NCF Nation: Jason Bosley
Between 2006, when ESPN began assembling recruit rankings, and 2013, individual programs managed to sign at least two of the top three players at a position 16 times. In many cases, one -- and sometimes both -- of those players became instant stars as true freshmen. Think Taylor Mays and Joe McKnight at USC, De'Anthony Thomas at Oregon, Laremy Tunsil at Ole Miss and Sean Spence at Miami.
This was a relatively unique occurrence up until 2014, when it happened five times -- with four of the five instances occurring in the SEC: twice at Alabama, which signed the top two players at both center (No. 1 Josh Casher and No. 2 J.C. Hassenauer) and outside linebacker (No. 1 Christian Miller and No. 2 Rashaan Evans), plus at LSU (with No. 1 and 3 wide receivers Malachi Dupre and Trey Quinn) and Florida (with No. 2 and 3 defensive tackles Gerald Willis and Thomas Holley).
Clemson was the other school to accomplish the feat in 2014, signing No. 2 and 3 receiving tight ends Milan Richard and Cannon Smith.
In some of these cases -- particularly at LSU, which lost the vast majority of its receiving production from 2013 -- expectations are high that the star signees can immediately become valuable contributors as true freshmen. The Tigers have multiple alternatives at receiver, including Travin Dural and John Diarse, but Dupre and Quinn might rank among the leading contenders for playing time.
Judging by the long list of Freshman All-America and freshman all-conference honors won by those who previously signed as part of such a dynamic duo, perhaps it's not such a long shot that at least one of the newcomers will make a similar instant impact.
Safety | USC
No. 2 Taylor Mays, No. 3 Antwine Perez
Mays appeared in all 13 games -- starting the last 12 at free safety after Josh Pinkard suffered a season-ending injury in the opener -- in 2006 and led the Trojans with three interceptions. Mays was fifth on the team with 62 tackles and tied for second with six passes defended, ending the season as Pac-10 Co-Freshman of the Year and as a member of multiple Freshman All-America teams. Perez played in seven games and recorded three tackles.
Center | Auburn
No. 1 Ryan Pugh, No. 3 Chaz Ramsey
Pugh started six of Auburn's final nine games at left tackle and appeared in eight games overall. He also backed up Jason Bosley at center and earned Coaches' All-SEC Freshman team honors after the season. Like Pugh, Ramsey appeared for the first time in Week 4 and went on to start nine of the Tigers' last 10 games at right guard. He also made the Coaches' All-SEC Freshman team.
Running back | USC
No. 1 Joe McKnight, No. 2 Marc Tyler
McKnight played in all 13 games in 2007, ranked third on the team with 540 rushing yards and scored three touchdowns. He also caught 23 passes for 203 yards and a touchdown and served as the Trojans' primary punt returner, with his 8.4 yards per return helping him earn a All-Pac-10 honorable mention nod. Tyler redshirted in 2007 while recuperating from a high school leg injury.
Inside linebacker | Ohio State
No. 1 Etienne Sabino, No. 2 Andrew Sweat
Sabino played in all 13 games and notched six tackles. He notched the only touchdown in the Buckeyes' 16-3 win against Purdue by returning a blocked punt 20 yards for a score. Sweat appeared in the last nine games and recorded five tackles, also contributing mostly on special teams.
Outside linebacker | Miami
No. 1 Arthur Brown, No. 2 Sean Spence, No. 3 Ramon Buchanan
Not only did Miami sign ESPN's top three outside linebacker prospects in 2008, it also signed No. 5 Jordan Futch. That's an outstanding haul for one year. At any rate, Spence emerged as the key member of this group from the get-go, ranking third on the team with 65 tackles and leading the Hurricanes with 9.5 tackles for a loss in 2008. He was ACC Defensive Rookie of the Year and made multiple Freshman All-America teams. Brown (who later transferred to Kansas State) played in 11 games as a freshman, notching four tackles and shifting from outside to inside linebacker. Buchanan had six tackles in nine games, playing mostly on special teams and also contributing at safety and linebacker.
