Now more than ever, the nation has its eye on the true freshmen going to campuses all over the country. This is due to the fact that sites like Scout, Rivals, and ESPN are now covering recruiting more than ever before.
With the increased coverage that has resulted in a lot of hype surrounding these freshmen, the nation is eager to figure out who will be the next breakout player that could have college football debuts similar to players like Knowshon Moreno, Percy Harvin, Chris Wells, LeSean McCoy, Eric Berry, or Michael Crabtree.
There is obviously a built-in advantage for players that have a redshirt year under their belts, like Knowshon Moreno, Michael Crabtree, and Sam Bradford had last year. This is due to the fact that they have a whole year devoted to gaining weight and sculpting their bodies for the college game.
Additionally, these players have more time to get an understanding of the offensive or defensive schemes for their respective teams, which is a huge advantage.
Some redshirt freshmen that could have promising seasons ahead of them include Florida's Chris Rainey and Georgia's Caleb King. There will probably be a whole lot of other breakout redshirt freshmen too.
Redshirt freshmen primed for breakout seasons are harder to identify because there is not as much hype and national attention surrounding them coming out of high school. They typically are not well-hyped—if they were, then they probably would not have been redshirted.
Due to the difficulty of identifying breakout fredshirt freshmen, I am going to look exclusively at the true freshmen that are likely to have breakout seasons like Percy Harvin, Chris Wells, and Eric Berry have had.
Some names that you will hear a lot of hype about coming into the 2008-2009 college football season are names like DeQuan Bowers, Julio Jones, A.J. Green, Arthur Brown, Darrell Scott, and Terrelle Pryor. If you do not believe that these guys are well known and hyped coming out of high school, then just watch this video:
There is a pretty good chance that all of those guys are going to have great seasons, but I want to make the case for someone else that has every reason to be as hyped as those guys, but for one reason or another is not receiving as much national attention. It may be because he ended his recruitment early or because there are not as many YouTube videos of him out there.
Although he was a redshirt freshman, one of last year's biggest impact freshmen was Georgia's Knowshon Moreno, who is from the state of New Jersey. Can the state of New Jersey make it two years in a row that it produces one of the nation's biggest breakout players in college football?
I think that the answer is a big YES, and I want to make the case that Florida's most highly touted freshman prospect, safety Will Hill of St. Peter's Prep in Jersey City, NJ, will be one of the nation's biggest impact players, if not the top impact player, as a freshman for the 2008-2009 season.
Take the time to familiarize yourself with the name and face of Will Hill right now. It is going to happen sooner or later, so you might as well just quit procrastinating.
Here are three reasons why Will Hill could and probably will have a better freshman season than all of the other highly regarded players coming out of high school.
Will Hill is second to none when it comes to skills. He was considered by those to be knowledgeable on the subject of high school football to be a consensus All-American at most positions that he played in high school, which included running back, quarterback, wide receiver, cornerback, safety, kick returner, and punt returner.
ESPN ranked Will Hill as the top safety in the country and the third overall player coming out of high school, behind only Julio Jones and DeQuan Bowers. Rivals additionally ranked Will Hill as the top athlete in the country.
ESPN's evaluation of Will Hill clearly tells you everything that you need to know about the young man's skills:
"This young man can play any skill position he wants and be an impact player at the college level at all of them. Yes, Hill is that good folks. Big, physical, athletic, rangy, fast—you name the adjective, it fits him...
"On defense, he is a headhunter with a great motor and ability to match-up with speedy wideouts if necessary. He has a nose for the ball and great instincts in coverage. Times hits well and is always around the ball. Fills the lane in run support and is a reliable open-field tackler.
"You would not have a problem moving him to the perimeter for a few snaps at cornerback to match-up in press because he is so physical. Simply put, Hill is one of the most, if not the most dynamic player in this class and is certainly the most versatile. Exceptional player."
That is ESPN's opinion, but thanks to YouTube, maybe the best thing since sliced bread, you can watch a short video make your own evaluation:
Sorry if that was not enough film for you, but you are going to have to deal with it, because there really is not much film of Will Hill on YouTube.
Players who have a chance to start from day one have the best chance to make an impact that the college football world will take notice of. The door is wide open for the super phenom freshman safety that is already widely known as Will "The Thrill" Hill to the devout followers of Florida football.
Going into the offseason, safety was considered one of the deepest positions on the team. A number of things occurred that made that depth disappear in a matter of only a couple of months. You can read more about in my articles, Florida Football: Depth at Safety Major Concern for the Gators and Florida Gators Football: Freshman WR T.J. Lawrence To Get a Look at Safety.
Even for extremely talented freshmen, it is rare to start from the opening snap. Will Hill has the opportunity to start from day one, something that gives him a leg up on almost every freshman in the country.
To find out why he should be in position to start from day one, we need to go to my third reason as to why Will Hill could stand out from the rest of the freshmen in the country.
3. Coaching and Training
This is the factor that should set Will Hill apart from the rest of the pack by a mile. Another thing to look at is whether a player is an early entry or not. That technically makes them redshirt freshmen, but it gives the freshman extra time to get acclimated, participate in spring ball, and sculpt their bodies with the strength and conditioning staff before their debuts on the gridiron.
While Will Hill has been deprived of the advantage of enrolling early, he has spent his extra time on something else that should definitely give him an advantage over every player that is coming into college football. Hill has spent much of the offseason at Sports University in Fairfield, NJ. There he has been working on his game by doing things like speed training, football drills, and lifting weights.
On top of that, he also has been learning from Sam Garnes, a former NFL safety who had a seven-year career with the Giants and Jets. Thus, Will Hill will be going into college having learned many important aspects of the position, which means the learning curve will not be much of a problem at all.
Hill's time with Sam Garnes should enable him to get on the field faster because he already has a head start on learning the safety position at the college level.
Will Hill also got the opportunity to work against Taj Smith, a former Syracuse wide receiver who went undrafted in this year's draft but was later signed by the Green Bay Packers. It was a great opportunity for Hill as he held his own against Taj Smith. Despite the fact that Taj Smith had a college football career under his belt to go along with being six years older than Hill, the match was considered a draw.