We have all seen the impact a freshman can have in college football. Over the past few years, this has beome more and more evident.
Tim Tebow. Noel Devine. Adrian Peterson. Chad Jones. Percy Harvin. That's just a few.
I rest my case.
With football starting this weekend, let's examine which true freshmen will make the biggest impact in the SEC, this year and beyond.
Biggest Immediate Impact on Offense
1. Julio Jones, WR, Alabama: Julio Jones may be coming into college with more hype than anyone in the country not named Terrelle Pryor. He is the highest ranked prospect in Alabama's highly touted recruiting class. Standing tall at 6-foot-4, he provides a big target for John Parker Wilson, which is needed after the losses of DJ Hall and Keith Brown. And oh yeah, the kid can play.
2. Enrique Davis, RB, Ole Miss: Though I have a personal hatred for Davis ever since he spurned Auburn for Ole Miss, there is no denying the guy's talent. While he was committed to Auburn, Davis drew comparisons to former Tiger and current Miami Dolphin Ronnie Brown. The comparisons came from his short, stocky build and his explosiveness. We've all seen what Houston Nutt can do with an explosive back.
3. AJ Green, WR, Georgia: Green was somewhat overshadowed nationally by Julio Jones. However, he may be just as good. Green is not as big or fast as Jones, but he is well known for his soft hands and his ability to gain yards after the catch. The only reason I think his immediate impact will be less is due to the fact that UGA has more talent (notably Matt Stafford and Knowshon Moreno) returning than 'Bama does, and Green may be overshadowed.
4. Phillip Pierre-Louis, WR, Auburn: Pierre-Louis is not regarded as highly as the other players in this article, but he is fast. Really fast. Rumors have been circulating that he ran a 4.25 40-yard dash in high school. Though I haven't seen any proof of this, the 4.4 time that recruiting services list is plenty fast. This is the fastest player outside of Reggie Bush that I have ever seen in person. He will fit perfectly in Auburn's new spread offense, and will also return kicks.
5. Burton Scott, WR, Alabama: Scott will be a good complement to Julio Jones in the Tide's offense this year. While he is not very big (5-foot-11, 194 pounds), he makes up for it with very impressive speed. While Jones will look to fill the "go-to guy" gap left open by Hall and Brown, Scott will try and be more like Matt Caddell, a playmaker that lines up primarily in the slot.
Honorable Mention: LSU WR Chris Tolliver, Alabama OL Tyler Love
Biggest Immediate Impact on Defense
1. Will Hill, S, Florida: Hill was an all-around athlete in high school, playing all positions, primarily quarterback and safety. He was recruited to Florida as a safety. Hill is big, fast, hard-hitting, and tough. He looks to play very early, and potentially start, for the Gators.
2. Patrick Peterson, CB, LSU: Peterson is a speedy cornerback with very good size (6-foot-1, 193 pounds) for his position. Like Hill, Peterson expects to play early, and possibly start, for the Bayou Bengals this year. Look for him to make a big impact on one of the nation's top defenses this year.
3. Neiko Thorpe, CB, Auburn: Thorpe's position on this list jumped from fifth to third following the season ending injury to cornerback Aairon Savage. With Savage out, Thorpe will now be the third option at cornerback for the Tigers. Like Peterson, he has very good size (6-foot-2, 175 pounds), and has impressed coaches at camp.
4. Jerrell Harris, LB, Alabama: Having played against Harris and blocking him (to the best of my ability) for two years in high school, I can tell you he's the real deal. That's good news for 'Bama fans. With All-SEC linebacker Prince Hall suspended for the first three games, Harris may have to step in immediately. After Hall returns, Harris will still look to contribute as often as possible.
5. Omar Hunter, DT, Florida: Hunter was a surprise late addition to Florida's 2008 signing class, and he topped it off perfectly. Big, strong, and quick for his size, Hunter looks to step into the Gators' 4-3 defense and contribute immediately.
Honorable Mention: LSU LB Ryan Baker, Georgia DE Cornelius Washington
Now, a quick look at the future. Here is my short list of true freshmen that may not contribute right away, but will have a big impact in the future:
1. Jermaine Johnson, OL, Auburn
2. Tavarres King, WR, Georgia
3. Star Jackson, QB, Alabama
4. William Green, DL, Florida
5. Dee Finley, S, Florida
6. E.J. Abrams-Ward, WR, Tennessee
7. Jordan Jefferson, QB, LSU
8. Mark Ingram, RB, Alabama
9. Cameron Henderson, DE, Auburn
10. De'Anthony Curtis, RB, Arkansas
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