Offensive tackle | Ohio State
No. 2 Michael Brewster, No. 3 J.B. Shugarts
Brewster played in 12 of the Buckeyes' 13 games in 2008 and started the last 10 at center, earning Freshman All-America honors in the process. Shugarts appeared in seven games at offensive tackle and missed six other games with a shoulder surgery that required offseason surgery.
Safety | Florida
No. 1 Will Hill, No. 2 Dee Finley
Hill played in 13 games and ranked sixth on the team with 48 tackles. He also picked off two passes and notched 1.5 sacks. He made the SEC All-Freshman team and led the Gators with 22 tackles on special teams. Finley did not qualify academically and spent the 2008 season at Milford Academy prep school. He eventually enrolled at Florida and shifted from safety to linebacker, but transferred away from Gainesville in 2011.
Safety | South Carolina
No. 2 Stephon Gilmore, No. 3 DeVonte Holloman
Early enrollee Gilmore started all 13 games at cornerback, ranking fifth on the team with 56 tackles. He tied for the team lead with nine passes defended and ranked second with eight pass breakups, adding six tackles for a loss, three sacks, two fumble recoveries, two forced fumbles and an interception. The Freshman All-SEC and Freshman All-America honoree also averaged 10.1 yards per return as a punt return man. Another early enrollee, Hollomon also played in every game, notching 30 tackles, an interception (which he returned 54 yards against rival Clemson) and a tackle for a loss.
Athlete | Florida
No. 1 Ronald Powell, No. 2 Matt Elam
Powell played in 13 games at strongside linebacker and recorded 25 tackles, three tackles for a loss and a sack en route to winning Freshman All-SEC honors. Elam also played in all 13 games, mostly on special teams and at defensive back, and notched 22 tackles, two tackles for a loss and a sack.
Defensive tackle | Florida
No. 1 Dominique Easley, No. 3 Sharrif Floyd
Easley recorded four tackles in six games. Floyd played in all 13 games, earning Coaches' Freshman All-SEC honors by making 23 tackles and 6.5 tackles for a loss.
Wide receiver | Texas
No. 2 Mike Davis, No. 3 Darius White
Davis ranked second on the team with 478 receiving yards and 47 receptions (a record for a Texas freshman). He became one of only three receivers in Longhorns history to post multiple 100-yard games as a freshman. White appeared in 10 games in 2010, but caught just one pass for 5 yards and eventually transferred to Missouri after two seasons, citing a need for a fresh start.
Athlete | Oregon
No. 1 De'Anthony Thomas, No. 2 Devon Blackmon
The speedy Thomas earned Pac-12 Co-Offensive Freshman of the Year honors and was named an All-Pac-12 kick returner and a Freshman All-American. He was the only player in the nation to post at least 400 yards rushing, receiving and kick returning in 2011, ranking as the Ducks' second-leading receiver (595 yards on 46 catches) and third-leading rusher (608 yards and seven touchdowns). His 983 kickoff return yards ranked second in school history. Blackmon redshirted in 2011 and appeared in two games in 2012 before announcing his plan to transfer. He played at Riverside City College before signing with BYU as a juco transfer in 2014.
Defensive end | Florida State
No. 1 Mario Edwards, No. 3 Chris Casher
Edwards became the only freshman to start all season for a loaded FSU defense when he replaced the injured Tank Carradine in the ACC Championship Game. He also started in the Orange Bowl win over Northern Illinois. In all, Edwards finished the season with 17 tackles, 2.5 tackles for a loss and 1.5 sacks. Casher played in two early games before suffering a season-ending injury and taking a redshirt in 2012.
Offensive guard | Michigan
No. 2 David Dawson, No. 3 Patrick Kugler
Dawson and Kugler both redshirted in 2013. Dawson practiced during the spring at left guard and left tackle, while Kugler is among the candidates to start at center this fall.
