Which SEC football freshmen are set to make a major impact in 2013?
The Crimson Tide make for an interesting case. No team in college football has more talent, and the majority of the team returns. But no team recruited better than the national champions, and according to SB Nation's Roll Bama Roll, running back Derrick Henry, defensive linemen Dee Liner (yes, that is his name) and Jonathan Allen, linebacker Reuben Foster and receiver Robert Foster all have a chance to earn playing time at some point. Tight end O.J. Howard brings a different element to the tight end position with his receiving ability and could also be in the mix.
The Aggies had a ton of success in their inaugural SEC campaign. But with a lot of personnel losses to graduation and the NFL, plus a massive recruiting class, many freshmen have a real shot to play. I chatted with the experts at Good Bull Hunting to find out just who could see the field early on.
The biggest spot where youngsters have a chance to make an early impact is at receiver. Ricky Seals-Jones, a five-star freak, and JaQuay Williams both will have chances on the outside, and Jeremy Tabuyo or Laquivonte Gonzalez can get some burn in the slot.
I asked Garnet and Black Attack about South Carolina's plans for true freshmen. Despite losing a lot on defense, it doesn't look like many holes will be plugged with new guys:
It's likely South Carolina won't have any true freshmen who receive significant playing time. The best possibility would probably be Larenz Bryant, Skai Moore, or Jonathan Walton breaking into an inexperienced linebacker rotation. Moore has been turning heads a bit in practice.
The Arkansas Fight crew expects contributions from several members of Bret Bielema's first recruiting class.
Running back Alex Collins, a five-star out of South Florida, will see major carries this year, and is the 1B to Jonathan Williams' 1A. Offensive lineman Denver Kirkland, also of South Florida, should play a lot as well due to Arkansas' lack of depth. Tight end Hunter Henry has been very impressive in practice and should catch significant passes off of play action. Dan Skipper also has a shot to play a lot at left tackle. Skipper picked Arkansas over Tennessee after Bielema's staff came on board.
On defense, Brooks Ellis should play a lot at linebacker, particularly with the lack of depth.
The experts at College and Magnolia expect the studs of Auburn's recruiting class to make an instant impression:
Carl Lawson is most likely to make a big impact, and he'll probably be starting at DE opposite Dee Ford by the end of the season. Aside from Ford, no one is really proven at DE, and Lawson should be able to work his way up the depth chart rather quickly.
Tony Stevens could step up at wide receiver, as that position is completely wide open and doesn't have a single proven playmaker, and due to his size and talent, Montravius Adams could make an impact at tackle. But I'd say the only guarantee is Lawson.
I have also heard good things about Elijah Daniel, another impressive freshman defensive end.
The Tigers lost a ton to the NFL Draft and brought in another excellent recruiting class. According to the New Orleans Times-Picayune, offensive lineman Ethan Pocic, tight end DeSean Smith, cornerback Tre'Davious White, defensive back Ricky Jefferson, and linebacker Kendall Beckwith should all make an impact. All were rated four of five stars.
The Rebels brought in a ridiculous recruiting class in 2013, and several members are expected to play right away.
It all starts with Robert Nkemdiche, the consensus No. 1 player nationally. Nkemcidhe is a freakish defensive end who should easily play 400 or more snaps this year for the Rebels.
On offense, receiver Laquan Treadwell has lived up to the hype in fall camp and will be a major part of the Ole Miss offense.
Kentucky's roster is pretty lacking, so it stands to reason that a lot of true freshmen will play. Louisville radio personality Mark Ennis expects the following true freshmen to make an impact: defensive end Jason Hatcher, running backs Ryan Timmons and JoJo Kemp, receivers Alex Montgomery and Jeff Badet, cornerback Jaleel Hytchye, and safeties Marcus McWilson and Blake McClain.
Florida brought in a great recruiting class in 2013, as is the norm now under Will Muschamp. While no freshmen are guaranteed to start, several will be key reserves.
In the secondary, Vernon Hargreaves III will be the top reserve cornerback, and safety Keanu Neal will be a key reserve and used in dime packages. Linebackers Alex Amxalone and Daniel McMillian are already second-teamers and are very talented.
Receiver Demarcus Robinson should play a lot for the Gators and will have an opportunity to show off his skills early on.
One player who was expected by many to make a big impact is Kelvin Taylor, the son of Florida and NFL great Fred Taylor. The expectation only increased when star Matt Jones came down with a mysterious viral infection. However, sources say he is seriously behind the 8-ball and is not expected to play all that much in Jones' absence.
Newnan's Tray Matthews was the hit of the spring, literally and figuratively. Reports from camp were consistently glowing about the freshman's level of play. The expectations are already growing for Matthews to be an enforcer over the middle Georgia has lacked since Thomas Davis and Greg Blue several years ago. Of course, as we learned with Davis and Blue, safeties who like to go for the knockout punch often leave areas exposed for big plays from opposing WRs, and being expected to play the FS spot instead of SS means Matthews needs to have more positional discipline and will have greater coverage responsibilities.
Joining him as a bigger CB who will get action is Kell HS product Brendan Langley. The 6'1 Langley could see action in nickle packages immediately with Harvey-Clemson out against Clemson, and will attempt to expand his role as the season progresses.
Tennessee must fill a lot of roster holes, but closed strong on National Signing Day 2013. Cornerback Cameron Sutton has a good chance to start. Defensive coordinator John Jancek is quite high on him:
"And we've got Cameron Sutton, who's a true freshman, who's going to be in there, and I'm real pleased with the way he's progressed as a freshman. He still makes freshman mistakes, but he doesn't get rattled. He's really responded in the right way."
Vols fans should also be on the lookout for receiver Marquez North. He has the talent to make an early move if he stays healthy.
The Bulldogs also had a solid close on National Signing Day, and defensive end Chris Jones and receiver Fred Ross are both expected to play early on for State.
Vanderbilt needs some help at receiver in the absence of Chris Boyd. Freshmen Latevius Rayford, Jordan Cunningham, and Carlos Burse will all get looks there. On defense, look out for Tre Bell at cornerback and Jay Woods at tackle.
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