College Football Predictions 2011: Ranking the Top 25 Impact Freshmen
The top high school football players in the country will soon move on to the next level.
While most highly-touted recruits and top-ranked commitments surely have the talent to succeed at the next level, only a select few will be given the opportunity to do so next fall.
Of that group, an even more select few will make an immediate impact.
The transition from the high school game to big-time collegiate football in the SEC, Pac-10, Big 12, Big Ten, Big East, ACC and beyond is quite a big step.
Most 17- or 18-year-olds aren't yet ready for the leap. But some incoming freshmen are.
Here are the 25 top recruits likely to make an immediate impact next fall as freshmen.
25. Colt Lyerla: Oregon Linebacker
Lyerla is a 5-star athlete but projects well as a linebacker at the next level.
Considered the perfect size with a solid skill set for the position, the 6'5", 225-pound Lyerla will take his game to Oregon, where he'll surely see time immediately.
24. Stephone Anthony: Undeclared Linebacker
Anthony is considered by all recruiting services one of the nation's top linebackers. The North Carolina native is a 5-star recruit according to Rivals.com.
At 6'3", 220 pounds, Anthony has a prototypical linebacker's build. Currently deciding between Clemson, Florida, North Carolina State and Virginia Tech, Anthony is sure to make an impact wherever he ends up.
23. Isaiah Crowell: Undeclared Running Back
The only question that remains about Crowell's game is whether the impact he'll make next fall will be for Alabama or Georgia.
Currently deciding between the Tide and the Bulldogs, Crowell is the nation's top-ranked undeclared running back and considered by many to be the top rusher in this year's class.
22. Stephon Tuitt: Notre Dame Defensive End
Tuitt is just one of many immediate-impact defensive ends in this 2011 recruiting class.
Tuitt has the size and skill set to dominate from the get-go at 6'5", 260 pounds.
He'll have added support from teammate Aaron Lynch.
21. C.J. Johnson: Ole Miss Linebacker
Johnson is perhaps the most talented player in the Rebels' 2011 recruiting class; take a quick look at his game film and it's easy to understand why.
Linebacker is a deep position in this 2011 recruiting class, and Johnson is among the position's most talented.
The 6'3", 235-pounder is a 5-star recruit.
20. Ishaq Williams: Notre Dame Linebacker/Defensive End
It remains to be seen exactly where Williams will be making his presence known, but it's clear he'll do so early on in South Bend.
The Brooklyn, New York native is a 6'6", 230-pound freak on the line. He'll surely add to the mix for the Irish next fall.
19. Sammy Watkins: Clemson Wide Receiver
Watkins is just one of three top-notch wideouts in the Tigers' 2011 recruiting class that could make a huge impact next fall.
Along with Charone Peake, Watkins is likely to make an early splash at Clemson.
18. Tim Jernigan: Undeclared Defensive Tackle
The list of schools pushing for Jernigan, one of the nation's top defensive linemen, is impressive.
It's not as impressive as Jernigan himself, though. At 6'2", 275 pounds, Jernigan will settle in nicely on the line for whichever school he commits to.
He's deciding between Florida, Tennessee and Florida State.
17. Nick O'Leary: Florida State Tight End
O'Leary is the top offensive player in the Seminoles' impressive 2011 recruiting class and plays with a brand of toughness that will help him succeed early in his career in Tallahassee.
The 6'4", 235-pound West Palm Beach, Fla. native also possesses the type of offensive skill set that will help him get on the field next fall.
16. James Wilder: Florida State Running Back
Considered by some to be the nation's top athlete, Wilder is set to be a running back at Florida State next fall, and at 6'2", 220 pounds, he may already have a leg up on the competition.
Wilder is heralded for his versatility and athleticism. If he's not getting carries, he'll surely be making an impact somewhere on the field for the Seminoles.
15. Tony Steward: Undeclared Linebacker
Steward is ranked as the No. 1 inside linebacker in the class of 2011 by ESPN.com and is a 5- or 4-star recruit.
At 6'1", 225 pounds, Steward has the size and athleticism to compete right away at either Florida State or Clemson.