Offensive tackle | Ole Miss
No. 1 Laremy Tunsil, No. 3 Austin Golson
Tunsil immediately became one of the better offensive tackles in the SEC, earning second-team All-SEC and Freshman All-America honors in 2013. He played in 12 games and started nine at left tackle, making him one of only two true full-time freshman starters at the position in the FBS. Tunsil allowed just one sack all season. Golson played in 12 games, mostly at guard, before missing the Rebels' bowl game because of shoulder surgery. He transferred to Auburn this summer, citing a family illness as the reason he wanted to move closer to his Alabama home.
Safety | USC
No. 1 Su'a Cravens, No. 3 Leon McQuay III
A 2013 early enrollee, Cravens started 13 games at strong safety, ranked eighth on the team with 52 tackles and tied for second with four interceptions. He made multiple Freshman All-America teams and earned an All-Pac-12 honorable mention nod after the season. McQuay played in all 14 games, picked off one pass and recorded 19 tackles.
Posted by ESPN.com's Chris Low
Getting ready for a couple of SEC games later today, let's take a look at what others are writing and saying about the league:
- South Carolina punter Spencer Lanning comes from a house divided when it comes to the Clemson-South Carolina rivalry.
- The Florida-Florida State rivalry has been a streaky one that's seen a little bit of everything.
- Has the tide turned in the Alabama-Auburn rivalry?
- True freshman Jordan Jefferson will start Friday at quarterback for LSU against Arkansas.
- Auburn senior center Jason Bosley aches, battles through tough final season.
Posted by ESPN.com's Chris Low
We take our weekly "Internal Affairs" look at the SEC. And by the way, judging by the performances from Florida and Georgia last week, I guess the Big 12 Conference isn't the only one capable of putting up big offensive numbers. The Gators and Bulldogs combined for 115 points and 889 yards of total offense in their blowout wins:
Less is more: LSU quarterback Jarrett Lee hasn't been as bad as some of the criticism the last week would suggest. It's just that four of his bad throws have turned into touchdowns for the other team. The Tigers aren't going to kick him to the curb, but they are going to give him less responsibility and will condense the playbook the rest of the season. The idea is to put less on his shoulders and give him fewer things to think about. Lee has been sharing snaps this season with Andrew Hatch, but Hatch is nursing an injury to his left leg. LSU coach Les Miles said true freshman Jordan Jefferson has continued to get increased snaps in practice and could play Saturday against Tulane.
Throwing to Demps: It's a given that freshman Jeffery Demps has changed the way defenses are playing Florida. You've got to account for his speed on every play. He's a touchdown waiting to happen. The newest wrinkle with Demps is using him more out of the backfield as a receiver. He catches the ball well and is a nightmarish matchup for any linebacker or safety trying to cover him. The other thing that having Demps in the backfield does is that it allows the Gators to keep Percy Harvin at receiver or in the slot, and they can move him to the backfield when they want to and not necessarily because they have to.
Catching Clark: Get ready for a heavier dose of true freshman Arceto Clark at Mississippi State. Last week in the win over Middle Tennessee, Mississippi State coach Sylvester Croom decided to take the redshirt off of Clark, and he only ran one time for 2 yards. Look for that role to greatly expand this week. He's a receiver the Bulldogs can do some different things with and will also likely get some chances returning kicks. Clark was recruited as a cornerback, but Croom talked him into moving to offense this summer. He has the kind of speed the Bulldogs have been lacking on the offensive side of the ball.
Pressing the Vols: Nobody has respected Tennessee's passing game this season, which is why the Vols have routinely seen eight men in the box. Look for South Carolina to load the box even more this Saturday. The Gamecocks have a lot of faith in their cornerbacks to cover in man coverage and will take their chances in going after Tennessee quarterback Nick Stephens, who's hit a few big-gainers to Denarius Moore, but hasn't consistently been able to make teams pay by completing passes down the field. He'll get every chance against the Gamecocks, who will dare the Vols to beat them deep.
