SEC Football: 10 Best Freshmen of 2012
It takes a special breed of player to join the best conference in college football and have an immediate impact.
That's exactly what players like T.J. Yeldon, Todd Gurley and Jalen Mills have been able to do in the SEC this year.
Other notable prospects have proved that it is truly an enduring challenge. Players such as the No. 1 recruit out of high school, Dorial Green-Beckham, have yet to hit their stride in college football's most demanding conference.
Keeping that in mind, based on both potential and their early-season production, these are the top SEC freshmen of 2012.
10. Shaq Roland, South Carolina
Have patience with Shaq Roland.
Though the freshman wide receiver only has 55 yards receiving and one touchdown thus far, he's sure to break out later in the season.
As Roland gains valuable experience playing in the conference and South Carolina faces stiffer competition (such as LSU in a couple weeks), the Gamecocks are going to need Roland to step up and become the threat they expected him to be.
Mr. South Carolina hasn't seen the field as much as Gamecock fans had hoped, but give this young receiver some time to develop into one of the best wide receivers in the SEC.
9. Trey Williams, Texas A&M
Trey Williams is as fast as lightning.
Too bad he's having to share the backfield with two other great backs. Joining Williams in the backfield for the Aggies are Christine Michael and Ben Malena.
Heading into the season, Michael's 2,374 career rushing yards were the highest career rushing total boasted by any back in the SEC. Through four weeks of action, the freshman Williams actually has 10 more rushing yards (69 rushing yards and a rushing touchdown) than Michael for the season.
That, along with his explosiveness in the kick-return game, makes Williams one of the better freshman running backs in the conference. But hey, the SEC is loaded with stellar freshman running backs.
8. Amari Cooper, Alabama
On a team that has talent stockpiled at every position on the field, and with a primary target such as Kenny Bell finding himself fourth on the team in receiving, guess who's second on the team in receiving yards for Alabama?
That's right, freshman wideout Amari Cooper. He and quarterback A.J. McCarron have developed a very nice chemistry early on in the season, and Cooper finds himself with 138 receiving yards and a touchdown in the early going.
7. Dorial Green-Beckham, Missouri
Dorial Green-Beckham has been the SEC's biggest disappointment so far this season.
Here's a guy that was one of the most heavily recruited players coming out of high school last year, and he's only managed to record six catches for 48 yards.
That's discouraging for Missouri fans. So, considering his underachievement, how could he still possibly make this list? Well, it's his upside.
Sooner or later, this guy's going to "get" it, and when he does, he's going to drop jaws all around. His physical attributes are far too impressive for anything to the contrary.
6. Evan Boehm, Missouri
Freshman offensive linemen rarely get playing time in the SEC, especially if they're true freshmen.
Well, Evan Boehm bucks that trend.
In fact, it's so rare finding freshman offensive linemen starting the first game of the season that Boehm is only the third ever to start under Gary Pinkel.
So far, Boehm hasn't disappointed.
5. Keith Marshall, Georgia
Boy, Georgia's running backs are fun to watch, aren't they?
Keith Marshall came in as a highly touted freshman, and unlike Green-Beckham, he's delivered the goods.
After four weeks of action, Marshall is second on the team in rushing with 264 yards on 6.3 yards per rush, and has added three rushing touchdowns.
It's safe to say this 5-star recruit has lived up to the billing.
4. T.J. Yeldon, Alabama
The wave of freshman talent at the running back position in the SEC is astounding.
In a backfield that boasts the likes of Eddie Lacy and Jalson Fowler, a freshman sports the most impressive numbers. And no, it's not Kenyan Drake.
T.J. Yeldon leads the Crimson Tide in rushing with 254 yards, and he burst upon the scene in a big way.
Following Alabama's blowout victory against Michigan in Week 1, the question everyone was asking was, "Who's that No. 4?" Yeldon posted 111 rushing yards with a rushing touchdown in the victory, and he's been a key part of the Bama offense ever since.
3. Johnny Manziel
Johnny Manziel is incredible.
This freshman quarterback can not only put the ball on a dime, but he can scramble out of the pocket and break down defenses with his legs.
In just three games this season, Manziel has completed 67.4 percent of his passes and thrown for 641 yards with seven touchdowns while rushing for 262 yards and five touchdowns.
First, Florida head coach Will Muschamp insulted all of College Station because of how boring it was. And now, he wants to stay as far away because of Manziel's accuracy and scrambling ability. How can you not be impressed with this talented phenom?
2. Jalen Mills, LSU
No Honey Badger, no problem.
LSU replaced a playmaking Tyrann Mathieu with a lockdown corner in Jalen Mills.
This freshman cornerback has blanketed receivers and managed to record two interceptions in the first four games of the season.
It looks like Mills is developing into another great product down at "DBU."
1. Todd Gurley, Georgia
Todd Gurley is easily the most impressive freshman in the Southeastern Conference right now.
After four games this season, Gurley leads the Bulldogs with 406 yards, 9.2 yards per carry and six rushing touchdowns.
Not to mention, Gurley has 243 return yards (including a 100-yard touchdown return in the season opener). We're talking about a guy here who is both tough to bring down and possesses track-star speed—once he breaks it into the open, you can kiss him goodbye.
Gurley's performance so far this season has many Georgia fans saying, "Isaiah who?"