14 Most College Football-Ready Recruits in Class of 2014
Today, recruits are bigger, faster and stronger than in past years. Another reason why prospects are more productive than the previous generation is because high school players are receiving better coaching, which has made them smarter players.
Not all recruits are ready to play as freshmen, as the college game is a great jump in speed and physicality.
However, each recruiting class produces several prospects who are indeed game to make an impact in their initial collegiate campaign. Examining the 2014 class, many prospects need a year or two to adjust and reconstruct their bodies before they should be ready to play in college.
Yet, a select few are prepared to graduate from high school and immediately contribute in the fall. A running back from the Sunshine State may not get his opportunity early on, but nonetheless he will be ready. A trio of physical linebackers have the skills to contribute as freshmen and a speedy bundle of offensive dynamite is on this list.
Bryan Mone, DT
Greg Mattison, who is the defensive chief for Michigan, is one of the best defensive minds in football. The former Baltimore Ravens coordinator coached Haloti Ngata and may have a player who compares to the All-Pro defensive lineman.
Bryan Mone, who is 6'4" and 338 pounds, is a prospect with the potential to be dominant in Ann Arbor. He is not only a huge player, but he also displays explosive strength and quickness for a big man.
Mone, who is from Utah, may not be ready to be a full-time starter, but he is ready to contribute to the Wolverines defense. He has heavy hands, plays with great power and has good toughness.
Shaun Dion Hamilton, LB
Shaun Dion Hamilton, who is committed to Alabama, is a ferocious linebacker. He is one of the hardest hitters in the country and plays with the force of a freight train.
Although it is always tough to play as a freshman on the 'Bama defense, Hamilton has the physical ability to crack the two-deep depth chart. Hamilton, who is 6'0" and 240 pounds, has great ball-location skills, strength and short-area quickness.
He can quickly insert himself in the alley, be stout against a lead blocker, and use his strength to shed and make a tackle. Hamilton also flashes the range and speed to track perimeter runs, sift through trash and lay a big hit on a ball-carrier.
Look for him to be a star on special teams as a freshman.
Elijah Hood, RB
Notre Dame, which runs a combination of a spread passing offense and power running attack, has another great running back commitment in Elijah Hood. He rushed for more than 3,000 yards as a junior and compares to Frank Gore of the San Francisco 49ers.
Hood, who is 6'0" and 222 pounds, is a load-back with deceptive speed. Hood has good vision, adequate foot quickness and can be decisive when he picks a crease. He is a downhill-runner who can defeat tacklers with power and has the ability to gain yards after contact.
With Greg Bryant and several other talented incumbents on the Irish roster, carries may be limited for Hood as a freshman. But make no mistake, he is college-ready.
Myles Garrett, DE
Myles Garrett, who is expected to sign with Texas A&M, is a chiseled defensive end prospect. He is one of the top defensive players in this class and has a high ceiling.
Garrett, who is 6'4" and 240 pounds, has all of the physical tools needed to play often as a freshman. He is explosive at the snap, has good strength and makes rare plays. Garrett can attack a blocker and use his athleticism to bend around him and surge on the quarterback. He will set the edge against the run, can shed blocks with power and has the toughness to fight through double-teams.
Garrett could be the next Von Miller, should he end up an Aggie.
Cameron Robinson, OT
Left tackle prospects rarely, if ever, play as true freshmen. The position is demanding, and it is difficult for a young blocker to consistently shadow an opponent's quickest rusher.
However, Cameron Robinson, who is 6'6" and 318 pounds, may be an exception. He is a big left tackle prospect who understands the importance of playing with knee bend.
Robinson easily shoots out of stance, can beat quick rushers to the deep post and also has the strength to quickly end a play as a short-setting pass protector.
He has good foot quickness and is a powerful run-blocker who has no limitations on the second level. Robinson has good agility and balance, which is why he has earned the prestigious "dancing bear" label, which is the de facto seal of approval for excellence for left tackles prospects.
Clifton Garrett, LB
Clifton Garrett, who is predicted to sign with LSU, came into this offseason with questions about his ability to play in space. However, Garrett has clearly worked on this area of his game, as he has performed well in seven-on-seven and one-on-one pass-coverage workouts.
Garrett, who is 6'2" and 228 pounds, is a physical 'backer with good instincts. He gets a jump on running plays due to his great anticipation and ball-location skills. Garrett pursues the ball with extreme force and is powerful at the point of attack.
He has good toughness to take on lead-blockers and hits like a truck. Garrett's cover skills are progressing and soon will catch up with his run-defending ability, which make him a candidate to contribute to a defense as a freshman.
Speedy Noil, WR
Speedy Noil, who has played quarterback in the past, is an impressive offensive prospect. He is the high school version of Tavon Austin of the St. Louis Rams, and although he may not be as strong, Noil also reminds many of Seattle Seahawks receiver Percy Harvin.
Noil, who is 5'11" and 176 pounds, is excellent in space. He displays great release quickness, reaches top speed quickly and separate from cover men sharply at junction points. Noil has good hands and is the best run-after-catch player in the country.
