Saturday, June 22, 2013

Immediate Impact Freshman

It seems like with every passing year, the talent that passes on to each level of the game is getting better. You can see it in the NFL with the way quarterbacks like Andrew Luck, RG3, and Russell Wilson were able to go to the playoffs in their first year. The same thing is happening for kids passing on from high school to college. Twenty years ago, only truly special freshman ever saw snaps. Now, kids as young as 18 or 19 are arriving at major programs and dominating. Alabama wide receiver Amari Cooper made an incredible game winning catch in the SEC Championship game to send the Tide to the National Championship Game. Marquise Lee caught 77 passes and 11 touchdowns in 2011 when  USC was close to back on top. Every year, freshman are relied more and more upon to make meaningful contributions immediately. Below are the incoming freshman who I think have a chance to really shine in their first years.

Note: The rankings that I have for these players are the aggregate score from three sources: ESPN's recruiting page, 24/7 Sports, and

Thomas Tyner, RB, Oregon (National: 30; Position: 3)
Tyner, an Oregon native and consensus five star running back, will be asked to produce from Day 1. Oregon has had a lot of success with running backs during Kelly’s time as head coach and new head coach Mark Helfrich looks to continue that trend. Keeping Tyner in state will prove incredibly helpful for the head coach transition. Tyner has been clocked running under a 4.40 40-yard dash (he claims 4.28 which I don’t buy. That’s .04 seconds slower than Chris Johnson ran at the Combine) and is a more complete running back than fellow back De’Anthony Thomas. Thomas has an elusiveness that Tyner may not possess, but his small frame has caused his coaches to design plays for him where he won’t get killed immediately after getting the ball in his hands. Tyner will be able to line up in a more traditional fashion and will add an extra element to the Duck’s offense. I wouldn’t be surprised if he ran for over 1000 yards and scored 6-8 touchdowns this year.

Max Browne, QB, Southern California (National: 13; Position: 1)
Five years ago, no freshman had ever started for the Trojans. Then highly touted recruit Matt Barkley came in and took advantage of a weak quarterback competition and won the starting job. I expect history to repeat itself with Max Browne as he challenges incumbent Max Wittek. Wittek took over the last two games after Barkley was hurt and didn’t show anything to give Lane Kiffin any real hope. Browne, who has drawn comparisons to Peyton Manning for his size, football intelligence and work ethic, put up the numbers in high school that Kiffin wanted to see. He has a huge frame and threw for 4000 yards and an eye-popping 45 TDs against 7 INT. Browne can flat out sling the ball and is capable of delivering to all levels of the field. He’ll benefit greatly from the electrifying tandem of Marquise Lee and Nelson Agholor and won’t have to do it all with senior running back Silas Redd in the mix. He’s already drawn praise from USC’s coaching staff, so look for him to at least get some reps in the opener against Hawaii and eventually take over the starting role.

Ricky Seals-Jones, ATH, Texas A&M (National: 42; Position: 5)
While technically listed as “Athlete”, Seals-Jones will most likely fill the void at wide receiver that was left by Ryan Swope. Swope was the second best receiver behind Mike Evans by an almost fifty catch margin, so there is a big hole at the number two receiver position. Evans returns but head coach Kevin Sumlin must find a capable starter across from him, and Seals-Jones will most likely be asked to step in from the start. A four star commit out of Sealy, Texas, he has a large frame similar to NFL star Calvin Johnson and has an incredible amount of raw athleticism. He only played one year as a receiver in high school, but had 11 TDs on only 31 catches.  He also has the luxury of having a Heisman winning quarterback throwing to him. A&M was a dangerous team before the addition of Seals-Jones, but bringing him on board with two other freshman wide receivers and the talent that was already there, Seals-Jones can really make his presence felt in the SEC this year. Look for him to make an immediate impact much like Julio Jones or AJ Green in their freshman years in the SEC.

Eli Apple and Vonn Bell, DBs, Ohio State (Apple, National: 49; Position 5) (Bell, National: 35; Position, 3)
Eli Apple
A two for one special. Both of these defensive backs have played on both sides of the ball in high school and fit the mold of successful DBs to play for Urban Meyer. They are physical, athletic, and have a knack for making plays even when the ball is not in their hands. It is not as if the Buckeyes need help at secondary, but these two should be able to rotate in and make plays as true freshman. Vonn Bell is a five star recruit from Georgia who should learn a lot from senior safeties CJ Barnett and Christian Bryant but should also be able to work into the lineup with them. Bradley Roby already has one half of the field shut down at the cornerback position, but I wouldn’t be surprised to see Apple push Doran Grant from the other starting position. These two freshmen could be the key ingredient to shoring up a secondary that was shaky at the start of the season but began to improve in the latter half.
Vonn Bell

Derrick Green, RB, Michigan (National: 24; Position: 3)
One of the top ranked running back in the nation could be a starter from the first snap for Brady Hoke this year. Fitzgerald Toussaint returns for his senior year but wasn’t that stellar before an injury ended his season. Green has the size and the speed to make a case for the starting role while he will undoubtedly split carries with Toussaint in the beginning of the season. Yet Hoke has finally been able to find all the pieces to fit his offense and Green is going to play a pivotal role in how far Michigan can go this year. David Garner fits in Hoke’s system better than Shoelaces did, but his numbers were pretty pedestrian last year. Hoke is going to look to run the ball hard and often to take the pressure off of Gardner and open up the field for him. Green is too talented to sit on the bench for his first year, and I anticipate Hoke giving him more and more carries as his talent becomes evident as the year progresses.

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