His unique skill set and build will also allow him to add bulk to help him succeed at the game's highest level.
14. Christian Westerman: Auburn Offensive Tackle
Westerman is an absolute beast on the offensive line and recently switched his commitment from Texas to Auburn.
The highly-developed lineman has the size and physicality needed to jump right in during SEC play for the Tigers as a freshman.
13. Savon Huggins: Rutgers Running Back
Huggins has the skills to jump right in as a freshman regardless of where he's competing, but the fact that he's at Rutgers means that he'll be the focal point of the offense from Day 1.
Perhaps the selling point in his ultimate decision to play at Rutgers, Huggins reportedly talked with the coaching staff on his official visit and was pleased to hear their plans for him.
12. Aaron Green: Nebraska Running Back
Considered the No. 3 running back in the class of 2011, Green is likely to jump right in at Nebraska.
The 6'0", 180-pounder is ranked 11th overall in the class of 2011 by ESPN.com and has a type of natural running ability only seen in elite backs.
11. James Vaughters: Stanford Linebacker
Vaughters heads to Stanford as ESPN.com's No. 2 inside linebacker.
At 6'2", 230 pounds, there's little doubt that Vaughters has the build of an elite run stopper and pass rusher.
His athleticism and strength at the position push him past most competitors and will likely help him see time for the Cardinal.
10. Malcolm Brown: Texas Running Back
Brown is considered by most as the class of 2011's No. 1 running back.
With the loss of Christian Westerman, Brown remains the Longhorns' top-ranked recruit, and he'll surely be among their plans early next fall and beyond.
9. Ray Drew: Georgia Defensive End
Drew, who committed just last week to the Bulldogs, is a sure-fire immediate impact freshman.
The 6'5", 270-pound defensive end is considered the No. 2 player at the position, behind only top-ranked recruit Jadeveon Clowney, and he has the size, skill set and intangibles to succeed immediately.
8. Karlos Williams: Florida State Safety
Williams remains the top-ranked player in Florida State's impressive 2011 recruiting class and will surely see time to shine in the fall.
Perhaps more important for the Seminoles, though, is that Williams has a lot of upside, meaning he'll continue to grow in his time in Tallahassee.
7. Ha'Sean Clinton-Dix: Alabama Defensive Back
Clinton-Dix is much like positional counterpart Karlos Williams.
With the size and skill set to jump right in and succeed in the SEC, Clinton-Dix also possesses plenty of upside and he will surely continue to grow in his role at Alabama.
6. La'El Collins: LSU Offensive Lineman
Collins brings size and a dominant style of play to the offensive line, and he'll have the ability to bring that style of play immediately next fall.
Collins is a dominant run blocker and should jump right in at the offensive tackle position.
5. De'Anthony Thomas: USC Athlete
Thomas is considered the top-ranked athlete recruit by ESPN.com and projects as a top-flight defensive back at the next level.
His supreme versatility and outright speed will get him on the field early next fall at USC.
4. Cyrus Kouandjio: Undeclared Offensive Tackle
We still don't know where he'll be, but we do know that Kouandjio will make an immediate impact.
Currently deciding between Iowa, Auburn, Alabama and New Mexico, Kouandjio, the top-ranked offensive tackle in the country, will make his announcement on National Signing Day.
3. George Farmer: USC Wide Receiver
Farmer is considered one of the nation's top wide receivers and should see early playing time at USC.
The 6'2", 205-pound playmaker can make a difference either in the passing game or on special teams.
2. Curtis Grant: Undeclared Linebacker
Grant is a prototypical inside linebacker and he will surely use his athleticism to get on the football field next fall.
We'll soon know whether he'll be making his presence known at Florida, North Carolina, Virginia or Ohio State.
1. Jadeveon Clowney: Undeclared Defensive End
Clowney will undoubtedly succeed next year and beyond, regardless of where he ends up.
Currently deciding between South Carolina and Alabama, Clowney is the nation's top-ranked recruit and could go on to be an immediate impact player and one of the nation's top defensive ends.