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SEC Freshmen Playing Critical Roles On Defense

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Vernon Hargreaves of the Florida Gators makes an interception during a game against the Miami Hurricanes at Sun Life Stadium on September 7, 2013 in Miami Gardens, Florida. (credit: Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)

Vernon Hargreaves of the Florida Gators makes an interception during a game against the Miami Hurricanes at Sun Life Stadium on September 7, 2013 in Miami Gardens, Florida. (credit: Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (AP) - Any teams wanting to capitalize on the suspect Southeastern Conference defenses should get their shots in now.

Defenses were hit hard by the NFL draft and have turned to promising freshmen to fill vital roles.

Thirteen of the 20 SEC players selected in the first two rounds of the draft were defensive standouts. Now, nearly all the contenders for the SEC title have at least one defensive starter just out of high school.

They’re learning on the job, and the lessons have been difficult.

Georgia has had five freshman defenders start games this season and the seventh-ranked Bulldogs are allowing a league-worst 32.2 points per game.

Still, several SEC freshmen have had an immediate impact. Florida cornerback Vernon Hargreaves is tied for the conference lead with three interceptions.

(© Copyright 2013 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

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