL Draft, but he did sign as an undrafted free agent in May with the New Orleans Saints.
8. Cordale Boyd – Boyd, also from Ridgeway High School, had an up and down career in college. Boyd, who was a 3-star offensive guard that signed with the Arkansas Razorbacks, redshirted his first season in Fayetteville and helped the scout team in practice. In the 2013 season, Boyd appeared in nine games, which made it appears that he was on the verge of breaking into the rotation. However, the following season in summer camp, Boyd was moved to the defensive line. He appeared in six games in 2014, but did not record a single stat mostly appearing on special teams. During his redshirt junior season, after not playing much, Boyd was honored on senior day with the rest of the Razorback seniors because he decided to move on from football and graduate at the end of the year.
9. Tino Thomas – A ball hawking safety at Melrose High, Thomas committed and signed with the Tennessee Volunteers shortly after receiving the offer. He redshirted his first season on campus and only saw action in 3 games the following season. After the small amount of playing time and clearly falling behind on the depth chart, Thomas let head coach Butch Jones know at the end of the season he was leaving the team. He transferred to Northwest Community College (MS) where he played one season before signing with Texas Southern University. He played his redshirt junior season last year and will be in his final year of eligibility this upcoming season.
10. Brandon Lewis – Another Ridgeway High School product, Lewis was a 3-star defensive end that signed with the Arkansas Razorbacks. After taking a redshirt year his first season, Lewis played in all 12 games the following year recording 13 tackles, 2 tackles for loss, 1 sack, 1 pass breakup, and 1 fumble recovery. Lewis did not have eye-popping stats in one area his redshirt freshman year, but his name certainly filled up a lot of stat columns at the end of the season and coaches were encouraged by that. Many expected him to have a more consistent sophomore season but that did not happen mostly due to injuries. Lewis only recorded 7 tackles and 2 tackles for loss his sophomore and junior seasons in 15 total appearances. Lewis is still currently on the team, but is still buried on the depth chart and is not expected to make a push for a starting role this upcoming year.