College Football 2012: 10 True Freshman Defenders That Could Impact Week 1
This first week of the 2012 college football season figures to be an exciting opening weekend.
Rankings are out, previews have been given and predictions are being made—all in anticipation of season's long-awaited arrival.
One aspect of a new season that always excites me is to see which true freshmen actually get extensive playing time. We hear so much about these recruits leading into a new campaign but can only watch so much tape.
So seeing them in a college game is thrilling.
Today, I'm going to give you 10 true freshmen defensive players who could have an opening weekend impact.
10. Eli Harold, DE/OLB (Virginia)
Harold has looked pretty good in camp so far, especially as a pass rusher. He's 6'3" and close to 230 pounds with good quickness and a burst to finish at the passer.
The Wahoos host Richmond this week, and I think we could see Harold in a couple sub-packages on passing downs. Harold could come out of the game with a few tackles and some QB hurries in his first collegiate action.
9. Channing Ward, DE (Ole Miss)
Ward just got cleared by the NCAA to practice and play with the Rebels, so he's a bit behind the eight ball. However, the 6'4", 245-pounder is such an athletic talent that I think Hugh Freeze and his staff will put in a rush order on him.
The Rebels play host to Central Arkansas this Saturday, and I really feel Ward can contribute as a situational pass-rusher, even though he may not know the full playbook.
8. Dante Fowler, OLB (Florida)
Fowler hit some rough waters in getting cleared, but he's good to go and will actually play a significant spot for the Gators. Fowler is playing the "Buck" OLB position, which is what a healthy Ronald Powell plays.
The 6'3", 260-pounder has seen a ton of reps with the starters and backups during camp and is expected to contribute this Saturday vs. Bowling Green.
7. Darius Hamilton, DT (Rutgers)
Hamilton came to Piscataway as a DE but quickly moved to DT and has made an impact during camp.
He's 6'4" and already near 260 pounds, possessing good quickness off the snap and the strength to hold up inside.
Rutgers is at Tulane this Saturday night, and the young DT will more than likely see significant playing time. Hamilton will be counted on to help combat Tulane's running game in addition to pressuring the pocket on passing downs.
6. Jonathan Bullard, DE (Florida)
Florida is in need of DEs and Bullard is one of the top incoming freshmen at that position in country. The 6'4", 260-pounder has all the tools to play a significant amount of time this weekend and end up nailing a starting spot by midseason.
Look for Bullard to be on the field with Fowler this weekend against Bowling Green.
5. Landon Collins, DB (Alabama)
I expect Collins to emerge as a significant contributor for the 'Bama secondary as the year moves on, but he could be a bit limited for the opening weekend, which is why he ranks here.
It's not a slight toward Collins, it's just that playing defense for Nick Saban and Kirby Smart takes awhile to learn, given that the playbook is thick and the scheme is complex.
However, the 6'0", 210-pound Collins could get on the field this Saturday night vs. Michigan in nickel, big-nickel and dime packages for the Crimson Tide.
4. Arik Armstead, DL (Oregon)
Armstead has been at Oregon for a good while now, after enrolling in time for spring practice. The 6'8", 280-pounder is a huge-bodied player with the strength and athleticism to make an impact on the DL.
Armstead can play end or tackle; I would expect him to notch several tackles this weekend against Arkansas State.
3. Leonard Williams, DT (USC)
The Trojans open up at home vs. Hawaii, and Williams could see some snaps in the trenches. A DE prospect in high school, the Florida native was moved to tackle during camp and has fared well.
At 6'5", 280 pounds, Williams has speed, great quickness off the snap and the strength to stuff the run. With USC's defensive line being one of the question marks on this team, a solid outing from Williams this weekend could vault him into a permanent starting job.
2. Jordan Jenkins, DE/OLB (Georgia)
Jenkins was a huge get for Georgia and Todd Grantham has big time plans for his career.
With so much attention teams will give to Jarvis Jones, another pass rusher is needed to take up the slack.
Jenkins, at 6'3" and 250 pounds, has excellent athleticism and pass-rushing ability. Look for him to be on the field and getting after the passer this Saturday against the University of Buffalo.
1. Shaquille Thompson, DB/OLB/RS (Washington)
Thompson didn't do well in baseball this year, but the 6'2", 215-pounder is going to be one of Washington's best players by the end of the season.
Thompson has been playing OLB for the Dawgs, but can also play SS, FS and CB. Couple this with the prospects of him returning some kicks, and you see why he's No. 1 on my list.
He'll have more than enough chances—in a various capacities—to impact U-Dub's opening game against San Diego State this Saturday night.
Edwin Weathersby has worked in scouting/player personnel departments for three professional football teams, including the New York Giants, Cleveland Browns and the Las Vegas Gladiators of the Arena League. He spent a year evaluating prep prospects and writing specific recruiting and scouting content articles for Student Sports Football (now ESPN Rise-HS). A syndicated scout and writer, he's also contributed to WeAreSC.com, GatorBait.net and Diamonds in the Rough Inc., a College Football and NFL Draft magazine.