Predicting When Every 5-Star from the Class of 2013 Will First See the Field
Each recruiting class has a dozen or so truly monstrous recruits who are subject to speculation almost immediately. The 2013 group was no exception. Big-name characters like Eli Apple and Robert Nkemdiche have garnered headlines since national signing day back in February.
The usual suspects, such as Alabama, Ohio State and others, posted great recruiting classes. However, there were some surprises during the last signing day that led to some unexpected finishes as well.
When will each of the 5-star recruits from the class of 2013 actually see the field? Read on to find out.
*All star ratings were from ESPN.com.
Robert Nkemdiche (DE, Ole Miss Rebels)
Robert Nkemdiche was the No. 1 recruit of the 2013 cycle, and his signature with the Ole Miss Rebels was the crown jewel of their top-notch recruiting class.
So, when will he see the field? Well, he's an excellent defensive end on a squad that has a decent amount of experience along the defensive line. While Nkemdiche may see the field in 2013 due to injury at some point, Ole Miss will gladly let him take a redshirt for his freshman season.
If the Rebels can maximize the time he spends at Ole Miss, then they can build strength through recruiting while he gets accustomed to the college game. If things go according to plan, Nkemdiche will see the field in Week 1 of the 2014 season.
That's good news for the Rebels and bad news for the Boise State Broncos.
Carl Lawson (DE, Auburn Tigers)
Carl Lawson has the unfortunate luck of being behind four different seniors on the depth chart at his position. That means it's highly unlikely that he'll see the field in 2013. Sure, nothing is etched in stone in this sport, but overcoming that kind of experience is a huge task.
Lawson has a bright future with the Auburn Tigers, but he will have to wait his turn. While it would make some sense to get him on the field as soon as possible, you don't burn a redshirt unless the talent gap is extreme.
Lawson could make the field in 2013, but the probable outcome is that he'll grace the No. 1 spot on the depth chart for the inaugural game in 2014. Lawson will suit up in August of 2014.
Vernon Hargreaves III (CB, Florida Gators)
Vernon Hargreaves III is the No. 1 cornerback of the 2013 cycle, and he's definitely going to see the field for the Florida Gators. With the obstacles in front of him, he does stand a chance of not seeing the field until he's a junior in 2015.
However, his talent, work ethic and natural (or cultured) leadership will get him on the field sooner rather than later. He's going to start getting his name into Gators fans' living rooms in 2014.
Look for him lined up at corner against the Idaho Vandals in Week 1.
Mackensie Alexander (CB, Clemson Tigers)
Mackensie Alexander brings a much-needed defensive presence to the Clemson Tigers. He is the No. 2 cornerback of this class, and he will be a valuable asset to the team once he familiarizes himself with the system.
He has a good shot at ending up in one of the corner slots before the end of the season. While one side is occupied by juniors, the other is composed of just a sophomore and a freshman. Alexander can pass the youth on one side of the field if he learns the playbook quickly.
Look for him to take the field as a starter against Florida State in Week 8 of 2013.
Laremy Tunsil (OT, Ole Miss Rebels)
Laremy Tunsil is 2013's best offensive tackle, and Ole Miss is building a contender from the ground up. The Rebels won just two games back in 2011, and Hugh Freeze has already built an bowl-bound machine over in Mississippi.
There are three seniors tabbed as offensive tackles who will be steadily ahead of Tunsil for the 2013 season. Unless two of them sustain injuries, Tunsil will successfully complete his redshirt season without issue.
However, Tunsil will be the anchor of the offensive line when Ole Miss kicks off against Boise State in 2014.
Matthew Thomas (OLB, Florida State Seminoles)
Matthew Thomas will be directly competing with freshmen Reggie Northrup and Ukerne Eligwe for the backup linebacker spot for the Florida State Seminoles. There are juniors in the starting spots, and that will make his journey to the top even more difficult.
Thomas will be an excellent addition to the Seminoles, but he's up against players like Christian Jones. Jones was a large part of Florida State's No. 6 rank in scoring defense last season.
Thomas is going to play for FSU, but it won't be until 2014. Luckily for him, that will be a prime-time match against the Oklahoma State Cowboys. That's a great place to make your college debut.
Jaylon Smith (OLB, Notre Dame Fighting Irish)
Jaylon Smith is a linebacker for the Notre Dame Fighting Irish. The Irish have five senior linebackers and five more junior linebackers on the depth chart. Smith is the future of the linebacker position at Notre Dame, but don't expect him to trot right in and score a starting gig over guys who have been there for three or four years each.
He will work his way into the starting rotation through his talent and work ethic, but it won't happen until 2014. Smith will be a headliner on defense against the Rice Owls in Week 1 that season.
Kelvin Taylor (RB, Florida Gators)
Kelvin Taylor is a running back for Florida, and he's already earned his way to the three-deep chart for the Gators. He's currently behind Matt Jones and Mack Brown, in that order.
While Florida might like the idea of keeping a redshirt on Taylor, the fact is that the Gators may need him before the end of 2013 in order to compete for the SEC title. Taylor is a special talent, and he's the No. 1 pure running back of the 2013 class.
Look for Taylor to pass Brown at No. 2 on the list before this season is over. Taylor will see true action against the LSU Tigers in Week 7.
Derrick Henry (ATH, Alabama Crimson Tide)
Derrick Henry is part of the embarrassingly deep class of running backs that swarmed to Alabama during the 2013 signing period. He's the top athlete in the class, and he's ranked just behind Kelvin Taylor at No. 9 in the overall ESPN 150 rankings.
If anyone can follow in the footsteps of T.J. Yeldon, it's Henry. While he won't pass by Yeldon on the depth chart, he could trade carries with him before too long. If Jalston Fowler stays at halfback instead of moving back to the stable of tailbacks, then the door is wide open for Henry.
Henry will see the field in 2013, and he'll see it relatively quickly. He will impress by being part of the equation against Texas A&M in Week 3.
Eddie Vanderdoes (DT, UCLA Bruins)
Eddie Vanderdoes joined the force of the UCLA Bruins. He is the No. 1 defensive tackle of the 2013 class. UCLA made it to the Pac-12 Championship Game against the Stanford Cardinal last season, and a large part of that was freshman quarterback Brett Hundley.
If the Bruins want to take the next step from being Pac-12 contenders to national championship contenders, a rock-solid defense is going to have to be half the foundation of the team. Vanderdoes fits that bill perfectly.
As a 6'3" and 310-pound monster, Vanderdoes is built almost as big as starter Seali'i Epenesa. Epenesa will have a tough time holding Vanderdoes behind him on the depth chart, and Vanderdoes has a bright future anchoring the Bruins' defense.
UCLA will have him on the field earning his stripes in Week 8 of 2013* against the Stanford Cardinal.
*If he is not released from his letter of intent, he will see the field in Week 1 of 2014.
Eli Apple (CB, Ohio State Buckeyes)
Eli Apple will help Ohio State's future live up to the hype that it's recent past created. Apple is going to infuse the Buckeyes' secondary with another shot of skill more quickly than some may expect. He's talented enough to join Bradley Roby on the field, and all he needs to do to get there is learn the playbook.
Urban Meyer is a good coach, and he'll have his best players on the field at any given time. Apple will take a little while to acclimate himself to the college level, but he'll see the field in Week 5 of 2013 against the Wisconsin Badgers.