10 Under-the-Radar College Football Freshmen You'll Hear About This Fall
While most "under-the-radar" lists tend to bastardize the term by assuming their audience is unfamiliar with the subject, I think my "10 under-the-radar recruits who will have an impact in 2010" list is aimed at a more educated audience, and digs a little deeper than most.
It's difficult to toe the line between a relatively unknown recruit who stands no chance of contributing, and a blue-chipper with a recognizable name who is guaranteed to start from day one.
But taking beleagured depth charts and my own knowledge of the 2010 recruiting class into account, I've come up with 10 incoming freshmen you may not know now, but will (or should) a year from now.
Take a look.
Tyler Smith, QB, Maryland
When I first thought of under-the-radar recruits, I thought of Maryland QB Tyler Smith.
The 6'4", 195 lb quarterback out of Easton, Pennsylvania was a relatively unheralded three-star recruit to Rivals, but Scout gushed about his strong arm, quick release, mobility in the pocket and an "it" factor the Maryland Terrapins haven't fielded on offense in years.
Check out his delivery in this film; doesn't that quick release and pinpoint accuracy look like Sam Bradford's?
He's got size, strength and a program on the rocks to take over. I won't call the battle for the QB spot in his favor, since Chris Turner and Jamarr Robinson will have seniority in the system on their side. But it would be a shame to keep a redshirt on him if Maryland's season starts off rocky again. He has what it takes to pull Ralph Friedgen's feet from the fire if given the free reign to do so.
Wayne Dorsey, DE, Ole Miss
How do you make the best defensive front seven in the SEC better? Add the best JUCO defensive end in the 2010 class.
Wayne Dorsey, all 6'8", 255 lbs of him, joins monster defensive tackle Jerrell Powe, Kentrell Lockett and Lawon Scott on that hyped front line for the Ole Miss Rebels.
While not technically a freshman, Dorsey will play his first snaps at the FBS level this fall. He was reportedly the real deal in spring practice, a heavy hitter whose only struggles are with motivation and taking plays off.
Rebels fans have to hope he can keep up the standard set by outgoing rush end Greg Hardy, who was drafted in the sixth round by the Carolina Panthers.
If Dorsey is as explosive as he looked on film as a freshman, the Rebels have an outside shot at playing the upset card to a few SEC championship hopefuls, even if they fall short of the honor themselves.
Josh Furman, S, Michigan
Michigan fans had to swallow yet another bitter pill during the Demar Dorsey rejection fiasco. With 2010's top signee headed to Louisville, the Maize and Blue faithful now look for another defensive recruit to pin their dwindling hopes for a better defense on.
Enter Josh Furman, a 6'3", 194 lb safety/linebacker out of Millersville, MD who was Scout's seventh-best safety and an unrefined athlete to everyone else.
Furman, also an accomplished running back, seems born to play one of the two hybrid safety/linebacker spots in Michigan's revamped 3-3-5 defense. He has the speed of a defensive back—posting a 4.36 40 time at a summer combine and leading his high school to the state finals in track—and the downhill pursuit of a linebacker.
Will Michigan get the best of both worlds out of Furman? Based on the capable performance of another safety/linebacker hybrid, former Wolverine and current Oakland Raider Stevie Brown, in 2009, one would hope so.
Furman and another under-the-radar 2010 signee, Marvin Robinson, are expected to compete immediately for the starting spots at spur and bandit, the two designations for safety/LB in the 3-3-5. With Michigan's razor-thin defensive depth chart, Furman could see time immediately. If he doesn't, something has either gone unexpectedly wrong or unexpectedly well.
Trovon Reed, ATH, Auburn
While most of the focus has been on five-star RB Michael Dyer for Auburn's decorated class, I think a slot speedster like Trovon Reed is more what Auburn's hurry-up motion offense was missing last year.
Reed was one of the top prospects in the state of Louisiana, an explosive slot master with elite change of directions skills. He can rush, receive, return kicks or beat defenders to the outside on the end-around or reverse, and he plays in a scheme that resembles OC Gus Malzahn's deception-heavy offense.
