College Football Predictions: 5 Freshmen Who Will Play Like Experienced Seniors
Noah K. Murray /The Star Ledger
The NCAA College Football class of 2012 is very deep this year in both offensive and defensive parts of the game. Recruiting was as fierce as ever, as typical powerhouses like Texas and UCLA made sure to flaunt their reputation and previous successes to attract the cream of the crop.
Some teams were looking to bolster their foundations while others were betting their futures on just one player.
Regardless of how Colleges were seeking to utilize their freshman, everyone appeared to have different opinions of who is going to make an early impact and who is going to a flop.
In this slideshow are five freshman who will be playing like seniors at the beginning of the 2012-2013 season.
Johnathan Gray: Texas Running Back
Two-time winner of the Mr. Football USA award (via ESPN), Johnathan Gray has shown more than just the physical capacity to play college football—he has an impeccable ability to see the hole and the natural instinct to maneuver himself down the field.
Johnathan Gray is a class act whose intelligence and attitude is as stellar as his play on the football field. According to rivals.com, Texas A&M Coach Mike Sherman went out of his way to make note of Gray’s impressive behavior to Gray’s high school coach Tim Buchanan—even after Gray had turned him down.
"I've never had a head coach call me after a kid turned him down to tell me how good of a kid he was. I've had them call to help me try to change their mind,” said Aledo coach Buchanan (via rivals.com). “Mike Sherman said for the level of player he is, he had more character and class than any kid he'd recruited."
Gray will be following last year’s top-rated running back Malcolm Brown to the Texas Longhorns. Expect the duo to rack in the rushing yards in Texas for years to come.
Keith Marshall: Georgia Running Back
The main buzz in "DawgNation" running back Keith Marshall has expressed concerns with his rough transition into stardom. Fortunately for Marshall, the downtown crowd is bound to give the new Bulldog some space once they catch a glimpse of him tearing through defenders.
"I really don't like it that much. I can't wait for it to calm down for a bit," said Marshall as he spoke about dealing with stardom in an interview with ESPN.
While Longhorns running back Jonathan Gray looks to evade defenders through opening, Marshall's game is a physical one. He is a battering ram who has no problem forcefully creating openings himself.
It is hard to believe Marshall dominates the physical game while only standing at 5'11, but the Georgia Bulldog is his much like the team he plays for—small, but quick and relentless.
Marshall hopes to run the 100m for Georgia's track team as well (via ESPN), a goal that head coach Mark Richt will likely not have an issue with.
Marshall's reliable ball security will be essential in high-pressure situations where giving up the ball is not an option.
Ellis McCarthy: UCLA Defensive Tackle
After switching his commitment from California, after the move of former California defense coach Tosh Lupoi (via the LA Times), Ellis McCarthy committed to the UCLA Bruins. The 6'4", 305lbs defensive tackle does what a defensive tackle does best—reduces opponents to rubble.
Arguably one of the best defensive tackles in the class of 2012, the California native was determined to stay on the West Coast. Luckily for UCLA, the Bruins were able to capitalize on McCarthy's change of heart.
According to the Orange County Register, McCarthy went in for minor knee surgery in late July to repair a torn meniscus. UCLA fans will not have to worry; McCarthy could miss the first part of preseason training camp but is expected to play in the UCLA season opener.
Darius Hamilton: Rutgers Defensive End
JEREMY BALES/SPECIAL TO THE RECORD
Despite being the son of former Giant defensive lineman Keith Hamilton, the five-star recruit Darius Hamilton does not want to live up to his father's legacy, but rather create a legacy of his own.
“A lot of guys would use the fact that they’re a son of an ex-NFL for some kind of special treatment,” said quarterback Gary Nova, a teammate of Hamilton’s at Don Bosco (via nj.com). “He doesn’t even want to wear the same number his father did. If you call him 'Hammer' (his dad’s nickname), he gets mad. He’s not into any of that. He wants to earn his own respect and pave his own way."
The humble-as-pie defensive end is as tough as nails. Hamilton's stance is always spot on and he is extremely reliable in holding down the line of scrimmage.
Although no official word has been given as to whether or not Hamilton will suit right up, Rutgers head coach Kyle Flood underlines his words with an assuring tone.
“I think the most dangerous thing you can do to a young person and a freshman in your program, regardless of how highly touted they are or how talented they are is to put undue expectations (on them),” Flood said (via nj.com). “As he earns his reps he’s going to get them—and I do believe it’s going to be sooner rather than later.”
Wes Lunt: Oklahoma State Quarterback
OSU on demand
Wes Lunt better play like a senior for Oklahoma State—he is their starting Quarterback. The towering 6'5" freshman from Rochester, Illinois is going to have tremendous shoes to fill as the replacement for Cleveland Browns first-round draft pick Brandon Weeden.
Lunt is no stranger to playing under overwhelming pressure. According to Rivals.com, during his high school career, Lunt broke the Oklahoma state record of most passing yards in a game (590 YDS), and accumulated 506 passing yards in a 42-39 championship victory over Richmond/Burke.
However, the starting quarterback position at Oklahoma State has already proven to be a stage for potential first-round NFL players. Lunt is getting the chance of a lifetime as Oklahoma State takes a gamble and goes all-in on Lunt.
He has shown that he is no ordinary player and with the opportunity that has been bestowed upon him, Lunt will have to play like a Senior the minute he steps on to the field.