The 2022-2023 college football season is shaping up to be exciting and intriguing, as many SEC teams underwent changes in the offseason.
The SEC features new faces such as LSU head coach Brian Kelly and Florida head coach Billy Napier. Both Kelly and Napier hope to rebuild their respective programs and prove they belong in the most competitive conference in college football.
Not only will we see new faces in the SEC this season, but the conference also has a plethora of young talent looking to make a statement. Many teams in the SEC are returning experienced players who hope to lead their respective teams to a successful 2022 campaign.
Elite talent such as Bryce Young, Will Anderson Jr., Chris Rodriguez Jr., Stetson Bennett, Will Levis, Hendon Hooker and Will Rogers are all names gaining mainstream attention. However, there are many underrated players across the conference that are looking to make some noise on the gridiron this season.
Here's a list of underrated players on each SEC team that could have a breakout year in 2022.
Jordan Battle, DB, Alabama
Nick Saban and the Alabama Crimson Tide have plenty impactful and talented athletes. Entering his senior season, Jordan Battle returns as one of the most experienced players on an extremely talented defensive unit for Alabama. Battle has played in 41 games with 32 starts in his career. The Crimson Tide has many players returning in the secondary, but his leadership and experience in big-time games will aid the Crimson Tide defense this season.
Last season, Battle recorded 85 total tackles with three interceptions -- two of which he took to the house for touchdowns. He finished fourth on the team in tackles and tied for first in interceptions in 2022. As one of the most athletic but underrated corners in college football, Battle will look to continue his success this season by leading Alabama to another national championship.
Ricky Stromberg, C, Arkansas
The Arkansas Razorbacks have the opportunity to compete at the top of the SEC West this season. Head coach Sam Pittman has rebuilt the Hogs into a powerhouse in the SEC. The Razorbacks will also have an elite and experienced signal-caller in KJ Jefferson leading the offense. For Jefferson to have a successful 2022 campaign, his offensive line will need to provide excellent pocket protection.
One of the most impressive returning players up front for the Razorbacks is center Ricky Stromberg. The senior offensive lineman brings leadership and experience to his team. Stromberg will be a huge key to the Hog's success on offense this season with his excellent upper body strength and intelligence.
Derick Hall, DE, Auburn
There are many unknowns surrounding the Auburn Tigers in 2022., but one known factor out on The Plains comes in the form of senior defensive end Derick Hall. Hall will be a key contributor to the defensive unit for Auburn and brings much-needed experience along with him.
Last season, Hall recorded 52 total tackles -- 33 of which were solo tackles -- and nine sacks with two forced fumbles. He will be a force to be reckoned with this season and is a nightmare for opposing offenses. His ability off the edge is among the best in the country. As one of the most athletic returning defensive linemen in college football, Hall looks to continue to improve his draft stock.
O'Cyrus Torrence G (Florida)
6-foot-5, 335-pound senior O'Cyrus Torrence will be a key part of the Florida Gators' offense this season. Torrence started his collegiate career with Billy Napier at the University of Louisiana. He has played at both the right guard and left guard positions, so he brings much-needed experience and versatility to the Gators.
Torrence earned FWAA-Shaun Alexander Freshman All-American Team Honors in his freshman year, as well as being named to the second-team All-Sun Belt in 2020 and first-team All-Sun Belt in 2021. According to Pro Football Focus, Torrence has not allowed a sack in his career. Coach Napier certainly brought an imposing force to The Swamp.
Nolan Smith, OLB, Georgia
Kirby Smart and the Bulldogs lost many elite defensive players to the NFL Draft in 2021. The defensive unit for Georgia needs players to step up so the Dawgs do not take a step back this season. With the leadership and athletic ability of Nolan Smith off the edge, the Bulldogs' defense is in good hands.
In 2021, Smith recorded 55 total tackles with three forced fumbles and one interception. Last season was a historic season for Georgia, and most of the success was due to outstanding performances on the defensive side of the ball. With many Bulldogs from last season now in the NFL, Smith will be a key part in determining the continued success of the defensive unit.
Eli Cox, G, Kentucky
The Kentucky Wildcats are one of many teams in the SEC returning elite talent on offense this season. For the Wildcats to light up the scoreboard, the offensive line will need to step up and provide protection for star quarterback Levis.
Eli Cox is a strong and explosive center that looks to have a breakout junior year. After suffering a hand injury late last season, he is working to bounce back and be a leader on the offensive line once again. Cox did not allow any sacks through the nine games he played in 2021. Interestingly enough, the big man even scored a touchdown.