Combine his versatility with Malzahn's, and you've got a recipe for destruction.
You want a ceiling for this kid? He could be to Auburn's offense what Percy Harvin was to Florida's, an X-factor with enormous upside whom only the best coaches will know how to use adeptly.
With the competition at slot at a bare minimum, I expect to hear Trovon's name called at least a half-dozen times a game once the wheels are in motion.
CJ Fiedorowicz, TE, Iowa
While most of the college football world debates phasing out the position, Iowa embraces every aspect of the tight end.
Players like CJ Fiedorowicz, a 6'7", 240 lb athlete with great hands and a smooth stride after the catch, will always have a home in Iowa City. The Hawkeyes have been perhaps the best developer of NFL-caliber tight ends of any school in the country over the past 30 years.
That Fiedorowicz, Rivals' fifth-best tight end in the 2010 class, hasn't refined his blocking technique could spell redshirt for a program as conventional as Iowa. But I'm guessing Fied's soft hands and mammoth size could make him Ricky Stanzi's primary target in third down situations and in the red zone if Iowa's wide receivers struggle with the dropsies again.
Dominique Brown, ATH, Louisville
Even with Louisville's light depth chart at QB, I don't expect Cincinnati ATH Dominique Brown to challenge for snaps. Brown was primarily a rushing quarterback in high school (though Scout praised the touch he put on the limited throws he made).
But I do expect new head coach Charlie Strong to recognize Brown's potential to do damage in something resembling the spread or option packages he ran in high school.
Brown has great size for a QB, 6'3" and all of 210 lbs. He has excellent open field speed and the ability to find a crease to exploit in the defense.
If Louisville's pro-style machinations go for naught, I could see Brown being handed the reins and told to go for it under a totally revamped offense that's all his own. Louisville will have to score points somehow; maybe Strong could call up his old buddies Urban Meyer and Dan Mullen for some playcalling suggestions.
J.R. Ferguson, DE, LSU
JR Ferguson is coming off of a stint at Hargrave Military Academy, where he planned to refine his game against some of the better post-graduates—and non-qualifiers—in the country.
He verballed to LSU on signing day over offers from Notre Dame, Miami and Florida State.
Though he will miss summer school for academic reasons, I fully expect him to crack the rotation of a defensive line that loses three starters.
He has great size (6'3", 275 lbs) and an extra year of maturity, and is a far more decorated recruit than expected starter Lavar Edwards, a three-star tight end recruit in the 2008 class. Strongside ends are some of the easiest players to plug in and get immediate results from, and I don't think he'll be an exception.
DeAndre Hopkins, WR/CB, Clemson
Whether he ends up at cornerback or wide receiver, four-star athlete DeAndre Hopkins should be able to play himself onto the field in some capacity.
The 6'2", 194 lb athlete was one of the prize signings of Clemson's all-too-unheralded 2010 class.
He's grabbed 23 interceptions since starting for his varsity team in 2007, occasionally switching between CB and safety to do so.
That flexibility will be huge for the Tigers, who lose both starting cornerbacks for 2010. Even with 2009 interception co-leader DeAndre McDaniel returning at safety, the Tigers will call for immediate depth at the CB position.
If Clemson's reserves don't suffice, Hopkins will surely be game. If they do, I'd put him on offense and see if he can duplicate what he's doing in the picture.
Adrian Coxson, WR, Florida
In a class as loaded as Florida's, it's easy to get lost in the crowd. That's just what happened to Baltimore, MD receiver Adrian Coxson.
The 6'2", 194-lb wide receiver decommitted from Penn State after the PSU coaches lost interest, choosing the Gators just before signing day.
He just snuck into the Rivals 250 at 241 overall, and is not a natural to the wide receiver position, so route running and jamming are a concern.
But he played mostly quarterback in high school. Could he see time at QB in substitution packages? Will he be the one subbing in and out for John Brantley? Or will he just be another former quarterback plugged into a different position in Florida's system?
In any case, he'll be one to watch for sooner or later.