1. RB Leonard Fournette, LSU – The name Michael Jordan was brought up when head coach Les Miles was asked about highly touted freshman Leonard Fournette. Miles said during SEC Media Days, “I think he [Fournette] has a quiet confidence there that will benefit him, and I think we will always have an opportunity to play at that spot the running backs that are fresh.” Fournette’s selection as the best running back coming out of high school was close to unanimous among recruiting services. With the departure of Jeremy Hill, LSU has big question marks at running back for the first time in several years. Terrance McGee has shown to be a very productive back, more specifically an all-purpose back, but the Tigers will be looking for a player who can be that every down go-to man. Fournette’s talent combined with LSU’s wide open depth chart at running back make him an easy #1 pick for biggest impact freshman in the SEC in 2014.
2. WR Josh Malone, Tennessee – Tennessee fans have been waiting for a big time threat at wide receiver for years. With the signing of five-star Tennessee native, Vol fans feel they might have found their guy. Malone was another highly rated player out of high school, earning five star status by multiple recruiting services. The 6-3 receiver is blessed with terrific size as well as the ability to make big plays. He showed this off by scoring three touchdowns in the Volunteer spring game, which capped off his terrific first spring camp. Look for Malone to get a lot of opportunities to make an impact early in his career as a secondary option to Marqueze North in the Tennessee pass game.
3. CB Tony Brown, Alabama – Much of the concern for the Alabama football team in 2014 lies in its defensive backfield. A void has been left in the Alabama secondary, after losing their best cornerback Deion Belue to the NFL. Expect talented Freshman Tony Brown to compete to fill this void. Brown has freakish athletic ability as evidenced by his long frame and blazing 4.4 speed. If Brown wants to make the impact many expect he will have to fight off Marlon Humphrey, another talented freshman, for the starting position at wide corner for the Crimson Tide. Ultimately many believe both will be great players but Brown’s natural athleticism and steady progression throughout his high school career make him an excellent pick to have an impact this season.
4. RB Jalen Hurd, Tennessee – Hurd has silenced many of his skeptics, who doubted his readiness to play after a devastating knee injury last year. After recovering ahead of schedule, Hurd was able to enroll early at Tennessee and get his toes wet in the SEC football grind. Hurd impressed many Tennessee coaches with his productive spring, which showed in the annual spring game. At the end of spring camp, Jones attested to Hurd’s progression by stating “he has really started to run like we expect him to run.” This leads many to believe the explosive back will be ready to make in impact sooner rather than later.
5. DE Myles Garrett, Texas A&M – Garrett is an absolute stud on the defensive line. One of the most sought after recruits coming out of high school, the Aggies are getting a player who can do it all on the line of scrimmage. A natural pass rusher who garnered 20.5 sacks his senior year of high school, Garrett can also play the run, and has the length and hands to bat down the balls of SEC quarterbacks. The Aggies have struggled mightily to produce a significant pass rush since the departure of Demontre Moore. With a need at hand, a seemingly open depth chart, and a player with this kind of caliber, many believe Garrett will be highly impactful in his freshman season, one in which he could very well start.