Friday, July 18, 2008

Impact Freshmen in College Football 2008

I was talking to a buddy of mine the other day and he was asking me who I thought would be this years Knowshon Moreno, i.e., who would be a breakout first-year player this season. He said that he thinks Moreno was the biggest breakout star last year. I disagreed, saying that I would go with Michael Crabtree but that Sam Bradford should be in the discussion too. He told me he’d be interested in the discussion, so here goes: my ideas as to who are the most likely first-year breakout stars of the 2008 college football season. I also decided to drop some ideas about the players I think will make huge strides in production from last year to this year.

Six freshmen who will make an impact (I looked almost exclusively at BCS schools):

Arthur Brown, LB, Miami – Brown was a big recruiting coup for the Canes. He had offers from every school in the country and most thought he would end up at LSU or USC. Brown will be a starter sooner rather than later. He arrived early for spring ball and has apparently been quite impressive (he led the team in tackles in the spring game, along with a pick and a forced fumble). He is super fast, can cover, and is a sure tackler. He fills gaps very quickly. In his highlight reels he is constantly in the backfield. He’ll be a force immediately. His brother (Bryce) is a top RB recruit who will join him at Miami next year.

Caleb King, RB, Georgia – King has been so good in practice that coaches have implemented new offensive sets in order to get King on the field with Knowshon Moreno. Offensive coordinator Mike Bobo has said that he wants at least 35 carries per game between Moreno and King. Word is that they want to use the duo the way Auburn used Cadillac Williams and Ronnie Brown. King is more of a power back than Moreno, but he is shifty as well.

Da’Quan Bowers, DE, Clemson – I read once that Bowers was the best defensive line recruit in the past five years. That’s pretty impressive stuff. He arrived early and began practicing with the Tigers in the spring. He and Ricky Sapp could develop into one of the best DE combinations in the country. Reports say that Bowers has gotten to this point (he was rated the top HS player in the country by some recruiting services) off of sheer athletic ability, so imagine what he can do as he gets proper instruction. Either way, Bowers is high energy and too good to keep off the field.

Darrell Scott, RB, Colorado – Scott rushed for over 3,000 yards and 45 touchdowns his junior season. Those numbers are crazy, especially in California where the competition is pretty stout. He’s a powerful runner with top-end speed (he ran a 4.32 40-yard dash at the scout combine last year). Most people thought Texas looked good to sign Scott, but Colorado nabbed him. Of course it didn’t hurt that Josh Smith, a Colorado WR, is Scott’s uncle. Scott has good hands and it will be interesting to see how Colorado gets him involved in the passing game.

Julio Jones, WR, Alabama – at 6-4 210, Jones has prototypical size for a wideout. If you’ve seen his highlight film, you know that he catches everything that comes his way and is great after the catch. Scouts Inc. compares Jones to a high school version of Michael Irvin, but “more explosive and faster.” His three-year high school stats are: 3,287 receiving yards and 52 total touchdowns. That’s great production on that level and he should pay immediate dividends for Nick Saban.

Patrick Johnson, CB, LSU – The only “weak” link on the LSU defense, if you can call it weak, is cornerback play. Because of this, Johnson will have the chance to come in and play immediately. At 6-1 he’ll be able to match up with some of the SEC’s bigger receivers. Johnson is very fast and plays physical. He also played running back in high school and Les Miles has flirted with the idea of using Johnson as a return man also. Johnson originally committed to Miami, but LSU swooped in and landed the nation’s top-rated corner.

Six more to keep an eye on: Marcus Forston, DT, Miami; Omar Hunter, DT, Florida; A.J. Green, WR, Georgia; Nigel Bradham, LB, Florida State; Kavario Middleton, TE, Washington; Simi Kuli, DE, Oregon State.

Six players who will make the jump from solid to standout:

Everson Griffen, DE, USC – Griffen is crazy good. I really think that by the end of the season he might be the best player on USC’s defense other than Maualuga. Griffen has that kind of potential. He played end and running back in high school, so he has great speed for a defensive lineman. As loaded as USC was on the d-line last year, they couldn’t keep Griffen off the field. He had 5.5 sacks last season as he was named freshman All-America as a reserve. He’s going to explode this year.

Allen Bailey, DE, Miami – Bailey is as athletic a defensive end as you will find in college football. He was moved to end from linebacker and will bring tremendous speed to the Miami defense. Bailey plays with aggression and is a punishing tackler. As he continues to adjust to playing with his hand on the ground, expect him to develop into one of the best ends in the country.

Carlos Dunlap, DE, Florida – While I don’t think he is as good as Griffen, Dunlap should have a breakout season. The Gators need someone to replace the production of Derrick Harvey on the edge and Carlos appears to be capable. A part of Urban’s insane defensive line recruiting effort two years ago, Dunlap appears to be the only one of the bunch truly ready to contribute. This is evidenced by the fact that he had 4 sacks in the spring game.

Joe McKnight, RB, USC – McKnight was rated as the #1 running back in his high school class and started to show flashes of brilliance toward the end of last season. Steve Sarkesian has said that he wants to use McKnight similarly to the way Norm Chow utilized Reggie Bush—get him the ball often and however you can. McKnight will begin the season as the second string running back but will get plenty of touches. He is also likely to return punts.

Omar Bolden, CB, Arizona State – Bolden is fast and has great instincts. He started last year as a true freshman and could be one of the ten or fifteen best corners in the nation by the time the season is over. Dennis Erickson says that Bolden is the most intense player on the team, a good quality to have in a cover corner. Bolden will develop into a shutdown corner this season.

Brian Price, DT, UCLA – Price missed the beginning of last season due to NCAA clearinghouse issues, but was solid when he saw the field. He had 7 tackles for loss in 5 starts. Defensive coordinator DeWayne Walker says that Price has been dominant in the spring and he is expected to develop into an All-American. Price has surprising quickness for a defensive tackle – it almost seems like you’re watching an outside linebacker.

Six more to keep an eye on: Martez Wilson, LB, Illinois; Marvin Austin, DT, North Carolina; Kodi Burns, Auburn; Deunta Williams, S, North Carolina; Jimmy Clausen, QB, Notre Dame, Donovan Warren, CB, Michigan.


G said...

So Playboyd becomes a father and all thoughts from the Jockstrap cease? C'mon, where's the dedication?