SEC West's heralded true freshmen gear up for much-anticipated debuts
The honeymoon’s over for several highly-decorated rookies in the SEC West.
Beginning Thursday night in Columbia, S.C., two of the division’s five featured newcomers take the field for the first time as collegians, hoping to validate their five-star ratings and adjust quickly to the speed of the game.
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Here’s a quick glance at five SEC West true freshmen to watch during Week 1:
Speedy Noil, Texas A&M, ATH (Thursday at South Carolina): A dynamic playmaker in the return game and on offense, there’s no doubt Noil will be the fastest and most agile player on the field when he’s out there Thursday night at Williams-Brice Stadium. The Louisiana native’s going to see a variety of touches — jet sweeps, direct snaps, screens — and is a threat to score from any yard line. He’s got an arm too after burning defenses last fall as a prep quarterback.
- Projected debut: 14 total touches (offense + special teams) for 112 total yards, TD
Myles Garrett, Texas A&M, DE (Thursday at South Carolina): Listed on the two-deep at the rush end behind sophomore Daeshon Hall, Garrett’s expected to provide instant support for a front seven that struggled a season ago. Similar to the way the Gamecocks groomed Jadeveon Clowney as a first-year player in 2011, Garrett will be a situational rusher in his opening games and should see more snaps as the season progresses. His first matchup’s not favorable against the SEC’s top offensive line.
- Projected debut: 3 tackles, 1 PD
Leonard Fournette, LSU, RB (Saturday vs Wisconsin): Unreal expectations surround Fournette, the nation’s top-rated freshman running back who possesses an exquisite skill set that should blend seamlessly into LSU’s smashmouth concept. A player who welcomes contact, Fournette should see plenty of it against a stingy Wisconsin front seven. Listed as a third-teamer going into LSU’s opener, he’ll shake off multiple tackles and break a 35-yard touchdown run that will define his debut.
- Projected debut: 9 carries, 70 yards rushing, TD
Brandon Harris, LSU, QB (Saturday vs Wisconsin): Les Miles is going with a two-quarterback rotation in Houston which means he’s giving Harris every opportunity to win the job outright over Anthony Jennings based on his production on the field. Harris is a better athlete with a stronger arm, but Jennings has the experience edge and his ability to take command of the offense is something to watch. By late Saturday night, we’ll have a better understanding of who starts in Week 2 and whether or not the Tigers have a viable No. 1 at the quarterback position.
- Projected debut: 8-17, 107 yards passing, TD, INT; 32 yards rushing
Cam Robinson, Alabama, LT (Saturday vs West Virginia): Quarterbacks Blake Sims and Jacob Coker won’t have to worry with pressure coming from the left edge in Atlanta. Disruption will be kept to a minimum. Robinson’s locked in as the Crimson Tide’s starting left tackle, a noteworthy feat considering how tough it is to break in as an every-snap freshman for Nick Saban. The Mountaineers don’t have a player who matches up with this 6-foot-6, 323-pounder’s brute strength and generating a pass rush will be a challenge.
- Projected debut: 86 percent grade, 4 pancakes, no sacks