Instant impact: Western Division

August, 24, 2012
8/24/12
2:35
PM ET
Edward has briefed us with the new faces that will make the biggest impacts in the Eastern Division this season.

We’ll now turn our attention to the Western Division and the key newcomers to look for on each team:

ALABAMA
  • Deion Belue, CB, Jr.: Following in the footsteps of former junior college transfer DeQuan Menzie, Belue has staked his claim to the starting cornerback job opposite Dee Milliner.
  • Amari Cooper, WR, Fr.: He’s been one of the Crimson Tide’s most impressive receivers during preseason camp, although he’s been slowed recently by a foot injury.
  • T.J. Yeldon, RB, Fr.: Eddie Lacy is the starter at running back, but he’s a bit banged up. Yeldon is an explosive threat who can make things happen both running it and catching it.
ARKANSAS
  • Austin Flynn, DE, Jr.: Having had the benefit of going through spring practice, Flynn has worked his way into the rotation at end and will play a lot of snaps this fall.
  • Mekale McKay, WR, Fr.: Also a standout basketball player in high school, the 6-foot-6 McKay was a late signee who has repeatedly turned heads in preseason camp with his ability to go up and get the football.
  • Otha Peters, LB, Fr.: A big-time hitter, Peters has worked some with the first team while Tenarius Wright has been out with an injury. The Hogs are thin at linebacker, meaning Peters will play early and often.
AUBURN
  • Kris Frost, LB, RFr.: He would have played some last season as a true freshman had it not been for a shoulder injury. The 6-foot-2, 225-pound Frost is a freakish athlete who will find his way onto the field at outside linebacker.
  • Jay Prosch, FB, Jr.: The transfer from Illinois should not only help open up some holes for the Tigers’ running game, but his arrival also frees up Philip Lutzenkirchen to be a true tight end and more involved in the passing game.
  • Greg Robinson, OT, RFr.: Now that he’s had a redshirt season to mature both physically and mentally, Robinson takes over at left tackle for the Tigers and has a huge upside.
LSU
  • Jalen Collins, CB, RFr.: There’s obviously a big opportunity in the LSU secondary with Tyrann Mathieu gone. Collins will open the season as one of the starting cornerbacks outside when the Tigers go to their nickel package.
  • Deion Jones, LB, Fr.: LSU needed reinforcements at linebacker and went out and signed some serious talent in the 2012 class. Jones has been as impressive as anybody to this point and will also be a beast on special teams.
  • Jalen Mills, CB, Fr.: How much confidence do the LSU coaches have in the true freshman? He’s poised to be a starter at cornerback in the base defense and has also been working at nickel when the Tigers go to five defensive backs.
MISSISSIPPI STATE
  • Denico Autry, DE, Jr.: The Bulldogs are banking on Autry being that finisher off the edge that they lacked at times last season. His specialty is rushing the passer.
  • Benardrick McKinney, LB, RFr.: The redshirt year was good for McKinney, who appears to have edged out sophomore Ferlando Bohanna for the starting middle linebacker job.
  • Charles Siddoway, OT, Jr.: The Bulldogs were looking for some junior college help on the offensive line, and Siddoway looks like he could be the opening-day starter at right tackle.
OLE MISS
  • Pierce Burton, OT, Jr.: One of several newcomers who will see the field early for the Rebels, Burton has been the starter at right tackle almost from the time he arrived in Oxford from junior college.
  • Dehendret Collins, CB, Jr.: Another junior college transfer who will start, Collins will line up inside at the “Husky” position and be the third corner in the Rebels’ 4-2-5 scheme.
  • I’Tavius Mathers, RB, Fr.: Mathers has been the talk of the Rebels’ preseason scrimmages with his ability to accelerate and generate big plays. He’ll get plenty of carries this fall.
TEXAS A&M
  • De’Vante Harris, CB, Fr.: It’s not every day in the SEC that a true freshman starts at cornerback in his very first game. Harris has played with confidence and great instincts this preseason, which is why he’s earned a starting job.
  • Johnny Manziel, QB, RFr.: A fan favorite a year ago, “Johnny Football” will open the season as the Aggies’ starter at quarterback and won’t be hesitant about taking his shots in Kevin Sumlin’s fast-break offense.
  • Trey Williams, RB, Fr.: Now that Brandon Williams has not been cleared to play this season by the NCAA, Trey Williams becomes even more valuable in sharing the backfield duties with Christine Michael.

Chris Low | email

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