We're now less than a day away from National Signing Day, when high school seniors can officially sign on the dotted line with the colleges which have spent the past several months fighting for their services.
While some players will be projects, others will make an immediate impact. While making it to the field right away is what many of the future stars will be shooting for, much of playing early has to do with position and the situation the recruits are going into.
Generally, offensive linemen, quarterbacks, and defensive linemen take a little bit longer to develop. For the guys in the trenches, a lot of it has to do with bulking up to play at the next level. For the guys under center, it's all about learning the system and getting used to the speed of the game. While these tendencies aren't set in stone, they are just what is most common.
In last year's class, wide receivers like Julio Jones and AJ Green made an immediate impact. There were also linebackers like Miami's Sean Spence and defensive backs like Florida's Jannoris Jenkins. While it certainly isn't an exact science, some athletes come in more prepared than others.
Let's look at some of the players who will be signing on the dotted line who we think have a good chance of making an impact this fall.
1) Bryce Brown, RB, 6-0, 215, Wichita, KS (verbally committed to Miami)
While Brown verbally committed to the Hurricanes months ago, he's been seen as wavering, spending the weeks leading up signing day looking at all of his options. While where Brown eventually enrolls may be somewhat of a question mark, there is no question in the talent department.
Brown rushed for 6,809 yards in his high school career and earned multiple All-American honors. Brown also won the MVP award in the Army All-American game, which has been a precursor to others making an immediate impact at the next level, including former winners Terrelle Pryor and Adrian Peterson.
Brown has been clocked as fast as a 4.32 seconds in the 40-yard dash. At Miami, Brown heads into a situation where he'll be playing for a coach known for not being afraid to play talented freshmen. Miami started more newcomers than any school in the country last season.
2) Trent Richardson, RB, 5-11, 210, Pensacola, FL (verbally committed to Alabama)
Richardson is another top-tier running back prospect who committed early, but it appears that he could be wavering. Richardson hails from Escambia High School, the same school that produced all-world and NFL Hall of Fame running back Emmitt Smith.
He's known as the type of back who runs for tough yards between the tackles and is just extremely tough to bring down, seemingly a perfect fit for Crimson Tide coach Nick Saban's offense. What increases Richardson's chances of contributing right away is the departure of 'Bama RB Glenn Coffee for the NFL. This early departure should give him a chance to make the rotation right away. Richardson ran for 2,090 yards and 26 touchdowns this past season.
3) Andre Debose, WR, 6-0, 170, Sanford, FL (verbally committed to Florida)
Debose may be yet another reward for winning two national titles in the last three years, as many feel he may be the most talented player of an extremely deep and talented group in the state of Florida this year. Debose can play a number of positions, including wide receiver, cornerback, and quarterback, but more than likely he will play wideout for the Gators.
While UF returns a lot of players from their championship team, Debose will be able to contribute right away, as he fills in perfectly the spot that has been left vacant by the departure of Florida's Mr. Everything, Percy Harvin.
4) Vontaze Burfict, LB, 6-2, 244, Corona, CA (verbally committed to USC)
The parade of talent heading to Southern California continues for Pete Carroll and the USC Trojans. Vontaze Burfict has that combination of size and speed that not only gives him a recipe for success, but more than likely gives him an opportunity to play right away. Not only does Burfict have all of the physical tools, he's known as one of the hardest hitters on the West Coast. The departure of Rey Maualuga and Brian Cushing only increase the chances of Burfict hitting the field early in his career.
5) Donte Moss, DE, 6-4, 235, Jacksonville, NC (verbally committed to North Carolina)
Donte Moss is perhaps the most talented athlete in what is seen as one of the nation's top recruiting classes. While defensive end isn't a position where true freshmen usually make an impact, Moss is good enough that he probably will see the field in a big way right away.
Tar Heels head coach Butch Davis isn't known to shy away from putting talented players on the field regardless of age, increasing Moss' chances of contributing right away and making an impact. Moss was a standout in all of the postseason All-Star games.
6) Rueben Randle, WR, 6-3, 195, Bastrop, LA (Undecided)
While there are still many top-tier players out there who are undecided, Randle may be the best of that bunch. He is a pure athlete who can play all over the field. Randle projects as a wide receiver at the next level, though he played quarterback his senior year of high school.
And though it wasn't his natural position, Randle excelled under center, throwing for nearly 2,500 yards and 20 touchdowns while adding another 683 yards and 12 TDs on the ground. While it isn't known where he'll play next year, he will certainly be playing wherever he ends up signing.
7) Craig Loston, S, 6-2, 193, Houston, TX (verbally committed to LSU)
LSU's Les Miles has firmly entrenched himself as one of the best recruiters in the nation. His Tigers are on track for establishing themselves as one of the best in the country at signing and developing talented defensive backs. Last year, the Tigers signed Patrick Peterson (aka Patrick Johnson), and with Loston they have landed the top-rated DB once again. Peterson saw the field plenty as a true freshman last year, and Loston should do the same this year. Loston is known for his physical play.
8) Manti Te'o, LB, 6-2, 225, Honolulu, HI (Undecided)
While Manti Te'o is undecided as to where he will play his college ball, he has no shortage of options. Te'o is widely regarded as the best player to ever come from Hawaii and should be able to play right away, wherever he chooses. He's narrowed his choices down to USC, UCLA, and Notre Dame, all places at which he will see the field early in his career.
9) Darius Winston, CB, 6-0, 190, West Helena, AR (verbally committed to Arkansas)
When you look at a talent like Darius Winston, you cannot only see how freshmen can make an impact, you can see how players seem to stay in college for less and less time, opting out early to the next level. That's how promising the future is for this star in the making.
Winston brings speed in the 4.3 40-yard dash range, which gave him the ability to make plays all over the field even though gameplans at the high school level were clearly designed to stay away from him. Aside from just being a speed player, Winston is known for his exceptional ball skills and blanket-like coverage. He should see the field from the day he hits the campus at Arkansas and should be a household name by midseason.
10) Jelani Jenkins, LB, 6-2, 220, Olney, MD (Undecided)
Jelani Jenkins is one of a few who seem to share the title of the best linebacker in this class. Jenkins hasn't decided, or at least announced that he has made a decision, as to where he'll play next year. He is sure to make one school's signing day extra special. Jenkins is a coach's dream come true, as he is a leader on and off of the field. He sports a 4.0 GPA in the class room and he'll be a star early somewhere.
While these players may not end up being the overall best players from this recruiting class, they have the best chance to see a lot of action from the day they step foot on campus and should contribute as long as they are at their respective schools.
Like all talent evaluating, you can never be sure how things are going to turn out. But with this group, you have to like their chances of being on the field and contributing right away. We wish all recruits the best of luck and may National Signing Day be a day they remember for the rest of their lives.
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