College Football 2011: 10 Incoming Freshmen Who Will Have an Immediate Impact
When college football was first hitting its stride, freshmen weren't allowed to play; they had to redshirt their first year, then hope to play during their second season. Now it's expected that if you are a top recruit, you should be either starting or playing a significant role your first year on the field.
With that being said, this year is no different. In fact, many incoming freshmen will be expected to play right out of the gate in 2011.
This recruiting class is full of stars who will pave the way for new and exciting stars in the college game. Here are 10 who are sure bets to make immediate impacts on their new teams.
10. Isaiah Crowell, RB (Georgia Bulldogs)
Isaiah Crowell was sought after by many teams, but he chose his home state team, Georgia. Crowell was one of the final pieces to the "dream team" recruiting class Mark Richt brought in.
Georgia has some running backs to work with right now, but their star, Washaun Ealey, is still uncertain for the season due to off-the-field issues. Caleb King will also be returning, but he hasn't emerged as the star everyone had predicted.
This leaves Crowell with a giant opportunity to step in and take the starting running back spot as a true freshman. And what better way to make a huge impact than starting in the first game against Boise State, a game that will certainly vault Georgia back into the national spotlight if they can win.
Crowell is a dynamic running back with excellent size and speed, who can very easily become a star running back at Georgia, much like Knowshon Moreno.
9. Ishaq Williams, DE (Notre Dame Fighting Irish)
Ishaq Williams, a Brooklyn native, chose Notre Dame over plenty of schools. He's a big body type of defensive end with his 6'6" frame and 230-pound body that can easily pack on the pounds to become a giant end with unlimited explosion.
Williams impressed everyone at the Army All-American Bowl, and the best thing he has going for him, is Notre Dame doesn't exactly have the best defensive line.
They are improving, but there is a great chance for Williams to step in and be a starter from day one. He may lack the size right now, but he's too good of a prospect to sit the bench his first season.
Plus, the Irish need a pass-rusher.
Darius Fleming led the team in sacks a year ago with 5.5, but he's a linebacker. The line needs a disruptive pass-rusher, and Williams fits the bill.
8. Aaron Green, RB (Nebraska Cornhuskers)
Aaron Green chose Nebraska over every school in Texas, his home state. He has been compared to Chris Johnson with his size and speed combination, and with the departure of Roy Helu, he has a great opportunity to make a lot of noise in Lincoln this season.
Of course the Huskers will have Rex Burkhead back, but Nebraska has been using a two-back system; what better way to incorporate Green into that system with Burkhead as the bruiser and Green as the speedster?
One thing is for certain, Nebraska has a dynamic quarterback in Taylor Martinez, but he can't be the main rusher on the team—especially not in the Big Ten.
Green should be able to step in and make some noise immediately, judging by his talent.
7. George Farmer, WR (USC Trojans)
Last season, USC didn't have a single receiver catch for more than 1,000 yards. Robert Woods was the closest with 792, and he was only a freshman. Now that Ronald Johnson and David Ausberry are gone, Woods will need someone to team up with to provide quarterback Matt Barkley with some reliable targets.
George Farmer is exactly what this team needs. Farmer is the top-rated receiver out of the 2011 class, much like Woods and Kyle Prater, another USC receiver.
Farmer has great size at 6'2" and 192 pounds, plus he has the speed to play immediately in this system. He was very impressive in the Army All-American game and has been a USC commit since day one.
Farmer has the playmaking ability to step in right away and make a huge impact for the Trojans. The trio of Woods, Prater and Farmer should be fun to watch for some time to come.
6. Hasean Clinton-Dix, S (Alabama Crimson Tide)
Much like the way Bill Belichick drools over Ed Reed, Nick Saban has been drooling over Hasean Clinton-Dix for some time now. Saban had to have the Florida native because the way he plays, he fits the Alabama billing.
Clinton-Dix enrolled in January, which will give him a huge boost to playing early; not only that, but he can also learn from Mark Barron, who decided to stay for his senior season.
Clinton-Dix is a player who is too good to be standing on the sidelines. He's a natural safety, but is athletic enough to play cornerback as well.
