- Best Freshmen
- Running Backs
- Wide Receivers
- Offensive Linemen
- Tight Ends
- Defensive Ends
- Defensive Tackles
It’s becoming more of a reoccurring theme that’s much different than the times when freshmen were merely seen and not heard. Now, we are seeing freshmen take over their teams from leadership positions and become instant-impact players year after year.
You never know how the top-ranked high school prospects will translate to the SEC, because the game is much faster and the physical toll the body takes is much different.
This year was a little bit of an anomaly where we saw several offensive and defensive line players make instant impacts. Usually, immediate impacts are made by skill position players like running back and wide receiver, but five freshmen made impacts in the trenches.
Let’s get down to business…
1. Vernon Hargreaves, CB, Florida
If there was a better freshman at any position around college football than Vernon Hargreaves, please show him to me. Hargreaves Island is alive and kicking after he locked down half the field for Florida. Marcus Roberson and Louchiez Purifoy are said to be coveted corners in the NFL, but Hargreaves was better than both. All total, he made 38 tackles, 11 pass breakups and three INTs. Assuming he stays healthy, he’s a first-round lock in two years.
Related: Alabama find their next QB?
2. Maty Mauk, QB, Missouri
3. Alex Collins, RB, Arkansas
4. Laquon Treadwell, WR, Ole Miss
Maty Mauk wasn’t even the starter this past season, but he lived up to the hype filling in for James Franklin. Mauk set all kinds of high school records and flashed why in 2013. With some added touch and decision-making to his game, Mauk will be a force in Mizzou’s spread attack, and he threw for 1,071 yards, 11 TDs and two INTs in four starts. Oh, and he added 229 yards rushing with one TD…Alex Collins is a five-star South Florida native who lived up to the expectations, and he – at times – carried the Hogs’ offense, rushing for 1,026 yards and four TDs on a team that had no passing game. Collins will remind you of Trent Richardson and Maurice Jones-Drew…Laquon
Treadwell Football showed why he was the top-ranked receiver in the 2013 class. He caught a team-high 72 passes for 608 yards and five TDs. He has all the tools needed to be a first-round pick in two years.
Top defensive linemen
5. Chris Jones, DL, Mississippi State
6. A’Shawn Robinson, DT, Alabama
How often do you see true freshmen defensive tackles making a big impact? Chris Jones flashed his crazy ability in 2013, making 32 tackles, seven tackles for loss and three sacks, along with 10 QB hurries. He’s versatile and athletic enough to play tackle or end, and he’ll be force for two more years…A’Shawn Robinson became the Tide’s most impactful defensive lineman in a backup role. Robinson made 38 tackles, eight tackles for loss and 5.5 sacks, the most of any Alabama player. Robinson is the Mt. Cody of Nick Saban’s defense for two years.
7. Laremy Tunsil, OT, Ole Miss
8. Alex Kozan, OG, Auburn
Rarely will you find a freshman offensive lineman better than Laremy Tunsil. Tunsil slid right into a starting role immediately, and he played lights out the entire season. With Ole Miss’ fast-paced offense, and despite being a massive human being, Tunsil showed just how athletic he was this past season. Tunsil gave up one sack…Alex Kozan helped set the tone for the country’s best rushing attack that averaged more than 328 yards per game. One of three redshirt freshmen on the ranking, Kozan has it all – smarts, athleticism and is a fast learner. He played between two future NFL players in OT Greg Robinson and center Reese Dismukes.
9. Leonard Floyd, OLB, Georgia
10. Darius Philon, DT, Arkansas
Leonard Floyd has the highest ceiling of any rush linebacker in college football. His 6-4, 220-pound frame is slammed full of elite athletic ability, and he’s going to be a force for Jeremy Pruitt’s 3-4 scheme. Floyd made 55 tackles, 9.5 tackles for loss, 6.5 sacks and 22 QB hurries, and he’s a weapon against option attacks. Floyd has a ways to improve his tackling, but that will come with more reps and experience…Darius Philon really came out of nowhere at a huge position of need for Arkansas. He made 46 tackles, nine tackles for loss and three sacks, and Arkansas fans are going to grow to love Philon.
A couple notes:
- I thought Robert Nkemdiche flashed great athleticism and tremendous upside, but I also thought the above 10 were better over the course of the season. Nkemdiche started coming on strong once he settled into his tackle position towards the end of the season.
- Alabama RB Derrick Henry is going to be a monster, but he didn’t get enough touches to garner being ranked with the players above.
Photo Credit: Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports