Jadeveon Clowney. Or Isaiah Crowell.
That’s who every college football team is hoping to find when they recruit the most highly-touted players in each year’s class. Both Clowney and Crowell helped their teams last season as freshmen. And the top incoming freshmen for 2012 could do the same.
Now, finding another Clowney could be difficult. His athleticism is freakish. But there might be one on this list (on offense this time). And could there be another Crowell? Maybe – on his own team.
Here are the top five freshmen entering the SEC in 2012.
1. RB Keith Marshall – Georgia
The Bulldogs signed Marshall (5-11, 202) hoping he would be able to help right away. Crowell is expected to hang on to the starting tailback job, and people believe he’s matured and made himself a better player. But Marshall will be there to push him. Marshall, who enrolled at Georgia in the spring, will provide a change of pace to Crowell’s tough running style. Marshall might be the nation’s best playmaker in the 2012 class.
2. WR Dorial Green-Beckham – Missouri
If Marshall isn’t the top playmaker in the 2012 class, it could be this guy. Green-Beckham (6-6, 220) is a big target who should create matchup problems as soon as he walks on the field. He’s that maybe-the-next-Clowney guy I mentioned above. The SEC has seen freshman receivers enter the league and help immediately, guys like A.J. Green and Malcolm Mitchell at Georgia and Julio Jones at Alabama. Quarterback James Franklin is already proven as a passer at Missouri. He’ll be even better with Green-Beckham.
3. RB T.J. Yeldon – Alabama
Alabama’s depth chart at running back is set at the top with junior Eddie Lacy returning from last year’s national championship team. But SEC teams always need depth in the backfield, and Yeldon can provide it. The former Auburn commit enrolled in the spring and showed he’ll be ready to play this fall. Yeldon (6-2, 216) is an explosive player who can help as a runner and receiver. Alabama coach Nick Saban will use him as both.
4. OL D.J. Humphries – Florida
There’s a reason Gators coach Will Muschamp made recruiting the state of North Carolina a high priority (the Gators signed four from the Tar Heel State). The state has prospects like Humphries, who some consider the top offensive line prospect in the 2012 class. Humphries (6-6, 272) has room to add weight, but he has the skill and talent to help this fall. Watch the competition on the offensive line. If Muschamp doesn’t like what he sees from the veterans, Humphries will have an opportunity to help the Gators this season.
5. OL John Theus – Georgia
Don’t be surprised if he starts at left tackle this fall. Yes, Theus is that good. Georgia’s need is also that strong. Whether it’s on the left or right side, Georgia could need Theus (6-6, 295) on the field on the first offensive snap of the season. The coaching staff will have a better idea when the fall arrives, but they’re hoping Theus looks like an SEC player when Georgia puts the pads on. Remember last year’s anticipation of Crowell in Athens? That will likely repeat itself with Theus this fall.