His size will also help him. He's 6'2", 190 pounds and flies around the ball. He's the top-rated defensive back in the country, and he will get to prove why once the season rolls around.
Make no mistake, this is a young player who is going to be a star in Saban's system and will fit in to Kirby Smart's defensive scheme perfectly.
5. Cyrus Kouandjio, OT (Alabama Crimson Tide)
Alabama lost left tackle James Carpenter to the NFL draft, but they still have four returning offensive linemen, and they landed the jewel of the 2011 recruiting class in Cyrus Kouandjio.
Kouandjio stands at 6'6" and weighs 332 pounds right out of high school. He's a monster at tackle and can step in to start right away. He may not be the starter at left tackle, but that's the slot that will be waiting for him.
Looking at him, 'Bama fans are reminded of another left tackle who started immediately as a freshman—Andre Smith, who went on to be a first-rounder.
Kouandjio is taller and has the body to pack on more weight, but he has a mean streak, as he displayed in the Under Armour All-American game. This guy is poised to be a left tackle in the NFL and will help to anchor the line at Alabama this year in hopes of capturing another national title.
4. Malcolm Brown, RB (Texas Longhorns)
Malcolm Brown was the No. 1 running back in the 2011 class, and what better team to get him than his home state Texas Longhorns.
Brown is 6'0", 220 pounds and has an amazing burst to go along with his speed. He has the size to take on defenders and the athleticism to make guys miss.
As the prize of the Texas recruiting class, Brown is going to be called on right away to give this team a running game they haven't had since Jamaal Charles. The leading rusher for Texas last year was Cody Johnson with 592 yards. The next leading rusher after that was quarterback Garrett Gilbert with 380.
Brown should step in right away and take the starting running back position. He has the perfect blend of size and speed, and will be a huge addition to an offense that struggled last season.
3. Ray Drew, DE/LB (Georgia Bulldogs)
Ray Drew was another prize recruit for Georgia. As the ninth-ranked prospect—according the Rivals—the defensive end has been labeled as a hybrid type because he can play end or linebacker.
Either way, Drew is going to step in right away and fill the hole left by Justin Houston. Drew is a big prospect at 6'5" and 243 pounds, and he has a knack for getting to the quarterback.
Not only that, he's also solid against the run. Drew had a very impressive Army All-American game with four tackles and 2.5 sacks.
Drew is exactly what the Bulldogs needed, especially with Houston gone now. Their defense was suspect most of 2010, which resulted in a 6-7 campaign and Richt's first losing season.
Whether he's on the defensive line or playing linebacker, the sky is the limit for this young man, and he will start right away.
2. Karlos Williams, S (Florida State Seminoles)
Karlos Williams committed to Florida State in February 2010, just days after National Signing Day, and he hasn't wavered once. He is the prize of the top-ranked recruiting class, and there are plenty of reasons why.
Williams has great size at 6'2" and 210 pounds. He has great speed and athleticism, but it's his style of play that is most impressive. Coach Jimbo Fisher said he is the most complete safety he has ever seen, and judging by his play in the Under Armour All-American game, it looks like Fisher is right.
Williams had two interceptions in the game and returned one 47 yards for a touchdown. He displayed the ability to cover and come up for run support, showing why he is pegged by many to be the next star defensive player at Florida State.
There is no reason Williams can't start next season for Florida State, and by all accounts, that's exactly what he's going to do.
1. Jadeveon Clowney, DE (South Carolina Gamecocks)
Jadeveon Clowney is of course the guy who will make the biggest impact in 2011. That may be a little cliche because he is the top-ranked player in the 2011 class, but he deserves it.
Clowney is 6'6" and 240, with a frame that can easily pack on 30 more pounds. He's a ferocious pass-rusher, but is also strong against the run.
Last year as a senior, he tallied 162 tackles and 29.5 sacks. He had the build and look of a Julius Peppers-type player, and he still has time to develop and grow.
Clowney, much like Marcus Lattimore from a year ago, will step in and play right away. He's the type of player coaches get once every 10 or 15 years and can give a program three or four years of amazing play.
Clowney might not lead the SEC in sacks or tackles for loss as a freshman, but he's certainly going to make some noise right away and will be a top player in the conference for the next three or four years.