CFB Future 100: Top 10 Athletes in Class of 2017

Brian PedersenFeatured ColumnistFebruary 8, 2017

CFB Future 100: Top 10 Athletes in Class of 2017

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    Deangelo Gibbs
    Deangelo GibbsScout.com

    The commitments have been made, the letters have been signed, and in many cases, the classes have already begun. Yesterday's blue-chip recruits are now today's next crop of talented college football newcomers.

    Following last week's national signing day, we now know where all the big-name prospects are headed for school. Now, it's time to turn our attention to how they'll fit with their programs and what shot they have at playing right away.

    The CFB Future 100 is breaking down the best incoming players of the class of 2017 by position, with today's list focused on athletes. These are the guys whose skill sets are so diverse, they are capable of being used in many ways and can't be pigeonholed into a single position at this moment. By the time they make their debut in the fall, they'll likely focus on one area, but for now, the possibilities are endless.

    These players are ranked based on a combination of their resume and recruiting rankings heading into college, as well as their shot at playing time as true freshmen.

10. Jamyest Williams

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    Height/Weight: 5'9", 173 lbs

    College: South Carolina

     

    2017 Outlook

    South Carolina has made the most of the athletes it's brought to Columbia of late, turning the likes of Pharoh Cooper and Deebo Samuel into do-everything offensive players. Jamyest Williams could be the next, and he has the added bonus of being able to handle cornerback duties as well as contribute to the return game.

    Because of his small stature, it could be difficult for him to handle bigger receivers at corner, but as a nickel back, he can patrol the middle of the field and then race to the ball thanks to his 4.52 speed. And as a returner, he will be hard to grab onto thanks to his ability to slip through small holes.

         

    What They're Saying

    "The guy is really special with the ball in his hands," coach Will Muschamp said, per SEC Country. "We feel like he can contribute in a lot of ways for us."

9. Ambry Thomas

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    Height/Weight: 5'11 ½", 170 lbs

    College: Michigan

     

    2017 Outlook

    Could he be the next Jabrill Peppers? Ambry Thomas isn't nearly as big as the just-departed do-everything Michigan man (6'1", 205 lbs), but he has a chance to be as heavily involved in multiple areas. A wide receiver and defensive back in high school, he regularly started on both sides and might be doing that at some point with the Wolverines, but look for Michigan to use him mostly in the secondary early on.

    Thomas has long arms that make it easier to cover taller receivers as a cornerback, though he needs to add strength to be able to better deal with opponents who already have the ball in their hands.

     

    What They're Saying

    "He's been compared to him for a while now, but there really are a lot of similarities between Thomas and former Wolverine star Jourdan Lewis," 247Sports' Steve Lorenz wrote. "They were both recruited as defensive players but have many advocates who say they're as good on the offensive side of the ball."

8. Lynn Bowden

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    Height/Weight: 6'1", 190 lbs

    College: Kentucky

     

    2017 Outlook

    Lynn Bowden was an exceptional high school quarterback in Ohio, but Kentucky likely has different plans for him. The offense doesn't have many playmakers in the receiving game, making it possible for Bowden to jump into the fray as a slot receiver, assuming he can pick up the nuances of that position this spring and summer.

    The comparisons to former Kentucky star Randall Cobb, also a converted quarterback, are inevitable. The open-field skills are there already thanks to his ability to run the ball. He just has to learn routes and become comfortable with his new role.

     

    What They're Saying

    "Lynn is one of the most explosive high school athletes we've signed at Kentucky," coach Mark Stoops said, per the team's official website. "He's extremely dynamic with the ball, a playmaker who can play multiple positions."

7. Chadarius Townsend

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    Height/Weight: 6'0", 190 lbs

    College: Alabama

     

    2017 Outlook

    A standout at quarterback for Tanner High School in Alabama, Chadarius Townsend is athletic enough to play that position in college but not for the Crimson Tide, who still have Jalen Hurts for at least two more years along with 2017 signee Tua Tagovailoa. Instead, look for Townsend to be in the mix at receiver or as a defensive back, with the opportunity to get a few touches on sweeps.

    Townsend is trending toward being used like the Tide used ArDarius Stewart, who was a dual-threat passer at the prep level before becoming their top receiver in 2016 and parlaying that into a jump to the NFL draft. Though Calvin Ridley remains Alabama's No. 1 wideout, it never hurts to have as many targets as possible, as can be seen by the school signing four receivers in the 2017 class.

     

    What They're Saying

    "He will have to learn a new position, but he is a natural athlete with speed and a lot of upside," Scout.com wrote.

6. Salvon Ahmed

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    Height/Weight: 6'0", 186 lbs

    College: Washington

     

    2017 Outlook

    Washington has one of the best returning running backs in the country in Myles Gaskin, who has run for 2,675 yards and scored 25 total touchdowns in two seasons. The NFL seems to be his destination a year from now, which means 2017 is when it will be necessary to groom a replacement with some meaningful touches that Salvon Ahmed should benefit greatly from.

    Ahmed is physical and has a nose for the ball when playing defense, where he handled cornerback and safety duties in high school, and the Huskies' draft losses in that area could tempt the school to try him there as well. However, from a long-term standpoint, offense is his best fit and where he can show off his speed and footwork.

     

    What They're Saying

    "In his heart, push come to shove, I think he'd like to be a running back," Washington coach Chris Petersen said, per Christian Caple of the Tacoma News Tribune.

