While the SEC is losing some spectacular underclassmen to the NFL Draft, several rising sophomores are ready to take the reins and run with them. All six of these freshmen excelled – and many others did too, and they are set up for a big 2014.
Here are six players who could terrify the opposition in 2014:
Alex Collins, RB, Arkansas
2013 stats: 190 carries, 1,026 yards, 4 TDs, 5.4 YPC
Buzz: The biggest threat Arkansas had this past season was freshman Alex Collins. The one thing that could make Collins much nastier is a passing game. Still, as he physically matures and gets an offseason to hit the weight room and meal plan, Collins will become more dangerous. But the only way to truly maximize his talent and explosiveness is to offset the running game with a passing game. Will that happen? That’s A#1 on the list, but Collins is still Arkansas’ biggest threat.
Vernon Hargreaves, CB, Florida
2013 stats: 38 tackles, 11 pass breakups, 3 INTs
Buzz: Gators’ Loucheiz Purifoy and Marcus Roberson will both be drafted into the NFL, but they weren’t even the best corners on the team. That title belonged to freshman All-American Vernon Hargreaves. Hargreaves very well could be college football’s top overall cover corner in 2014, and he’ll let Will Muschamp play him on an island against top receivers. He’s that good, and he’ll lock down one side of the field for the Gators. Finding his complement could come in many forms, but one thing is for sure – Hargreaves will be a first-round pick – maybe top five – in two years, and he’ll smother receivers in 2014.
Derrick Henry, RB, Alabama
2013 stats: 36 carries, 382 yards, 3 TDs, 10.6 YPC
Buzz: We know the least about Derrick Henry of the other six on the list, but what we do know is that he is terrifying. At 6-3, 240 pounds, Nick Saban has taken an All-American defensive end or linebacker who could transform the Tide’s offense. If the Sugar Bowl was any indication, Henry needed about 10 more touches per game this season. He’s lethal in the open field, and he will run it down your throat. Several said he wouldn’t be an SEC running back, and now, everyone thinks he could become an All-American. Have fun tackling Derrick Henry.
RELATED: SEC losing serious QB talent in 2014
Chris Jones, DL, Mississippi State
2013 stats: 32 tackles, 7 TFL, 3 sacks, 10 QB hurries
Buzz: Through all the smoke of other highly rated five-star prospects exiting high school, I thought Chris Jones was the best freshman defensive lineman in the SEC. Jones played in all 13 games, and he looks like a massive defensive tackle with elite defensive end quickness. He racked up seven tackles for loss, three sacks and 10 QB hurries this season, and he’s going to be a monster next year.
Robert Nkemdiche, DL, Ole Miss
2013 stats: 34 tackles, 8 TFL, 2 sacks, 3 QB hurries
Buzz: Robert Nkemdiche may not have lived up to his full potential as a freshman, but it’s easy to see his athleticism is off the charts. At 6-5, 300 pounds, he’s a rare breed that is the perfect combination for the biggest jumbo athlete in the country. He entered as a defensive end, and Hugh Freeze says he’s a defensive tackle. He could easily play linebacker or running back; he’s that athletic, and he’s going to be a headache for offensive coordinators in 2014.
Laquon Treadwell, WR, Ole Miss
2013 stats: 72 catches, 608 yards, 5 TDs
Buzz: Laquon Treadwell is the total package. He lived up to the five-star billing, and he’ll continue to be a monster in the SEC West. Treadwell has the ability to take over games, and he’ll be a massive part of the game plan next season. With a senior quarterback next season, Treadwell — or Laquon Football — is set up to have a huge season in Oxford and give nightmares to any defensive coordinator.
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