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Wednesday, September 25, 2013
ACC's 2014 impact freshmen

By Jared Shanker

Fans always want to know who is next. Coaches need to know who is next. The top programs reload instead of rebuild. Ideally, a coaching staff can move down the depth chart and replace a graduated senior without much of a drop in production. With several coaches forgoing redshirting and instead playing true freshmen extensively, those replacement players are often first-year players now.

Here are Class of 2014 prospects in the ACC who could be the next household name on your favorite team.

Current 2014 QB prospect who could start immediately: The obvious choice here has to be Clemson commitment Deshaun Watson (Gainesville, Ga./Gainesville). The nation’s No. 1 quarterback will enroll in January, and his high school coach Bruce Miller said last week his star pupil is well beyond his years physically and mentally. Miller points to Watson’s strong arm and feet as reasons he will adjust well from a physical standpoint, but he said the most impressive thing about Watson is he never gets rattled. As a freshman starting the season opener against the defending state champions, Watson tossed three touchdowns.

Program-changing 2014 recruiting class: OK, so Miami is not quite like Ole Miss as far as history goes. The Hurricanes have won several national titles over the last few decades. But the Canes have been mediocre at best since joining the ACC. Al Golden has strung together two strong classes in a row for Miami, but the 2014 class is shaping up to be the best. The class is No. 4 in the nation and boasts 11 ESPN 300 commitments. Coupled with Miami’s on-field 2013 success, this class could return Miami among the college football elite. Through four games, it looks as if Ole Miss’ unprecedented 2013 class is doing the same.

Current 2014 prospect with Heisman potential: It would be easy to go with Watson, the No. 1 QB in 2014, but Miami commit Joseph Yearby (Miami/Miami Central) could have the best chance at winning a Heisman down the road. The Hurricanes have a strong history of running backs, and if Yearby, the No. 3 running back, plays up to his potential, he could continue the lineage. Yearby will see ample opportunities in Golden’s offense, too. With the Heisman voters favoring quarterbacks and running backs almost exclusively, Yearby could represent the ACC as the Heisman winner for the first time since Chris Weinke in 2000.

Current 2014 prospect who may sit initially but become a star: That could be a tossup between Clemson receiver commitments Artavis Scott (Tarpon Springs, Fla./East Lake) and Demarre KittTyrone, Ga./Sandy Creek). Both are ESPN 300 prospects and among the top 15 receivers nationally, but they enter a position at Clemson where the Tigers have recruited well. Even if Sammy Watkins does not return for his senior season, Scott and Kitt will still be competing with Martavis Bryant, Germone Hopper, Adam Humphries, Jay Jay McCullough, Charone Peak, Mike Williams and Kyrin Priester, who plans to enroll in January after spending this semester at a prep school. Many of those receivers were highly recruited out of high school.

Current committed recruit who is in a good position for development: Although he is the third highest-rated linebacker in Florida State’s class, that distinction could go to Delvin Purifoy (Pensacola, Fla./Pensacola Catholic). Still the No. 3-rated commit in the Noles’ class regardless of position, Purifoy seems to fit the mold of a Florida State outside linebacker. The Noles have a lot of tradition and history at outside linebacker with the likes of Derrick Brooks and recent first-round picks Ernie Sims, Lawrence Timmons and Kamerion Wimbley. The scouting report on Purifoy calls him “explosive [and] fast-pursuing,” which is exactly the tradition of Noles linebackers.

2014 position group with chance for instant impact: Boston College coach Steve Addazio is a former offensive line coach, so it’s clear he believes in a strong run game, especially in the cold of a New England winter. Andre Williams, who has been one of the ACC’s surprises through the first third of the season, will move on after the season. Enter Norwich (Conn.) Free Academy three-star running back Marcus Outlow and fellow three-star Richard Wilson (Beverly Hills, Mich./Detroit Coutry Day). Outlow was the first big recruiting win for Addazio, and, with no proven backup to Williams, Outlow could be the starter by the 2014 opener.

Most versatile 2014 recruit who could play either side of ball: Although he is not committed to an ACC program, Montae Nicholson (Monroeville, Pa./Gateway) could take up to three official visits to conference teams. He will officially visit local program Pittsburgh later this month and Florida State on Oct. 5. If Nicholson decides to take a fifth official visit, Virginia Tech could be an option. The ESPN 300 athlete is being looked at as both a receiver and a safety depending on the program. It looks as if the 6-foot-2, 210-pound prospect will end up in the defensive secondary, though.

The next Marcus Mariota: Maryland is 3-0 under the direction of senior quarterback C.J. Brown, who is bringing a dual-threat attack to College Park. Dual-threat quarterback Shane Cockerille signed in 2013, so there is not an immediate opening for a quarterback depending on how Cockerille develops. That affords incoming four-star Will Ulmer (Washington, D.C./St. John’s College) the opportunity to sit and learn the offense potentially. Rated as a four-star athlete, Ulmer will continue the dual-threat trend under Terrapins coach Randy Edsall. Ulmer has to prove himself as a passer, but he looks to be heading to an offense suited for him.