Too often, recruiting classes in the SEC are graded before the incoming talent actually hits the field. Rather than wait two or three years to see how the four or five stars shape up, fans over-anxiously crown All-Americans before their new favorite players take a college snap.
We all wonder who the next true freshman sensation will be in college football’s most competitive conference. Here’s a list of five newcomers who could take the field — and make an impact — with the first team in September. Most highly-rated players for projected Top 10 teams aren’t included due to returning starters at their position.
Obviously, it’s tougher to start as a true freshman at Alabama than it is at Vanderbilt (no disrespect).
The candidates …
1. Dorial Green-Beckham, WR, Missouri: The “Freak” of the SEC’s Signing Day dominance will, without question, be on the outside for the conference’s newest member when the Tigers host Georgia on Sept. 8. Green-Beckham can do it all at the wide receiver position — think Justin Blackmon plus Randy Moss. He’s a monster at 6-foot-6 and should be quite a weapon for Missouri’s wide-open offense led by QB James Franklin.
2. D.J. Humphries, OL, Florida: The chances of this behemoth redshirting is slim and none. Florida’s Will Muschamp locked up the country’s top offensive lineman and U.S. Army All-American will full intentions of him seeing action in Gainesville on opening night. Humphries will excel early, but go unnoticed if Florida’s offense doesn’t snap of its recent funk. With no John Brantley, that shouldn’t be a problem.
3. John Theus, OL, Georgia: After making his name as the lead blocker for a pair of 1,000-yard running backs at Bolles High in Jacksonville, Fla., Theus has a chance to start right away on a young offensive line in Athens. Running behind Theus in two years — or less if Isaiah Crowell has another suspension — will be Keith Marshall and Todd Gurley, a pair of 2012 star tailback signees.
4. Deatrich Wise Jr., DE, Arkansas: The 6-foot-5, 220-pound pass rusher gives the Razorbacks added speed and strength on the defensive line. Wise, a four-star prospect with an endless motor, was one of the gems in this year’s defense-heavy class for Bobby Petrino. Wise Jr.’s father was drafted by the Seattle Seahawks in 1988.
5. Patrick Towles, ATH/QB, Kentucky: A four-star Mr. Football out of Fort Thomas, Ky. is the star of the Wildcats’ incoming class, a group ranked 11th-best in the SEC. If Towles doesn’t beat out Morgan Newton and Maxwell Smith under center in time for the opener, he’ll be taking snaps later this season. It sounds like Towles is already Joker Phillips’ “favorite” signee and should get an excellent opportunity at the starting job.
Just missed the cut: Shaq Roland, WR, South Carolina; Keon Hatcher, WR, Arkansas; Landon Collins, DB, Alabama; Eddie Williams, ATH, Alabama; Dante Fowler Jr., DE, Florida; Josh Harvey-Clemons, ATH, Georgia; LaDarrell McNeil, DB, Tennessee; JaQuay Williams, WR, Auburn.