Power Ranking the Top 25 Early Enrollees to Watch During 2013 Spring Practice

Randy ChambersAnalyst IJune 2, 2016

Power Ranking the Top 25 Early Enrollees to Watch During 2013 Spring Practice

0 of 25

    The majority of the 2013 recruits have committed to their school and now it is time to see what they are really made of. Spring practice for most of the teams across the country will soon kick off, and there are plenty of kids fresh out of high school that have decided to get a head start on the gridiron.

    We have spent months ranting and raving about some of the top 2013 recruits, and spring practice will be the first opportunity these guys have to prove they were all worth the hype. This is no longer high school and every single one of these prospects will have to prove themselves all over again to a new group of fans.

    With a truckload of early enrollees to choose from, there are too many first-year players for you to keep up with. Luckily for you, we have broken down the top 25 recruits that you should keep an eye on this spring.

    Here goes.

25. Tyler Ferguson, QB, Penn State

1 of 25

    247Sports Ranking: 3 Stars

    What He Brings to the Table: Ferguson wasn't really a highly recruited player, but shows enough positives to be a solid quarterback option for the Nittany Lions. He stands tall in the pocket at 6'5" and he can really fire the football and place it into tight windows. He throws the ball with solid accuracy and can move around with his deceptive athletic ability. His delivery isn't the greatest in the world, but don't count this kid out just yet.

    What Happens Next: Ferguson begins competing for the starting job in Happy Valley. Penn State was dangerously thin at the quarterback position before this commitment, and with not much experience to choose from, the 3-star recruit will be given a shot to play right away. He must perform well this spring because Christian Hackenberg, who is a 5-star recruit, will enroll this fall and have his crack at the starting spot. 

24. Demarcus Robinson, LB, Florida

2 of 25

    247Sports Ranking: 4 Stars

    What He Brings to the Table: Robinson should be considered one of the more underrated wide receivers in the entire 2013 class. He has some of the best hands you will find from a kid his age and he is already a polished route-runner. The 4-star recruit is also a solid blocker who doesn't mind doing the dirty work to help his team win. At almost 6'2", nearly 200 pounds, Robinson has good enough size to become a true No. 1 receiver once he gets some experience under his belt.

    What Happens Next: The struggles of the Florida offense last season have been well documented. The Gators need offensive playmakers and they need them now. As long as Robinson can remain healthy on the field, he will see playing time no matter what happens this spring. He is too good not to, and Florida is way too desperate to leave him on the bench for long.

23. JT Barrett, QB, Ohio State

3 of 25

    247Sports Ranking: 4 Stars

    What He Brings to the Table: Unlike most of the quarterbacks Urban Meyer has worked with in the past, Barrett is a quarterback first. Sure, he is more than capable of taking off and hurting you with his legs, but he is much more accurate and consistent thrower than the guys who have played before him. Usually looking to throw the ball before taking off, Barrett makes good decisions with the ball and seems to be perfect fit for the spread offense.

    What Happens Next: Don't expect Barrett to be suiting up for Ohio State anytime soon. With Braxton Miller currently having a firm grip on the offense, it is likely that the 4-star quarterback is going to receive a redshirt this season. Still, that doesn't mean he can't practice and give Buckeyes fans everywhere a taste of what he is capable of accomplishing on the football field.

22. Brian Nance, LB, Baylor

4 of 25

    247Sports Ranking: 4 Stars

    What He Brings to the Table: Nance should fit in nicely in the Big 12 trying to cover so many spread offenses that put up ridiculous numbers. His combination of speed and athleticism allows him to cover a ton of grown and make plays from sideline-to-sideline. He is excellent at dropping back in pass coverage and seems to have a nose for the football, as he is often in on the action and comes up with numerous big plays throughout games.

    What Happens Next: Baylor actually returns majority of its defense from last season, including three starting linebackers. But that shouldn't discourage Nance from early playing time. After all, we are talking about a defense that finished dead last in the Big 12 and needs all of the playmakers it can get at the moment. He will see the field early and will be given every chance to contribute. 

