- Chris Low, ESPN Senior Staff Writer
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Earlier today, we examined those newcomers in the East who made big splashes this spring.
Again, these are players on campus and practicing for the first time, transfers or true freshmen who enrolled early. We didn’t include redshirt freshmen.
We’ll turn our attention now to the West and some of the new faces who look like they’re going to be able to help their teams in the fall.
Cameron Artis-Payne, RB, Auburn: The junior college transfer gives the Tigers a bigger, downhill running threat. Tre Mason will be healthy in the fall, and Corey Grant also had a nice spring. But Artis-Payne should be a nice complement as the power back.
Cameron Clear, TE, Texas A&M: He started his career at Tennessee and was dismissed from the team after getting into trouble off the field. After a year at junior college, Clear was hard to miss this spring in Aggieland. He’s 270 pounds, catches the ball extremely well and will add another dimension to that offense.
Justin Cox, CB, Mississippi State: The Bulldogs lost both of their starting cornerbacks from a year ago, including Thorpe Award winner Johnthan Banks, but Cox eased a lot of their concern by the way he performed this spring after coming over from junior college.
Mark Dodson Jr., RB, Ole Miss: An early enrollee freshman from Memphis, Dodson turned a lot of heads this spring. He’s an explosive threat who may be able to fill that all-purpose role that Randall Mackey played so well for the Rebels.
Derrick Henry, RB, Alabama: It was an unfortunate end to the spring for Henry, who broke his fibula last Saturday in a scrimmage. But prior to that injury, the 6-3, 238-pound freshman was a beast and pushing to earn a spot in the Tide’s running back rotation. He’s one of those guys nobody wants to tackle.
Lavon Hooks, DT, Ole Miss: The Rebels brought Hooks in from junior college to help right away on the defensive line, and he didn’t disappoint. One of the top-rated junior college prospects in the country, the 6-4, 290-pound Hooks played well enough this spring to secure a spot in the tackle rotation.
O.J. Howard, TE, Alabama: Once Howard gets the blocking part of it down, look out. At 6-6 and 237 pounds, he catches everything and will give the Crimson Tide yet another option in their passing game, especially down the middle of the field. Physically, he simply doesn't look like a true freshman.
Ethan Pocic, C, LSU: The LSU staff was thrilled with Pocic’s development this spring, and the 6-7, 285-pound true freshman emerged as one of their best five offensive linemen. He’s starting at center in Saturday’s spring game and is a good bet to stay in the starting lineup come fall.
Tommy Sanders, LB, Texas A&M: The first thing that jumps out at you about Sanders is his speed. The junior college newcomer was all over the field this spring, and he’ll put that speed to good use in the fall as one of the Aggies’ starters at linebacker.
Ja’Quay Williams, WR, Texas A&M: He originally signed with Auburn but spent last season at Fork Union (Va.) Military Academy. Williams was impressive this spring with his ability to get open and make plays down the field. The Aggies have some more talent coming in at receiver this summer, but Williams will be difficult to unseat.