He exhibits good vision and instincts, but Noil is just faster and quicker than many of his opponents. He is a blazer who can also be used in the running game and as a Wildcat quarterback. Noil also is a good return man.
Keep an eye on LSU, USC, Florida and Texas A&M.
Raekwon McMillan, LB
Raekwon McMillan, who is expected to sign with Ohio State, is a rare big linebacker with good athleticism. He has the body of a college junior, and he has improved his cover skills.
McMillan, who is 6'2" and 242 pounds, has good instincts and quickly reads his keys to recognize running plays. He has good quickness to fill gaps, plays to his size at the point of attack and takes on blockers with toughness.
The Peach State prospect can laterally work through traffic, not lose sight of the runner, break down and make a tackle with force to drive through his target.
McMillan flashes good speed and a great burst to finish plays. He is ready to play on running downs for a college defense and should develop into a defensive leader.
Andrew Brown, DT
Charlottesville will be in a celebratory mood next February, as Virginia is set to bring in one of the best recruiting classes in school history. Andrew Brown, an elite defensive tackle recruit, is one of the class headliners.
Brown, who is 6'4" and 282 pounds, has played some snaps at defensive end in his career but will grow into a full-time defensive tackle for the Cavs. He is an explosive player who displays outstanding strength and short-area quickness. Brown can be a load in the middle, as he has the power to get under a blocker's pads and walk them back into the passer.
He also has the strength to sit and anchor against the run to make a mess in the interior trenches. Brown can penetrate gaps and skinny through double-teams to quickly close on the ball. It would be shocking if he redshirts at Virginia.
Sony Michel, RB
Keith Marshall and Todd Gurley are the best running back tandem in the country. The pair of Bulldogs runners are great players and good role models for Sony Michel.
The only issue is that both running backs will still be in Athens when Michel arrives. In 2014, Marshall and Gurley could both be eyeing the Heisman Trophy and the first round of the draft, so carries will be limited for Michel.
However, he does have the talent that could warrant several rushes a game. Michel, who is 5'11" and 205 pounds, is the best player in Florida and has been on the recruiting radar since the eighth grade.
He has battled back from a torn ACL to regain his great speed and quickness. Michel has added bulk and can run with good power and strength in between the tackles. He has outstanding instincts, vision and agility, which are his best assets.
Michel, who is a special back, is ready to play college football today.
Quin Blanding, S
Quin Blanding, who is a co-headliner of Virginia's class, should not be redshirted. He is a dynamic safety prospect with NFL potential.
Blanding, who is 6'2" and 200 pounds, is a great athlete and has outstanding range. He can align deep, stay on top of a play and uses good transition quickness to arrive quickly at the play. Blanding is not easily manipulated by a quarterback's eyes, recognizes routes quickly and has great ball skills.
He will attack the line of scrimmage versus run plays, as he can be counted as an extra defender in the box, if asked. Blanding can be physical as a tackler and will deliver a big hit or two during his tenure in Charlottesville.
He should be a key contributor by the middle of his freshman season.
Da'Shawn Hand, DE
Da'Shawn Hand, who could develop into a similar player to Terrell Suggs of the Baltimore Ravens, is a prospect who could be peaking physically now.
Hand, who is 6'4" and 254 pounds, has good snap quickness, speed, strength and instincts. He is extremely forceful when coming off the ball at the snap, uses his hands well for a prep defensive end and has a great burst to finish plays.
Hand has the strength to kick inside and rush over guards in sub-packages and can convert speed to power as an edge-rusher. He is capable of setting the edge against the run, can anchor and shed to make tackles.
Hand's ceiling may not be as high as other prospects, but he is ready to play college football.
Jabrill Peppers, CB/ATH
Jabrill Peppers, who is the headliner of Michigan's class, is the most versatile player in the country. He would be highly ranked as a running back, receiver or safety if he chose to focus on those positions.
Peppers, who is 6'1" and 205 pounds, is a player who has a rare combination of athleticism and football intelligence. He has the instincts, anticipation and awareness of a college player already at this stage, and his athletic ability is on the same level.
Peppers can match up with big receivers and is great in press coverage. He has the hip flexibility and short-area quickness to excel as an off-man defender and has great range in zone coverage. Peppers will quickly pick the Michigan defensive scheme and contribute as a nickel defender in the early portion of his initial college season.
As the year moves forward, he will settle in as a starter and will be a freshman All-American.
Leonard Fournette, RB
Les Miles, who is a terrific recruiter, purposely failed to sign a running back in 2013. Miles did this to show Leonard Fournette how badly he is wanted in Baton Rouge.
Fournette, who is 6'1" and 225 pounds, compares to a young Steven Jackson of the Atlanta Falcons, when the NFL veteran was with the St. Louis Rams. Fournette has good vision as a runner, patience to let his blocks set up and a good burst through alleys.
He can elude defenders with solid agility and foot quickness, but he is at his best when he can become a power-packing freight train in a straight line.
Fournette is not confined to just being a traditional running back, as the Louisiana native can also split out wide and make a serious impact in the passing game. He is a college-ready player who is practically wasting his time by facing high school competition.