Five weeks is a good enough sample size to rate which teams have the best freshmen talent. The days of signing with a college, redshirting and hoping to get on the field as a junior are over. Guys are making bigger impacts immediately. High school prospects are more prepared now at 18 than ever before, thanks to eerily similar systems in high school that transfer well into college.
Let’s take a stroll around the SEC and see which teams have the best freshmen talent:
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1. Ole Miss: Vindication. Ole Miss’ top recruiting class has lived up to the hype, and several are making massive impacts. Five true freshmen currently have starting gigs, and leading the way is the heralded Robert Nkemdiche. He’s recorded 10 tackles and four tackles for loss in four games. Although he’s not setting the world on fire, he’s quite the bull in the middle of the line. Not to be outdone, DB Tony Conner has been a key in the secondary. Conner has registered 21 tackles, one tackle for loss and one INT, and he’s not afraid to bring the hammer upon impact. WR Laquon Treadwell and TE Evan Engram are future stars. Treadwell leads the team in receptions with 20 for 205 yards, while Engram has 13 catches for 189 yards and two TDs and is a mismatch for any linebacker. OL Austin Golson and Laremy Tunsil have also played intricate roles through four games. Ole Miss has some major freshman talent that has lived up to the hype.
2. Georgia: Mark Richt signed several impact freshmen knowing they’d be needed on defense. Georgia has played 14 freshmen thus far, and the two that jump out are OLB Leonard Floyd and DB Tray Matthews. Floyd has recorded 20 tackles, four tackles for loss and three sacks, and his frame oozes potential. He’s quite the player. Matthews also has 20 tackles and three pass breakups, and he will lay the wood upon impact. But it’s not just Floyd and Matthews; several other freshmen defensive players are making immediate impacts. John Taylor, Quincy Mauger, Brendan Langley, and Reggie Carter all have made contributions. Not many freshmen have broken into the offensive lineup yet, but WR Reggie Davis has. Davis has three catches for 158 yards and one TD, averaging a nasty 52.7 yards per catch.
3. Arkansas: Let’s talk about Alex Collins, the superb freshman from South Florida. He’s a cross between Maurice Jones-Drew and Trent Richardson, and he may have a higher ceiling than both, assuming Arkansas doesn’t wear him down. But it’s not only Collins; TE Hunter Henry is a real matchup problem, and he’s caught 12 passes for 234 yards and one TD. Henry needs to be a bigger part of the offensive plan. Joining Henry is OL Denver Kirkland, who’s played in several games, as has OL Dan Skipper. Bret Bielema has two bookend tackles to build his smash-mouth running game around. DT Darius Philon is also a nice looking player.
4. LSU: Much like Georgia, LSU’s biggest impact freshmen have been on defense. In fact, the Tigers have also played 14 freshmen this year, and CB Tre’Davious White looks to be the real deal at corner. White has 19 tackles, one pass breakup and one pass defended. LB Kendall Beckwith is another impact freshman who has recorded seven tackles. But more than White and Beckwith, DT Christian LaCouture may have the highest ceiling of all. He’s played in five games with just three tackles, but he’s going to be a star.
5. Tennessee: Tennessee has freshmen everywhere on defense. The three best freshmen who instantly come to mind are CB Cam Sutton, WR Marquez North and WR Josh Smith. North leads the team with 14 catches for 132 yards, while Smith has nine catches for 138 yards and one TD. Sutton has recorded 17 tackles, one INT, four pass breakups and five passes defended. He’s a fantastic looking corner.
Other standout freshmen:
- Vernon Hargreaves, CB, Florida
- Eddie Jackson, DB, Alabama
- Darian Claiborne, LB, Texas A&M
- A’Shawn Robinson, DT, Alabama
- Josh Augusta, DT, Missouri
- Ashton Shumpert, RB, Mississippi State
- Chris Jones, DL, Mississippi State
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