Tuesday, December 13, 2011
The SEC's top freshmen in 2011
By Chris Low
It was a big year for freshmen in the SEC, and some of the most hyped newcomers turned out to be the most productive.
Here’s our ranking of the top 15 true freshmen this season based on their productivity and overall impact on their teams:
1. Jadeveon Clowney, DE, South Carolina: The nation's No. 1 prospect coming into the season made a big splash with six sacks and 10 tackles for loss, leading all SEC freshmen in both categories. His five forced fumbles tied him for second in the league among all players.
2. Isaiah Crowell, RB, Georgia: Had it not been for injuries and durability issues, Crowell was on his way to a 1,000-yard season. He had only 36 carries in his past five games but still managed 837 rushing yards and had 100-yard games against four SEC opponents -- Auburn, Mississippi State, Ole Miss and South Carolina.
3. A.J. Johnson, LB, Tennessee: He started in 10 of the Vols’ 12 games and led all SEC freshmen with 80 tackles, which was second on Tennessee’s team. He had his best games against the best teams with 11 tackles against LSU, 12 against South Carolina and 13 against Alabama.
4. Malcolm Mitchell, WR, Georgia: One of the most explosive players on Georgia's team, Mitchell emerged as the Bulldogs' top deep threat, catching 38 passes for 614 yards and four touchdowns. He averaged 16.2 yards per catch.
5. Reese Dismukes, C, Auburn: A mainstay on Auburn's offensive line, Dismukes started all 12 games at center and helped pave the way for the Tigers to rush for 2,097 yards this season, ranking them fourth in the SEC.
6. Curt Maggitt, LB, Tennessee: One of the more promising big-play defenders in the league, Maggitt tied for third on Tennessee’s team with 56 total tackles, including 5.5 tackles for loss. He started in eight games.
7. Anthony Johnson, DT, LSU: His numbers weren't eye-popping, but part of that is because the Tigers rotate so many defensive linemen. Johnson was a force in the middle and has three tackles for loss heading into the national title game.
8. Brian Randolph, S, Tennessee: He started in eight games and led all Tennessee defensive backs with 55 total tackles. Randolph was a safety for most of the season but started at cornerback against Alabama.
9. Donte Moncrief, WR, Ole Miss: One of the Rebels' top playmakers, Moncrief led the team in catches (31), receiving yards (454) and touchdown receptions (4). He averaged 14.6 yards per catch.
10. Kenny Hilliard, RB, LSU: The Tigers didn't really unleash Hilliard until the Auburn game on Oct. 22, but he's been LSU's best power back since. He has nine touchdowns and is averaging 5.6 yards per carry.
11. Trey Flowers, DE, Arkansas: With Jake Bequette and Tenarius Wright both suffering through injuries, Flowers stepped up in a big way with 5.5 tackles for loss, including a sack.
12. Vinnie Sunseri, DB, Alabama: He jumped right in as a valuable cog in an Alabama secondary that was one of the best in the country. Sunseri ranks eighth overall on the team with 31 total tackles.
13. Marcus Roberson, CB, Florida: He suffered an injury late in the season but held down one of the Gators' starting cornerback jobs up until that point. Roberson has all the tools to be a great one in this league.
14. Tevin Mitchel, CB, Arkansas: He emerged as one of the Hogs’ starters at cornerback late in the season and wound up sixth on the team with 53 total tackles. He had 13 in the comeback win over Texas A&M.
15. De'Ante Saunders, S, Florida: One of two true freshmen in the Gators' starting secondary, Saunders intercepted two passes and broke up two passes this season from his safety position.