SEC first-year players to watch

The days of freshmen football players going through the motions are long gone, as every year true freshmen are asked to do more and more for their respective teams.

Mo stars, mo problems.

A few true freshmen really jumped onto the scene the right way last year. Todd Gurley, T.J. Yeldon and Jeremy Hill had exceptional seasons at the running back spot. Alabama's Amari Cooper finished the year as one of the SEC's top receivers, while Florida found quite the third down pass-rusher in Dante Fowler Jr.

Yet again, a solid bunch of true freshmen could make immediate impacts this fall. Here are five to keep an eye on (in alphabetical order) in 2013:

  • Alex Collins, RB, Arkansas: Collins is the type of back first-year coach Bret Bielema needs to get his offense going. He can be both a tough, downhill runner and a slasher. The Hogs don't have much experience at running back, so Collins will be expected to step in right away.

  • O.J. Howard, TE, Alabama: Howard is just a missmatch waiting to happen with his 6-foot-6, 237-pound frame and receiver-like speed. He enrolled early and seemed to catch everything thrown his way this spring. He does have to improve his blocking, but with Michael Williams gone, Howard should be a very valuable receiving weapon.

  • Tray Matthews, S, Georgia: The Bulldogs are rebuilding all over on defense, but the free safety spot is more than covered by Matthews. He was outstanding this spring and was pegged as a starter the moment he stepped on campus. He's not only a big-hitter but can cover a ton of ground with his speed.

  • Robert Nkemdiche, DE, Ole Miss: The No. 1 recruit in the nation should play immediately. The coaches know that hype could be a distraction, but they also know that Nkemdiche already has the talent to see the field now. He has to get comfortable with the playbook, but people around the program think he can have a Jadeveon Clowney-like impact.

  • Demarcus Robinson, WR, Florida: The Gators are desperately looking for a go-to receiver. Robinson possesses the skill to be that guy, but he has to get his head in the playbook more during summer workouts. He certainly got a head-start by enrolling early and made a lot of plays stretching the field and making the tough catches this spring.