Published March 8, 2013 - 8:30am
NEW: Discuss this topic in the Google+ community for SEC fans.
Now with National Signing Day in the books, let’s look at the top newcomers in the SEC for 2013. Predicting the top newcomers is often very tough, and these aren’t just merely rankings of the top players. We’re going to look at what type of impact they’ll make and where they’ll make it..
No. 12 – Za’Darius Smith, DE, Kentucky
From: Scooba, MS (East Mississippi CC)
Size: 6-6, 250 pounds, 4.7 40
The Skinny: Mark Stoops’ first signature signee wasn’t in-state stars Ryan Timmons or Jason Hatcher – it was early enrollee Za’Darius Smith. Although Timmons and Hatcher were great pickups, Smith will be the biggest immediate impact player for the BBN. Kentucky’s defensive front hasn’t been able to bust a grape in two years, and Smith has all the potential ability to change that, in a hurry. He was one of the top-rated JUCO players in the country, and other than Ole Miss’ Lavon Hooks, Smith could be the top JUCO newcomer to the SEC on the defensive line. Already enrolled, Smith figures to make an instant splash to a major position of need for the Wildcats’ defense.
What Kentucky is getting: Not only is Smith already a more mature and developed player who is ready to contend for a starting spot, but new defensive coordinator EJ Eliot has a stellar track record for developing defensive ends. Eliot was the former defensive ends coach at FSU, and Smith could be the cornerstone to a much-improved defensive line. Smith notched 46 tackles and 6.5 sacks in 2012. Kentucky is not known for their difference makers up front, but lining up Smith beside Donte Rumph bodes well for a better defensive line. Smith is quick, long and lean.
Other impact newcomers:
- No. 13 OJ Howard, Alabama
- No. 14 Marquez North, Tennessee
- No. 15 Ricky Seals-Jones, Texas A&M
- No. 16 Leon Brown, Alabama
- No. 17 Fred Ross, Mississippi State
- No. 18 Tray Matthews, Georgia
- No. 19 Jonathan Allen, Alabama
- No. 20 Ben Bradley, Auburn
- No. 21 Alex Anzalone, Florida
- No. 22 Carl Lawson, Auburn
- No. 23 Frank Herron, LSU
- No. 24 Larenz Bryant, South Carolina
- No. 25 Ryan Timmons, Kentucky
Photo Credit: Mark Zerof-USA TODAY Sports