To steal a line from CBSSports.com's Tony Barnhart, "recruiting is a contact sport." For some recruits from the 2012 class, that statement is both figurative and literal, as several early enrollees are participating in spring practices across the SEC. Which early enrollees are going to make an immediate impact? Here are five players to watch.
5. Mark Beard - OL, Georgia
Beard transferred in to Georgia from Coffeyville (Kan.) Community College, and will have three years of eligibility remaining in Athens. Beard has bulked up to nearly 300 pounds, and is going to get serious consideration for starting time at either tackle spot, but can also drop down to guard if the situation warrants the move. Georgia has three spots to fill on the offensive line, so Beard certainly made the right choice to enroll early.
4. Denico Autry - DE, Mississippi State
Autry comes to Starkville from East Mississippi Junior College. The 6-foot-5, 250-pounder is a pure pass rusher, and is expected to start for the Bulldogs this fall. Autry is highly regarded in recruiting circles, so much so that Fox Sports National Scouting Director Scott Kennedy even said on Bleacher Reports's Full Ride that Autry could be one-and-done at Mississippi State.
3. T.J. Yeldon - RB, Alabama
Yeldon edged quarterback Jameis Winston for the coveted title of Alabama's Mr. Football. The 6-foot-1, 210-pounder already has the size, balance and field vision to step in and be an every-down running back in the SEC right away. With presumed starter Eddie Lacy out for the spring recovering from a turf toe injury, Yeldon will get plenty of opportunities to impress the Alabama coaching staff.
2. DJ Humphries - OT, Florida
Florida's offensive line wasn't exactly spectacular last year, which has opened the door for Humphries to step right in and contend for an offensive tackle spot. Widely regarded as the top offensive line recruit of Florida's 2012 class, Humphries will compete with upper-classmen Matt Patchan and Xavier Nixon for playing time. At 272 pounds, Humphries may need to put on a little weight to be able to handle the spot, but don't be surprised to see him out there this fall.
1. Keith Marshall - RB, Georgia
Isaiah Crowell came to Georgia last year as the hot shot recruit, and the attitude to go with it. Crowell delivered in his first year in Athens, to the tune of 850 rushing yards and SEC Freshman of the Year honors. But attitude and injury concerns have rubbed some in Athens the wrong way, which has opened the door for Marshall to contend for playing time right away. The 5-foot-11, 195-pounder has 4.4 speed in the 40-yard dash, and has already impressed head coach Mark Richt with his instincts and quickness.