Arkansas vs. Florida: Freshmen Who Will Play Big Role in SEC Battle

Rob GoldbergFeatured ColumnistOctober 4, 2013

Aug 31, 2013; Gainesville, FL, USA; Florida Gators defensive back Vernon Hargreaves III (16) returns an interception during the second half against the Toledo Rockets at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium. Florida Gators defeated the Toledo Rockets 24-6. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports
Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

There was a time when it would take years before a prospect could see the field in college football. However, there are a number of players in the game between the Arkansas Razorbacks and Florida Gators who will actually make a big impact on the outcome.

Last season, Johnny Manziel removed the stigma among freshmen when he became the first player in the class to win the Heisman Trophy. Since then, plenty of other stars around the country have been attempting to follow his lead.

While these players might not become contenders for the nation's top award, they have already proven to be stars in the making at this level. In the upcoming SEC battle, these young men will be heavily featured.

 

Alex Collins, RB, Arkansas

Sep 7, 2013; Little Rock, AR, USA; Arkansas Razorbacks running back Alex Collins (3) rushes against the Samford Bulldogs during the second half at War Memorial Stadium. Arkansas defeated Samford 31-21. Mandatory Credit: Nelson Chenault-USA TODAY Sports
Nelson Chenault-USA TODAY Sports

Not only has Alex Collins been the best freshman running back in the country, he is making a case as the best running back period.

Through five games, the Florida native has three touchdowns on 597 rushing yards, the latter of which leads the SEC and ranks him sixth in the NCAA. 

He has also displayed incredible consistency at a young age, topping 100 yards in four of his five career starts. With an average of six yards per carry, it is clear that Arkansas has to just keep giving him the ball.

While Florida has one of the best defenses in the country, Collins can still expect to have a great game on Saturday.

 

Vernon Hargreaves III, CB, Florida

Aug 31, 2013; Gainesville, FL, USA; Florida Gators defensive back Vernon Hargreaves III (16) intercepts the ball from Toledo Rockets wide receiver Alonzo Russell (9) during the second half at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium. Florida Gators defeated the Toledo Ro
Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

This is simply a case of the rich getting richer. Loucheiz Purifoy and Marcus Roberson currently start for the Gators and are among the best cornerbacks in the country, but Vernon Hargreaves III has forced himself onto the field.

The freshman has been as good as advertised coming into the year, displaying excellent pure ability in coverage that projects him as a legitimate shutdown corner in the NFL. With great size and speed, professional teams will not be able to wait for him to be draft-eligible.

Additionally, Hargreaves already has displayed a knack for making big plays with three interceptions on the year.

Arkansas quarterback Brandon Allen will have to be aware of where Hargreaves is on the field at all times in this game.

 

Hunter Henry, TE, Arkansas

PISCATAWAY, NJ - SEPTEMBER 21: Tight end Hunter Henry #84 of the Arkansas Razorbacks reacts after making a 21-yard catch against the Rutgers Scarlet Knights during the third quarter in a game at High Point Solutions Stadium on September 21, 2013 in Piscat
Rich Schultz/Getty Images

After a few uninspiring performances to start the year, Hunter Henry had a breakout game against Texas A&M last week. He caught four passes for a team-high 109 receiving yards, including a 52-yard catch which represents the longest pass play of the season for Arkansas.

Heading into the Florida game, Henry ranks second on the team in catches and receiving yards. He is proving to be not only reliable as a receiver, but capable of getting big plays when left alone. 

At 6'6" with good speed, he remains a matchup problem for anyone who tries to cover him.

On an offense known for its history of playmakers down the field, from Cobi Hamilton to Joe Adams to Jarius Wright, Arkansas needs someone to step up. Although Henry is a tight end, he has been doing just that in the early going of this season.

 

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