Our weeklong look back at the spring continues today with the SEC’s standout freshmen. The rest of the 2015 recruiting class won’t arrive for another month, but these eight early enrollees made quite an impression during spring practice.
OL George Asafo-Adjei, Kentucky: At 6-foot-5, 315 pounds, Asafo-Adjei is not your typical freshman. He can bench press 410 pounds, clean 325 pounds and squat more than 600 pounds. The coaches have been raving about him since he first arrived in January. Playing time is usually rare for freshmen offensive linemen, but Asafo-Adjei is considered one of the "top five, six, seven guys on the O-line," per coach Mark Stoops, and has a chance to start at right tackle.
S Ronnie Harrison, Alabama: When you have been on campus for less than three months and you already have All-SEC-caliber players talking you up to the media, you are doing something right. This spring, Harrison drew praise from teammates Reggie Ragland, Cyrus Jones and Derrick Henry, as well as his coach, Nick Saban. Don’t expect Harrison to start right away -- not in Alabama’s secondary -- but he will still be in the mix for playing time as a freshman.
DB Tim Irvin, Auburn: Auburn needs help in the secondary, and Irvin, a last-minute flip from Texas, seems like the best option after arriving on campus just days after he committed. The 5-9, 190-pound athlete found a home this spring as the team’s nickelback and even lined up with the first-team defense in the spring game. There will be four more defensive backs joining the team this summer, but Irvin has a leg up on the competition.
WR Christian Kirk, Texas A&M: It’s not like Texas A&M needed another wide receiver -- the Aggies have Josh Reynolds, Ricky Seals-Jones and Speedy Noil already on the roster -- but the coaches are going to have a hard time keeping Kirk off the field next season. The 5-11, 197-pound freshman, ranked No. 35 overall in the ESPN 300, played more like an upperclassmen this spring and quickly became one of quarterback Kyle Allen's favorite targets.
LB Natrez Patrick, Georgia: A defensive end in high school, Patrick came to Georgia expecting to play outside linebacker. That’s what he knew. But two weeks into spring, the coaches moved him inside, and he quickly found a new home. He led the team with eight tackles and a sack in the spring game, and afterward, coach Mark Richt said Patrick probably made the biggest impression of all the newcomers. That's high praise for the true freshman.
OL Javon Patterson, Ole Miss: Injuries up front caused coach Hugh Freeze to think twice about having a spring game. That’s how thin Ole Miss was on the offensive line. But there was one positive that came from it: It opened the door for Patterson to work with the starters in his first spring with the team. If he was looking for reps when he enrolled early, he got them and then some. Expect Patterson to push for a starting job even when everybody returns.
DB Kevin Toliver II, LSU: When asked about which younger players made an impression this spring, coach Les Miles was quick to bring up Toliver. In fact, that was the first name he mentioned. Miles called him a "big, strong guy who can play physical football." Typical for an LSU defensive back. The coaching staff is still figuring out where to play Toliver, but the five-star defensive back who had an interception in the spring game will find a spot somewhere. He’s too good not to.
DT Shy Tuttle, Tennessee: All it took was one practice in pads, and Butch Jones was drooling over his 6-3, 315-pound freshman defensive tackle. "You could see the disruptive quickness, you could see the explosiveness, you could see the use of his hands," Jones said. And Tuttle isn’t even the highest-ranked defensive tackle in the class. That honor goes to Kahlil McKenzie, who won't arrive until this summer. Tuttle isn’t going anywhere, though. He proved that this spring.