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August 7, 2013

SEC: Newcomers who could make impact

MORE NEWCOMERS TO WATCH: ACC | Pac-12

Storylines are never a problem in the SEC, and neither is exposure -- good or bad -- during the season and even in the offseason.

The Johnny Manziel fiasco continues at Texas A&M even as fall camps open. There is Jadeveon Clowney at South Carolina and another national title run for Alabama and the revitalization of Tennessee's program and new Arkansas coach Bret Bielema making news by questioning fast-paced offenses.

Across the SEC, the best football conference in the country, there are storylines. Another one to consider is first-year players who could make the biggest impact.

Four of the top five players in the 2013 Rivals100 presented by Under Armour signed with SEC schools. That doesn't mean each one will be an immediate contributor, but there's little doubt the No. 1 player in the 2013 class could be a player from Day 1 in Oxford.

SEC: NEWCOMERS WHO COULD MAKE AN IMPACT
Measurables: 6-foot-4, 297 pounds. Loganville (Ga.) Grayson
Recruiting ranking: Five stars. No. 1-ranked defensive end and No. 1 overall in Rivals100
Buzz: Nkemdiche is expected to contribute early not only because he was the top-rated player in the 2013 class but because Ole Miss desperately needs big-time playmakers on the defensive line. The former five-star already is listed as 37 pounds heavier, and even if that number is inflated he's going to be a serious threat. Early reports are that Nkemdiche has proven to be an excellent pass rusher and he's solid against the run.

Measurables: 6-foot-4, 215 pounds. Charlotte (N.C.) Mallard Creek
Recruiting rankings: Four stars. No. 2-ranked wide receiver and No. 37 overall in Rivals100
Buzz: Tennessee desperately needs playmakers at receiver, and early in fall camp North has proven to be one of the biggest and best targets. According to reports, North has been working with the first team at receiver. It's no surprise because that position is wide open and it sounds like the former four-star has taken the reins. Coach Butch Jones and even some players recently praised North, and if this continues in fall camp then North could be one of Tennessee's top targets heading into this season. The question is whether a quarterback emerges who consistently can deliver the ball to North and the other receivers.

Measurables: 6-foot-6, 254 pounds. Scooba (Miss.) East Mississippi C.C.
Recruiting rankings: Four stars. No. 15 in the Rivals.com junior college postseason top 100 2013
Buzz: Smith was widely considered one of the best junior college defensive ends last season, and he could be an immediate contributor on what should be a strong line. He picked the Wildcats over Florida State, Miami, Texas and others, so instant playing time would be no surprise. Look at his numbers, and there's more reason to put him on the field from Day 1. Last season, Smith finished with 47 tackles (11 for loss) and 6.5 sacks. There's no doubt he should start in Kentucky's season opener against Western Kentucky.

Measurables: 6-foot-1, 210 pounds. Garden City (Kan.) Garden City C.C.
Recruiting rankings: Three stars. No. 43 in the Rivals.com junior college postseason top 100 2013
Buzz: The Auburn quarterback situation is unsettled, but the word is that the junior college transfer could be the frontrunner to earn the job. If that happens, Marshall could make the biggest impact among all the newcomers. Marshall should be a perfect fit in coach Gus Malzahn's warp-speed offense, but one concern might be that even if Marshall wins the job he doesn't have enough high-end weapons at wide receiver.

Measurables: 6-foot, 196 pounds. Newnan, Ga.
Recruiting rankings: Four stars. No. 5-ranked safety and No. 44 in the Rivals100
Buzz: The bad news for Georgia is that the defense needs to be overhauled because of graduation and departures to the NFL. That is good news for Matthews because he has the ability to step in and make a major impact in Georgia's secondary. Matthews is the likely starter at free safety, and because he was an early enrollee he has had time to acclimate to Georgia's defensive schemes. Almost immediately, Matthews got a chance with the first team. He's expected to stay there.



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