Freshman influence: Eastern Division

August, 21, 2012
8/21/12
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SEC coaches aren't afraid to play true freshmen these days, as redshirts are more frowned upon than they once were. Add all that recruiting hype that comes with those five-stars and four-stars has fan bases going gaga over all those green freshmen.

With recent SEC history, it's no surprise that so many people are clamoring for freshmen to play right away. Marcus Lattimore had quite the debut for South Carolina two years ago, as did Jadeveon Clowney last season. Percy Harvin was one of the league's most dynamic offensive weapons as a frosh back in 2006, while A.J. Green and Julio Jones made instant impacts in their respective offenses when they showed up in 2008.

So who will be the instant impacts from the 2012 freshman class? Well, with the season just a little more than a week away, Chris and I are taking a look at five true freshmen from each division who could make immediate impacts for their teams this fall. I'll go first by looking at the Eastern division, while Chris takes a look at the West later.

Let's check out the East:

Dante Fowler Jr., DE/OLB, Florida: He was a big, late get for Florida's staff in the 2012 class. He's very athletic and fast off of the line and could really help the Gators' defense out early as third-down pass rush specialist. With Ronald Powell out at the hybrid linebacker/defensive end position, Fowler has been able to collect a good amount of practice reps this fall. Will Muschamp would like to have as many pass rusher as possible, so Fowler could be in line for solid time early.

Dorial Green-Beckham, WR, Missouri: It will be hard to keep the former No. 1 recruit in the country off the field this fall. Missouri is still looking to generate more of a downfield passing game and the 6-foot-6, 220-pound receiver has been turning heads throughout fall camp. He can lineup outside or at the Y position as a tight end, where he's an obvious mismatch for opposing linebackers. The versatile, fast Green-Beckham will immediately challenge each of Mizzou's receivers for valuable playing time this fall.

Todd Gurley, RB, Georgia: Keith Marshall received all the attention when it came to Georgia's freshmen running backs, but Gurley has been one of the Bulldogs' most impressive players during fall camp. During Georgia's two scrimmages, he rushed for a combined 167 yards and two touchdowns on 15 carries. It's still likely that the Bulldogs will look to replace Isaiah Crowell by committee early, but if Gurley, who stands 6 feet 1 and 218 pounds, continues to practice like he has, he could get the brunt of the carries for Georgia.

Brian Kimbrow, RB, Vanderbilt: It's not like Kimbrow will take a lot of snaps away from Zac Stacy this fall, but he's already been green-lighted to get playing time this fall by coach James Franklin after his practice performances thus far. In his first scrimmage, Kimbrow led all of Vandy's running backs with 112 rushing yards. He's versatile enough to move around on offense and could turn into a solid playmaker for the Commodores this fall. The fast, shifty Kimbrow could also be used as a punt returner as well.

Shaq Roland, WR, South Carolina: If South Carolina's offense is going to be as balanced as Steve Spurrier would like it to be, the Gamecocks are going to have to find another consistent receiving target to help out Ace Sanders. So far, Roland has really impressed South Carolina's staff. He's made a lot of the tough plays in practice and has the ability to be a legit deep threat for the Gamecocks. He's going to be counted on to play right away this fall.

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