SEC Football: Biggest Impact Freshmen in 2012
Making an impact as a freshman in the SEC is an enormous task.
The rise in competition and pure athleticism at this level is a leap that only special talents can adjust to immediately.
Of course, freaks like Jadeveon Clowney and Isaiah Crowell made it look easy last year, while Marcus Lattimore and Michael Dyer took the ball and ran with it in 2010, literally.
So which freshmen will produce right away in the SEC in 2012?
10. Mike Blakely, Auburn
No Michael Dyer, no problem.
OK, going that to that extent is a bit extreme, but despite losing Dyer, Auburn will have a great backfield in 2012.
The Tigers return Onterio McCalebb and Tre Mason, and they add another exciting back in Mike Blakely. Who's Blakely? Well, if you watched Auburn's spring game, you know exactly who Blakely is.
Blakely had his best day of the spring at the most crucial moment, as he reeled off 65 rushing yards off just five carries and scored a 25-yard touchdown. If he can build off of his spring game performance, Blakely should find himself high in the rotation this fall.
9. T.J. Yeldon, Alabama
T.J. Yeldon's versatility will make him an immediate threat.
Yeldon can not only run the ball effectively out of the backfield, but he can catch it as well.
This was apparent in Yeldon's coming out party in the spring game. The game saw Yeldon record 88 yards rushing and 91 receiving, including a 50-yard touchdown reception.
His performance earned him the Dixie Howell Most Valuable Player of the Game Award, and he should share the backfield with Dee Hart and Eddie Lacy this fall.
8. Dante Fowler Jr., Florida
It's a shame Ronald Powell tore his ACL in Florida's spring game.
The impact could haunt the Gators at the beginning of the season in his absence, but then again, a young freshman could emerge and live up to the hype. That's where Dante Fowler Jr. comes in.
With Powell out, Fowler will have an opportunity to play at the Buck, and if the 6'3", 236-pound defensive end can adjust to the speed of the game quickly, he could have a real impact.
Another freshman to look out for next season for the Gators will be linebacker Antonio Morrison. Incidentally, it was Morrison that was making the tackle that Powell attempted before getting injured in the spring game. Nonetheless, Gators fans should be excited about their young prospects on defense.
7. Ronnie Feist, LSU
Ronnie Feist did nothing but impress this past spring.
While Kwon Alexander and Lorenzo Phillips were hyped to be the best linebacker pickups for LSU, Feist handled his business and earned respect.
The key moment that turned heads toward Feist came when he went head-to-head against Kenny Hilliard in Les Miles' popular Big Cat Drill. Feist dominated Hilliard by getting lower than him and pancaked him to the ground.
Feist was so impressive during the drills that Miles put the baddest man on the team, fullback J.C. Copeland, against him. As expected, Copeland won that battle, but the future remains very bright for Feist.
6. Trey Williams, Texas A&M
Watching Trey Williams high school highlight reel is addicting.
Cutting left, "juking" right and running in between would-be tacklers is something that Williams had a knack for in high school, and Aggie fans are hoping he'll do much of the same in maroon and white next season.
Like most SEC schools, the Aggies' depth at running back is deep with Ben Malena and Christine Michael both impressing in the spring.
But with Williams' speed, the Aggies will most likely try to get him in open space and let his speed do the rest.
5. Eddie Williams, Alabama
The biggest question for Eddie Williams arriving on campus was not if he would play but where he would play.
Williams is a 5-star athlete that can play several positions, and most of the buzz heading into the fall is that Williams will play wide receiver for the Crimson Tide.
No matter where Nick Saban puts Williams, he's sure to make an immediate impact. At 6'4", 204 pounds, Williams is a physical specimen.
The Crimson Tide will have to replace Marquis Maze next season, and though they have Kenny Bell, Duron Carter and Kevin Norwood, Williams' size and athleticism will gain him plenty of playing time.
4. Kris Frost, Auburn
Kris Frost has the potential to become the best defensive freshman in the league next season.
Though he's a bit undersized even for linebacker, Frost's tenacity certainly makes up for it.
At 6'3", 210 pounds fresh out of high school, Frost has the speed of a wide receiver and hits like a truck. He was so impressive in high school that Rivals had Frost listed as the 20th best recruit, and once you watch tape of him, you get the gist.
Expect Auburn to continue adding pounds to their new playmaker and put him alongside Daron Bates in the fall.
3. Keith Marshall, Georgia
With Isaiah Crowell in and out of Mark Richt's Dawg house, Keith Marshall could overtake him as the starter.
As impressive as Crowell is on the field, he had some durability problems and getting on Richt's bad side isn't going to help his case. But still, he enters the season as the Bulldogs feature back. Well, at least for now.
Like Crowell, Marshall comes on campus as a highly-decorated recruit, as he was No. 5 on ESPN's Top 150.
Though Georgia's backfield is laced with talent sporting Crowell and Ken Malcome, look for Marshall to capitalize on any opportunity given to him like Kenny Hilliard did at LSU last season.
2. Shaq Roland, South Carolina
South Carolina fans are high on Shaq Roland, as they should be.
At 6'1, Roland's speed is deceptive. In high school, he generated exciting punt returns with his agility and ability to cut across the field.
While it won't bode well for Roland to try that in the SEC, he certainly requires the talent needed to create something out of nothing.
With strong hands and natural instincts, Roland will provide Connor Shaw and Steve Spurrier a newer/younger version of Alshon Jeffery.
1. Dorial Green-Beckham, Missouri
Dorial Green-Beckham shocked everyone when he choose to play for Missouri rather than elite SEC teams.
Green-Beckham was one of the most heavily recruited prospect in the nation, and with the pickup, Missouri's passing offense just got even better.
With a capable quarterback in James Franklin leading Missouri into the valley of death that is SEC defenses, Green-Beckham will be called upon for aid.
Green-Beckham is a 6'6, 220-pound wide receiver that looks like he could be college football's next Calvin Johnson. Rest assured, he'll be tested early and often in the SEC.