July 19, 2024

Auburn’s Cam Coleman, Alabama’s Ryan Williams poised to lead surge of SEC freshman WRs in 2024

Last season marked a down year for freshman receivers in the SEC as Florida’s Eugene Wilson III was the only wideout from the Class of 2023 in the league to catch more than 25 passes. Just four freshman receivers totaled 15 or more grabs, and all of them played for teams that finished with losing records.

Expect a different look in 2024 in what’s shaping up to be a significant bounce-back season for freshmen receivers. It should look more like 2022 when nine true freshman receivers caught 15 or more passes for SEC teams.

That class included highly touted prospects such as Evan Stewart (Texas A&M, now at Oregon), Luther Burden (Missouri) and Barion Brown (Kentucky), all of which burst onto the scene with 40 or more catches. Others such as Alabama’s Kobe Prentice and Isaiah Bond (now at Texas) and Georgia’s Dillon Bell also made meaningful contributions as true freshmen for high-caliber teams in 2022.

So, who are the freshman receivers to watch from the conference for 2024? Here’s the rundown of the biggest names to know:

Cam Coleman, Auburn

247Sports position ranking: 2

Auburn has been desperate for a star receiver for years. It may finally have one now in Coleman, who doesn’t turn 18 until August. The Phenix City, Alabama native won offensive MVP honors in the Tigers’ spring game with four catches for 92 yards, stoking the hype surrounding what he may contribute in Year 2 of the Hugh Freeze era on The Plains. While looking ahead to the 2027 NFL Draft class, 247Sports national scouting analyst Gabe Brooks pegged Coleman as a first-round candidate and noted that his “6-foot-3 frame and basketball-influenced athletic ability make him a nightmare matchup.”

Ryan Wiliams, Alabama

247Sports position ranking: 3

Williams will play the 2024 season at 17 years old after reclassifying from the Class of 2025. While it seems almost unfathomable that he could make an immediate impact at a place like Alabama, all indications are that the Saraland, Alabama native is ready to go. “It’s just been so amazing to see the transformation on top of just how quickly he fit in,” Alabama coach Kalen DeBoer told WKRG this week. Bama247 ranked Williams No. 6 on its list of most important Alabama players for the 2024 season, noting the lack of “proven commodities” on the roster to replace departed stars Jermaine Burton and Isaiah Bond.

Ryan Wingo, Texas

247Sports position ranking: 7

Wingo made four catches for 81 yards with a couple of touchdowns in the Texas spring game, which suggests he’s got the mettle to play an early role. Texas’ receiver room is immensely talented but vastly overhauled following the departures of Xavier Worthy, Adonai Mitchell and Jordan Whittington. Wingo will have a shot to establish himself within the position’s evolving hierarchy. He brings elite speed and has caught the eye of No. 2 quarterback Arch Manning, who may sling a lot of passes in Wingo’s direction during the 2025 season. “Wingo is going to be a stud,” Manning said. “He’s going to play a lot this year. He’s just everything you want in a wide receiver.”

Mario Craver, Mississippi State

247Sports position ranking: 42

In an overhauled receiver corps headlined by transfers, Craver could sneak up as a weapon. Look no further than the spring game for proof as he led the Bulldogs with five grabs for 96 yards. Chris Hummer named the 5-foot-11 speedster one of the “100 first-year players who will influence the 2024 college football season,” calling Craver “an ideal slot threat in a Jeff Lebby offense.”

Mazeo Bennett, South Carolina

247Sports position ranking: 40

It is a mostly new cast of characters running, passing and catching the football for South Carolina. That spells opportunity for Bennett, who drew praise for his spring practice performance. The Big Spur included Bennett in its prediction of which Gamecocks freshmen will play the most in 2024. His speed has drawn rave reviews. 

Hardley Gilmore, Kentucky

247Sports position ranking: 89

Gilmore is another former Class of 2025 star who graduated early and is raring to shine. Barion Brown and Dane Key excelled as a freshman at the position for the Wildcats in 2022, and Gilmore may be ready to follow in their footsteps. “Hardley’s gonna be a good one,” Brown said. “I promise he’s gonna be a great one.”

Terry Bussey, Texas A&M

247Sports position ranking: 1 (as an ATH)

There’s no guarantee that Bussey will even play receiver for the Aggies considering that he was ranked as the No. 1 athlete in the Class of 2024, per 247Sports. He could just as easily slide in at cornerback. But if he lines up on offense, he has all the skills needed to make an early difference. 

Others to watch

Perry Thompson, Auburn
247Sports position ranking: 8

Mike Matthews, Tennessee
247Sports position ranking: 9

Courtney Crutchfield, Missouri
247Sports position ranking: 10

Kylan Billiot, LSU
247Sports position ranking: 13

Braylon Staley, Tennessee
247Sports position ranking: 15