Published July 24, 2012 - 2:00pm
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Freshmen are supposed to be seen and not heard. That’s the way it has always been in college athletics. You enter college with little respect from upperclassmen, and they try to rub your face in the mud at practice. But sometimes freshmen turn into some of the top players on the team and give your squad a different advantage that you didn’t have last year.
Very rarely do offensive linemen and even defensive linemen have much success as freshmen, but skill position players seem to have the quickest crossover from high school to college in terms of immediate impact. But I’m going to go against the grain here, with two defensive linemen who enter into programs starving for impact players at their position.
Here are five freshmen in the SEC West who will be heard from this year:
Quay Evans, DT, Mississippi State
One of the top players in the country on the defensive line was Quay Evans, and he becomes State’s biggest recruit in quite some time. He is a mountain of a young man, and he will be tasked with replacing Fletcher Cox as quickly as possible. That will be a very tough task indeed, but Evans looks to hold his own against opponents’ offensive linemen. He should be the starter alongside senior Josh Boyd. Evans is big, quick and explosive off the football. Once MSU’s staff is able to bridle his raw athletic ability and teach him technique, he will be an All-SEC caliber athlete.
Channing Ward, DE, Ole Miss
Ward became the marquee signee of the 2012 class for the Rebels, and he has potential through the roof. He has the size, speed and athletic ability to see the field from day one, and I look for him to really be an everyday starter for the Rebels before the end of the season. We know how drained this roster and talent level is for the Rebs. Ward will be a dominant end once he figures everything out at this level. But his presence will be felt in year one.
Eddie Williams, WR, Alabama
This was a little bit of a stretch for me because the coaching staff isn’t even sold on Eddie Williams playing receiver. He is the best looking prospect in last year’s class at 6-4, 215lbs, and he can be a big physical receiver or a safety that knocks you into tomorrow. He will likely get his first look on offense because Duron Carter is officially off the Alabama roster. Carter was slated to be one of Alabama’s top receivers, and since his official departure, the position needs more depth and better playmakers. Williams is the freak who can give them that in year one.
Trey Williams, RB, Texas A&M
There are question marks as to how current TAMU running back Christine Michael recovers from his knee injury. Either way, if Michael recovers well or does not, expect to see Trey Williams on the field in year one. Williams is a dynamic athlete and explosive running back from Texas who is too special to keep off the field. He’s drawn comparisons to – gasp – Barry Sanders. Williams gets to top speed in about three steps, with a very quick first step and a burst through the hole to get to the second level in a heartbeat. With a few added pounds of muscle, Williams will be an impact player as long as he’s suiting up for the Aggies.
TJ Yeldon, RB, Alabama
I was quite hesitant about adding TJ Yeldon to this list as a impact player in year one, but he very well could be. Yeldon was an early enrollee who showed up very well at A-Day this spring. While others looked to be running off four to six cylinders, Yeldon had eight cylinders pumping in another gear. He’s physically ready at 6-2, 216lbs. He carried the ball 16 times for 88 yards and caught five passes for a game-high 91 yards. Nick Saban is very high on Yeldon. With starter Eddie Lacy returning from a toe injury in the spring, there are some question marks to his health. Yeldon could be the best running back on the roster in year one, but time will tell as to whether he will pick up the offense quick enough to play several snaps or just a few packages.