21. Cooper Bateman, QB, Alabama

5 of 25

    247Sports Ranking: 4 Stars

    What He Brings to the Table:  Bateman is a lot more polished at this stage in his career than the current Alabama starter ever was. Standing tall in the pocket at 6'3", the 4-star recruit just has the look of a collegiate quarterback. Easily one of the stronger arms in the class, Bateman is also athletic enough to roll out of the pocket and buy himself extra time. He sees the field well and gets rid of the ball quickly.

    What Happens Next: Unless something happens to A.J. McCarron, Bateman won't see the field much this season. In fact, it wouldn't be surprising if Saban tries his best to give the kid a redshirt and keep all four years of eligibility open. However, with the lack of depth at the quarterback position for Alabama, Bateman could be the No. 2 signal-caller on the depth chart and should be ready to go at all times. He is the future of Alabama at the quarterback position.

20. Ethan Pocic, OT, LSU

6 of 25

    247Sports Ranking: 4 Stars

    What He Brings to the Table: Pocic is a massive lineman at 6'7", 280 pounds. The scary thing is that he has even more room to grow and will only add to that frame the longer he is on the LSU campus. The 4-star recruit has great length and has shown he is comfortable in pass and run protection. Despite his big body, he also carries his weight well and is quite athletic for a guy his size.

    What Happens Next: There is a lot of depth at the offensive line for LSU, but Les Miles has never been shy of throwing young guys into the lineup that deserve playing time. We saw how enrolling early paid off for 2012 recruit Vadal Alexander, and it could end up having the same impact on Pocic if he performs well during camp. He should be considered a player that is going to help build the future of this line, but don't rule out contributing early for the Tigers.

19. Carroll Washington, CB, Arkansas

7 of 25

    247Sports Ranking: 3 Stars

    What He Brings to the Table: Washington was considered by many to be the top JUCO cornerback of the 2013 class. He is more of a receiver than a cornerback, as he adjusts to the ball well and usually plays it nicely when in the air. His athleticism and ability to break on the ball allows him to make and come up with game-changing plays. Really a solid corner with the knack for producing in the big moments.

    What Happens Next: You will see Washington on the field this year because of the lack of depth and new coaching staff Arkansas has. With a complete overhaul of the Razorbacks program taking place this offseason, there really isn't any position that is safe on the team at the moment. With JUCO experience under his belt already, Washington will be ready to contribute right away and possibly earn a starting job.

18. Chris Hawkins, CB, USC

8 of 25

    247Sports Ranking: 4 Stars

    What He Brings to the Table: Hawkins has the ability to become a shutdown corner at the next level. His fluid hips and pure speed allow him to play tight with the receiver and keep up with him stride for stride down field. He also does a good job of jumping the route and coming up with the big play with his above-average ball skills. With his quickness in the open field, Hawkins could also contribute on special teams early on.

    What Happens Next: The main concern that I have with Hawkins is that he drastically needs to put on weight. The playmaking ability is cool and all, but as you can even see in the picture, he is mighty thin and needs to bulk up. USC is in dire need for secondary help and Hawkins can enter the mix early as a true freshman. That is, if he hits the weights hard and adds a few pounds to his upper body.

17. JaQuay Williams, WR, Texas A&M

9 of 25

    247Sports Ranking: 4 Stars

    What He Brings to the Table: The first thing that you notice about Williams is his size at 6'4". When you combine that height with his great hands, he has the look of being a true red-zone threat and somebody who can provide the Aggies with many big plays. He controls his body well when going up for the football, and he displays a good job of catching in traffic. I would like to see him improve his route running and running after the catch, but overall solid prospect.

    What Happens Next: Texas A&M lost two of the most productive and experienced receivers with the graduation of both Ryan Swope and Uzoma Nwachukwu. Needless to say there is a need for guys who can catch the football and help out Johnny Manziel on the offensive side of the ball. Williams will see the field early and is expected to have a similar impact that Mike Evans had his freshman season.

