- Chris Low, ESPN Senior Staff Writer
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Predicting in the preseason which newcomers are going to have the biggest impact is always a crapshoot.
Case in point: How many of you out there had Johnny Manziel on your Heisman Trophy lists back in August?
We didn’t even include him among the five choices in a SportsNation poll, which asked you to pick the SEC Newcomer of the Year. The winner, by the way, was Missouri freshman receiver Dorial Green-Beckham.
It’s a little easier now that the regular season is behind us, so we’ve ranked the top 10 newcomers in the SEC this season. True freshmen, redshirt freshmen and any transfers playing their first season in the SEC were eligible.
1. Johnny Manziel, QB, Texas A&M: An easy call for the top spot. Manziel, a redshirt freshman, is the front-runner to win the Heisman Trophy. He’s accounted for 43 touchdowns and broke Cam Newton’s SEC record for total offense in a season with 4,600 yards. “Johnny Football” carved apart SEC defenses this season, and that’s not supposed to happen.
2. Todd Gurley, RB, Georgia: One half of Georgia’s famed “Gurshall” duo, Gurley showcased the kind of size, speed and power rarely seen from a true freshman in this league. He’s rushed for 1,138 yards to lead all SEC running backs and has scored 15 touchdowns, which includes a 100-yard kickoff return. He’s averaging 6.5 yards per carry.
3. Cordarrelle Patterson, WR/KR, Tennessee: Transferring in from junior college, Patterson is still raw and not the most polished route runner, but he emerged as one of the most electrifying players in the SEC. He leads the league in all-purpose yardage (154.8 yards per game) and scored touchdowns four different ways -- rushing, receiving, kickoff return and punt return.
4. T.J. Yeldon, RB, Alabama: One of those guys who can do a little bit of everything, Yeldon has 847 rushing yards and has scored 11 touchdowns. He’s already surpassed the freshman rushing totals of both Mark Ingram and Trent Richardson and still has two games to play.
5. Mike Evans, WR, Texas A&M: While most eyes have been on Manziel in Aggieland, Evans has also had a monster freshman season. The 6-foot-5, 218-pound redshirt freshman is fourth in the SEC with 75 catches and one of four players in the league to surpass 1,000 receiving yards (1,022).
6. Denzel Nkemdiche, LB, Ole Miss: The older Nkemdiche can play a little football, too. His younger brother, Robert Nkemdiche, is the No. 1 high school prospect in the country. But all Denzel Nkemdiche did this season was lead all SEC freshmen with 78 total tackles, including 12 tackles for loss. A redshirt freshman, Nkemdiche also has four forced fumbles and three interceptions.
7. Evan Boehm, OG, Missouri: He came to Missouri as one of the most coveted guard prospects in the country and didn’t disappoint. Boehm became the first-ever true freshman to start under Gary Pinkel on the offensive line and was the only player on the Tigers’ injury-ravaged line to start every game at the same position this season, left guard.
8. Keith Marshall, RB, Georgia: The other half of “Gurshall” was plenty explosive in his own right. Marshall, also a true freshman, has 720 rushing yards and eight touchdowns and is averaging 6.7 yards per carry. He has four touchdown runs of 52 yards or longer.
9. Jeremy Hill, RB, LSU: The Tigers waited until later in the season to unleash the powerful true freshman, and he enters the bowl game with a team-leading 631 yards and 10 touchdowns. He’s only started in four games, but had a pair of long touchdown runs in the fourth quarter to help salt away wins over South Carolina and Texas A&M.
10. Bo Wallace, QB, Ole Miss: Even though he turned the ball over too much in his first season after transferring in from junior college, Wallace made a ton of plays to help steer the Rebels to a bowl game. He’s fourth in the SEC in total offense with 3,206 yards and has accounted for 28 touchdowns.
A few newcomers that just missed the cut were Florida defensive end Dante Fowler (true freshman), Alabama receiver Amari Cooper (true freshman), Tennessee noseguard Daniel McCullers (junior college transfer), Mississippi State middle linebacker Benardrick McKinney (redshirt freshman), Mississippi State defensive end Denico Autry (junior college transfer) and LSU cornerback Jalen Mills (true freshman).
Predicting in the preseason which newcomers are going to have the biggest impact is always a crapshoot.Case in point: How many of you out there had Johnny Manziel on your Heisman Trophy lists back in August?