2015 Recruits Who Will Win Awards in Their College Careers

Tyler Donohue@@TDsTakeNational Recruiting AnalystAugust 27, 2014

2015 Recruits Who Will Win Awards in Their College Careers

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    Florida offensive tackle Martez Ivey has the makings of a dominant college lineman.
    Florida offensive tackle Martez Ivey has the makings of a dominant college lineman.Credit: 247Sports

    The current crop of college prospects may be busy trying to chase down state championship trophies, but recruiting is all about projecting the potential of a player beyond present day. With that said, it's never too early to get way ahead of ourselves while evaluating talent and the impact someone could make in college.

    The 2015 class assuredly includes several future All-American selections, prized NFL draft picks and a cluster of Heisman Trophy candidates. Though these athletes are still a year away from starting the next chapter of their careers, we look at a select group that seems poised to challenge for positional awards and annual honors in coming years.

    Here's a glimpse at five prospects we expect to have the necessary spotlight, production and skill set to reach the podium as recipients of prestigious college football hardware.

DB Derwin James (Auburndale, Florida)

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    Credit: 247Sports

    Award Possibilities: Jim Thorpe Award (best defensive back); Chuck Bednarik Award (Defensive Player of The Year)


    Recruitment Status

    Dominant defender Derwin James was one of the first members of this class to announce his commitment. The 6'2", 201-pound Haines City Senior High School standout pledged to Florida State in February of his freshman year.

    The program's return to prominence happened faster than he anticipated.

    "I knew FSU was going to be really good by the time I joined the team, but I didn't think they'd be national champions already," James said this summer. "I'm ready to be a part of it."

    Other teams have continued to extend offers, including Ohio State, Florida, LSU and Clemson, but the 5-star safety prospect remains unwavering in his commitment to the Seminoles.

    Why He Should Start Preparing an Acceptance Speech

    James, rated eighth overall in 247Sports' composite rankings, is the complete package as a secondary lynchpin. He is confident and instinctive in pass coverage and delivers jarring blows in the open field, producing highlight hits that put defensive stars on the national radar.

    "I like playing in pass coverage because I love getting interceptions and sending our offense back onto the field," James said. "But I also like to hit guys and make them think about it next time they come my way. I would say I like both the same, as long as I'm making plays."

    A long-established relationship with Florida State's coaching staff continues to grow stronger despite significant personnel changes along the way. His commitment to the team will have lasted three full years by the time he finally puts pen to paper on signing day, creating a foundation of trust that awaits him in Tallahassee.

    James is a leader of the Seminoles' 2015 class and should compete for early playing time on a squad that figures to contend for conference and national championships for years to come under head coach Jimbo Fisher. He has the potential to emerge as a team captain and game-changing defender for a title contender, putting him in prime position to collect accolades.

WR Calvin Ridley (Pompano Beach, Florida)

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    Award Possibilities: Fred Biletnikoff Award (best receiver)


    Recruitment Status

    Monarch High School playmaker Calvin Ridley committed to Alabama in April while visiting campus for spring-game festivities. He joined the nation's top-ranked class along with current teammate Shawn Burgess-Becker.

    The 6'0", 170-pound prospect has spent time on campus at several schools, including Tennessee, Ohio State and Florida State. Some believe Miami may still be in the mix as the strongest threat to swipe him away from Nick Saban.

    Why He Should Start Preparing an Acceptance Speech

    Ridley, already 19 years old, is more evolved from a physical standpoint than many members of this class. That development was on full display at The Opening, an elite invite-only camp held in July at Nike's world headquarters.

    He earned overall MVP honors at the event and provided onlookers with plenty of sensational receptions to talk about in its aftermath (especially the one in the video above). Ridley, who doubles up as a beastly defensive back in high school, caught 41 passes for 1,131 yards and 12 touchdowns as a junior.

    If he sticks with his commitment to the Crimson Tide, there is no bigger stage in college football. Ridley would also pair up with 5-star quarterback prospect Blake Barnett, who connected with him for several big plays throughout their run to a seven-on-seven tournament title at The Opening.

    "We really found a rhythm together," Barnett said afterward. "He's such a talented receiver, and it's big that we have a chance to build some chemistry before we both arrive at Alabama."

    Ridley, rated the nation's No. 1 pass-catcher, seems set for stardom in Tuscaloosa. Expect offensive coordinator Lane Kiffin to implement Alabama's latest weapon early and often.

QB Kyler Murray (Allen, Texas)

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    Award Possibilities: Davey O'Brien Award (best quarterback); Heisman Trophy (most outstanding player)


    Recruitment Status

    Kyler Murray committed to Texas A&M over Oregon this spring. His decision gives the Aggies a 5-star quarterback prospect for the second straight year, adding to a group that includes top-rated 2014 passer Kyle Allen.

    He's the son of former Texas A&M quarterback Kevin Murray, a Cotton Bowl Hall of Fame inductee. Murray also holds offers from Florida, Ohio State and Clemson, among others.