Myles Brennan, QB, LSU
The Auburn Tigers are not the only Tigers that have unknowns, especially regarding the quarterback position. Brian Kelly will coach his first season in the SEC and look to put LSU back on track. If Kelly wants to be successful, the Tigers are going to need an experienced leader like Myles Brennan at the helm.
The Tigers have seen some competition at the quarterback position, but with Brennan's experience, he will more than likely be QB1 for LSU this season. He has been with the team since 2017 but suffered injuries during the last two seasons. With Brennan hitting the weight room and returning as a seasoned professional, he will likely bear plenty of responsibility on offense this season.
Austin Williams, WR, Mississippi State
The Mississippi State Bulldogs have many talented targets for quarterback Rogers to throw to this season, but fifth-year senior Austin Williams is one of the most underrated wideouts in college football. Williams has been one of the most consistent wide receivers in the SEC during his career. Head coach Mike Leach's Air Raid offense could put up some big numbers this season.
Last year, Williams hauled in 52 receptions for 617 yards with four touchdowns. According to Pro Football Focus, he has the lowest drop rate among SEC wideouts since 2019. The veteran is arguably one of the most talented wide receivers in the SEC and will continue to leave an impact on the Air Raid offense.
Trajan Jeffcoat, DE, Missouri
Trajan Jeffcoat, one of the many talented edge rushers in the SEC this season ,looks to lead the Mizzou defense. At 6-foot-4 and 277 pounds, he has the size and athletic ability to quickly become one of the best defensive ends in the country.
In his junior season, Jeffcoat recorded 34 total tackles with 3.5 sacks and one forced fumble. He started all 13 games in 2021 and was a big-time playmaker for the Tigers last season.
Dannis Jackson, WR, Ole Miss
Lane Kiffin's Rebels had one of the most explosive offenses in the country in 2021. Ole Miss lost much of their production on offense in the offseason and will need talent such as transfers Jaxson Dart and Zach Evans to step up and show out. Dannis Jackson is one of the few returning players on offense for Ole Miss and looks to be an impressive deep threat in the SEC this season.
Last season, Jackson hauled in 12 receptions for 244 yards and two touchdowns. He also averaged an impressive 20.3 yards per reception. Even though Jackson was not former quarterback Matt Corral's biggest target, his experience and talent could make him a real threat to SEC defenses this season.
Jordan Burch, DE, South Carolina
Jordan Burch is one of the biggest and most athletic talents off the edge in the SEC this season. The 6-foot-6, 268-pound athlete appeared in all 13 games in 2021. The Gamecocks' offense has gained more mainstream attention due to the addition of transfer quarterback Spencer Rattler in the offseason, but the defensive unit for South Carolina is one to watch for in 2022.
As a sophomore, Burch recorded 26 total tackles with one sack and one pick-six. He will play an important role for the Gamecocks this season with the departure of some key edge rushers. Burch has the speed, size and athletic ability to stand out as an elite edge rusher this season.
Desmond Williams, DB, Tennessee
Desmond Williams, a junior transfer out of East Central Community College, aims to make an immediate impact at Tennessee. Williams was ranked the No. 3 cornerback and No. 8 junior college player in the country by 247 Sports before being picked up by the Vols. He brings much-needed depth to the team's secondary this season.
Williams hauled in seven interceptions and 14 pass breakups in his sophomore season at ECCC. He led the NJCAA in picks and also ranked second in total pass breakups. Williams has undeniable talent in the secondary, but he is also a major threat as both a kick returner and a punt returner. He averaged 29.7 yards per kick return and 50.7 yards per punt return last year. Williams could emerge as one of the top defensive backs in the SEC this season due to his versatility.
Max Johnson, QB, Texas A&M
In the offseason, the Aggies saw a change at the helm as quarterback Zach Calzada transferred to Auburn. However, the Aggies picked up a transfer signal-caller of their own in LSU's Max Johnson. Ironically, Johnson threw the game-winning touchdown for the Tigers against the Aggies last season. The Aggies' offense could truly be a threat in the SEC West with a veteran leading the charge.
Johnson completed 225 passes on 373 attempts for 2,815 passing yards with 27 touchdowns in 2021. The Aggies will need him to meet expectations if they want to be one of the top teams in the SEC West this season.
Ethan Barr, LB, Vanderbilt
Although the Commodores will likely be at the bottom of the SEC East, Vandy does have a few talented players who could change the narrative in Nashville. Linebacker Ethan Barr might be a top-five linebacker in the SEC by the end of the season. The returning junior looks to be a leader for the struggling Commodores.
Barr had an outstanding season in 2021, recording 85 total tackles and leading all SEC linebackers with three interceptions. He is raising the bar for the Vanderbilt defense. The athletic ability Barr possesses is impressive and makes him a player to watch heading into the season.