16. Cameron Burrows, CB, Ohio State

10 of 25

    247Sports Ranking: 4 Stars

    What He Brings to the Table: The 4-star recruit has a little bit of the best of both worlds. He is quickly maturing into his safety size at 6'0", 200 pounds, but he also has the speed and cover awareness to play the cornerback position. A very athletic player, Burrows is comfortable in both zone and man coverage, and can also be effective when coming up in run support.

    What Happens Next: Burrows should see the field as a true freshman in Columbus. The question only depends on where that may be. I expect him to play special teams throughout the year, but this is somebody who could shake up the depth chart at one of the cornerback spots, or even see time at nickelback. It is really a matter of where the coaching staff sees fit and where there is room at this moment during the offseason.

15. Nickolas Brassell, WR, Ole Miss

11 of 25

    247Sports Ranking: 4 Stars

    What He Brings to the Table: Not the biggest offensive player in the world at barely 6'0", Brassell is known for his speed and ability to hit the home run. He plays the game only one way he knows how, and that is faster than everybody else. As a receiver, he has solid hands, but you would like him to tighten up his route running a bit. Still, good luck catching this guy when he has green in front of him.

    What Happens Next: You expect Brassell to climb his way up the depth chart and make an impact right away in Oxford. This is a recruit who helped out the Rebels in the 2011 season, but was later forced to transfer to a junior college due to poor academics. With his experience already playing for Ole Miss and his off-the-charts athletic ability, Brassell will help contribute in a big way.

14. Mitch Trubisky, QB, North Carolina

12 of 25

    247Sports Ranking: 4 Stars

    What He Brings to the Table: Trubisky has the terrific size at the quarterback position at 6'3", but is more than capable of killing a defense with his legs. He reminds you a little of Johnny Manziel with his ability to create plays when nothing is there and just wing it at times. You would like to see him improve his accuracy a little bit, but the arm strength and solid decision making is there. This was a nice under-the-radar pickup for North Carolina.

    What Happens Next: Trubisky is auditioning this spring for the future, especially with Bryn Renner returning for his senior year. This isn't somebody who will seriously be considered for the starting job right away, but his running ability will keep the door open for playing time at some point in the year. Trubisky has a lot of upside at the position and will have many Tar Heels fans intrigued with what he can accomplish sooner than later.

13. Deon Long, WR, Maryland

13 of 25

    247Sports Ranking: 4 Stars

    What He Brings to the Table: How Long didn't receive more offers from powerhouse schools really baffles my mind. The kid absolutely flies down field and is nearly impossible to cover man-to-man with no safety help over the top. He catches nearly everything in sight and adjusts to the football well. Also, despite his lengthy frame, Long doesn't mind getting physical with defenders and is able to beat press coverage. This is a solid wide receiver that deserved more love during the recruiting process.

    What Happens Next: Long brings in the experience having played in junior college and should be able to help out a subpar Maryland offense right away. We saw Stefon Diggs from the 2012 class be very productive last season for Maryland and Long will have the same opportunity. The Terrapins' depth chart isn't loaded with playmakers and this just pretty much guarantees the young wide receiver immediate playing time.

12. Eli Apple, CB, Ohio State

14 of 25

    247Sports Ranking: 4 Stars

    What He Brings to the Table: This is simply just a solid football player. He is comfortable doing pretty much anything on the football field, can play any type of coverage and he has great ball skills to boot. He is effective in run support, a decent tackler and he uses his well-built frame to get physical with receivers at the line. Apple is a cornerback that just gets it and should have a productive career at Ohio State beginning his freshman year.

    What Happens Next: Apple immediately competes for a starting spot at the cornerback position. Ohio State needs to add depth to the defensive backfield and find another solid corner to line up next to shutdown cornerback Bradley Roby. I predicted he would end up with a starting spot sooner than later and become a major contributor on the defensive side of the ball. He has that type of ability and should quickly show why he was highly recruited this year.

11. Leon McQuay III, S, USC

15 of 25

    247Sports Ranking: 5 Stars

    What He Brings to the Table: McQuay just has the look of a solid safety prospect. He has the size at 6'2", the athleticism to cover a lot of ground and he reads and reacts well to the football. The 5-star recruit plays the run better than the pass at this stage of his career, but he is more of a ball hawk when having the free range to patrol the backfield. McQuay is an aggressive player who is smarter than most kids coming out of high school.

