Not that many years ago, it was uncommon for true freshmen to do much in the rugged Southeastern Conference.
Tray Matthews fills a major need for Georgia.
To put it mildly, times have changed.
Seemingly more and more, first-year college players are finding their way onto the field. And in 2012, several were major contributors.
In this look at SEC recruiting, 247Sports identifies the prospects currently committed to East Division programs that are most likely to make an instant impact in 2013.
IMMEDIATE IMPACT RECRUIT: Kelvin Taylor, RB, Belle Glade (Fla.) Glades Day School
THE SKINNY: With 1,000-yard rusher Mike Gillislee departing and rising sophomore Matt Jones still in the developmental phase, there is an opening for early playing time at tailback in Gainesville. Taylor, son of former Gators and NFL standout back Fred Taylor, is the No. 1-ranked running back in the country, and will enroll early, which should give him an edge on any other back in the Florida class. Taylor isn't a burner, but displays great patience and is a powerful runner that could do well behind what will be an experienced offensive line.
IMMEDIATE IMPACT RECRUIT: Tray Matthews, S, Newnan (Ga.).
THE SKINNY: Georgia is losing both starting safeties from 2012, Bacarri Rambo and Shawn Williams, and that presents Matthews with a major opportunity. It wouldn't be a shock if he is up to the challenge. A four-star prospect and the No. 10 safety in his class, Matthews has all the tools you'd like at that position -- size, speed, excellent ball skills and intelligence. In the Georgia defense, the two safety spots aren't that different from each other, so Matthews possibly could be cross-trained at both. Whichever spot he ends up at, it's a good bet he'll play a significant amount in 2013.
IMMEDIATE IMPACT RECRUIT: Alvonte Bell, DE, Hollywood (Fla.) Everglades
THE SKINNY: It's no secret Kentucky needs to improve on the defensive front. In 2012, the Wildcats recorded only 25 sacks, which simply won't cut it in the SEC. Bell has the potential to be a Day-1 contributor. A 6-feet-6, 239 pounds, he not only has the right frame, but the necessary quickness for the league. Bell will be learning under defensive-minded head coach Mark Stoops and new Wildcats defensive coordinator D.J. Eliot, who as defensive ends coach at Florida State worked with some of the country's top players.
IMMEDIATE IMPACT RECRUIT: Antar Thompson, St. Louis (Mo.) Maplewood-Richmond Heights
THE SKINNY: Thompson is a significant recruit for the Tigers. For starters, he is really good. Thompson was someone that was a bit of an unknown a year ago, and Missouri jumped on him early. He not only has SEC defensive tackle size, but his film shows that he also has SEC defensive tackle quickness. Thompson is the type of player that should get into the rotation right away, and if Tigers star Sheldon Richardson leaves early for the NFL he could have a major impact in 2013.
Paul Harris has a chance to play early for the Vols.
IMMEDIATE IMPACT RECRUIT: Larenz Bryant, OLB, Charlotte (N.C.) Vance
THE SKINNY: There is a great opening in Columbia for a player with the ability of Bryant, the No. 6 outside linebacker and No. 51 prospect in the 247Sports rankings. The Gamecocks lose almost their entire two-deep at their true linebacker spots, giving younger players a chance to step in. Bryant likely will play outside, but has the speed, size and range to also play inside or even at the team's Spur position (a linebacker/safety hybrid).
IMMEDIATE IMPACT RECRUIT: Paul Harris, WR, Upper Marlboro (Md.) Frederick Douglass
THE SKINNY: Worst-case scenario, Tennessee could lose its top three receivers from 2012. Whether that happens or not, playing time will be available, and Harris might have a good chance of earning some from the get go. The 6-feet-4, 195-pounder is blessed with the type of frame many of the top Vols receivers in recent years have had. In fact, he's built a lot like 2012 standout Justin Hunter. Harris continues to be pursued by other programs, but should he stick with Tennessee he plans to enroll early, which means he'll be learning the new Vols offense at the same time as everyone else.
IMMEDIATE IMPACT RECRUIT: Jay Woods, DT, Jackson (Ga.)
THE SKINNY: Woods is an excellent prospect that physically already is good to go for the SEC. Vanderbilt is graduating some tackles, and will need help at that spot. Woods is a big, athletic, well-skilled and intelligent player. The Commodores generally like to redshirt most of their freshmen, but given Woods' physical maturity and the team's need up front his chances of playing a fair amount in 2013 appear to be relatively high.