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Nkemdiche, Taylor among best first-year players in SEC

SEC analysis: Top freshman for 2013

Freshman running back Kelvin Taylor may bring back memories of his father, former Florida great Fred Taylor, to Gator fans. (Source: Jay Metz/UF Communications) Freshman running back Kelvin Taylor may bring back memories of his father, former Florida great Fred Taylor, to Gator fans. (Source: Jay Metz/UF Communications)
First-year tight end O.J. Howard will give Alabama a weapon it can put on the line, out wide or in the backfield in offensive sets. (Source: UA Athletics) First-year tight end O.J. Howard will give Alabama a weapon it can put on the line, out wide or in the backfield in offensive sets. (Source: UA Athletics)

(RNN) – About a year ago, some guy named Manziel produced more buzz with something off the field than with anything he had done on it.

The man whose name the nation hadn't learned how to say yet (Man-Zyle? Man-zeel?) got a blurb from the Associated Press about an incident involving a scuffle and a fake ID. The illegal but not unusual acts of a 19-year-old kept the Texas A&M starting quarterback spot up in the air most of the summer before he eventually earned the gig.

While some saw a potential difference maker in the dual-threat QB, even those expectations were tempered by the size and speed upgrade he would find in his first SEC season.

Then he changed his surname to "Football" and won a Heisman trophy.

Johnny Manziel's season was an exceptional one. But it goes to show that, even in college football's best conference, new guys can make an immense, immediate impact.

Here are some of the 2013 newcomers in a position to contribute this fall:

SEC East

Kelvin Taylor, RB Florida Gators

The 5'11", 216-pound freshman could remind Gator fans of one of their great running backs from the past in more than name alone.

The 4-star recruit is the son of former Florida and NFL standout Fred Taylor. He showed he possessed his dad's speed and ankle-breaking elusiveness while racking up 2,423 yards rushing and 42 total TDs for Glades Day (FL) High School senior year.

As an early enrollee at Gainesville, Taylor has a chance to see the field a lot as the team replaces last year's top back, Mike Gillislee.

Marquez North, WR Tennessee Volunteers

With the top four targets in the Volunteer passing game gone, the 6'3", 225-pound freshman could quickly move up the depth chart.

The Mallard Creek (NC) High School high school product scored 16 total TDs in five games before his season ended early with a torn labrum. His team utilized him as a running back as well, so North should not be shy about going over the middle for passes and taking hits.

The strong, speedy young playmaker may be one of the centerpieces in coach Butch Jones' offense for years to come.

David Williams, RB South Carolina Gamecocks

With lead tailback Marcus Lattimore and backup Mike Davis gone, the field at running back is wide open for the 2013 Gamecocks.

Williams ran for 1,904 yards and 23 touchdowns as a senior at Imhotep Institute Charter (PA). The 6'1" 202-pound tailback has a compact running style – shoulders low, elbows in and no wasted movement.

He also shows a nice burst of speed once he reaches the second level. His physical technique is well-suited for the USC offense.

Tray Matthews, S Georgia Bulldogs

Listed at 6' and 196 pounds, the freshman from Newnan, GA, already has the size to compete at the college level.

The freshman may take advantage of enrolling early at Georgia and earn a starting spot on the defense by the first game of the year. If he does, opponents will learn they cannot go over the middle unless they want a brief but painful meeting with the hard-hitting safety.

Matthews could serve as one of the anchors in a young but talented secondary for the 2013 Dawgs.

SEC West

Robert Nkemdiche, DE Ole Miss Rebels

It's unlikely anyone will wrestle away the title of SEC QBs' Worst Nightmare from South Carolina junior Jadeveon Clowney this season. However, Nkemdiche may be ready to fill that role by 2014.

As the No. 1 recruit out of high school last year, the 6'5", 265-pound freshman instantly made the Rebels' signing class one of the best in the country.

His mixture of speed and power should help him to contribute right away, and he has an excellent tutor on team strategy in his brother, Ole Miss linebacker Denzel Nkemdiche.

Montravius Adams, DT Auburn Tigers

One of the Tigers' two top defensive line prospects (along with Carl Lawson), Adams will help solidify the middle of a defense that struggled a season ago.

The Vienna, GA, native showed he can get his 280-pound frame moving quickly off the line and past the guards in pursuit of the quarterback or running back. He should also be able to use his skills to improve the D-line against the run.

Coming in to a program with a completely revamped staff and strategy, Adams should have a shot to get in the rotation and showcase the talent that made him a top recruit.

O.J. Howard, TE Alabama Crimson Tide

The 6'6", 230-pounder is the latest in a line of "modern" tight ends who can do much more than block and catch the occasional pass.

Howard shows a good burst of speed and an elusiveness that gives an offense a lot of options in where they line him up. He will fit right in with an Alabama team that likes to abuse people five to 10 yards at a time in the short passing game.

With a veteran QB throwing him the ball, the freshman should have plenty of chances to show off his skills.

Kendell Beckwith, LB LSU Tigers

The Tigers are known for having big, strong, versatile defenders. Their sought-after freshman linebacker is no exception.

The 6'3", 225-pounder played both defensive end and quarterback at East Feliciana (LA) High School. He showed he could blow by defenders or track down ball carriers equally well.

Beckwith's athleticism could make him a regular on the field in 2013. With more focus and coaching on one side of the ball, he could develop into an elite weapon for his home-state quad.

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