5. Connor Wedington

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    Height/Weight: 6'1", 193 lbs

    College: Stanford

     

    2017 Outlook

    Cornerback, running back and wide receiver are all viable options for Connor Wedington, though Stanford seems to have already decided it's going to use him on offense based on how it presented him on national signing day. The Cardinal signed another potential running back in the 2017 class (ATH Sione Lund), but with Christian McCaffrey heading to the NFL, there's a need for ball-carriers on The Farm.

    What could be a major boost to Wedington's shot at significant playing time as a true freshman is his relationship to Foster Sarell, Stanford's top signee and the No. 2 overall prospect in the class. Each is from the Seattle area, and if they work together, they could start their careers on the field at the same time.

     

    What They're Saying

    "He has breakaway speed but is probably more quick than fast, and it's his initial burst through the hole that really sets him apart," Scout's Greg Biggins wrote.

4. Brendon White

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    Height/Weight: 6'2", 200 lbs

    College: Ohio State

     

    2017 Outlook

    A wide receiver and safety at the prep level, Brendon White will be an option in both areas at Ohio State, but the defensive side of the ball is his best bet to get on the field in 2017. The Buckeyes lost three-fourths of their starting secondary to the NFL draft, and though there's no shortage of underclassmen waiting to fill those spots, White is too talented not to get a shot right away.

    Linebacker is also a possibility for the sturdily built White. With another 20 pounds of muscle, he could be a potential Darron Lee-type defender who can cover plenty of ground and lay big hits. But OSU is also in need of playmakers at receiver. The possibilities are endless, but it's safe to say the early enrollee (who practiced with the team during Fiesta Bowl preparations, as Cleveland.com's Bill Landis noted) won't be redshirting this fall.

     

    What They're Saying

    "He has so many skills that at some point it was almost to his detriment," White's high school coach, Steve Hale, told Ryan Ginn of LandOf10.com. "A lot of guys getting recruited are clearly meant for one position, and that's never been the case with him."

3. Greg Johnson

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    Height/Weight: 5'10", 180 lbs

    College: USC

     

    2017 Outlook

    USC's huge bump in prospects secured on national signing day included beating out Nebraska and Oregon for Greg Johnson, a Los Angeles product who provides the Trojans with endless options for how to use him. He dabbled at running back, receiver, cornerback and safety in high school, and prior to his senior year, he also played some quarterback.

    How will the Trojans use him? That will depend on how the summer goes once Johnson arrives and starts adapting to the college game. There aren't any areas where USC is in desperate need of him to play immediately, though his knack for being a downhill runner who gets to top speed rather quickly might make him a strong candidate for special teams. Fellow all-purpose star Adoree' Jackson is now preparing for the NFL draft, and no other player on the roster had more than five kickoff returns or four punt runbacks in 2016.

     

    What They're Saying

    "He's a physical player who competes at a high level," Scout's Greg Biggins wrote. "He's tough, athletic and a game-breaker on both sides of the ball."

2. J.K. Dobbins

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    Height/Weight: 5'9 ½", 199 lbs

    College: Ohio State

     

    2017 Outlook

    A key position in Ohio State's offense the last few years has been the H-back, a hybrid running back/receiver spot that becomes a matchup nightmare for opponents if the right player is in that spot. Curtis Samuel shined in that role in 2016, as did Jalin Marshall in 2014-15. Now, J.K. Dobbins has a shot to thrive as a pass-catching ball-carrier right away with Samuel turning pro.

    He's on the short side in terms of being someone who can catch balls in crowds. As someone who is flared out for screens or swing passes, Dobbins will make up for the lack of height with 4.44 speed as well as constantly moving legs, which will enable him to handle initial contact and keep moving. A broken leg suffered early in his senior year of high school shouldn't impact his shot at making an immediate impact, both as an outlet for quarterback J.T. Barrett and with the occasional fly-sweep run play.

     

    What They're Saying

    "It's hard to make the comparison to [Ezekiel] Elliott because of how good he was, but Dobbins was very similar in a lot of ways in high school," Cleveland.com's Ari Wasserman wrote. "Both are very versatile, fast and powerful runners who could fit into the offense in a lot of ways."

1. Deangelo Gibbs

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    Height/Weight: 6'2", 204 lbs

    College: Georgia

     

    2017 Outlook

    Deangelo Gibbs played wide receiver, cornerback and safety in high school, in addition to basketball. Hoops had to take a back seat, though, as Gibbs enrolled early with Georgia to improve his shot at being a ready-to-go contributor on Sept. 2 against Appalachian State. With his size, he'd be a load to take down as a pass-catcher, but that large frame should also make for an imposing figure in the Bulldogs secondary, most likely at safety.

    Don't be surprised if he gets some looks on offense, though, with Georgia coming off a year in which it averaged 193.5 passing yards per game and lost top receiver Isaiah McKenzie to the NFL draft. Georgia signed four receivers and another athlete with wide receiver potential in the 2017 class, so the competition will be fierce for playing time in that role. Look for Gibbs to focus on the defensive side, where it has him listed on its national signing day page.

     

    What They're Saying

    "Gibbs' quickness is enhanced by long strides, which allow him to cover ground in a hurry, and his upper-body length helps interrupt passing lanes on a regular basis," Bleacher Report's recruiting staff wrote. "His combination of range, decisiveness and physicality at the point of attack makes safety an ideal landing spot."

     

    All recruiting information courtesy of Scout.com, unless otherwise noted. All statistics provided by CFBStats, unless otherwise noted.

    Follow Brian J. Pedersen on Twitter at @realBJP.