The Southeastern Conference has established itself as a place where recruiting victories soon translate to on-field victories.
Fourteen players from SEC schools – more than any other conference – earned Rivals.com freshman All-America honors last season.
One year earlier, South Carolina wide receiver Sidney Rice was named the Rivals.com National Freshman of the Year.
Many SEC schools already have reaped the benefits of their 2006 recruiting classes.
Florida wide receiver Percy Harvin was the most valuable player of the SEC championship game. Gators quarterback Tim Tebow played a vital role in the Gators' national championship season while backing up Chris Leak. Georgia quarterback Matthew Stafford led the Bulldogs on a three-game winning streak to end the season.
Those guys established themselves as true freshmen, but many other 2006 signees are poised to make an impact as redshirt freshmen next fall. We've put together a list of the five redshirt freshmen in the SEC who could have the greatest contributions on their respective teams next year.
Impact Redshirt Freshmen: SEC
Terry Grant, RB, Alabama
This former four-star prospect was the talk of fall camp at Alabama last year before a shoulder injury shut him down. Grant played three games last season as a kick returner and backup running back, but Alabama has applied for a medical waiver that would allow him to qualify as a redshirt freshman next season. As long as Grant's shoulder is healthy, he should compete for playing time next fall in a backfield that loses two-time, 1,000-yard rusher Kenneth Darby. Rivals.com rated Grant as the No. 4 all-purpose back in the 2006 recruiting class.
Tim Hawthorne, WR, Auburn
Defensive tackle Sen'Derrick Marks and safety Aairon Savage both won starting jobs and earned Rivals.com freshman All-America honors for Auburn last year. The Tigers have a few candidates to continue that tradition next fall. Linebacker Craig Stevens actually has a better chance of starting immediately, but we put Hawthorne on this list instead because we believe the former four-star prospect has a greater upside. Rivals.com rated Hawthorne as the No. 4 receiver in the 2006 recruiting class. The 6-foot-3 Hawthorne should team up with returnees Rod Smith and Montez Billings to help the Tigers compensate for the loss of Courtney Taylor.
Knowshon Moreno, RB, Georgia Danny Ware's decision to enter the NFL Draft and Thomas Brown's torn anterior cruciate ligament left Georgia without much depth in the offensive backfield. Kregg Lumpkin will enter spring practice as the starting tailback, but the Bulldogs like to have backs share the ball-carrying responsibilities. Moreno should fill the void left by Ware's departure. The former four-star prospect graduated from high school with 6,268 career rushing yards to rank second on New Jersey's all-time list.
Richard Murphy, RB, Louisiana State
Murphy is another guy who should benefit from his school's willingness to have a few runners split carries. Sophomore Keiland Williams comes back after rushing for 107 yards and two touchdowns in a Sugar Bowl victory over Notre Dame. The Tigers also return Alley Broussard and Jacob Hester, who had a team-high 440 rushing yards last year.* But the Tigers must replace Justin Vincent, a former 1,000-yard rusher. Murphy, rated by Rivals.com as the No. 9 running back in the 2006 recruiting class, should immediately enter the mix this fall. The former four-star prospect should get an even longer look if LSU fails to sign Joe McKnight, rated by Rivals.com as the No. 2 overall prospect in the 2007 recruiting class.
Allen Walker, LB/DB, Ole Miss
There's no doubt about Walker's talent. Florida, LSU and Tennessee all recruited this former four-star prospect before he decided to stay close to home. The only question is where to play him. Walker played wide receiver and defensive back in high school and was recruited to play either position in college. He worked out at safety most of last season but now could end up moving to linebacker, where the Rebels must find replacements for Butkus Award winner Patrick Willis and Rory Johnson.