(Carefully) ranking SEC's impact newcomers
Posted by ESPN.com's Chris Low
Selecting impact newcomers can really be a crap shoot. Case in point: We knew the kid had talent, but did anybody really see Knowshon Moreno breaking out in that crowded Georgia backfield and having the kind of monster season he did a year ago? On the other end of the spectrum, remember how junior college transfer Kenny O'Neal was going to swoop in and be Tennessee's deep threat in the passing game last year? Well, he caught two passes all season and is no longer in the program. So with a deep exhale, I give you the SEC's Top 10 impact newcomers for the 2008 season. Some are transfers. Some are redshirt freshmen, and some are true freshmen. One is reintroducing himself to the league after a year sabbatical. We'll check this list again in late October and see how many I hit and how many I missed:
1. Jevan Snead, QB, Ole Miss: Quarterback woes have haunted the Rebels ever since Eli Manning left. Not anymore, though. Snead, a gifted 6-3 transfer from Texas, finally gets to show off his arm, mobility and smarts in 2008.
2. Chris Rainey, RB, Florida: Granted, it's not like the Gators are lacking in the offensive playmaker department. But even with Tim Tebow and Percy Harvin running around, Urban Meyer will find a way to get this speedy redshirt freshman the ball.
3. Demetrice Morley, S, Tennessee: He's not exactly completely new, having played as a freshman in 2006. But Morley is back after flunking out a year ago and will pair with Eric Berry to give the Vols one mean safety duo.
4. Chris Todd, QB, Auburn: It sounds like new Auburn offensive coordinator Tony Franklin is relegated to playing two quarterbacks early. If Todd's shoulder problems subside, the juco transfer is clearly the best option as a passer.
5. Raven Gray, DE, Auburn: Had it not been for the knee surgery that kept him out all spring, Gray would be even higher on this list. Tommy Tuberville called the touted juco transfer as good a defensive lineman as he's signed at Auburn.
6. Will Hill, S, Florida: With Dorian Munroe lost for the season, the Gators' depth at safety just got worse. Hill, a true freshman from Jersey City, N.J., and one of the plums of the class, will get every chance to start right away.
7. Jerrell Harris, LB, Alabama: Similar to Florida's safety issues, Alabama needs immediate help at linebacker. The 6-3, 215-pound Harris may be the answer on the strong side. Only a true freshman, Harris has great speed and pop.
8. Enrique Davis, TB, Ole Miss: Another new face Ole Miss fans will see early and often this season. Davis, one of the top prep school players in the country last year, is Houston Nutt's kind of back. He has power and speed.
9. Julio Jones, WR, Alabama: The much ballyhooed Jones looks like an NFL receiver right now, even if he is only a true freshman. We know he's oozing with talent. If he's also a quick learner, SEC defenses had better beware.
10. Blair Walsh, K, Georgia: Take one look at Georgia's schedule, and it's a safe bet the Bulldogs will be in a bunch of close games this season. Walsh, a true freshman, steps in as their kicker and should get a chance early to show off his strong leg.
In closing: I reserve the right to place asterisks in front of the names of defensive tackle Jerrell Powe and outside linebacker Patrick Trahan, both of Ole Miss, and defensive end Gerald Williams and tight end Brandon Warren, both of Tennessee. All four are transfers still awaiting final word on their eligibility for this season. At this point, it appears that all four have a pretty good shot to make it, which would be good news for the Rebels and Vols. I could also pick three or four more players from Alabama's highly rated signing class that will have an immediate impact. Others to watch are safety Mark Barron, receiver Burton Scott, cornerback Alonzo Lawrence and offensive tackle Tyler Love. And, yes Georgia fans, I, too, am anxious to see freshman receiver A.J. Green play. One final name I'll leave you with is Charles Mitchell of Mississippi State. The state of Mississippi's top prospect last year will start out at safety for the Bulldogs, but is physically ready to play just about anywhere ... and play well.