    What Happens Next: USC lost both starting safeties from last season with T.J. McDonald and Jawanza Starling graduating. This means that McQuay isn't just competing for playing time, he could be thrown into the starting lineup if he really shines throughout the spring.

10. DeMarcus Walker, DL, FSU

16 of 25

    247Sports Ranking: 4 Stars

    What He Brings to the Table: Walker has the size to step on the field right now and play with the big boys. He is a man-child who carries his weight well and has a long athletic body that bullied kids around at the high school level. Walker also has quick feet, is relentless when chasing the ball-carrier and is just as effective against the run as he is at pass rushing the quarterback. He is a versatile player who can help in many different ways.

    What Happens Next: Florida State is extremely young on the defensive side of the ball with only four starters returning. This also includes not one familiar face on the defensive line. This is music to the young recruit’s ears, as he will have plenty of chances to see the field like the rest of the youthful Seminoles defensive front.

9. Brice Ramsey, QB, Georgia

17 of 25

    247Sports Ranking: 4 Stars

    What He Brings to the Table: Ramsey spent his career playing in a run-first offense, but when he did throw the football, he displayed a strong arm and a nice release. He scans the field well and has shown he has the ability to make all of the throws you ask him to make. Really the only downfall to this kid's game is the fact he is currently under 200 pounds and far too lengthy for my taste. Ramsey needs to bulk up a bit in his first year on campus.

    What Happens Next: Don't be surprised if Ramsey receives a redshirt this season. With Aaron Murray returning for his senior year, there is simply no quarterback competition that is going to take place this year. However, a solid spring practice will get his name buzzing and will help throw himself into the conversation to be named the starting quarterback as early as the 2014 season.

8. Lavon Hooks, DT, Ole Miss

18 of 25

    247Sports Ranking: 5 Stars

    What He Brings to the Table: This 5-star recruit is a plug and play type player, as he has the size to play in the middle of the defensive line right now at 6'4", nearly 300 pounds. For his size, he gets off the ball well and can be effective in collapsing the pocket and making it difficult on the quarterback. Still, his strength is being an absolute force in run defense and demanding double-teams with his combination of size and pure strength.

    What Happens Next: Hooks may have been the top JUCO player of the entire 2013 class no matter what position you want to talk about. So while Robert Nkemdiche and Laremy Tunsil are earning most of the attention, folks need to start paying attention to the older guys. Ole Miss remains young on the defensive side of the ball and Hooks will see enough reps in Oxford to keep him happy.

7. O.J. Howard, TE, Alabama

19 of 25

    247Sports Ranking: 5 Stars

    What He Brings to the Table: Howard is a scary player at the tight end position. With his height at 6'5", and ability to go up and get the football, it is bad news for defensive coordinators who have to game-plan against this kid. He is more of a wide receiver that is trapped inside a tight ends body. His speed off the line, sure hands and his leaping ability, there isn't much Howard can't do at the position. The upside is tremendous for this 5-star recruit.

    What Happens Next: Nick Saban has a bunch of wide receivers to choose from, but Howard gives the Tide options at the tight end spot. Players with this much ability and this big do not grow on trees. Howard will see the field early and will likely score a touchdown or two as a true freshman. Quarterback A.J. McCarron should be grinning from ear to ear with this pickup.

6. Alex Anzalone, LB, Florida

20 of 25

    247Sports Ranking: 5 Stars

    What He Brings to the Table: Alex Anzalone does just about everything well that you hope to see from the linebacker position. He can play sideline-to-sideline, is effective in run support and he has shown that he can drop back nicely in coverage. He breaks down plays quickly and it allows him to get in on the action a lot quicker than you would expect. Anzalone does a nice job of shedding blocks and is one of the sure tacklers in this entire class.

