NCF On The Trail: 092513-next-impact-freshmen

Big 12's 2014 impact freshmen 

September, 25, 2013
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More than ever we are seeing a growing number of freshmen make instant impacts across the college football landscape. Here is a look at a few freshmen that could make a difference for their respective Big 12 programs in 2014.

ACC's 2014 impact freshmen 

September, 25, 2013
9/25/13
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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.


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SEC's 2014 impact freshmen 

September, 25, 2013
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The Southeastern Conference continues to dominate the recruiting class rankings. Here's a closer look at some freshman that could make an early impact in the SEC.

Current 2014 QB prospect who could start immediately:
Drew Barker (Hebron, Ky./Conner Senior) -- Kentucky commit: Though Jason Whitlow and Maxwell Smith will be juniors heading in to next season, Barker is just too talented to keep off the field. The No. 6-ranked pocket passer in the country has all the physical tools head coach Mark Stoops is looking for from his signal-caller. Barker, an Elite 11 member, should see the field early and often for the Wildcats as a true freshman.

Program-changing 2014 recruiting class:
Tennessee: The Volunteers are off to a 2-2 start and face a brutal schedule coming up. There are a lot of holes to fill on both sides of the ball but with a current recruiting class that is ranked No. 3 in the country, several freshman will be able to make an impact early on in their careers. It might take a few years to notice, but this is the type of class that can help turn Tennessee back into a SEC contender.

Current 2014 prospect with Heisman potential:
QB Will Grier (Davidson, N.C./Davidson Day) -- Florida commit: The No. 2-ranked dual threat quarterback in the country has a lot of the same traits as Johnny Manziel. He's an athletic-gunslinger that likes to take chances and his skill set could mean the Gators will have to adjust their offensive philosophies. Through the first five games of his senior year, Grier has thrown for 31 touchdowns. He's also rushed for over 500 yards and another five touchdowns. Florida has had three quarterbacks win the Heisman Trophy and Grier has all the tools to be the next.


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Who’s the next Johnny Manziel? For that matter, who has an opportunity to start for a Big Ten team? Is there a Heisman Trophy candidate in the mix in this year’s Big Ten recruiting class?

Recruiting writers Brad Bournival and Tom VanHaaren tackle those questions in this week’s version of The List:

Current 2014 QB prospect that could start immediately:

Tom VanHaaren: Most schools either have a returning starter, or younger quarterbacks who will likely be ahead of the 2014 prospects so there likely isn’t anyone.

If I had to pick a few that could see playing time I would say Northwestern commit Clayton Thorson (Wheaton, Ill./Wheaton North), potentially Chris Durkin (Youngstown, Ohio/Ursuline) if Michigan State can’t figure out the offense and maybe Wilton Speight (Richmond, Va./Collegiate) if there is an injury to Devin Gardner.

Brad Bournival: The problem with most of the Big Ten QB signees is that there’s already a big name QB in front of them. Iowa could make a case here with Jay Scheel (La Porte City, Iowa/Union), but the fact it has three signal-callers returning kind of ends that talk. Like VanHaaren, I’m going with Durkin at Michigan State. The Spartans are hardly set at the position and Durkin comes in with the athleticism and arm strength needed to succeed at the next level. If he can shore up his reads, Durkin could be the guy in East Lansing.

Program changing 2014 recruiting class:

VanHaaren: Michigan is filling a lot of holes with its 2014 class and there is a good chance it continues to add to it. The Wolverines have landed nine ESPN 300 commitments and could still add more. The biggest piece, though, is five-star defensive back Jabrill Peppers (Paramus, N.J./Paramus Catholic) who is Michigan’s highest-rated prospect since the inception of ESPN’s rankings.

Bournival: Ohio State loses four offensive linemen and is light at linebacker and wide receiver. This class has three linemen already as well as three 'backers, and the Buckeyes are the favorite to land the top-rated 'backer in ESPN 300 standout Raekwon McMillan (Hinesville, Ga./Liberty County). Where the Buckeyes shine is at the wide receiver/athlete position as six standouts with 4.5 40-yard dash speed or better make up the class.

