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The Sweet 16: College football’s top newcomers in 2013

All smiles right now for imposing Ole Miss freshman Robert Nkemdiche. (Photo: USA Today Sports)

It's Sweet 16 week on the college hardwood, and CBR is embracing March Madness with our own version. Yesterday, CBR's Aaron Torres offered up the 16 games that he's most excited to see in 2013.

Today, we're moving on to the 16 top newcomers around the country, the fresh faces – true freshmen, JUCOs and transfers – who will have the biggest impact on their squads this fall. Be sure to let us know who we missed.

16. James Quick, WR – Louisville

When last we saw the Cardinals, they were slicing up Florida’s vaunted defense in the Sugar Bowl. Talented quarterback Teddy Bridgewater will have plenty of weapons back at his disposal this season, but Quick may prove to be the most dangerous of all for a team with hopes of darkhorsing a national title bid.

15. Thomas Tyner, RB – Oregon

With Kenjon Barner graduating, De'Anthony Thomas is doing a little graduating himself – up from sideshow to the Ducks' main ball carrier. Mark Helfrich will no doubt carry on Chip Kelly's tradition of utilizing his entire complement of offensive threats, meaning Tyner should see action quickly. Given DAT's slight build, UO will have plenty of opportunities waiting for the freshman to tote the rock.

14. Cortez Johnson, DB – Oklahoma

Johnson wowed Mike Stoops as a freshman at Arizona. When Stoops got bounced from the desert, Johnson decided to follow his coach to Norman. After getting popped for misdemeanor marijuana possession in the offseason, Johnson might sit for a bit to start the year. Even so, he has the inside track to start at corner alongside All-American candidate Aaron Colvin.

10-13. Montravius Adams, Carl Lawson, Ben Bradley and Elijah Daniel, DL – Auburn

Among a host of problems that contributed to the Tigers’ demise last season – as well as that of Gene Chizik – was an unimposing defensive line that failed to disrupt opponents behind the line of scrimmage. New head coach Gus Malzahn apparently made rectifying that one of his chief objectives when he took his new gig. Well, mission accomplished. He landed three of the best big nasties in the nation on the prep level in Daniel, Lawson and Adams. All could compete for snaps this year alongside early enrollee Ben Bradley, one of the top JUCO linemen in this year's crop.

9. Desmond Harrison, OL – Texas

Mack Brown has traditionally shied away from bringing JUCO into his program, but he has added a little flexibility to that policy in the last few recruiting cycles. UT actually has five starters back from a year ago, but no one will mistake that unit for the San Francisco 49ers. Harrison should work his way into the rotation pretty quickly.

8. Robbie Rhodes, WR – Baylor

Have you seen the kind of numbers that the Bears have been putting up lately? It’s not just great quarterback play behind all that output. Dynamic pass catchers like Terrance Williams and Kendall Wright have passed through Waco, too. Rhodes looks like another in that line. Rhodes is a speedster who will give Baylor a dynamic presence on the outside to take advantage of all the attention being paid to running back Lache Seastrunk.

7. Priest Willis, DB – UCLA

The Bruins way exceeded expectations in Jim Mora’s first season. With three starters in the secondary departing, UCLA will need to find some replacements at defensive back to keep that momentum going. Enter Willis, the top high-school player in Arizona last year and potential starting safety.

6. Jesse Scroggins, QB – Arizona

Rich Rodriguez is enjoying a nice string of good fortune with the Wildcats at the quarterback position that he didn’t get at Michigan. Matt Scott thrived behind center in 2012, and former USC recruit Scroggins comes from a similar mobile mold. Look for more wide-open offense this fall from 'Zona with Scroggins at the helm.

5. Taco Charlton, DE – Michigan

OK, I honestly have no idea if Charlton will contribute for the Wolverines this fall. But anyone named "Taco" is making my list.

4. Greg Bryant, RB – Notre Dame

Bryant had a tumultuous recruitment that ended with him heading to South Bend. He steps into a promising situation at ND, though, with Theo Riddick and Cierre Wood off to play their trade in the pros. With the Fighting Irish once again hoping for a shot at the national championship, Brian Kelly won’t leave an all-around back with Bryant’s ability languishing on the bench for long.

3. Laquon Treadwell, WR – Ole Miss

Hugh Freeze landed an extraordinary class in February, and Treadwell is a big reason why. Rivals' No. 5 player in the country spurned big dogs like Oklahoma and Michigan to go to Oxford and play in the Rebels' uptempo offensive attack.

2. Deon Long, WR – Maryland

(Yep, another wide receiver. Noticing a pattern here?)

Randy Edsall is entering his third year in College Park, and about the best thing that can be said for his first two years is “Stefon Diggs.” As a freshman a year ago, the explosive playmaker pumped a little life into the Terps’ otherwise moribund offense. Now along comes Long, a five-star JUCO receiver who will pair with Diggs to give Maryland a potent one-two combo in the passing game.

1. Robert Nkemdiche, DE – Ole Miss

These days elite freshmen don’t usually sign up for anything less than the opportunity to play right away, and Nkemdiche is the elite of the elite. The nation’s top recruit will find himself in line for snaps right away. If he’s not starting from the jump, it won’t take Nkemdiche long to make the Rebs’ first team.

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