College Football Predictions: 5 Freshmen Who Will Shock the Nation

Luke PetkacFeatured ColumnistAugust 15, 2012

College Football Predictions: 5 Freshmen Who Will Shock the Nation

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    High school football and college football are very different. The college game is faster, more complex and features better players. It's just harder.

    This point is hammered home every year as freshman players, even those with a year of redshirt experience, struggle to adjust to the college level.

    But every year there are also a few players talented enough to make the transition to college look easy. These guys don't play like freshman, and they usually end up with more than a few honors by the time their season ends

    Here are five freshman poised to shock the nation with their early play.

Brett Hundley

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    Redshirt freshman Brett Hundley has been handed the difficult task of leading UCLA out of football mediocrity. The Bruins haven't had a season of over seven wins since 2005, but fans hope that Hundley can help change that.

    Ranked the number six quarterback in his class by ESPN, Hundley is a dual-threat quarterback who has a penchant for making plays outside of the pocket.

    This is nothing strange for new head coach Jim Mora, who helped mentor Michael Vick during his tenure with the Atlanta Falcons. And though Hundley is raw, the talent is definitely there.

    Mora told ESPNLosAngeles.com's Peter Yoon, “He's still a young, developing quarterback. But we believe that as he gets more and more playing time he's really going to be an outstanding football player for UCLA.”

    Hundley beat out experienced passers Kevin Prince and Richard Brehaut for the starting job and will be the focal point of the UCLA offense. Despite his youth, don't be surprised if Hundley takes the Pac-12, and more specifically the Pac-12 defenses, by storm this year.

Dorial Green-Beckham

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    Missouri's last great wideout was Jeremy Maclin, a small but incredibly quick receiver that helped lead Missouri's vaunted passing attack during the '07 and '08 seasons.

    Despite having similar expectations, Green-Beckham isn't much like him.

    Dave Matter of the Columbia Daily Tribune described him as “A manchild with a wingspan that's absolutely Phelpsian,” adding that Green-Beckham could probably, “scratch his kneecaps without bending over.”

    Rated the top player in his class by multiple recruiting agencies, Green-Beckham has the potential to be one of the best receivers in the nation for the next few years.

    He should also have enough opportunities to have an impact sooner rather than later.

    The Tigers backfield is on shaky ground following a late-season injury to star tailback Henry Josey, and they'll be looking to pass the ball early and often.

    That's good news for Green-Beckham, whose speed and size make him a matchup nightmare for any secondary. He might only be a freshman, but he also might be one of the top receivers in the nation this season.

Darius Hamilton

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    Perhaps the most heralded recruit ever to come to Rutgers (No. 11 overall according to Rivals), Darius Hamilton is facing some pretty steep expectations.

    Head coach Kyle Flood has tried to dissuade these thoughts, telling the Associated Press, “I think the most dangerous thing you could do to a young person—regardless of how highly touted they were—is to put undue expectations.”

    Yet Flood's actions have shown that he has his own set of expectations for the young player.

    Hamilton was recently moved from defensive end to defensive tackle, the position in which he feels most comfortable. He told the Associated Press, “They said I picked up on end really well, but I played three-technique all my life. So, it’s not a big change at all.”

    He'll have to gain some weight to play the position effectively, but even so, Rutgers will have a hard time keeping a player as talented as he is off of the field.

    Hamilton is simply too quick for opposing guards and centers to stay in front of him. Provided he bulks up a bit, there are very few players that will be able to slow him down.

    Hamilton will absolutely feast on the offenses of the Big East this year and should make huge waves across the country.

Tracy Howard

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    It looks set to be a rebuilding year in Miami but that doesn't mean the Hurricanes are short on talent. On the contrary, with a consensus top-10 recruiting class coming in, Miami is chock-full of young stars. And none of them shines brighter than cornerback Tracy Howard.

    Howard has taken the Hurricanes by storm, already sporting the team's coveted black jersey. When asked about Howard's performance in practice by the Palm Beach Post's Jorge Milian, safety A.J. Highsmith simply said, “Tracy Howard has had a lot of pass breakups.”

    On such a young team, Howard is almost a lock to be the starter, but he isn't feeling complacent.

    He told The Miami Herald's Susan Miller Degnan:

    “Do I feel I’m the best? Yes, I feel I’m the best. Even if there’s a senior in front of me, this is about business. I’m going in there working. I’m going in there hungry. I want everybody to know that.”

    Howard's hunger, combined with his obvious talent (he's the top corner in the class according to ESPN), will make him a nightmare for opposing offenses this year. He should be one of the top corners in the nation this season, even as a true freshman.

Jay Rome

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    Tight end Jay Rome more than likely won't start the season for the Bulldogs. That will probably be junior Arthur Lynch's job. But I'm more than willing to bet that Rome turns heads either way.

    Though Rome still needs to improve his blocking (Lynch's forte), his receiving ability is already incredibly polished.

    At 6''6', Rome is the kind of big target that quarterback Aaron Murray will love, and he's got enough speed to outrun defenders.

    Buck Belue of the Savannah Morning News wrote about a play in which Rome caught the ball between two defenders, accelerated and raced 50 yards for a touchdown. Belue summed up the play simply by saying, “This young man is special.”

    He is indeed. And even if Lynch starts the entire season, Rome should get more than enough burn to shock the country this season.