Bosley back at center: It looks like senior Jason Bosley is back at his original position of center to stay. With Auburn going back to more of its power sets, the Tigers want one of their most physical blockers in the middle of things. Bosley and Ryan Pugh, who is now back at right tackle, had switched positions earlier in the season. When the Tigers moved Bosley initially, he was playing with an injured shoulder and having trouble snapping the ball, which was of particular concern when they were operating almost exclusively out of the shotgun. Auburn is looking for anything to jump-start an offense ranked 109th in total offense and 102nd in scoring offense.
Posted by ESPN.com's Chris Low
Week No. 3 is almost upon us, meaning there are two different conference games on tap. No. 2-ranked Georgia visits South Carolina, and No. 9-ranked Auburn travels to Mississippi State. Here's our weekly installment of "Internal Affairs" in the SEC:
Bosley to stay at tackle: Jason Bosley hadn't played tackle in a game since he was a freshman in high school. That all changed last Saturday when he moved out to right tackle and Ryan Pugh moved into Bosley's old center spot. The Tigers liked that lineup so much that they're probably going to stick with it. For one, Bosley has been plagued with a shoulder injury that's particularly bothersome when you're having to make the shotgun snap on just about every play in Auburn's new spread offense. Bosley, one of the Tigers' most consistent linemen, graded out higher than anybody in the win over Southern Miss. He's smart enough and good enough that he could play any of the positions up front. It never hurts to have guys who can move around in the offensive line.
Running to glory: While the Vols want to give Jonathan Crompton every chance to be more consistent throwing the ball with the Florida game looming, look for them to really try to rev up their running game this week against Alabama-Birmingham. Establishing some semblance of a running game and sticking with it is the only way they're going to have a chance to beat Florida. Crompton plays a big role in that, too. He has to be sharper in managing the running game and making sure the Vols are in the right sets. They had several run plays called against UCLA that never materialized or never really had a chance when they broke the huddle because of different miscommunications.
Rebels getting healthier: Ole Miss is getting a little healthier in its defensive line, which means the Rebels are trying to get people back to their natural positions. The best news for them was that defensive tackle Peria Jerry was able to play last week against Wake Forest after undergoing arthroscopic knee surgery during the preseason. Because of that, Marcus Tillman has moved back outside to end after starting the first two games at tackle. Tillman (260 pounds) is undersized to play tackle in this league. The Rebels are still waiting on end Greg Hardy, who led the SEC in sacks last season and is recovering from foot surgery. Ole Miss coach Houston Nutt is hopeful that Hardy will be able to play some in the Rebels' SEC opener against Vanderbilt on Sept. 20.
More Cobb sightings: Kentucky coach Rich Brooks and his staff will be careful about the way they juggle their two-quarterback system of third-year sophomore Mike Hartline and true freshman Randall Cobb. They don't want to kill Hartline's confidence, and they don't want to throw Cobb in there head-first too early. But make no mistake, Brooks is intrigued by the possibilities with Cobb running the show. Kentucky fans saw a glimpse of it last week when he led the Wildcats to touchdowns on three consecutive drives against Norfolk State. He also turned the ball over twice. Cobb's role in this offense will continue to expand, to the point where he could be getting the bulk of the snaps by the time Kentucky travels to Alabama on Oct. 4.
Mississippi State eyeing change: The loss of senior middle linebacker Jamar Chaney for the season to a broken leg continues to haunt Mississippi State. Not only was he an All-SEC performer on the field, but he was one of the Bulldogs' strongest leaders in the locker room. Redshirt freshman Jamie Jones started at middle linebacker last week in the win over Southeastern Louisiana, but Mississippi State coach Sylvester Croom may opt for experience this week against Auburn. Croom is leaning toward going with sophomore Karlin Brown in the middle. Whereas the Bulldogs will pick up some experience with Brown, they'll lose size. The 5-foot-9, 195-pound Brown looks more like a safety than he does a middle linebacker.