Current 2014 prospect with Heisman potential:

VanHaaren: The only Big Ten commit I would feel somewhat comfortable in this category is probably Peppers. Even for him that’s going to be a stretch, but he is the only commit who I think could fall in this category.

Bournival: Like VanHaaren said, this is a tough one as the top-ranked players are Da’Shawn Hand (Woodbridge, Va./Woodbridge), McMillan, Peppers and Damon Webb (Detroit/Cass Tech) coming in. That said, defense isn’t that sexy to Heisman voters. If Marshon Lattimore (Cleveland/Glenville) picks a Big Ten team and IF he plays offense, he might be the best bet. But that’s a lot of ifs.


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Pac-12's 2014 impact freshmen 

September, 25, 2013
9/25/13
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We've barely hit the quarter pole of the 2013 season, but with true and redshirt freshmen making impacts all over the country, attention turns this week to those recruits in the 2014 class who could generate the same kind of press early in their careers and affect the conference.

Current 2014 QB prospect who could start immediately

Arizona and Washington are the only Pac-12 programs scheduled to lose their starting quarterbacks after this season, but with seven quarterbacks already slated to compete for the job next year, it's going to be extremely difficult for Brandon Dawkins (Westlake Village, Calif./Oaks Christian) to truly put himself in the mix. The same is true at Washington -- though the Huskies have yet to receive a commitment from a quarterback in the 2014 class -- as redshirt freshmen, who will then be redshirt sophomores, Jeff Lindquist and Cyler Miles will likely battle for the spot. So at this point -- leaving aside speculation on whether quarterbacks such as UCLA's Brett Hundley or Oregon's Marcus Marriota could make themselves available for the NFL draft -- this question becomes about the possibility of a true freshman supplanting a returning starter, and while it would be tough to bet on anybody actually getting it done, the easy answer is Keller Chryst (Palo Alto, Calif./Palo Alto) at Stanford. The No. 19 overall recruit is a polished pocket passer and seems to fit perfectly into the Stanford offense. If it clicks early for him, he could give Kevin Hogan a serious run next fall.

Program-changing 2014 recruiting class: USC

This could be a make-or-break recruiting class for the Trojans. When USC begins practices next spring, just 26 players on the roster will come from the 2012 and 2013 recruiting classes, combined. That means tons of opportunity for what could be 19 signees in a class still limited by NCAA sanctions. Right now, recruits want a clear picture of what will happen going forward at USC. If the Trojans make a decisive move at the top -- either with Lane Kiffin finishing the season in a strong manner and earning the full trust of the fans and his bosses, or with athletics director Pat Haden moving swiftly to replace Kiffin with an impressive hire -- USC could close with a monster class, as a number of high-profile prospects are intrigued by the idea of playing for USC and understand the playing time situation. If things break well for the Trojans, it's not impossible to think this class could be the best group in the Pac-12 and eventually form some of the nucleus that takes USC back to the top of the conference.

Current 2014 prospect with Heisman potential

Since the Heisman Trophy has become about quarterbacks and running backs, that narrows this category a bit. Again, Chryst is the easy answer because he'll likely put up good numbers for a national power. But a bit farther down the West region prospects list sits tailback Joe Mixon (Oakley, Calif./Freedom), who possesses just about everything you look for in a potential Heisman contender. He'll likely be suiting up for a national power -- Florida, Oklahoma and Oregon are three of his finalists -- a running back's dream -- Wisconsin is another finalists -- or a program in Cal where he'd have the ability to put up silly numbers both rushing and receiving. Mixon has also said UCLA is still in the running, which would put him in a major media market. His ability to catch out of the backfield and perhaps even return kicks will help his statistics, and the fact that he brings some personality to the table -- nearly 6,500 twitter followers at last count -- helps his cause as well.


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