    Why He Should Start Preparing an Acceptance Speech

    Given coach Kevin Sumlin's track record for producing prolific offenses, whoever is leading the Aggies attack will always have a chance to post impressive statistics. Johnny Manziel was a Heisman finalist during both of his seasons as starter, and the program is developing a rich talent base of offensive playmakers through strong recruiting.

    Texas A&M has claimed commitments from 5-star receivers during each of the past two recruiting cycles and remains in the running for more elite downfield targets. Christian Kirk, a 5-star receiver from Arizona, has the Aggies on his short list of finalists, and Murray is a big factor.

    The duo decimated defenses during seven-on-seven action at The Opening, quickly developing precise timing downfield. They share a relationship that extends off the field, which is a further testament to Murray's likability among his peers. 

    "Kyler is one of my friends, and he's the best quarterback out here I think," Kirk said in between games.

    Murray, who is unbeaten with two state championships as a high school starter, has spent the past couple of years piling up astounding numbers. Since the beginning of his sophomore campaign, he's collected more than 8,000 total yards and 107 touchdowns.

    The dual-threat talent is extremely sharp from a fundamental standpoint and could certainly push Allen and Kenny Hill for playing time at Texas A&M, as noted by Bleacher Report's Michael Felder in the video above. Once Murray receives the keys to the Aggies offense, there's reason to believe he could match Manziel's accomplishments with an even more impressive supporting cast.

DE Josh Sweat (Chesapeake, Virginia)

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    Award Possibilities: Ted Hendricks Award (best defensive end); Chuck Bednarik Award (Defensive Player of The Year); Heisman Trophy (Most Outstanding Player)


    Recruitment Status

    Josh Sweat, rated the No. 1 overall recruit in this class, remains uncommitted. His plans were largely kept under wraps until he shared an official visit itinerary.

    Oregon, Ohio State, Virginia Tech, Florida State and Georgia will each host Sweat in the coming months. He is projected to sign with the Seminoles by 42 percent of expert predictions in 247Sports' Crystal Ball, while the Hokies follow with 35 percent.

    Why He Should Start Preparing an Acceptance Speech

    Despite a lengthy list of worthy contenders, we haven't seen a defensive player win the Heisman Trophy since Michigan's Charles Woodson reached the podium in 1997. However, just two years ago, a pair of defensive stars finished among the top six in voting (Notre Dame linebacker Manti Te'o placed second, and South Carolina lineman Jadeveon Clowney was sixth).

    This time last year, some considered Clowney a strong candidate to end the defensive drought. Sweat is the closest thing we've seen in this class to the top 2014 NFL draft pick in terms of athleticism and overall impact.

    Sweat, a 6'5", 240-pound specimen, turned heads by completing the 40-yard dash in 4.46 seconds at The Opening. He was the lone lineman to reach Nike's SPARQ national finals, which measure overall athletic prowess.

    The Oscar Smith High School star registered 94 tackles and 22 sacks in 2013. His senior season opener included three tackles for loss, two sacks, 90 offensive yards and a rushing touchdown, per Craig Haubert of ESPN.

    Regardless of where he winds up in college, Sweat possesses the talent and tenacity to start as a true freshman and build on his growing reputation as a rare playmaker.

    "You have to be perfect against Sweat," 5-star offensive tackle Mitch Hyatt said at The Opening after one-on-one drills. "Otherwise, you're done."

OL Martez Ivey (Apopka, Florida)

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    Award Possibilities: Outland Trophy (best offensive or defensive lineman)


    Recruitment Status

    It's another SEC showdown for a commitment from America's top-ranked offensive tackle. LSU and Alabama remain in the picture, but most of Martez Ivey's focus is currently centered on a different pair of programs.

    "Florida and Auburn are really standing out to me right now," he said in July. "I don't want to say that other teams are out of it and those are my only two, but I'm looking at those schools most."

    His first official visit occurs on opening weekend, when he'll visit Auburn for a game against Arkansas.

    Why He Should Start Preparing an Acceptance Speech

    Ivey left little doubt about his national prowess with a dominant performance at The Opening. He manhandled highly regarded defensive linemen and split reps with Josh Sweat.

    Standing at 6'6", 270 pounds, Ivey appears to have plenty of room for physical growth. His muscular build is still very trim, but he already produces a ton of power.

    Ivey's natural athleticism sets the bar extremely high and shined on his junior game film. He's noticeably progressed as tactician, which was apparent at The Opening and throughout the first contest of his senior season.

    Linemen are often difficult to project in college because the trenches are so much tougher and blocking assignments require strong football IQ in order to start as a freshman. Still, it would be a stunner if Ivey doesn't log significant playing time next fall.

    He has the potential to claim multiple All-American honors and develop into a coveted NFL prospect while competing against the country's top defensive fronts. Ivey is one of just a few players who belong in the discussion of who deserves to sit atop 2015 recruiting rankings.

    "Martez is a special player," 5-star defensive lineman Terry Beckner said at The Opening. "He doesn't make anything easy for you. The sky is the limit for him."

    All quotes obtained firsthand by B/R national recruiting columnist Tyler Donohue unless otherwise noted.

    Recruit ratings and statistics courtesy of 247Sports unless otherwise noted.