Coaches everywhere have to rely on newcomers every season; that is a fact of life.
It’s one thing to have to rely on a true freshman or a junior college transfer – guys who never have played a down of major-college football. It’s quite another to have to count on a graduate transfer – a guy who has been around for three or four years and understands the rigors of a major-college program.
Numerous SEC teams will be counting on graduate transfers this fall; in almost every case, the "new guy" has played a lot of football and performed well.
Here are the 10 most important graduate transfers in the SEC this season. The players are listed alphabetically.
Missouri WR Chris Black
The skinny: Black was a four-star recruit and a national top-50 recruit in the 2012 recruiting cycle; he was in the same recruiting class at Alabama as Reggie Ragland, T.J. Yeldon, Landon Collins and Amari Cooper, among others – and was considered a slightly better prospect that Cooper. But Black managed just 25 receptions for 290 yards and two TDs in three seasons with the Tide. He is expected to be Mizzou's go-to receiver.
Georgia OT Tyler Catalina
From: Rhode Island.
The skinny: He was a three-year starter at tackle for the Rams, a horrible FCS program; Rhode Island has finished with a losing record in 19 of the past 20 seasons – only once winning more than four games in those losing seasons – and 27 of the past 30. The Rams have won five games total in the past four seasons. Catalina, though, is talented. He started as a redshirt freshman at right tackle for the Rams, then at left tackle the past two seasons. Catalina has good size (6 feet 5, 303 pounds) and impressive strength. He also considered Auburn, Florida and Iowa State when he was looking for a new home, and you have to think he has a good chance to start at right tackle for the Bulldogs. In that scenario, Greg Pyke – who started at right tackle down the stretch last season and during the spring – can move back to guard, which is his best position.
Texas A&M TE Kalvin Cline
From: Virginia Tech.
The skinny: Cline is the only true tight end on A&M's roster. Tight end isn't a position of importance in Kevin Sumlin's offense, but new coordinator Noel Mazzone threw to the tight end while at UCLA. Kline (6-4, 230) had 26 catches for 321 yards and two touchdowns as a true freshman with the Hokies in 2013. He played in just one game in 2014 because of an injury and ended up being redshirted. He played in eight games in 2015, with three receptions. A&M used a lot of three- and four-receiver sets last season, and is deep at receiver. The question for Mazzone and Sumlin is whether you take, say, Ricky Seals-Jones off the field for Cline. Cline likely will not be ultra-productive, but he could be an important player in situational duty.
Alabama WR Gehrig Dieter
From: Bowling Green.
The skinny: Alabama already was deep at wide receiver, but that didn't deter Dieter, who should play a big role anyway. Dieter (6-3, 205) caught 94 passes for 1,033 yards and 10 touchdowns last season; that means Alabama is the only team in the nation with two receivers who had at least 89 receptions last season (Calvin Ridley had 89 catches for 1,045 yards and seven TDs). Richard Mullaney (38 receptions, 390 yards, five touchdowns) played a key role as a grad transfer for the Tide last season, and Dieter almost certainly will surpass those numbers. Dieter, who is from South Bend, Ind., began his career at SMU before moving on to Bowling Green and now Alabama.
Texas A&M QB Trevor Knight
The skinny: Unlike new teammates Kalvin Cline, Knight will be counted upon to play a huge role for the Aggies. While he may not have the upside of former A&M quarterbacks Kyle Allen and Kyler Murray, both of whom transferred in December, he should be a steadier hand on the wheel. Knight is a good runner but an inconsistent passer. New A&M OC Noel Mazzone's track record shows that if he has a quarterback who can run, that quarterback is allowed to run (former UCLA star Brett Hundley in 2013 and '14, for instance). Knight won't be as effective a runner as Hundley, but he does give the Aggies another threat. As for his passing, he has a number of high-level receivers; Knight just needs to avoid the killer mistake, which hampered Allen and Murray. In addition, for the first time in Kevin Sumlin's five-season tenure, there shouldn't be any "diva behavior" at quarterback.
RELATED: Trevor Knight no stranger to the SEC
Ole Miss LB Rommel Mageo
From: Oregon State.
The skinny: Ole Miss needs an inside 'backer to line up next to DeMarquis Gates, who is coming off a strong 2015 season, and Mageo looks to be that guy. Mageo (6-2, 233), who played high school ball in his native American Samoa, led Oregon State with 87 tackles last season; he added two sacks, two forced fumbles and two interceptions. He made 17 career starts for the Beavers. Mageo is not overly fast, but he is aggressive and physical and has a nose for the ball. Oregon State used both a 4-3 and a 3-4 as its base defensive scheme during Mageo's time in Corvallis; now he gets to play in a 4-2-5.
Auburn LB T.J. Neal
The skinny: As with Ole Miss, Auburn is counting on a linebacker from a middling program to step in and produce immediately. Neal (6-0, 235) was a two-year starter for the Illini at middle linebacker. He had 98 tackles in 2014, then finished second on the team with 109 tackles last season. Neal also had 20.5 tackles for loss in the past two seasons. Neal runs well and should play a big role for the Tigers.
Arkansas OL Jake Raulerson
The skinny: Raulerson will help an Arkansas offensive line that lost three starters from last season's unit. He started games at center and tackle as a Longhorn, and probably could play guard, as well. Raulerson (6-4, 295) graduated from Texas in three years and is a rare graduate transfer with two seasons of eligibility. His best position seems to be center. If he moves in as the starter there, it would allow potential all-conference lineman Frank Ragnow to start at guard. Ragnow started at guard last season, then was switched to center during spring drills. The Hogs' best line would feature Ragnow at guard.
Missouri RB Alex Ross
The skinny: Mizzou is in desperate need of a difference-maker at tailback – heck, let's get serious; Mizzou is in desperate need of a tailback, period – and Ross could be the guy. He was a four-star prospect and a national top75 recruit out of high school, and ran for 786 yards and five TDs as a backup at OU. A big plus is that Ross is familiar with new Mizzou offensive coordinator Josh Heupel, who was the co-OC at OU until being fired after the 2014 season. If all else fails, Ross should provide a spark as a kick returner; he averaged 25.7 yards per kickoff return during his Sooners career, returning two for touchdowns.
Auburn CB Marshall Taylor
From: Miami (Ohio).
The skinny: Taylor (6-3, 191) is from Cordele, Ga., which is about a 2½-hour drive from Auburn. He has excellent size and should see a lot of time in a secondary that has potential, especially at cornerback. Taylor was a two-year starter for the RedHawks, and had 69 tackles, three picks and 11 pass breakups in those two seasons. He lacks top-end speed, but his size helps make up for that.
(You can follow Mike Huguenin on Twitter @MikeHuguenin)
© 2016, Mike Huguenin. All rights reserved.
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