Freshmen breaking into starting or significant roles for their college programs are becoming more common across the country.
In order to do it in the Southeastern Conference, though, you’re talking about a special breed of player.
Here are 10 potential impact recruits to watch in the SEC for in 2003.
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Matt Caddell, WR, Alabama – The Crimson Tide lacked big playmakers in their wide receiver corps last year. Caddell (6-0, 180, 4.4, 39 vertical) has the size and the explosiveness to give budding star quarterback Brodie Croyle a nice target. He came out of this class rated four stars and ranked the No. 19 wideout in America.
Tez Doolittle, FB, Auburn – Doolittle (6.3, 260, 4.7) may be doing quite a lot for the Tigers this season if he makes a smooth transition to Tommy Tuberville’s offensive scheme. He’s slated to get first crack at the much-needed fullback position as the Tigers plot a smashmouth approach for 2003 with junior college specimen Brandon Jacobs (6-4, 257, 4.4) stepping into backfield alongside Carnell “Cadillac” Williams and Ronnie Brown. Will Jason Campbell ever have to throw another pass?
Andre Caldwell, WR, Florida – The nation’s top-rated wideout is a natural fit for the Gators’ perennial passing attack. Caldwell (6-2, 180. 4.39) figures to slip into the spot vacated by Taylor Jacobs, who led the SEC in receiving last year, quite well. He is the brother of former Florida standout and current San Diego Charger wide receiver Reche Caldwell.
Zeb McKinzey, OG, Georgia – Any number of O-linemen could have filled this spot for the SEC champions, who lost all five starters and a couple of reserves to graduation, but McKinzey (6-4, 280, 5.2) gets the early nod. He capped his senior season by leading Parkview to its 45th straight victory, a third consecutive Class 5A championship, and Georgia’s Player of the Year award from the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. It’s difficult for true freshmen to make the transition from the high school trenches to those of the SEC, but the Bulldogs will be looking for a couple to contribute this season. McKinzey’s strength levels coming in (400 bench, 500 squat) should give him an opportunity to do that.
LaRon Landry, DB, LSU – Nick Saban & Co. loaded up on big-time players across the board, but the secondary was a primary concern with three of four starters (and both safeties) moving on. Landry (6-3, 185, 4.4), the nation’s No. 5 athlete, may be the most physically ready to challenge for immediate playing time as either a big corner or a free safety.
Marquis McBeath, LB, Ole Miss – The Rebels will be looking to bolster one of the league’s worst defenses and will be doing so with the departure of seniors Eddie Strong and Lanier Goethie at linebacker. McBeath (6-1, 215, 4.6) has the physical tools to step in and help right away. A four-star player, he is ranked the No. 8 inside linebacker in the nation.
Deljuan Robinson, DE, Mississippi State – Big defensive linemen are nothing new at Mississippi State, but the Bulldogs haven’t been as formidable at those spots in recent years as they have been in the past. Robinson (6-4, 288, 4.8) – the nation’s top-rated strongside defensive end in 2002 – should be able to make a big splash in Starkville. He had heart surgery following his senior season, but is reportedly in good health now and will be poised to bolster the defense this fall.
Demetris Summers, RB, South Carolina – The All-American running back, rated No. 3 at his position, is expected to give Lou Holtz some much-needed spark to an offense that ranked No. 11 in both scoring and total yards last year in the SEC. Summers (6-1, 200, 4.6) had 4,703 yards and 60 touchdowns in his final two seasons at Lexington (S.C.) High School. He’s got a good combination of size and speed, and made a nice impression on scouts at the U.S. Army All-American Bowl alongside the nation’s elite players.
Robert Meachem, WR, Tennessee – The Volunteers swept in on signing day and stole an absolute stud from Oklahoma. As a senior, Meachem (6-3, 200, 4.4, 38 vertical) was rated the nation’s No. 3 wide receiver after recording 1,074 total yards and 18 touchdowns. He has all the tools to make an immediate impact on the UT receiving corps, which is losing Leonard Scott and Kelley Washington.
Marcus Dixon, DE, Vanderbilt – Top-rated defensive linemen don’t come around too often in Nashville, so we don’t have to tell you what a big catch Dixon (6-6, 260, 4.85) was for the Commodores. He iss rated the No. 14 strongside defensive end in the nation coming out of Pepperrell High School in Georgia. Dixon is also a standout basketball player, which bodes well for his athleticism, and has carried a 4.0 GPA throughout most of his high school career.