    What Happens Next: Florida lost a lot of experience on the defensive side of the ball which is going to open up the opportunity for young guys to see playing time. There is an open competition at the linebacker spot and Anzalone could line up at either the strong or weak-side position. No matter where he ends up playing for Florida, he will be needed as a true freshman this season.

5. Max Browne, QB, USC

21 of 25

    247Sports Ranking: 5 Stars

    What He Brings to the Table: Browne isn’t much of exciting player at all and isn't the most athletic you will see at the collegiate level. However, if you like your quarterbacks to have pinpoint accuracy and one of the strongest arms of the class, look no further than this 5-star recruit. There is not one throw that Browne can't make on the football field and what is even better is that you rarely see the kid make a bad decision with the football. USC did it again with this pickup.

    What Happens Next: Browne gets thrown into the fire with an open quarterback competition between Max Wittek and Cody Kessler. He will have his work cut out for him due to Wittek having experience in the system, but Browne is incredibly talented and could overcome that. A battle that likely won't be decided until the fall, this is a chance for the young kid to make a name for himself early on.

4. Kelvin Taylor, RB, Florida

22 of 25

    247Sports Ranking: 5 Stars

    What He Brings to the Table: A lot of the same things his father Fred Taylor brought to the Florida program many years ago. He is a well-built back that runs low to the ground and has a solid combination of power and elusiveness. Taylor has a nice balance to his game and rarely ever goes down on initial contact. He has great vision of the field, can make defenders miss in open space and he is also effective at catching the ball out of the backfield.

    What Happens Next: Similar to what was said with wide receiver Demarcus Robinson, Florida needs offensive playmakers to set the tone. With an opening at the running back position, it wouldn't be surprising to see Taylor become the workhorse within this offense and help lead the way. He will see a lot of touches for a first-year player and be expected to increase the overall production of the Gators' offense.

3. Kenny Bigelow, DT, USC

23 of 25

    247Sports Ranking: 5 Stars

    What He Brings to the Table: Kenny Bigelow is a dangerous player who should instill fear for many years to come. It shouldn't be legal for a guy 6'3", nearly 300 pounds to be able to get off the ball as quickly as he does. Don't let the size fool you, this is an athletic player who can cover a lot of ground and be much more than a run-stuffer. Bigelow can lineup in numerous spots on the defensive line and will be a handful for offensive linemen.

    What Happens Next: USC has a lot of productive players on the defensive line that are returning from last year. However, as USC learned last season, you can never have enough depth in one area. Bigelow is way too talented to ride the bench his first year on campus and you can expect him to have a productive freshman year. The Trojans saw it last year with Leonard Williams, and it would be foolish to expect anything less from this 5-star recruit.

2. Derrick Henry, RB, Alabama

24 of 25

    247Sports Ranking: 5 Stars

    What He Brings to the Table: This is the all-time leading rusher at the high school level, so you know he can run the football. Henry has ridiculous size at the running back position at 6'3", 240 pounds, and an impressive amount of speed for his frame. He has the lateral quickness to play many different positions and as a running back, it takes a lot to bring him down. Henry also plays the game with a high motor and he sees the field well.

    What Happens Next: Henry has to prove that a back this big is really capable of shouldering the load at a consistent rate. He also has to emerge from a group of many talented runners that are currently on the Alabama roster. I think Henry should seriously consider a switch to the defensive side of the ball, but spring practice is all about proving yourself and Henry will be given more than enough shots to do just that.

1. Su'a Cravens, S, USC

25 of 25

    247Sports Ranking: 5 Stars

    What He Brings to the Table: The reason Cravens is considered the best early enrollee is the fact he does everything well. He is a complete football player and there simply aren't many questions about his game. He is a solid cover man, breaks down plays quickly and is one of the most effective defensive backs when coming up in run support. This is somebody who has a high football IQ and will be able to play the game at a high level from day one.

    What Happens Next: As mentioned on the Leon McQuay III slide, USC is currently without two starters at the safety spots. Cravens should be considered one of the favorites to lock down one of the positions with his ability. This is one of the main reasons the 5-star recruit has even decided to enroll to school early, so he could get a jump on the competition.