SEC Football: 2014 Early Enrollee Recruits Who Will Make Immediate Impact
Some of the players of tomorrow became the players of today, as several members of the Class of 2014 have already enrolled early to get a jump-start on the competition at the collegiate level.
These players will have the opportunity to go through essentially an extra offseason of strength and conditioning work and a full spring practice session, which will allow them to hit the ground running when fall camps start in August.
Which early enrollees have the best shot at making an immediate impact in the SEC?
Our picks are in this slideshow.
7. Arkansas QB Rafe Peavey
Arkansas quarterback Rafe Peavey is stepping into an ideal situation.
No, Arkansas doesn't have a vacancy at quarterback like Alabama, but it isn't like incumbent Brandon Allen set the world on fire last season throwing 13 touchdowns and 10 interceptions.
Somebody has to compete with Allen, and Peavey may be the guy.
The 6'2", 212-pound pro-style quarterback is a 4-star prospect, and he can move around behind the line of scrimmage to extend plays. The running game is the staple of a Bret Bielema-coached team, but offensive coordinator Jim Chaney does like to sling it around.
If Peavey emerges as the guy who can do that this offseason, don't be surprised to see him take meaningful snaps as a true freshman.
6. Alabama QB David Cornwell
David Cornwell is another early enrollee signal-caller who's stepping into a perfect situation.
The 6'5", 241-pound pro-style quarterback from Norman, Okla., will enter his first season with the Alabama Crimson Tide as a major competitor to replace AJ McCarron as the starter for head coach Nick Saban.
The 4-star prospect is a perfect fit for what Saban and new offensive coordinator Lane Kiffin want to do. With a stable of horses behind him to hand off to, Alabama's offense will—as it always is—be predicated on establishing the run and stretching the field off of play-action.
Cornwell has a massive arm and can throw it out of virtually any building on campus.
He'll be competing with Cooper Bateman, Blake Sims, Alex Morris and a host of other candidates during spring practice, but don't count out the possibility of Cornwell emerging as the top top signal-caller for Saban and Co. when toe meets leather versus West Virginia in the Georgia Dome.
5. Florida DB Jalen Tabor
The final days of Jalen Tabor's recruitment were nothing short of a roller coaster.
The 6'1", 181-pound cornerback committed to Arizona over Alabama at the Under Armour All-American Game earlier this month, only to de-commit and enroll at Florida for the spring semester.
Head coach Will Muschamp is glad to have him.
The departures of Loucheiz Purifoy and Marcus Roberson to the NFL have opened the door for someone to step up at cornerback opposite Vernon Hargreaves III in Gainesville. Tabor has the size of an SEC cornerback and great football instincts that should allow him to step in and compete right away for playing time for the Gators.
4. Tennessee OL Dontavius Blair
If any player in the country other than Dontavius Blair is stepping into a situation more ready-made for immediate success, I'd like to meet him.
In racing terms, the 6'8", 308-pound offensive tackle prospect for the Tennessee Volunteers has a clear track in front of him. No offensive linemen return for the Vols, which opens the door for him to make an immediate impact on Rocky Top.
Blair spent last season at Garden City (Kan.) Community College, so his acclimation to SEC football shouldn't be as difficult as high schoolers who are put in similar situations.
He's a tremendous run blocker, has the size to withstand the punishment that goes along with SEC football and is remarkably athletic. Expect Blair to start against Utah State in Week 1.
3. Auburn WR D'haquille Williams
Auburn was one-dimensional by choice during its SEC championship season of 2013, and junior college wide receiver D'haquille Williams enrolled early to open up that second dimension.
The 6'3", 213-pounder from Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College is rated as the top junior college prospect in the country and could provide a perfect complement to established Auburn wide receiver Sammie Coates.
Plus, quarterback Nick Marshall gets to evolve with him all offseason. Marshall only had five weeks of practice at Auburn prior to his first game of 2013, and now he gets to hone his skills as a passer with Coates and Williams all offseason.
Williams has the speed to stretch the field like Coates did, but also a big frame that can make him a dangerous possession wide receiver in head coach Gus Malzahn's offense.
More weapons for Malzahn? That's scary.
2. Texas A&M WR Speedy Noil
Texas A&M's offense is going to look a bit different without quarterback Johnny Manziel, and that's a good thing for 5-star wide receiver prospect Speedy Noil.
At 5'10", 176 pounds, Noil may be the most electric player in the 2014 class. And when you combine that with the innovative scheme employed by head coach Kevin Sumlin and called by offensive coordinator Jake Spavital, he should become a superstar in the SEC sooner rather than later.
He's one of those players defenders don't want to get too close to in space, because with one move, he can dispose of you and move on to the next level.
The Noil/Sumlin marriage is a match made in heaven. As long as either Kenny Hill or fellow early enrollee Kyle Allen can get him the ball, he's going to be a superstar.
1. Alabama CB Tony Brown
Alabama found out in the Sugar Bowl that its secondary, while statistically solid, isn't all that it's cracked up to be. Now, that secondary is in full-on rebuild mode thanks to the departures of senior cornerback Deion Belue and underclassmen safeties Ha Ha Clinton-Dix and Vinnie Sunseri.
Enter Tony Brown.
The 5-star safety is in Tuscaloosa this semester and prepared to walk through a door that's wide open thanks to ineffectiveness and early departures. At 6'0" 188 pounds, Brown has the size to match up with SEC wide receivers right now, 4.3 speed in the 40-yard dash and incredible quickness.
He gets a full offseason to work in Alabama's strength and conditioning program and a spring practice session to impress head coach Nick Saban, who's very hands-on with his defensive backs.
That sounds like a recipe for success for Brown.