By Darrell Puckett
The SEC has been considered the toughest and most competitive all-around conference in college football for years. This comes as no surprise to a recruiting guru because the SEC schools have dominated the Rivals rankings. Who are the top three freshman players in the SEC this season? I feel that these three have set themselves apart from others.
- Alex Collins from Arkansas has rushed for over 100 yards in four games this season, which puts him on the same level of Georgia’s Keith Marshall and Todd Gurley last year. The talented freshman back has been pounding the ball, totaling 720 yards on 123 attempts and averaging 5.9 yard-per-carry with four rushing touchdowns. In the first three games Collins rushed well over 100 yards on over 20 attempts, making him a SEC powerhouse back. Collins was a coveted 4-star player in the Rivals ’13 rankings and is easily the Razorbacks best recruit coming into this season. This statistical line shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone following the SEC, so look for Collins to continue his impressive freshman season.
- Laquon Treadwell from Ole Miss has beaten out his teammate Robert Nkemdiche because of his ability to provide consistency on the receiving end. Treadwell has amounted 32 receptions and 327 yards while averaging 10.2 yards-per-carry with two touchdowns. His ability to break a big play forces every team to spread out the defense. Treadwell was the No. 1 Wide-Receiver and No. 5 overall player in the Rivals ’13 rankings. Everyone knew his potential, but I honestly never anticipated Treadwell becoming this good. Keep an eye on him for the second-half of this season.
- Carl Lawson from Auburn rounds out the top-three with his relentlessness on defense. Lawson might have taken second to Robert Nkemdiche in the rivals ’13 rankings, but he has displayed an unconditional attitude for development. He has taken over the defensive line for Auburn and provided leadership qualities during tiring moments. Lawson leads freshman defensive SEC players with four tackles for loss, 10 solo tackles, two sacks, two hurries, and one forced fumble. Auburn in recent years has missed the pressure along the defensive edge, but Lawson is helping to stop the trend. I predict that Lawson will be a Freshman All-American at season’s end and help Auburn gain nine or more victories.
Honorable mentions are O.J. Howard from Alabama and Jeremy Johnson from Auburn. Howard has been producing at a level that I can only compare to Vernon Davis. Physically and mentally, Howard displays NFL talent at the freshman level. Alabama is mixing up formations to free up space for Howard to show his capability.
Johnson has been the backup to Nick Marshall all season, but Saturday he had a chance to shine. He finished the game completing 17-21 pass attempts, 201 yards, and threw for four touchdowns along with one interception. The future looks bright for Auburn, even if the game was against a weak opponent. Johnson will be important to the team if Marshall doesn’t get healthy.
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[Edited by Anne Stanford and Silvia Giagnoni 10/14/13]