All week, we’re unveiling our projected Top 25 players in the SEC this season.
But let’s face it: We’re going to get some things wrong. There will be booms and there will be busts, as there are every year.
And here's something else: Although no true freshmen are currently in our projected Top 25, surely one or two will play their way into the mix by season’s end.
With that in mind, here are five true freshmen we think have a chance:
Auburn DL Marlon Davidson: Wideouts Nate Craig-Myers and Kyle Davis garnered the lion’s share of attention on signing day, but Davidson was every bit the prospect coming out of Greenville, Alabama. The No. 5-ranked defensive end in the Class of 2016 has an SEC-ready body at 6-foot-3 and 273 pounds, and he’s already making waves by playing some with the first-team defense in the spring. With Carl Lawson and Montravius Adams back and sure to draw attention, Davidson could see plenty of favorable matchups this season.
Georgia QB Jacob Eason: It really would be something if Eason lives up to the hype by playing as a true freshman and leading Georgia to an SEC East title. But he’ll have to outrun history to do it -- go ahead, look through the league’s record books and find a true freshman who has played well over the course of an entire season. Can’t find one? That’s because it just doesn’t happen. But Eason does have things going for him, not the least of which is his cannon for a right arm. Unlike many freshman quarterbacks, he has good size at 6-foot-5, 211 pounds and counting. What’s more, he graduated from high school early to participate in spring practice. And seeing as there's an entirely new coaching staff at Georgia, Eason began on the same footing as everyone else. So, yeah, while history says to not expect much from Eason, he could see an opportunity to produce in his first year on campus.
Ole Miss OT Gregory Little: He hasn't been promised anything. If Little wants to start as a true freshman, he’ll have to take the job at left tackle away from Alex Givens, who ran with the first team during the spring. But does anyone out there not expect the rookie to be the starter in the near future? It could even be in Week 1 against Florida State. A player of Little’s caliber -- the No. 1 offensive lineman and No. 2 overall prospect in his recruiting class -- will be given every opportunity, just as his predecessor, Laremy Tunsil, was three years ago.
Arkansas RB Devwah Whaley: The Texas native is walking into a perfect opportunity. Longtime Razorbacks stars Alex Collins and Jonathan Williams are gone, while Rawleigh Williams and Kody Walker are returning from injury. Arkansas coach Bret Bielema, who loves to feature multiple backs, is sure to call on his true freshman. After all, Bielema, who has coached a slew of eventual NFL running backs, isn’t hyping up Whaley -- “He might be the most complete running back I’ve ever signed," Bielema said -- for nothing.
Alabama OL Jonah Williams: Nick Saban may opt to play it safe and go with the experience of Korren Kirven, but he’ll definitely give Williams the look he deserves. Coming out of spring, it appeared as if Williams, the former No. 3-rated offensive tackle recruit, had the inside track to start, running with the first-team offense during A-Day. That could have been an experiment, and his status could change in time, but the 6-foot-5, 288-pound rookie from California certainly has all the earmarks of a three-year starter.
In addition, here are five more SEC true freshmen to keep an eye on: Ole Miss WR A.J. Brown, Auburn WR Nate Craig-Meyers, Florida DB Chauncey Gardner, Georgia CB Mecole Hardman, South Carolina QB Brandon McIlwain.