After the Heisman Trophy voters were allowed to cast ballots for freshmen in 2012, redshirt freshmen Johnny Manziel of the Texas A&M Aggies and Jameis Winston of the Florida State Seminoles have claimed the award in back-to-back seasons. It seems that redshirts can be worth their weight in gold, and their value will be inflated for the Southeastern Conference in 2014.
This one-and-done mentality has created high expectations for the coming year. With as much talent and experience as the SEC is losing to both graduation and the NFL draft, underclassmen will be counted on to shoulder an unusually high amount of the burden in the coming season.
Might the next Heisman winner once again step foot onto the college gridiron for the first time this season? Let's review some of the redshirts most likely to make a huge impact on the conference in 2014.
There aren't a whole lot of programs that can afford to bench the nation's fourth-best wide receiver out of high school. Alabama is one of those programs.
Foster, an Under Armour All-American, broke down at his commitment press conference after picking his father's choice in Alabama over his mother's in Pittsburgh. Now the 6'3", 187-pound speedster is poised to compete for a starting spot at wideout for one of the nation's most elite programs.
The competition will be fierce, though. Rising junior Amari Cooper has been nothing short of stellar, while talented receivers Norwood and Bell graduate. Foster has the chance to become something special and will be the Crimson Tide future at the position as a real threat to take over Norwood's starting role.
Offered by Alabama and LSU among others, Ferguson is a tremendous talent at the quarterback position that could be a favorite to take over the position vacated by graduating Justin Worley.
Though hand injuries limited his recruiting fanfare a bit, former three-star Ferguson will have a wealth of talented wide receivers to toss to. Head coach Butch Jones was impressed with the Matthew, North Carolina native in practice before making the decision to redshirt him. And his powerful arm makes him a threat for the long ball on every snap.
His accuracy is there, too. If Ferguson can keep his composure and limit turnovers in spring practice, his name will be a popular one among SEC prognosticators in the fall.
A five-star recruit out of Memphis, Tennessee, questions were raised about Herron's work ethic after entering school at 260 pounds. Shedding fat and gaining muscle, the talented redshirt freshman is now at 275 pounds and stands 6'5", offering a dominating force at defensive end.
His 4.87-second 40-yard dash is quick for his size and position, making him an awfully big obstacle for opposing quarterbacks. Whether he stays at his position or is slid over to defensive tackle, Herron will be an intimidating feature for LSU's defense if he can stay focused.
A knee injury early in the season kept highly-touted freshman Ricky Seals-Jones out of the Texas A&M lineup for most of the 2013 season.
A medical redshirt meant time to heal and gain experience for Seals-Jones after three catches for 84 yards and a touchdown early in the season. Appropriately hailing from Sealy, Texas, this athletic wide receiver turned down offers from Auburn, LSU, Oklahoma, Notre Dame and even Aggie rival, Texas.
Rated as the second-best wide receiver in the nation, and 40th-best overall, Seals-Jones underwent surgery during 2013 to fix up the knee. Standing 6'6" and weighing in at 240 pounds, the natural gifts for him are obvious. If he can rebound from the injury well enough to replace outgoing starter Mike Evans, he'll be one of the biggest mismatch makers in the conference.
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