Every school is looking for the next A.J. Green or Julio Jones.
They were freshmen wide receivers who stepped into the SEC in 2008 and became difference makers right away. Truthfully, they’re difficult to find.
But that doesn’t mean players can’t help a passing attack right away. Malcolm Mitchell did last year at Georgia. Justin Hunter became a deep threat as soon as he arrived at Tennessee in 2010.
Who might emerge this year as the next great receiver in the SEC? Let’s see.
Here are the top five freshman wide receivers in the SEC.
1. Dorial Green-Beckham – Missouri
Missouri junior cornerback E.J. Gaines called Green-Beckham a “freak” last week at SEC media days. Gaines, a first-team All-Big 12 member last year, has seen some talented receivers in his two years in college. Green-Beckham still has work to do to learn Missouri’s offense, but he’s too talented to leave on the sideline. Green-Beckham (6-6, 220), who veteran receive T.J. Moe lauded for his offseason work, is one of the nation’s best athletes, and Tigers coach Gary Pinkel knows it. He’s had a plan since the day Green-Beckham signed with Missouri.
2. Eddie Williams – Alabama
He’s a special athlete who could help immediately on offense or defense. Not exactly the same, but think Malcolm Mitchell at Georgia. Williams could walk onto Alabama’s campus and help on either side. The Crimson Tide has an opening at wide receiver, and Williams will likely grab one of the spots. Williams (6-4, 215) has great size to go with his elite athleticism. He will have plenty of competition from his own signing class at receiver – Chris Black and Amari Cooper can both play. But competition shouldn’t hurt Williams’ chances of finding the field.
3. Amari Cooper – Alabama
Nick Saban said last week at media days that Cooper was impressive during spring drills. Saban wouldn’t talk up Cooper unless he had shown he could play. Cooper arrives at Alabama at a great time as the Tide is looking for someone who can help stretch the field. Cooper should help fill that role. Cooper (6-1, 183) is a great complement to Williams and Black. Black isn’t on this list, but like Williams and Cooper, he should help Alabama sooner rather than later. Tide quarterback A.J. McCarron should have plenty to be excited about. So should Alabama fans.
4. Alton Howard – Tennessee
Howard’s versatility will make him a valuable part of Tennessee’s offense. Howard, who saw time at running back while participating in January’s Under Armour All-American Game, can be effective as a slot receiver or option out of the backfield. Howard (5-8, 185) doesn’t have a lot of size but has great speed and quickness. He will miss fall camp after having foot surgery earlier this month, but expect him to find a place on the field when he returns to health.
5. Shaq Roland – South Carolina
How ready is Roland to play this fall? That’s a question being asked by every Gamecock fan as August nears. South Carolina needs playmakers to emerge with the departure of standout receiver Alshon Jeffery, who decided to forego his senior season to enter the NFL. Roland (6-1, 180) is a great athlete who could help in several ways. Junior Ace Sanders will receive a lot of attention, which should create opportunities for Roland. South Carolina will do its best to make sure he’s ready to take advantage.
Be sure to keep up with recruiting from across the SEC on MrSEC.com’s Recruiting Page.