College Football Recruiting 2013: 11 Prospects Most Likely to Start as Freshmen
For the class of 2013, there are many prospects that have either the size, speed or skill set to contribute as freshmen. Some of these prospects are entering situations where the depth chart is sliding in their favor, perhaps enough to earn a starting job.
Starting as a true freshman is a tough thing to do. Even though 2012 recruits like Leonard Williams, Stefon Diggs, Shaq Thompson, John Theus and Duke Johnson will probably say it was tougher than they thought.
Nonetheless, I'm sure we will see several true freshman starters from this 2013 class. Here are 11 that seem to be most likely to do it.
11. Matthew Thomas, OLB...if He Goes to Miami
Thomas is a 6'3", 210-pound OLB prospect that plays with great range, speed and athleticism. He also is an effective blitzer off the edges along with showing good pass-rushing ability.
One has to believe that Miami is selling early playing time and probably even a starting job right off the bat to Thomas. I think Florida State and Alabama are major options, but if Thomas stays home and plays in Coral Gables, look for him to start next year.
10. Vernon Hargreaves III, CB
Now, this is not a player ranking list. If it were, Hargreaves would be higher up the board.
The reason I rank him this low is because Florida returns basically everyone in its secondary next year, from Marcus Roberson to Cody Riggs to Loucheiz Purifoy.
Yet the 5'11", 185-pound Hargreaves does have the FBI, technique and athleticism to find his way into a starting nickel or dime back role next season.
9. Carl Lawson, DE
Lawson is a DE that stands nearly 6'2", 255 pounds and is ready to help a defense out now. He can play both end spots, strong or weak, while also showing the strength to shed blocks.
Explosive and sudden, the Auburn commit should be a factor next year if he sticks with his pledge. Lawson should be a star in college, and wherever he goes, that stardom should begin as a freshman.
8. Eli Woodard, CB
Woodard is headed to Ohio State, and there is talk that it wouldn't be shocking if he started for three years in Columbus. Travis Howard is gone and Bradley Roby could leave early for the NFL.
Doran Grant will still be there and I do like him a lot. Yet the starting nickelback spot, and maybe even the No. 2 CB spot, could be ripe for Woodard's taking.
At 6'0" and 185 pounds, the New Jersey native is a long, athletic, technical and heady CB. He'll probably know all of OSU's coverage schemes by the end of camp next year.
7. Su'a Cravens, S
Cravens is a flat-out stud on the football field. He's 6'1", almost 210 pounds and has an excellent amount of athleticism. This is also a very instinctive player that sees the football well and has a natural feel for the game.
With T.J. McDonald, Jawanza Starling and Drew McAllister gone, the safety depth chart will be lacking in Troy. Josh Shaw could remain at CB and that would leave just Demetrius Wright and Gerald Bowman for USC.
Look for Cravens to find his way on the field.
6. Jaylon Smith, OLB
Smith is a hard-working 6'3", 220-pound OLB that is headed to Notre Dame. The Irish coaches are going to be wowed when they see this guy's athleticism and natural coverage skills.
While he may need to add more bulk for a full-time role, I'm convinced Smith can be the starting nickel LB for Bob Diaco. Smith has great movement skills, agility and can cover RBs out of the backfield, in-line or flex TEs and some slot WRs too.
5. Ricky Seals-Jones, WR/TE
The big pass-catcher from Texas is staying close to home and will be playing at Texas A&M. At 6'5" and 230 pounds, Seals-Jones has the size and athleticism to catch passes from Johnny Football next fall.
In Kevin Sumlin's wide-open spread attack, don't be shocked if Seals-Jones has a way better freshman season than Dorial Green-Beckham did at Missouri.
4. Greg Bryant, RB
The Irish will see both Cierre Wood and Theo Riddick leave after the BCS title game. George Atkinson will be around, but Brian Kelly appears to like the two-back system.
Bryant can easily come in and earn a starting job, either over Atkinson or as the No. 2 RB. The 5'11", 205-pounder from Florida has good quickness through run alleys and tackle-breaking ability.
Bryant's ready to get college carries.
3. Christian Hackenberg, QB
Hack almost has to start next year for PSU. Matt McGloin is gone and the QB job will be wide open. Maybe Bill O'Brien wants to redshirt him, but it's not like Penn State will be playing for a title anytime soon.
Hackenberg, 6'3" and 215 pounds, is a smart QB with a pretty live arm, quick release, good accuracy and solid mobility. Penn State fans, chances are you are looking at your starting QB next season.
2. Reuben Foster, LB
Foster appears to be a dominant player at times on the high school level. The 6'2" 'backer plays best around the 245-pound range and has great instincts, quickness, scraping ability and strength.
He's de-committed from Auburn, and schools like Georgia, LSU and Washington know that if they sign him, they're probably getting an immediate starter.
Look for Foster to be hitting a ball-carrier as a starter somewhere in 2013.
1. Robert Nkemdiche, DE
Nkemdiche is capable of starting as a true freshman because he has the size, strength and quickness to do so. At 6'5" and close to 270 pounds, Nkemdiche is a powerful player that also has very good agility and change of direction skills.
If he isn't an opening-day starter wherever he signs, Nkemdiche probably will be starting before the middle of his freshman season. It doesn't matter if that is Ole Miss, Alabama or LSU.
Nkemdiche will be an early career starter in college, more than likely as early as the 2013 season.
Edwin Weathersby is the College Football Recruiting Analyst for Bleacher Report. He 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 (formerly 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.
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